May 16, 2012 at 7:07 am #1289965
I'm looking for the simplest GPS receiver out there (and budget is somewhat of an issue). All I really need is very good sensitivity and ability to display UTM coordinates. Ability to upload waypoints is a plus, but not that necessary. I really don't need all the fancy mapping abilities and such.
Any recommendations?May 16, 2012 at 7:18 am #1878164
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
If you want good sensitivity, you have to get a more expensive GPS.
Good sensitivity means it will work better in steep canyon or deep forest.
It also depends on where the satelites happen to be at any moment. Maybe a cheaper GPS will work for a few hours, and then lose reception. Or work one day but not another.
You can get the cheaper GPS to work if you go to a ridge.
I have successfully used a Garmin 60CSx. They have newer ones that work good. DeLorme has some good ones. I have heard people say that the cheaper Garmin eTrex, for example, doesn't get reception in canyoned areas.May 16, 2012 at 7:25 am #1878166
I think I might be less of a pessimist than Jerry. We're on the Nth generation of devices now, and I think core functionality is pretty good on all current models. The makers try to differentiate on color screens, mapping, communications (probably facebook).
Looking at the eTrex line, the base model 10 claims the same "ability to lock onto 24 more satellites than using GPS alone" as does the higher end 30.
I'd consider the eTrex 10 for ~$110May 16, 2012 at 7:30 am #1878171
Yes, I do realize that higher sensitivity = more expensive. I was just wondering what the the least featured(=least expensive model) that I should go for without giving up sensitivity. As previous mentioned, all I need is the UTM coordinate display and an arrow that points in the general direction of my waypoint would be a plus.May 16, 2012 at 7:47 am #1878176
I do believe "lower sensitivity" should show up in the specs. Perhaps not for off-brand low end models, but the big boys should be up-front.
FWIW, I track the hobby segment a bit, and it is pretty shocking how far component prices are falling as functionality increases … a $30, 66 channel, dime sized, gps moduel with integrated data handling, for instance.May 16, 2012 at 7:52 am #1878178
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
Some models have an added electronic compass – I have found it to not work so I just turn it off
Some models have a barometric pressure altimeter. More accurate. Bounces around less from reading to reading. GPS altimeter is good to 100 or 200 feet elevation? If that's good enough you don't need barometric pressure sensor models.
Some models have extra memory to store more maps.
Some models have better resolution, bigger displays.
All of that costs extra and probably you don't need them?May 16, 2012 at 7:57 am #1878181
Garmin Foretrex 301 – $130May 16, 2012 at 8:02 am #1878187
I have the fortrex 301. It is a really great little GPS.
I haven't had any problems with the sensitivity (that I've noticed) or the battery life.May 16, 2012 at 8:08 am #1878191
Garmin lets you compare between their models a bit (here). It looks like the Foretrex is a bit lighter, but has lower battery life, and doesn't use the Russian GLONASS satellites. So it's tradeoff.May 16, 2012 at 8:22 am #1878198
@snusmumrikenLocale: SF Bay Area
If you have a smart phone just download a gps app, price is between 99 cents and $10.
Download the maps before you go on your trip and you won't need cell service to use the GPS app. Battery life is an issue though, but if you only turn it to check your location once in a while rather than keeping it on for tracking, a fully loaded battery can work for several days.May 16, 2012 at 8:27 am #1878199
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
I followed John's link (thanks!) and found this bit facinating:
"Most modules permit NMEA output only when the module is traveling under 515 m/s AND when its at an altitude of under 60,000 ft (18,000 m). This is to prevent the modules from being used for military use."
which I think explains why none of my GPSes work going 500 mph in a commercial jet. Either that or the small windows in an otherwise complete aluminum tube?
Interesting that they allow use up to 60,000 feet which is the provence of only military jets and rockets. I'm guessing if TSA wrote the rules, the limit would be 10,000 feet.May 16, 2012 at 8:34 am #1878201
Isn't it a crack-up that Garmin is using Russian satellites now? I mean, it was a bit mind blowing to get our military technology for recreational purposes, but now we have theirs! That was meant to kill us, basically.May 16, 2012 at 8:35 am #1878202
I was doing a little research a couple of weeks ago, and I think your best bet is probably the Etrex 10. It's RRP$119 compared to the EtrexH RRP$99, but it has a 50% increase in battery life, and is slightly lighter. It also connects up by USB, not serial, and you can connect straight in to the Garmin Connect site, which allows you to directly download other peoples routes for a hike or bike trip.
They both use a high sensitivity chip, so the satellite lock is MUCH faster and more tenacious than in the past, but the Etrex 10 also uses the GLONASS system.
As far as price and features go, it's a pretty nice mix
RodMay 16, 2012 at 8:46 am #1878204
etrex 10 is on the way. What sold me was the ability to use GLONASS as well.May 16, 2012 at 10:01 am #1878226
["Most modules permit NMEA output only when the module is traveling under 515 m/s AND when its at an altitude of under 60,000 ft (18,000 m). This is to prevent the modules from being used for military use."
which I think explains why none of my GPSes work going 500 mph in a commercial jet. Either that or the small windows in an otherwise complete aluminum tube?]
515 m/s is much faster than 500 mph. Not sure that this explains why your unit doesn't work in a commercial jet.May 16, 2012 at 11:23 am #1878248
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
Technically speaking, most GPS receivers will work fine inside an airliner as long as there is an external antenna on it stuck to the window. It will see poor satellite geometry, and that will add more position error. Legally speaking, GPS receivers have been banned on every airliner that I've been on since 2001.
