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Author Topic:   Handheld GPS - Advice please!
Don Fisher posted 05-29-2002 10:32 AM ET (US)   Profile for Don Fisher   Send Email to Don Fisher  
I'm looking to buy a handheld GPS unit. This is the first time I've really looked. I guess I didn't realize that there were soooo many out there. I would appreciate your comments and advice on a good and reasonably priced unit. Thanks!
triblet posted 05-29-2002 10:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
First question is do you want a small backpackers
unit like the Garmin eTrex, or a larger unit.
I've used the eTrex on a boat, and while it works,
it takes a lot of effort to read the little

Second question is do you want to pay for
cartographic capability, which makes it much
easier to use, but costs.


Don Fisher posted 05-29-2002 10:44 AM ET (US)     Profile for Don Fisher  Send Email to Don Fisher     
Good questions, Chuck. I'm REALLY new at this, but I like the idea of one that can fit in my pocket. As far as carto capability, I suppose the price difference would dictate which direction I would go. Thanks.
ChrisCT posted 05-29-2002 11:21 AM ET (US)     Profile for ChrisCT  Send Email to ChrisCT     
I liked the Garmin GPS map 76. $305 or so and a newer model out for an extra 80 bucks so price may go down. Optional accessories are ccig lighter adapter (25$), and bluechart CD 119$. I got unit from I think b/c of price and free shipping. See if that one fits your needs. The bigger ones would be too attractive to steal if left on boat and ran 500-600 $ if I remember right.
whalerron posted 05-29-2002 11:31 AM ET (US)     Profile for whalerron  Send Email to whalerron     
You all are probably sick of my answers to questions like this but I will say it again anyway (probably has something to do with me liking to hear myself talk?).

I like a very simple unit like the Garmin GPS 12. It has a very easy to read display, a very easy to use interface and it runs for about $140. It has full waypoint and route capabilities. It doesn't do mapping which I don't like anyway. Instead of mapping capability, I would much rather have a good chart book and a simple GPS. That keeps me well versed in navigation techiques so that if and when the GPS fails, I can still find my way. I am sure that with a mapping GPS, I would get lazy and soon get out of practice with the charts.

IMHO, if you need a GPS, you also need to carry current charts and you need to know how to use them. The GPS definitely makes navigation easier but you need to be prepared for a GPS failure.

where2 posted 05-29-2002 12:20 PM ET (US)     Profile for where2  Send Email to where2     
Considering I make maps for a living, I will certainly say there's nothing like a paper map. But, lemme tell you, having an electronic chart that's already got all the channel markers in it so I don't have to spend an afternoon entering waypoints sure beats the old way.

For starter GPS units, any off the shelf Garmin will get you going for an incredibly low price. I've had my Garmin 45XL for several years, it still works. If you can afford the upgrade, get a newer model with WAAS like almost any current model has. Then if you feel like collecting your own channel markers you'll have better positions than you would without WAAS.

Fit in your pocket is nice, but readable screens are more useful. My second GPS unit has a 5" diagonal screen! Consider the fact that the font size on the smallest units requires darn good eyes to read while on-plane. Fishfinders don't have 2.5"x2.5" displays because you couldn't read it if it did...

BabySitter posted 05-29-2002 01:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for BabySitter  Send Email to BabySitter     
Don -

I've used the Garmin 12 for several seasons and have had good results. Reversable route feature is great if you return to your launch spot after dark or in fog. Get the cigarette lighter adapter - my 12 uses lots of batteries !

rsgwynn1 posted 05-29-2002 07:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for rsgwynn1  Send Email to rsgwynn1     
I have a Magellan 320. It's very accurate and easy to use. With the optional console mount it works well, though you have to look close to see the read-out on it. I believe they have a newer model out now that's under $100.
WantaWhale posted 05-29-2002 09:40 PM ET (US)     Profile for WantaWhale  Send Email to WantaWhale     
Are you going to use this only for a boat or is it going to be a jack of all trades? Does it have to be tiny? If only for a boat I would agree with the others and say map 76. A buddy has one and it has a really nice sized screen. If you can go a bit bigger look at the 176 series. Another buddy just bought one of those and the blue chart option is nice.
But if you need tiny and one that can do it all, check out the Etrex *VISTA* model. Make sure it's the Vista version as it has more ram (24megs) than any Garmin model except the $800.00 Car unit. This means you can freely load maps and not worry about running out of ram. I can load the gulf of mexico and some of the northen states for road trips at the same time. Most of the $$marine only units have only about 8 megs of ram, which won't go very far. The unit also has a built in barometer, flux gate compass, and can do the blue charts as well. The unit has a high res screen but it's very tiny so that is something you must consider. When I am in the boat I don't look at the maps unless I am sitting still. I use the pointer to take me to my destination. The pointer takes up the whole screen and is easy to see compared to looking at map detail.

