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Handheld GPS recommendations

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 jpicksley 15 Oct 2020

Hi,

I'm thinking about getting a handheld GPS for hill walking. In the UK I walk exclusively in Scotland, often in areas with no phone reception. Initially I was thinking about something just for relocation in an emergency, i.e. getting an accurate grid reference. Now I've thought about it more and done some internet research I'm thinking of something that gives me a range of features: compass, altimeter, maps, etc. but I'm particularly interested in live tracking, SMS and SOS features, so I have redundancy in terms of navigation and can communicate my route when I'm ok and my position in an emergency without having to worry about phone reception.

My thinking at the moment is to have a separate device to my mobile phone, the main reason being to keep the phone for emergency calls and my understanding that GPS battery life is far better than phone battery life. I'm thinking handheld rather than a wrist device to get a better screen.

Anyone have any experience of what to look at (and not look at), please? Or any pearls of wisdom? I'm a GPS novice at this point.

Thanks,

James.

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 deepsoup 15 Oct 2020
In reply to jpicksley:

> In the UK I walk exclusively in Scotland, often in areas with no phone reception. Initially I was thinking about something just for relocation in an emergency, i.e. getting an accurate grid reference.

This may be stating the bleedin' obvious, but you can already get that from a modern phone. (Most phones anyway.)  There are lots of free simple apps that will return an OS grid reference using the phone's GPS chip, no phone signal or data required.  I have an Android app called simply "Grid Reference".

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 Niek 15 Oct 2020
In reply to jpicksley:

If you want out of mobile signal communications you need something that can use communication satellites like the irridium network. This isn't standard GPS functionality, you'll need to look at something like the Garmin inReach models.

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 jpicksley 15 Oct 2020
In reply to deepsoup:

Hi,

Thanks for taking the time to reply. I have OS Locate on my phone and for the reasons I alluded to in the initial post I'm thinking of a separate device.

Cheers.

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 jpicksley 15 Oct 2020
In reply to Niek:

Thanks. I thought that was the case but given that I'm new to this game that confirmation helps.

Cheers.

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 Niek 15 Oct 2020
In reply to jpicksley:

You can get an inreach mini which you can use with your phone or you can get an integrated unit which sounds like what you'd want. Something like https://buy.garmin.com/en-GB/GB/p/561286/pn/010-01735-00

Note that you need a subscription to use it which isn't that cheap (but much cheaper than a proper sat phone!).

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 jpicksley 15 Oct 2020
In reply to deepsoup:

Hi deepsoup - please note that I did not down vote you. In fact I up voted you for taking the time to reply. Just saying.

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 jpicksley 15 Oct 2020
In reply to Niek:

Thanks Niek. I've been looking at that one and the mini and you're quite right, the subscription is expensive! Again, thanks for confirming I'm in the right area and don't appear to be missing something obvious. Cheers.

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 deepsoup 15 Oct 2020
In reply to jpicksley:

No worries.  I've turned the 'likes' and 'dislikes' off so don't see them, but even if I hadn't I wouldn't be at all bothered.  They're really quite random on this forum, and generally best ignored.

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 jpicksley 15 Oct 2020
In reply to deepsoup:

Very sensible.

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 99ster 15 Oct 2020
In reply to jpicksley:

> Thanks Niek. I've been looking at that one and the mini and you're quite right, the subscription is expensive! Again, thanks for confirming I'm in the right area and don't appear to be missing something obvious. Cheers.

The Inreach Mini is a brilliant piece of kit.  It was invaluable in, of all places, the Cornish coast which has a number of areas that have zero phone reception - being able to send text messages when we were in a spot of bother was brilliant.  And for 'solo' trips into the wilds - it gives me (and the mrs) a great deal of re-assurance.

With the subscriptions...it all depends on how often you need to use it.  I just take the subscription out a month at a time, as and when I need it.  But...if you're out every weekend (or more if you're lucky!) then it's more economical to go for an annual subscription I would think?  Considering what it's actually able to do - the cost, for me, isn't excessive.

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 jpicksley 15 Oct 2020
In reply to 99ster:

That's great information. Thank you very much indeed.

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 tripehound 15 Oct 2020
In reply to jpicksley:

You can get a personal rescue beacon without any subscription costs at all. The Ocean Signal rescue me is one such device. The downside is that you cannot send texts it is basically a button press device that sends out a distress signal. It works in the mountains not just a marine environment 

Post edited at 17:55
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 ablackett 15 Oct 2020
In reply to jpicksley:

I got a garmin Satmap10 from ebay for about £70, with 1:50 maps of the whole uk.  Won't do any tracking or comunication but will show a map and let you follow a route.

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 jpicksley 16 Oct 2020
In reply to tripehound:

Thanks.

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 jpicksley 16 Oct 2020
In reply to ablackett:

Thanks.

I've been looking at the OS Aventura 2 as a compromise (uses the mobile phone network to allow remote route tracking with a system called SeeMe and looks good for actual navigation). Anyone got any experience of it?

