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  1. #1
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    Best GPS for Trailbuilding

    I would post this under the GPS section, but I really want the input from trail builders on the topic. I build trail in areas that are small (50 to 100 acres), so knowing property lines is critical. I will need maps that show property lines as well as having the best detail on contour lines as possible.

    I have done some research on the Delorme PN-20 and a few of the Garmin devises. The PN-20 seems to have the best maps but the Garmin seem to get better reviews on reception.

    Anyone with trail building experience have a preference on a GPS devise?

    Thanks in advance for your input!

  2. #2
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    i've been using the garmin 76cxs. it doesn't show property lines or contours though. i use autocad, google earth and gis shapefiles for contours and property corners and such and i can create points of importance to upload onto the gps. i pretty much designed my trail in autocad and transfered all the points to my gps and any field shots could easily be transfered back to autocad. the software that came with the garmin does ok as far as working with points and there's more garmin software available that has contours. property lines are gonna be hard to come by without some sort of gis software and the property line files.
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  3. #3
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    Eh....it makes me cringe everytime I see/hear of someone doing GIS work in autocad. There are better options.

    At any rate, I also use a 76CSx, but honestly, a better option would be a rugged PDA from Trimble or Thales or another company like that running Windows Mobile and ArcPad. You're talking about $$$$, but the accuracy will be stellar and you can load property lines (or draw them in as you find them) in addition to showing whatever imagery you'd like as base maps. Basically everything you're seeing in the newer GPS receivers is all borrowed from these survey grade models. If you're truly serious about mapping trails, you'll want to drop some cash on a high end GPS receiver and some software for it and for your PC.

    If you don't want to get terribly serious, a good quality consumer GPS with an external antenna port is probably the best value of price/performance you'll get. You'll then want to get your hands on some good GIS software. ArcView and Manifold are going to be the best. If you want a functional intro without dropping money on something you don't know if you'll use, then look at QGIS. ArcView is going to be the most expensive by far (you can spend a couple grand on it depending on the features...I think it starts around $1500). Manifold is a great value (options are available at under $300, with the option of going up into the thousands from there for the really serious stuff) and it's the only one built to handle multi-core CPU's and 64-bit OS environments.

    Garmins are probably the best for doing GIS, partly because the 60/76 series has an external antenna port, but also because there is more software available to interface them with GIS software. MN DNR Garmin is probably the best (but I've had troubles with it on Vista 64 bit). QGIS has native support for Garmin receivers (and .gpx files), and Manifold also has a GPS console. I have not worked out how to get either to download data from the receiver...I've only managed so far to get real-time data transferred.

  4. #4
    The Voice of Reason
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    true, autocad isn't very good for gis stuff but it's excellent for trail design especially since i use it every day. i was able to get the shape files for the area i was building the trail in. contours, boundaries, habitats, wetlands. design and modifications were a piece of cake. the software isn't cheap though. if property corners are that critical, you may just want to pay for a professional boundary and topo survey or maybe you land manager already has one.

    i try to leave a 100' buffer between the trail and property lines. it makes a nice way to hide the trail and it gives room for error. maybe you don't have that kind of room to spare though. if you don't have money to burn, my garmin was less than $400 with the map software (the topo maps cost more. actually, topo maps are made from data that's downloadable from usgs and it's free) and a year's subscription to google earth plus is $20. if your parcel is bounded by fences it's easy to record those corners with the gps and import then to google earth. if your municipality has a property appraiser's site with gis maps and aerials that's another free tool to use. there's all kinds of programs on the web to convert file types. you can also probably find some used survey gps hardware that's probably as accurate as you will ever need.
    I'm never gonna be a Rock Star

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the input. I had a survey crew out the other day for a work project and one of the guys was using a Trimbel and it looked like way too much for what I will need it for. It is upwards of 10k...but it was accurate down to one meter!

    I may start with one if the basic handhelds before I drop big cash on somthing I may not need.

    Thanks guys!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by aetters
    Thanks for the input. I had a survey crew out the other day for a work project and one of the guys was using a Trimbel and it looked like way too much for what I will need it for. It is upwards of 10k...but it was accurate down to one meter!

