/ GPS lat/long watch advice

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maxsmith 10 Feb 2020

Hi all, for years I've been fine in the hills with map and compass but I'm interested in a GPS watch as insurance against zero-visibility or night-time situations.  Plan would be to charge the watch up before particularly adventurous trips and then leave it in my first aid kit in case of emergencies.  As such I don't want to buy an all singing and dancing £500 watch. Instead I'd like to Ebay the cheapest possible Garmin or Suunto that has GPS, can be turned 'off', and has sufficient battery size to power up and give Lat/long after a few days in the cold. Can anyone point me in the direction of such a watch? I understand that it is possible to do DIY battery replacements in the early Forerunners so that would be an option.

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ianstevens 10 Feb 2020
In reply to maxsmith:

Not a recommendation per se, but you’ll find most can be set to BNG rather than lat/long which is of course far more useful when armed with an OS map

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99ster 10 Feb 2020
In reply to maxsmith:

Suunto Ambit Peak 3

As well as GPS location it also has a barometric altimeter, etc.  Excellent piece of kit.  I'm sure you would be able to pick one up on eBay for a sensible price.

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maxsmith 10 Feb 2020
In reply to maxsmith:

Hi, thanks both. Suunto Ambit 3 is a bit higher spec than what I was hoping for. I'll always have a map so BNG/co-ordinates would give me altitude anyway. I'm really asking: what is the earliest generatio Garmin/Suunto that gives GPS co-ordinates and can be turned off?

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lithos 10 Feb 2020
In reply to maxsmith:

the ambit 2  gps can be turned off (and i have one for sale !) and actually the original ambit 1 I expect. I'd look at a separate unit like an old etrex,  better battery life and replaceable AAAs for living in first aid kit (and a modern phone turned off in a dry bag)

If any gps is turned off for a while and moved from  far where it was last turned on it will take a while to locate itself and use more power...

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krikoman 10 Feb 2020
In reply to maxsmith:

Why a watch? a second-hand Garmin would probably be much cheaper, have a longer battery life, and it's only to be a back up might better fit the bill.

Edit: what lithos said

Post edited at 14:01
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maxsmith 10 Feb 2020
In reply to lithos:

thanks, how much for the ambit 2? guessing a bit more than I was hoping to spend! I am looking at the Garmin Forerunner 310xt which is available for a tenner-ish on ebay and seems to give uk grid references.

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Ben Snook 10 Feb 2020
In reply to maxsmith:

I have a Fenix 3 - I was looking for watch that could take and display, on screen, a grid reference for a point, and at the time (first half of 2015?), the Fenix 3 was the only watch around I could find that could do this. I needed it for work, so did quite some digging on the matter.

As best as I could work out, the other Garmins and the Suuntos etc. could take waypoints from which you could fetch the coords later, but for 'live' coordinate display, the Fenix 3 was the only one. So, that's my answer for your earliest generation question!

Edited for clarity

Post edited at 14:11
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maxsmith 10 Feb 2020
In reply to krikoman:

Hi, I just assumed a watch would be cheaper/lighter. Are you talking about Garmin Geko/etrex sort of thing? Would also solve the battery life issue as it would take AAAs, thanks good suggestion

Post edited at 14:26
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wilkesley 10 Feb 2020
In reply to Ben Snook:

It's an "App" (or whatever Garmin calls them), which can be installed on any Garmin watch that supports their app store. I have it on my own Fenix 3 and have found it useful. All the app does it display the 6 figure grid ref of your current location.

Edit: It's called UK, Ireland and MGRS Grid Reference Widget.

Post edited at 14:38
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Ben Snook 10 Feb 2020
In reply to wilkesley:

Interesting. My input is all with respect to standard out-of-the-box features. It sounds like downloading that app to an earlier app store-compatible model could well a cheaper option; the Fenix 3s still sell for some money from what I can see.

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WaterMonkey 10 Feb 2020
In reply to maxsmith:

Do you have a smart phone?

If so your phone can do exactly what you want and more, now.

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maxsmith 10 Feb 2020
In reply to maxsmith:

hi,Ii have a smart (work) phone but i dont take it to the hills because the battery cant be trusted in the cold and i dont want to be contactable. I have an old Nokia 'dumb' phone with 20 day battery life that I keep in my waterproof emergency bag.

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Tringa 10 Feb 2020
In reply to maxsmith:

If you don't want to be contactable you could turn your phone off (though there might be an emergency where people back home need to contact you).

