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  1. #1
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    Using GPS to Navigate, not record where I've been

    Planning a couple bikepacking trips this year, and I need to use a GPS to find my way as well as recording routes. So I have 2 thoughts. choosing a GPS (leaning toward a cheap handheld), and finding prerecorded routes... One will be mostly singletrack, and the other will probably spend lots of time on fireroads. My intention is to use my phone as a bare survival backup now that can download maps for places out of cell range via google maps.. And for a last resort ye olde compass...
    Recommendations for a cheap handheld?
    Places to download routes for Michigan's High Country Pathway or along Lake Superior in the UP?

  2. #2
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    what exactly are your expectations for this navigation functionality?

    the way you want it to work and the way it actually works could be two entirely different things, but you've not given enough information about that. and that information could impact any useful suggestions because there are a couple of different ways you could pull this off depending on what you're after.

  3. #3
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    Sorry, I was thinking I was being too long-winded.. I would Love to download a route for the North Country Pathway- It is an established 80 mile circuit that gets pretty overgrown and hard to keep track of from reports I have gotten. And I would like to be able to plan my other trip using fireroads whenever ATV trails or single track runout ( I have paper maps of some of those trails already).
    Thanks!

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    Quote Originally Posted by 2slo2endo View Post
    Sorry, I was thinking I was being too long-winded.. I would Love to download a route for the North Country Pathway- It is an established 80 mile circuit that gets pretty overgrown and hard to keep track of from reports I have gotten. And I would like to be able to plan my other trip using fireroads whenever ATV trails or single track runout ( I have paper maps of some of those trails already).
    Thanks!
    that's not quite what I wanted to know. how do you want the GPS to help you in those situations?

  5. #5
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    If you have a GPX track, then load it onto a Garmin Legend/Vista HCX, or eTrex 20/30, and then visually follow the line. Most bikepackers use one of these models because they are light, easy to operate, and reliable. Pop in some Energizer Lithium batteries, and they run for many, many hours (24-48 hours). If you want to load topo maps, or your budget is decent, go with the eTrex 30--it's got lots of RAM, the ability to load LONG tracks, etc.

  6. #6
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    What about some thoughts on the Dakota 20 for the OP's task?
    And I love beer!!

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    it depends how you expect it to work. hence my repeated asking of this specific question.

    the method toby mentioned is one method that might work out for you, depending on how you expect it to work. if you expect it to say or otherwise prompt you to "turn left" at a given point, this method will not do what you want. if you want it to actually PROMPT you to make a turn, then you cannot use a .gpx file of an existing track. you have to use a .gpx file of a "route", and that has a LOT of limitations that are too detailed for me to talk about right now.

    there are still OTHER ways to accomplish this, too. it just depends on EXACTLY how you want it to function.

  8. #8
    A guy on a bike Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by bdundee View Post
    What about some thoughts on the Dakota 20 for the OP's task?
    I am not a big fan of touch screen units for biking. Their screens tend to be harder to read in different light conditions, and wiping the dirt off will register as a touch. Buttons are more precise too, and can be operated with gloves.

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    You obviously have not used a Garmin touchscreen. They are resistive, not capacitive. They are not as sensitive as you think, can be operated with thin gloves (thick winter gloves do not offer adequate dexterity), and you can wipe dust off the screen just fine.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by bdundee View Post
    What about some thoughts on the Dakota 20 for the OP's task?
    I've been using my Oregon 400T for quite a while. Works great for what I need and of course, can be used for other outings on foot. All I really care about is speed/distance and my GPS track that I download to map software I have. I can also view heartbeat with the chest sensor, but it doesn't record it.
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  11. #11
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    Sorry for the back-to-back post, but I found another shot of my GPS mounted on my current bike. Ya, it looks a bit bulky, but you really don't notice it while riding. I prefer all the functionality of a good handheld.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    You obviously have not used a Garmin touchscreen. They are resistive, not capacitive. They are not as sensitive as you think, can be operated with thin gloves (thick winter gloves do not offer adequate dexterity), and you can wipe dust off the screen just fine.
    My experience "obviously" isn't good enough to pass your standards, Nate. But I'm pretty happy with it, and I've found a solution that works well enough for me to recommend it to others. I haven't owned a touch-screen GPS (yes, I do know the difference between capacitive and resistive screens), but I have played with them several times. Here's why I use a button-operated unit:

    During the Colorado Trail Race, I found that it was necessary to use my thumb to "squeegee" the screen when riding in the rain or even heavy mist. Even some heavy dew that I encountered during a 24-hour ride of Kokopelli's Trail makes it hard to see the screen at night. Grime builds up very quickly, and especially with soils that have a high clay content, it takes a good deal of force to wipe it off. It's also very hard to perfectly control your finger tips while riding one-handed, so the pressure is uneven--not to mention that it's hard to even aim from the proper area of the screen sometimes!

    When I was looking at buying a new GPS last year, and I tried my squeegee technique on several different Garmin touchscreen models, and I found that my wipe often registered as a press. I suppose that I could have bought one anyway, and then stopped riding whenever I needed to gently dab at my screen with a hankie to clean it, or stop every time I needed to change a setting (like zoom level, etc.), but I decided that doing so was impractical. When riding in the rain at night, I just want to RIDE--and I think that the Vista's (or eTrex 10/20/30, or Legend) combination of tactile buttons and non-touch screen work well for me. I used to have an old resistive touch-screen phone, and it was tough to use with gloves (although I could, sort of, unlike my capacitive-screen phone). But buttons are so much easier!

    Lastly, viewing angle is important on a bike-mounted GPS. When playing with a couple of touch-screen models, I found them harder to read in bright light at certain angles. Probably not a problem for hiking or other handheld use, but I think that it would be frustrating on a bike. While I've never ridden with one, I have a couple of buddies who also complain about it--and they have both gone back to non-touch screens. I'm guessing that the extra layer of plastic for the touch-sensitive membrane is the issue, but I don't really know what the issue is. I rarely have trouble reading my Vista's screen though.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by TobyGadd View Post

    "When I was looking at buying a new GPS last year, and I tried my squeegee technique on several different Garmin touchscreen models, and I found that my wipe often registered as a press.
    For what's worth, my touch screen Garmin has a lock screen feature which aleviates any problem with wiping the screen off.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sarguy View Post
    For what's worth, my touch screen Garmin has a lock screen feature which aleviates any problem with wiping the screen off.
    Yeah, the lock feature would help. But then you can't easily change things without first unlocking it--and then it's still hard to touch the screen precisely while riding. Buttons are good, which is why the Vista HCX is the most common GPS for bikepacking (at least racing). The new eTrex 10/20/30 series is similar, and becoming more common for the same reason.

    But everyone uses what works for them. If a touch screen works for you, then that's definitively what you should use. I'm pretty focused on self-supported multi-day races, which have different requirements than casual riding or easy overnighters. Obsessing over little details such as whether it's harder to push a button or touch a screen is probably silly to a lot of people, but little things get big when racing for days on little sleep--and then having to mess with a gizmo at 11,000 feet in a sleet storm at midnight!

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sarguy View Post
    I've been using my Oregon 400T for quite a while. Works great for what I need and of course, can be used for other outings on foot. All I really care about is speed/distance and my GPS track that I download to map software I have. I can also view heartbeat with the chest sensor, but it doesn't record it.
    The heart-rate feature is cool. For the same reason, I'm thinking of upgrading to the eTrex 30 which also displays HR. I wish that my Vista HCX had it!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sarguy View Post
    Sorry for the back-to-back post, but I found another shot of my GPS mounted on my current bike. Ya, it looks a bit bulky, but you really don't notice it while riding. I prefer all the functionality of a good handheld.
    Your GPS only looks bulky because your cockpit looks so damn clean. Nice!