Good luck,

WantaWhale posted 05-29-2002 09:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for WantaWhale  Send Email to WantaWhale     
I just checked out Garmin's site and it looks like they have a new unit coming out that has the same ram/barometer/compass as the vista , only a larger screen. It's the GPSMap 76S. Looks to be an improved version of the 76 map with the Vista features. I would check that one as the old 76 has a really nice sized screen.

Regards, Fletch

browning20ga posted 05-29-2002 11:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for browning20ga  Send Email to browning20ga     
I use a Garmin 12 and it does everything I need it to do. I took a GPS course at the Coast Guard Aux. a few weeks ago, very interesting, didn't teach you how to use a specific GPS. It did cover the eveloution of GPS and covered features availlable in GPS's. I think it's a better course for potential GPS users than someone who has a GPS and is familiar with it
Jerry Townsend posted 05-30-2002 12:30 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jerry Townsend  Send Email to Jerry Townsend     
Don - I currently use a Garmin 48 while hunting and fishing. This is the 'marine' version that Garmin brought out some time ago - I'm not sure if they are still making it. It would do everything I needed - get me back to camp or to where I left the horses or to the boat ramp.

Some have mentioned the Garmin 12 and 12XL - which are also fine units - basic units that will work very well.

Mapping units - I have been skeptical about the mapping units for hunting and other such activities - or fishing on inland lakes. However, I am considering buying a Standard Horizon 160 for the boat since I will be going up into Puget Sound and British Columbia this year and the mapping units where you can select some harbor or shelter would be beneficial.

Further, the maps for the Garmin units cover the states east of the Kansas/Colorado border pretty good - but West of that border, they don't exist. However, the C-Map NT maps are available for each state as I understand. ------ Jerry/Idaho

triblet posted 05-30-2002 12:40 AM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
I have an eTrex Vista as a hiking unit, and
to provide position input to my laptop. 24M
is a HUGE amount of memory. I can get all
the nautical charts I'd ever want into the
2.5M in the 162 on my boat. There's a less
expensive, and slightly less power hungry
eTrex Legend with 8M, which should be plenty
(but it's an ugly iMac blue).


EddieS posted 05-30-2002 12:45 AM ET (US)     Profile for EddieS  Send Email to EddieS     
If I was going for a GPS without chart plotting I would agree with most others and choose the GPS 12. I have owned both the GPS 12 and GPS 45, recently however I was spoiled when using a buddys Furuno chart plotter. I have my captains license and ran a boat for 4 years, I doubt I will ever forget my charting skills. On a larger boat with a cabin and a table to lay your charts out on the smaller units work well. On a center console a chartplotter becomes an extremely useful piece of equipment. On a windy nasty day you can still take a look at your chart without it blowing all over the place. I prefer the larger screen and higher resolution of the 176 over the 76. It is still a portable unit but you will be able to see the charts much more clearly. Additionally it takes the Blue Chart card or you can download off the CD. You get contour lines, notes to mariners and the blue charts tell you which chart you are looking at.

If you can swing the extra coinage I would definetly steer toward a chartplotter. For me Garmin is the only game in town. The units are easy to use and I have never run into someone that was not happy with their Garmin.

Just my .03 cents worth, obviously affordability will play a roll in your choice. My advice is go to a store like West Marine or any good outfitter and check them out for yourself. I would not make this decision using a catalog description alone.


ChrisCT posted 05-30-2002 07:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for ChrisCT  Send Email to ChrisCT     
The new 24 MB GPSMap76s is pretty cheap - $90 more than the old model I just got. Free ground shipping. It says its shipping now and goes for $395.

Funny thing is I found this site from a kid that I was trying to outbid on ebay for the older model. He was mad that we could not get a good deal at ebay and said he was gonna get his at this site - I bought mine there too. Not sure if it was the best unit but is fit nicely into my price range and more importantly it kept me out of trouble w/ the wife.

Don Fisher posted 05-30-2002 12:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for Don Fisher  Send Email to Don Fisher     
Thanks, everyone. I think the one I've decided on is the Garmin GPSMAP 76S. Looks like quite a little tool. Thanks, again!
triblet posted 05-30-2002 08:41 PM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
Check out advancedgps in Google Groups.

Lots of complaints about them on the GPS

I'd recommend


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