A phone plus OSLocate(which is free and will give you a six figure grid reference) and/or OS Maps(which are not free but possibly less than a GPS watch. A powerbank for the phone would give you extra battery  life.

Dave 

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Punter S Thompson 10 Feb 2020
In reply to maxsmith:

I use Viewranger on my phone. I put the phone in airplane mode which makes a huge difference to battery life and means I don't get calls or texts unless I turn airplane mode off to check or make a call.

In cold weather I put it in a pocket in my inner layers. That stops the cold eating the battery.

If you want a device just for emergencies then I'd agree with picking up an old etrex.

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ScraggyGoat 10 Feb 2020
In reply to maxsmith:

If you go for an old stand alone unit, consider getting one that takes the same type of batteries as your head torch. This option will be dirt cheap. Downside is you'll have to transpose the grid ref to you map

A smaller smart phone once turned off will stay viable if kept warm in your breast pocket for days. Just check you can turn it on easily with gloves and use it. I can use mine with my nose...don't even have to take my gloves off.  Upside is no grid ref transcription to paper map if you have maps pre-loaded, and if the gps gives an erroneous location while it triangulates the satillites its much more easy to spot, just wait for a good 'fix' and then put it back in your pocket, and navigate onwards with the paper map.

Post edited at 16:39
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kevin stephens 10 Feb 2020
In reply to maxsmith: A gps watch can be useful and fun. However reading gps coordinates and transferring to a map can be time consuming. Most gps watches have altimeters barometric and/or gps which can be very useful for ”aiming off “ navigation. I have a Suunto Traverse which is great.  However if you want to use your watch to download walks or other adventures I would reluctantly advise against Suunto for the time being; go with Garmin instead. This is because the new Suunto App which replaced Movescount is rubbish and full of bugs, not really fit for purpose. I only use it to transfer data to Strava which even then corrupts speed data when I’m sea kayaking (but strangely not other activities)

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Ridge 10 Feb 2020
In reply to maxsmith:

Yet another "Why a watch?" post I'm afraid.

A fairly small subset of watches will give you OS grid or even lat/long cordinates, it's a feature thst tends only to be enabled on the higher spec watches (a cynic might think this is a deliberate marketing tactic).

Also watches have small batteries, and an old, high spec watch going very cheap on fleabay will probably have a knackered battery. As others have also pointed out, a GPS watch that's been sat turned off for weeks will spend a few minutes trying to get a fix after being switched on.

You'd be better with an etrex using replaceable batteries or a second hand smartphone with a replaceable battery IMHO.

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lithos 10 Feb 2020
In reply to maxsmith:

yeah i haven't checked in a while but more like 75 quid,  for tenner can't go wrong if you wnt to go that route

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Martin W 10 Feb 2020
In reply to maxsmith:

>I am looking at the Garmin Forerunner 310xt which is available for a tenner-ish on ebay and seems to give uk grid references.

The Forerunner 310XT does indeed give OS grid references, but mine at least is terribly slow to get a location fix when first powered up.  Slow like it sometimes still hasn't worked out where it is after ten minutes standing around outdoors waiting to start my run/bike ride/whatever.

I've now replaced it with a Forerunner 735XT which is "always on" (sitting in a drawer the battery lasts at least a week) and get a GPS fix in seconds when you want to start an activity.  However, that's probably too expensive for what you're looking for, and doesn't really meet your criterion of being able to be switched fully off (it can be done, but there isn't a single straightforward button to do it like on the 310XT).

I do think that an eTrex or smartphone solution might actually be better for your needs.  (As others have said, you can be uncontactable with a smartphone simply by putting it in to airplane mode.  The GPS will still work because it's a passive system.  And airplane mode is persistent over power off/power on cycles.  On the down side, simply powering on a smartphone can eat quite a bit of battery on its own.)

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maxsmith 15:49 Mon
In reply to maxsmith:

Just a quick follow up, I ended up buying a Garmin Geko 301 for a tenner on ebay, it's exactly what I need: weighs 65g without batteries and takes AAAs from my headtorch. Thanks for all advice. 

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lithos 16:03 Mon
In reply to maxsmith:

nice one, i think i'd view it as having my headtorch backup batteries in it

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maxsmith 16:10 Mon
In reply to lithos:

Yeah good shout, seriously great bit of budget kit, gives a 5digit OS reading in under a minute from powerup. I can see why there is no modern equivalent, Garmin and Suunto would lose so much business for their Smartwatches etc if Geko was still in production.

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lithos 16:13 Mon
In reply to maxsmith:

yep i have one hence my original suggestion ;-)

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