  17. #17
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    On my Oregon, it takes two touches to get the screen to do anything if it's been inactive for awhile. First touch wakes it up and the second is what registers as button pushes. I do not have the screen lock enabled. unlocking the screen is too much of a pain when you're actually USING the device regularly. good feature if you're the "toss it in the pack" type, but not as useful if you're the "mount it on the handlebars" type. I have not had a problem wiping the screen off (I have used that same squeegee method). it wakes the screen up and turns on the backlight, but if you wipe quickly enough, it only registers one touch.

    tactile buttons are fine and if you do wear bulky gloves then that's the way to go. ski gloves or even mittens are going to be hard to deal with for a touch screen. but i don't have a problem with my smartwool liners or my softshell gloves. I do wear cutoff finger gloves for most of my riding, though (my hands get warm easily, especially when it's over 100F outside), and that's obviously not a problem. tactile buttons are a royal PITA if you actually enter text on the GPS. I do enter descriptive names and comments when I create waypoints (I use my GPS for mapping trail projects, so I use this a lot) and entering text with arrow and enter buttons wastes tons of time. touchscreen with a full keyboard makes short work of that sort of task and minimizes button presses.

    I have found the Oregon 450 screen to be very visible in bright sunlight on my handlebars. I had to tweak the mounting angle a little to optimize it, yes, but it's better in bright sunlight than dappled light (where non-touch units also have a problem). only solution there is to crank up the screen brightness, which shortens battery life.

    And FYI, Garmin handhelds that support HRMs CAN save the HR data. It does not do so if you just plug the receiver in and click "download" in your favorite program or sharing site, but if you manually go in and grab the .gpx, HR will be there. there's an old thread in here detailing that process.

    The new etrex models are certainly fine models that are going to accomplish a lot of what many mt bikers want. I find the joystick interface to be the worst of the options out there. I'd rather have a d-pad like the GPSMap models. And I had a 76CSx for awhile. I have also owned two models with a joystick (Rino 120 and Edge 705). And I've used several other etrex models to know that I hate the joystick more than anything. the touchscreen has its limitations for sure, and those limitations may well be unacceptable for some. you've certainly found you don't like them for what you do. that's fine.

    I was just pointing out that this comment of yours

    and wiping the dirt off will register as a touch.
    was not that big of a problem, and illustrated to me that you've never actually tried to wipe the dust/grime off of a touchscreen Garmin before.

  18. #18
    A guy on a bike Moderator
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    Nate,

    Looks like you love your Oregon, and I love my Vista--and we've both got good reasons for our choices. We should be happy for each other!

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by TobyGadd View Post
    Nate,

    Looks like you love your Oregon, and I love my Vista--and we've both got good reasons for our choices. We should be happy for each other!
    considering you do a lot of endurance racing, you probably should not consider anything else, to be honest. I'm sure battery life is a big concern for you. so far, no fully functional GPS has better battery life than the etrexes. stopping to wipe the screen (I always stop to fiddle with my GPS, anyway) is such a minor thing compared to stopping to change the batteries that I'm surprised you didn't mention that from the start.

  20. #20
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    Nope, I don't like stopping to fiddle with my GPS! I want one that reads my mind and projects the course directly to my retina, like a HUD display in a fighter jet. Also, it should be powered by an organic electrolyte solution (sweat and/or blood). Until then, you can pry my button-enabled, easy-to-wipe, Vista from my cold dead hands!

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    Toby is correct in his initial statement. I want to see a visual line from a downloaded track that I can follow to avoid being lost. If i come to a fork, I would like to be able to consult my "line" to determine which way to proceed.From what I hear about the trail I intend to follow, a few sections get virtually no traffic and can be quite overgrown. Since the overall length is 80 miles, taking a wrong turn could lead to some real delays.

  22. #22
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    Any gps will do that. You will need to consider other features to choose one that will work for you.

    Your initial post was not clear if you planned to do the bulk of the navigating or if you wanted the gps to do that work for you

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    I hope to download a route that someone else has already taken, which I suppose takes this in an entirely new direction... where to find that route...

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    Quote Originally Posted by 2slo2endo View Post
    I hope to download a route that someone else has already taken, which I suppose takes this in an entirely new direction... where to find that route...
    literally dozens of website focus on GPS data file sharing. plus, hundreds of websites host/share gps data for trail networks. lots of bike clubs do, and many personal websites.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2slo2endo View Post
    I hope to download a route that someone else has already taken, which I suppose takes this in an entirely new direction... where to find that route...
    What's the trail/route that you're looking to ride?

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