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  1. #1
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    GPS device advice needed...I have no idea which to get!

    Alright, hello everyone. I'm currently blazing trails through a customers woods of 300+ acres, and I want to map and picture the trail as I go along.

    Things I need:

    1. Accuracy - I don't know much about GPS mapping, but the location is in a rural part of Virginia. So something that is pretty accurate would be key.

    2. Waypoints - I will be creating quite a few waypoints and would like to some how 'combine' them to actually show my customer their trails. It's about 3-4 miles worth, so I need to be able to create a bunch of'em.

    3. Pictures - I need the unit to be able to take pictures at my waypoints.

    Would like to stay under $500 if possible...but if necessary, more funds can go towards the device. I wish I knew more about GPS services/devices, but I don't have the time to research as well as I would like.

    Thanks for any help!

  2. #2
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    Look at the Garmin Oregon series. It's pretty accurate - I think you'd have to go well above your $500 limit to do statistically better. There is a version with a camera. It will take waypoints, but you would have to do track recording to "connect them" or put them on a map and then draw in the trails, I guess. Someone else might have a better solution, mapping isn't my thing. I know once a map is done, you can drop in into the Oregon and use it to navigate the property.

  3. #3
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    After a bit of research I have came to the Garmin Oregon 650. Has everything I need and falls under my price range.

  4. #4
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    CCCMB web - Facebook
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  5. #5
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    If I was to buy a dedicated GPS for trail layout purposes right now, I'd get the Monterra.

    Why?

    Versatility. It will do geotagged photos. It is compatible with GLONASS+GPS for improved accuracy in difficult conditions. Plus, it is Android-based and has access to the Play store for apps that give you additional functionality. Of particular interest to me for professional mapping is the ability to run the mobile version of ArcGIS.

    With that said, I've been using an Oregon 450 for a number of years now with success. I specifically chose to avoid the 550 with the camera but I think I'd actually prefer to have it now, for documenting trail maintenance needs. I've noticed that when geotagging photos with a smartphone, it doesn't always work the way it should.

  6. #6
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    I'm using Backwoods Navigator Pro in my 7" Android tablet and liking it a lot. I can load as many tiles as I want onto the memory card, which lets me run it in airplane mode with only the gps turned on. If keep the screen turned off unless I'm looking at it I get incredible battery life too. I can't can't speak to accuracy like NateHawk can, but it works very well for trail building purposes. If you download the aerial photo tiles too it can be handy.
    A Useful Bear is a handy thing.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    If I was to buy a dedicated GPS for trail layout purposes right now, I'd get the Monterra.

    Why?

    Versatility. It will do geotagged photos. It is compatible with GLONASS+GPS for improved accuracy in difficult conditions. Plus, it is Android-based and has access to the Play store for apps that give you additional functionality. Of particular interest to me for professional mapping is the ability to run the mobile version of ArcGIS.

    With that said, I've been using an Oregon 450 for a number of years now with success. I specifically chose to avoid the 550 with the camera but I think I'd actually prefer to have it now, for documenting trail maintenance needs. I've noticed that when geotagging photos with a smartphone, it doesn't always work the way it should.
    Really appreciate everyone's input so far.

    Nate - My problem I believe is that I am literally NEW to the GPS scene. I'm good with computers and electronics of all kinds, but not GPS...yet.

    I've been kind of reading around, and I see that PC software is a big part of professional mapping. Should I also be looking into a decent software to get along with whichever device I end up getting?

    That being said, I do not really need, or want for that matter, my GPS unit to be relied on by my phone. The trails I'm mapping are in a no-service zone for miles around where I will be located, so I want the GPS unit itself to be what I'm relying on for doing this.

    I need:
    topo at 2' increments
    streams
    aerial photos
    property lines
    roads and driveways
    RR tracks

    From what I can tell, the 650 will give me all of this. I can find some local maps in my brief searches of county websites, so that's KIND OF taken care of. I would still like to find a really well put together one that shows me everything though.

