Choosing a GPS (Global positioning system) unit
Sun 22nd April 2012
THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN UPDATED DUE TO NEW MODELS - click here for new article
Choosing a GPS (Global positioning system) unit
How many times do I get asked the question at Shepherds Walks – What is the best handheld GPS unit of what is the best GPS unit for walking?
We also get people who come on our Shepherds Walks GPS training courses who frankly have been sold the wrong GPS unit. They were wrongly advised in the shop (not Shepherds Walks I may add) and then they realise so and wish they had sought some advice first.
So here are my thoughts about the GPS units that are currently on the market.
- Make of GPS Unit - Garmin, Memory Map or SatMap?
Over the years at Shepherds Walks we have sold every make of unit, but now only sell Garmin, why?
Over the past year with the advent of free software that enables you to transfer your mapping from your GPS to your PC why look any further than Garmin. Garmin GPS units are good products, great product support, affordable mapping and very easy to use.
I know I will be criticised by some people, but this year we converted our GPS training day into a ĎGarmin Outdoor GPS Training Dayí. For Shepherds Walks to make that decision we have put our business behind the best runner and rider; Garmin.
- GPS Screen - Black and white or colour?
The only black and white Garmin GPS unit on the market is the e-Trex 10.
Unless the only reason you are buying a GPS unit is to mark fixed points or geo-caching (and then I would still think about spending a little more for a colour screen one) I would steer away from a black and white screen GPS unit.
Black and white screen GPS are the most commonly miss sold GPS units.
People look at the price, think they are getting a bargain and then realise later down the path they should have spent a little bit more and bought a colour screen unit.
The joy of a colour screen GPS that you can add affordable Ordnance Survey mapping to them, either at the time of purchase, or at a later stage. So please do spend that extra few pounds.
Units with colour screens – e-Trex 20, e-Trex 30, 62c
- Data Input - Touch screen or buttons?
The basic e-Trex Garmin range has buttons, also the 62c (one of the top models) also has buttons, the rest of the Garmin GPS units are touch screen.
When we do our Shepherds Walks GPS training courses we give participants waypoints that they manually put into their units. The people who have touch screen units are twice as quick. They easily input the data and off they go.
The button driven units take a lot longer to input the data BUT the reason the Garmin 62c has buttons (i.e. a high end unit) is if you are into high level and winter walking and you wear gloves buttons are certainly worth looking at as touch screen units can be hard if you wear gloves (i.e. you will need to take them off).
- Mapping on the screen
You can put mapping on all the colour screen GPS units (please note I am talking about the new generation units - e-Trex 20, e-Trex 30, 62c) and when you see an Ordnance Survey Map on the screen you will not be disappointed.
If you get a chance to buy maps at the same time as buying the unit (i.e. bundled in with unit) buy them. You will get them at a massively reduced price, but donít be conned by small areas of mapping, if you are offered a bundle of maps I would expect full UK mapping at 1:50,000, donít go for anything less. These mapping cards that you get bundled with higher end GPS units normally retails for £200.00 but you get it bundled with new units for just £50.00 above the stand along unit price.
A big saving, but please note not all retailers sell bundled mapping. I must add that Shepherds Walks have these bundled offers online or in our shop, but many online retailers donít (as Garmin likes to put them into Ďbricks and mortar retailersí).
Units with bundled mapping options – 62c
- Electronic Compass – Worth the money?
Some GPS units come with built in electronic compasses. Why, and is it worth the extra money?
As GPS units work from satellites with are thousands of miles above you when you rotate the unit through 90 degrees it does nothing. Why should it, it has only moved 2 or three inches? Well as a walker if it is pointing in the wrong direction it makes a massive difference.
Therefore they started putting in electronic compasses and it gets even better. With any new generation unit you donít even need to keep them flat as they are what you call 3 axis compasses.
Therefore with a unit with a built in electronic compass your Ordnance Survey map, on the screen, will automatically orient itself and your compass will be correct when you move your GPS unit around.
The units without electronic compasses do still have a compass BUT you have to be moving for these to work, as it needs to be processing location data from the satellites.
So the extra few pounds for an electronic compass is certainly worth the money.
Units with an electronic compass – e-Trex 30, 62c
I hope the above has helped you out in helping you choose your GPS unit.
So which one should you go for?
If you are on a budget I would personally buy the – e-Trex 30. Look at this online here
If you can afford it (worth the extra money) I would buy - GPSMap62s. Look at this online here
You will not be disappointed.
- Please call Shepherds Walks to talk over the options -
Shepherds Walks is open 7 days a week, so please do call to talk over the options we have. You can even trade in your old unit and upgrade to a newer model. Our telephone number is 01830 540453
Or please do call into our shop in Northumberland to see the GPS units in action.
We donít just sell you the unit. We set it up for you before it is despatched to you and therefore it will work as soon as you take it out of the box. Also if you are local we can also spend a little time with you teaching you how to use your new unit and we do this at no extra cost. You will end up with the right GPS unit and will be able to use it straight away.
You can see our shop details and contact details here.