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 rgold 17 Oct 2020
In reply to jpicksley:

Phones nowadays, especially when properly handled, work very well in the back country.  Almost all GPS apps allow you to download maps to your phone so that an internet connection isn't needed for navigation, just the ability to "see" satellites, the same thing a dedicated device requires.  In my US experience, Garmin maps are very expensive, relatively limited, and are inferior to what's available for phones.  For example, I can overlay a cell phone reception map to any of my ordinary maps and see where reception is possible.  I can overlay all kinds of real-estate maps to see the delineation between public and private lands.  Of no current interest to UK users, I can overlay wildfire locations too.  The maps on my phone have higher resolution than the Garmin maps and are easier to install, and are kept more up-to-date.

When it comes to emergency communications, there are several gadgets, but the Garmin Inreach Mini seems to be the best from what I've heard.

Although US-specific and biased towards Gaia GPS (a fantastic app in my opinion too), the following site has a treasure-trove of useful information for folks thinking about using cell phones for navigation.  https://www.adventurealan.com/iphone-gps-map-backpacking/

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 99ster 17 Oct 2020
In reply to jpicksley:

Garmin InReach Mini review from Andy Kirkpatrick:

https://www.andy-kirkpatrick.com/blog/view/garmin-inreach-mini/

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 jpicksley 12:22 Mon
In reply to 99ster:

Thanks.

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 jpicksley 12:25 Mon
In reply to rgold:

Thanks. I've assumed using my mobile in this context is very much limited due to draining the battery. That website suggests getting days worth of mobile phone usage between recharge. How do they manage that? I've got a modern phone and if I was to use mapping software (which I have for cycling) the battery drains out in under a day. I have to take an external battery pack and run the phone off that when on the bike. Is that what they do or you? Or am I missing something?

Thanks.

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In reply to jpicksley:

Satmap 20 for me (I'm shite at proper nav).

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 jpicksley 12:37 Mon
In reply to blurty:

Thanks.

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 jezzah 12:39 Mon
In reply to jpicksley:

I have a Garmin 64s which is a bit like an old brick. However, it does work well, can use rechargeable AA batteries and you can plan routes on Garmin website then upload them onto your device and simply follow a bread-crumb trail when you are out on the hill. 

I have the OS1:25,000 for most upland areas and 1:50,000 for the whole of the UK. 

On the plus side, it has buttons which do not freeze up when it's cold. When you know how to use it you will get a very accurate ETA at any given point you choose based on your current speed so you know if you are going to miss the last lift down!

Downside, it's quite big (but that does mean you can use with winter gloves on).

You can pick them up on ebay relatively cheaply these days.

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 jpicksley 14:21 Mon
In reply to jezzah:

Thank you.

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 Frank R. 16:05 Mon
In reply to jpicksley:

> I've got a modern phone and if I was to use mapping software (which I have for cycling) the battery drains out in under a day. I have to take an external battery pack and run the phone off that when on the bike. Is that what they do or you? Or am I missing something?

I get at least few days out of my phone when using it as a map. 

The trick is just that, use it only as a map

Airplane mode, background apps location services turned off (even for the map app, it gets location only when active), sometimes I even turn location services off for the map app itself (often I just want to check the map ahead without a need for location), turn off any route tracking or navigation (both of which you might have on while on a bike, no?). And no constant selfies Of course I take a smaller backup battery just in case and a dedicated GPS is invaluable in winter.

Post edited at 16:09
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 Niek 16:39 Mon

Any advice from those who use phones as GPS in the hills on using capacitive touch screens in the wet? I've always found them unusable in heavy rain.

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 jpicksley 16:40 Mon
In reply to Frank R.:

Nice. Thanks for the reply. Cheers man.

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 jpicksley 16:43 Mon
In reply to Niek:

All the reading I've done says go with buttons not touch screen if you're likely to use it in difficult conditions, particularly if you do a lot in winter and will be wearing gloves. But bear in mind I've not used one in practice hence this thread!

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 Niek 16:49 Mon
In reply to jpicksley:

Resistive touchscreens (generally older GPS) which detect pressure are fine in the wet, capacative ones like on phones and some newer GPS falsely interpret water droplets as touches and in my experience are unusable in the kind of conditions I most desperately want a GPS to work in!

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 jpicksley 17:04 Mon
In reply to Niek:

I learn more. Wouldn't the answer be buttons?

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 Frank R. 19:15 Mon
In reply to jpicksley:

Buttons on a phone, of all things? Come on, where did you get such a ridiculous idea?

Yes, touchscreens are a pain in the rain...

If you get a Garmin GPS, be aware that many models don't have any button lock feature against accidental key press. On the e-Trex series, the side buttons are very resistant and ok, but the joystick is easy to click accidentally. Usually it doesn't do anything bad, just adds a trackpoint, but it can be annoying. I think they added lock in the 66, don't know about earlier 6-series models.

BTW, you are not limited to their official maps, you can use many other, even free sources (like open street maps or the hiking equivalent).

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 jpicksley 09:03 Tue
In reply to Frank R.:

Thank you.

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