    Would I still be better off with the Monterra, seeing as I don't mind not using my phone, or am I not understanding what you mean in the added functions my phone could potentially give the unit?


    edit - I should have looked at the Monterra before replying, but I did not. The price is quite a bit more, but I want the best possible presentation for my client. I guess to put it simply, would the extra ~$200 be worth it?

  8. #8
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    GPS device advice needed...I have no idea which to get!

    Yes, software is a big deal. ArcGIS is an industry standard, but it isn't the only option. There are lower cost and even free options. Both for the desktop and mobile.

    2' contour interval will probably be too much to ask on most handhelds. That level of detail will slow the unit down significantly. If you can get data that detailed, keep it on the computer at home and use something more streamlined like 10' contours in the field.

    The monterra still has robust GPS hardware and offline capability so don't worry about that. If anything it will have more map display options because Android is more flexible. It also requires more processor and memory oomph so it might be able to handle drawing 2' contours.

    It comes down to how serious you intend to take trail mapping. The Oregon would serve you well, don't get me wrong. But if you want to take it to the next level with capability and flexibility, the Monterra would be it. IMO, if you are calling someone a client, that means there is probably a paid professional relationship and that would be a "next level" for me that would warrant better hardware.

  9. #9
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    You're right about the client, which is why I'm entertaining the better hardware. However, this is pretty much going to be a one-time thing, I don't do much of this but I want the client to KNOW what they're getting.

    In regards to software...

    Would ArcGIS be more of an advanced user program? I need something I can learn quickly and easily, but still would be able to produce a nice 'finished' trail to send via the interwebs. I see a $100/yr home use version of it, but for what I need, what would be the cheaper route?

    The 2' intervals would be a finished product, if I can get something close enough to where I can take it home and make a fairly precise average on the CPU that would be more than acceptable for me.

    Just keep in mind this is pretty much one time mapping deal, I won't be doing this very often to say the least. I just want to do this right...the first time.


    By the way Nate, you're wealth of knowledge is more helpful than I can explain. I can't begin to thank you enough for taking time out of your day to help out a noob.

  10. #10
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    Ah I forgot to mention. I'm having some trouble finding a nice detailed map of the area I'm mapping, so I also need to take into account getting a detailed view of the plot these trails are in.

    Should I also be factoring in these BirdsEye and TOPO/24k maps into my shopping cart?

    The trails I'm mapping are in a rural part of Virginia, near Columbia/Buckingham/Fluvana. I've found some county and Google Earth satellite views, but they're pretty well out of date. What would you do in my shoes?

    I really wish I had more time to research this, I've just been so busy. So once again, you cannot believe how much of a help you're being to me.

  11. #11
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    Now I'm curious - are you mapping trails at Lake Monticello or someplace? Are you affiliated at all with CAMBC? If not, you should meet and talk to some of those guys. They may be able to help you, possibly even loan you a GPS unit. I've not talked to them in a while, so I don't know exactly what they have, but I can tell you they're good guys, and it's worth a shot to see if they can help you.

  12. #12
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    No I'm not. I'm mapping a home owners trails in Fluvana right off of the James River.

  13. #13
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    GPS device advice needed...I have no idea which to get!

    Yeah, ArcGIS would be advanced software but picking it up is easier than some options because it is mostly well designed.

    For what you are doing, GIS software is where you should be looking. I would stay with open source programs at this point, though. QGIS and Mapwindow GIS would fit the bill.

    You will still need data. Usually state universities maintain GIS databases but some state gov agencies do, also. The data is usually free and varies from state to state what is available.

    The USGS has sat imagery nationwide on their GLOVIS site. Mostly free but you have to register because they deliver your order via email. With imagery, it usually seems to work that if it is detailed, you can only get old stuff for free. If it is recent, detail is low. There are other imagery sources and if you have a state on top of its GIS database you may be able to find detailed recent imagery on its site.

