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RE: Want to know about GPS stuff!!

Chet J Fromm[SMTP:trailblazer@juno.com] wrote:

>1.Like which unit is prefered, Garmin or Magellan? (That's my price
>range, about $200.)

I have a Garmin GPS 45 which I am very pleased with.  I have tried the Magellan 2000 and prefer my Garmin.  I understand the new Garmin 38 has some nice features designed for us land lovers.

2. Is it worth buying a GPS for hiking?

I bought my GPS for winter backcountry skiing and snowshoing to huts.  I often guide groups of friends to cabins.  I carry it primarily as insurance.  I rarely take it out of the pack (I used it more often when I first purchased the unit).  I have used it to guide to a hut in the Colorado high country in white out conditions.

For general 3 season hiking, I would have a difficult time justifying purchase of a GPS.  In the forests in the East, one may be more useful if landmarking is difficult.

3. What's best place to buy, ie, which catalog, or just local? (The 
Mud Hut in NJ was mentioned, just want more suggestions.)

I purchased my unit through West Marine.  Walmart in my area carries both the Garmin GPS 40 and GPS 38.  I have heard Walmarts carry the Magellan units.  Don't expect any help from the sales people. The units are in the automotive section with the radios.

4. What's the best way for a hiker to program waypoints, ie,
Latitude & Long, UTM, etc?

I prefer UTM.  I usually draw the 1KM grid on USGS maps for field work.  With a ruler and a calculator, I have been able to interpolate points to within 50 yards.  In a pinch in the field, I can eye ball within 100 yards very easily.  I use 7.5 minute quads.  Trails Illustrated has begun to mark newer maps in Lat/Lon and UTM.  

I use my GPS for point verification only (power up to verify I am where I should be and get my next bearing) rather than constant navigation (the unit is powered up for the entire trip and "beeps" to let me know I am approaching a waypoint.  Constant navigation is a fairly heavy drain on the batteries (12-18 hour life in energy saver mode).

A Note of Caution:  Double and Triple check waypoints on a route.  Verify you measured the correct location on the map.  Finally, be sure the GPS is set to the same standard as the map (this may be a correction of several hundred yards).

8.What measured unit, statue, nautical miles, or kilometers, is
best to use? (Assuming one's speed is 2 MPH statue, which if need
be, can be converted to another unit.)

I have be using the "miles" selection from the Garmin...I am not sure if it is statue or nautical (I have always assumed nautical because the unit is designed for use on water.).

My final $0.02 worth: A GPS is a helpful tool for bushwacking or blind navigation, but is of minimal use for developed trail hiking.  I have found that standard map and compass navigation is much faster and efficient than GPS navigation for hiking.  Also, when using a map & compass, I are more likely to watch were I am going.  If I set a route of waypoints, I would probably rely more on the route I programmed rather than thinking through the route.  One incorrectly entered way point could ruin a day.  For long distance hiking on the AT, a GPS would be too much trouble since the route is relatively well marked.  For the PCT or other trails above treeline, one may be handy in an emergency situation.

Okay...another note...I find I spend as much time doing pre-trip map work for compass navigation as I do for GPS navigations. 


p.s.: When you get usenet news capability, try the newsgroup "sci.geo.satellite-nav".  From what I know, this is where most of the GPS stuff is posted.