    I may start with one if the basic handhelds before I drop big cash on somthing I may not need.

    Thanks guys!
    You can still get a good Trimble for around 3k, IIRC. With post-processing, you can get centimeter accuracy with a lot of the newer ones, and still submeter if you use an older geoexplorer 2 or 3 with postprocessing (but those are not PDA type models).

  7. #7
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    Possible low cost GPS option

    I am also shopping around for a trail building GPS and have been gathering information on the various GPS units and topo software. I am leaning towards a Garmin Vista HCx with electronic compass and barometric altimeter together with the National Geographic TOPO! map software. It is supposed to be easy to move waypoints from map to GPS and GPS to map, which would serve my primary purpose. Accuracy would be sufficient for the public lands trails in the west I am working on. Total cost should come in well below $500.

  8. #8
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    ...or the DeLorme PN-20 is retailing for $299 online INCLUDING their highly superior TOPO USA software. And you can download color imagery to the device, draw layers, and even NOAA charts. I'm not sure 1 meter accuracy is really needed since your trail has to adapt to the terrain anyway, and you won't know the detail until you are in the woods laying flags around trees and boulders. Any consumer grade GPS can get you within visual distance of most key planned points.

    Oh, and I just noticed it was you I responded to in the GPS forum!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by fishbum
    ...or the DeLorme PN-20 is retailing for $299 online INCLUDING their highly superior TOPO USA software. And you can download color imagery to the device, draw layers, and even NOAA charts. I'm not sure 1 meter accuracy is really needed since your trail has to adapt to the terrain anyway, and you won't know the detail until you are in the woods laying flags around trees and boulders. Any consumer grade GPS can get you within visual distance of most key planned points.

    Oh, and I just noticed it was you I responded to in the GPS forum!
    To be honest, for mapping work I think the external antenna is worth it. Also for real trail mapping, even topo usa isn't much use. If you're looking at mapping a system of trails and producing a useable format for online planning and/or printing to be carried along, you need something better. NG Topo! covers printed maps very nicely but doesn't give you many options for a variety of views for planning purposes. Topofusion handles trail networks and will give you an easy trail slope readout (rather than forcing you to calculate it from a vertically exaggerated trail profile). I don't know about its ability to generate useful printed maps for navigation. Real GIS software (come on, QGIS and MN DNR Garmin are free and so is all the basemap data you'll ever need) can handle all of this at once.

    Combine that with the fact that since the PN-20 is so new, you won't find it compatible with as many software packages as the Garmins. For general outdoor use, I'd put it equal to Garmins for GPS functionality and give it the edge for the topousa software. But as a consumer level GPS for basic GIS use, nothing beats the Garmin 60/76 series.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by aetters
    I would post thi.....Anyone with trail building experience have a preference on a GPS devise?
    Thanks in advance for your input!


    You aren't going to be using it that long. Rent it.
    Quality GPS units are cheap to rent, and if you use Trimble, they'll probably also send you a copy of Pathfinder Office which will allow you to edit the GPS data prior to converting to shapefile/dxf format.

    There are 3 major GPS rental houses in the US. CompasTools in Denver, another place in Idaho and another down in Houston. They'll ship it to you FedEx.
    Google GPS rentals.

    Or, you can buy a Trimble Recon for about 4-5K and do differential correction post-process. The XH reciever is another 2-3K and will give you sub foot post processed data.

    For your parcel lines you need to talk to your local city/county GIS department. That data is usually sold in a tile. @ $500 here. If you are working with your local Parks Department on Park property you can ask them to get you the parcel data, or better yet, develop an MOU stating that the parcel data is their responsibility to provide, thus getting the fees waived. Utility companies may have that data for sell also.

    If you look around hard enough you can find a free copy of AutoCAD on the net. Or get a demo copy that expires in 30 days from your local CAD dealer.

    For ArcMap... Go to your local big box book store and buy a ArcMap/GIS book with a trial version of ArcMap. That will give you 30 days of GIS software for around $50.
    Last edited by UncleTrail; 04-04-2008 at 08:24 PM.

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