    2' contours won't be easy to find already made. You might not be able to find them at all. You may have to generate them yourself if they are that important. Or just make use of a different elevation dataset. Digital Elevation Models (DEM) are the standard elevation format. Most are 30m resolution but 10m is becoming more popular and if your state has been using LiDAR, you may have much better resolution available. You can generate hillshade from these. Frankly, though, I don't think it is that important yo have crazy high contour intervals. 10' is usually plenty good.

    If you are using 10' contours, that data is all over in vector formats for you to use. It is what I use for making trail maps. It helps keep map clutter down, as I want to focus on the trails. The extra layers are only there in a supporting role for the trails. Maybe if you were going to print a huge wall map of your trail system, 2' contours wouldn't be too cluttered, but I find 10' contours with hillshade to work well. Besides, there are enough people who can't read contours at all that even if you put all the work into making a map with very tight intervals, they may not even be able to read it.

  14. #14
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    It's starting to make some sense now, heh.

    Would it be smart to invest in BirdsEye or the 24k or 100k topo maps from Garmin as well? I'm going to check out QGIS and Mapwindow to see what they're all about when I get home.

    Maybe I have it wrong, but will the device be able to use satellites to take an areal shot of the land? Or is that why you need to find/buy maps to install into the device?

    Forgive me if I'm confusing some stuff...it's kind of overwhelming for such a beginner to this.

  15. #15
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    GPS device advice needed...I have no idea which to get!

    BirdsEye imagery isn't necessary but it's the easiest way to get satellite imagery onto the GPS. There are free ways but there are many different programs that support it and each has its own method. I use Topofusion, which is a program you'd have to buy ($70 or so), but is worth it. Many imagery options and you don't have to pay a subscription like with BirdsEye. Probably one of the easier methods but there are options for parameters of the data transfer that you will have to figure out.

    The GPS cannot record pictures from satellites directly. Satellites that civilians can access take pictures of a place on a predefined schedule ranging from every few days to every few months depending on the satellite. Some of those are not free to access but for the ones that are, you are at the mercy of the satellite's schedule. And most people will never see all of the images that come from a satellite. Depending on the region, a large proportion of the images can be significantly obscured by cloud cover for a given year. I used some of these raw satellite images in my master's research. PITA to get what I needed because the satellites I was using visited once every 2-3 weeks, which limited my choices during a given season.

    Most sources sort through it all and eliminate images with cloud cover.

    Another option are aerial images, obtained from aircraft instead of satellites. They often use similar sensors and have very high resolution. I have seen some as high as 6 inch resolution. Availability varies from state to state and is usually best in states with active agriculture or forestry industries, as these can frequently be most reliable for annual analysis of crop yields and forest health because planes can schedule flights around bad weather.

  16. #16
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    The Monterra is quite impressive. I'd like to test one when they'll be available in November. Price point is a bit steeper than the Oregon but considering the extra features, it's totally worth it! Best pre-order price I found in Canada is 699$ so far.
    A trailbuilder from the north

  17. #17
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    Hi

    I was searching for some more information about the Monterra, and foud your discussion.
    I'm looking for a new GPS for professional use, and I'm considering buying a Garmin Monterra, but some people also told me to use a Juno Trimble instead. Has any of you guys used both of them to compare wich one has a better accuracy? Or can any of you tell me the accuracy that you are getting on the Monterra?
    Also some people told me to use the Garmin Glo with some android tablet, has anyone tried it?

    Thanks

  18. #18
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    GPS device advice needed...I have no idea which to get!

    I don't know about the newer Junos but the early ones I have used are MUCH less accurate for lines/tracks than even my Garmin Oregon. For points, they are close. This is after post-processing the Trimble's .ssf files with base station correction data. Garmin's filtering/processing algorithms are very good.

    I have not used a Monterra but I like it and would like to try one.

    Bsieb uses a tablet for trail building. You can find him and his discussions about his tablet setup in the trailbuilding forum. The Garmin GLO is not your only option for an external GPS for a tablet. Folks have been using external GPS receivers since the palm pilot days so there is a decent market for that. I think the biggest issue with using a tablet will be finding one with an acceptable rugged/waterproof case, the OS/app environment you want, and choosing a GPS puck that gives you the accuracy you want.

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