I can't figure out why any North American-based GPS user would want to get GLONASS reception. Historically, it has been very unpredictable.
Most consumer models use very similar GPS chipsets, so the reception sensitivity is very similar. What you may really be interested in is the ability to lock on and stay locked on various satellites when you are deep in the woods. In the springtime, lots of trees have lots of leaves with lots of water inside. They effectively block GPS signals. In some cases, the leaves act as signal reflectors, and that will set up a multipath interference situation in the receiver, assuming that the receiver is using a typical patch antenna. With a better external antenna, that problem can be mitigated as well.
Due to the similarity of consumer models, you are almost better off selecting a model based on the software user interface at the computer. Normally you do certain tasks at your computer, then transfer the results to the receiver and use it there.
I started using GPS receivers both professionally and for outdoors fun in 1994.
–B.G.–May 16, 2012 at 2:25 pm #1878313
@hesLocale: Pacific NW
It might make sense for some people to use their smartphone as a gps solution. Some people mistakenly think that smartphones need a wireless cellphone connection to use gps. They don't, they can use gps satellites just like dedicated gps units. (If wireless cell reception is available, smartphones can use cell towers to help pinpoint location and get faster gps satellite link.)
I haven't used these, just got my first smartphone. but I'm going to check out Backcountry Navigator. It's cheap ($10) and even has free demo version. Can use USGS topo maps or also sells same set of topo maps used by Accuterra, which you can look at and drill down to your desired locale here: topo map Drill down by using slider at upper right and sliding map so point you want is in center as it zooms. Nice thing is that it seems trails are on the topo map, at least the trails I was looking at in Olympic National Park. . .May 16, 2012 at 2:42 pm #1878318
@oiboyroiLocale: South West US
Just a heads up – the etrex 10 doesn't have a compass. Since it doesn't have a compass, it won't be able to point to a waypoint unless you're moving since it won't know which way you are facing if you're stopped.May 16, 2012 at 4:56 pm #1878365
@drongobirdLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Unless you're carrying a smart-phone for other reasons, iPhone or Android phone doesn't meet your "cheap" requirement. I'll chime in here since others have already raised the smart phone issue — if you (or other readers) go the SmartPhone route, you should read the article about battery conservation, etc.
http://adventurealan.com/iphone4gps.htmMay 16, 2012 at 5:00 pm #1878367
Actually a smartphone won't meet my battery life requirement… Plus many phones I've seen don't come anywhere near dedicated receivers when it comes to reception.May 16, 2012 at 5:51 pm #1878397
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> Etrex 10. It's RRP$119 compared to the EtrexH RRP$99, but
> it has a 50% increase in battery life,
> and is slightly lighter
> It also connects up by USB, not serial,
Good (few PCs today even have a serial port!)
> They both use a high sensitivity chip
In fact, imagining that the more expensive of two *modern* GPS units might have better reception is usually just deluding yourself. The extra cost is all for the extra features.
This does NOT mean that that the chip in the current eTrex H is the same one as was found in a Garmin 10+ years ago: it isn't. They moved to a new upgraded SiRF II receiver some years ago when they introduced the H range. The new chip is much better. That made the Geckos and other models obsolete.
(if the change was 12 years ago – oh well, time flies …)
CheersMay 16, 2012 at 5:59 pm #1878399
@hesLocale: Pacific NW
M.L. — Not sure what your battery life requirement is, but how/what are you projecting as a smartphone's battery life? Smartphones last a hell of a long time when wireless is disabled. Plus almost all Android smartphones have replaceable batteries, so you can just bring an extra. For someone using gps on only an intermittent basis I don't see how battery life could be an issue at all, you can just enable and disable gps when needed. Here's link with some info on smartphone battery life with gps: android battery life with gps.
It's important to remember that smartphones are multi-purpose and not very heavy. Most Android phones weigh 5oz or less, you can carry a spare battery or two and still come out way ahead weight-wise.
I have no knowledge of how reception compares between smartphones and dedicated receivers, but I'm sceptical of anecdotal reports.May 16, 2012 at 7:17 pm #1878431
@berklichLocale: Northern Mid-West
Most higher end GPS receivers are now being programed to accept any of the 4 constellations GPS (USA), Glosnass (Russian), Galileo (EU) and Compass (China). These consist of 12 to 24 sats each in LEO/MEO. Your GPS needs 3 sats to provide position and a fourth and fifth for elevation. Having access to almost 100 sats improves your accuracy and the "window" if you are deep in a canyon.
GPS location data in deep canyons is notoriously bad because of signal bounce. As a civilian GPS accuracy is deliberately degraded from the Military Standard.
Btw the US GPS Constellation is in the process of failing due to a lack of funding and a delay in technology. In 5 to 8 years we will be dependent on Glosnass, Galileo and Compass.May 16, 2012 at 7:31 pm #1878434
>the etrex 10 doesn't have a compass. Since it doesn't have a compass, it won't be able to > >point to a waypoint unless you're moving since it won't know which way you are facing if >you're stopped.
Are you sure about this? Agreed, without a compass the device can't tell which way it is pointing. But doesn't it calculate the azimuth from your current position to the waypoint by doing the math between the two coordinates? Otherwise, how could a GPS like the eTrex H or the eTrex 10 do any route following at all?
Bob G., am I missing something?May 16, 2012 at 7:57 pm #1878443
If the GPS has no digital compass, you have to be moving ~ 1mph? to get a heading. With a digital compass you can stand still and get the heading.
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