The best way to Select and Use a GPS


fitnessinf Expert Advice: How to Choose and Use a GPS Receiver - Handheld GPS device

As soon as revolutionary, GPS know-how is in every part from drones to canine collars now. Nonetheless, a handheld GPS receiver stays a useful out of doors device for hikers and different backcountry explorers. A GPS can provide you very important details about the place you might be, the place you’ve been and the place you wish to go.

This text discusses selecting and utilizing handheld models for the outside. GPS models for car navigation and health monitoring are usually not lined right here, nor are GPS-enabled satellite tv for pc messengers that provide navigation options.

This text doesn’t cowl telephone apps and maps. Innovation in telephone know-how is quickly mimicking conventional GPS handhelds. A devoted out of doors GPS unit, although, affords key benefits:

  • Rather more rugged and water-resistant
  • Discipline-replaceable batteries
  • Superior satellite tv for pc reception in distant locations
  • Sturdy options developed particularly for out of doors use

Don’t purchase a GPS receiver with the thought of ditching your map and compass. Discovering your approach out of the wilds isn’t one thing you may belief solely to battery-operated electronics. To study these traditional navigational necessities, learn The best way to Use a Compass and The best way to Use a Topo Map.

Store handheld GPS receivers

GPS Shopping for Made Straightforward

fitnessinf Expert Advice: How to Choose and Use a GPS - GPS Buying Made Easy - two different handheld GPS devices held in hand

When you discover exhaustive lists of GPS specs and options to be a bit daunting, you may simplify your determination by contemplating three key areas:

  1. Measurement of unit vs. dimension of display screen. As display screen dimension will increase, so does the dimensions and weight of a unit. Deciding the place you might be on the low-weight to large-screen spectrum is an efficient first step.
  2. Interface choice: When you can’t think about not having a contact display screen, your decisions slim additional. For winter actions think about a unit solely managed by buttons as a result of it’s simpler to make use of whereas carrying gloves.
  3. Superior options: Dearer models supply options like a barometer, an digital compass and wi-fi transmission. If these capabilities are necessary to you, that additionally narrows your closing decisions.

Superior GPS Options

fitnessinf Expert Advice: How to Choose and Use a GPS - Advanced GPS Features - handheld GPS device in hand in use

All handheld GPS fashions do fundamental navigation. What you decide—and pay—largely is determined by which and the way lots of the following contains a unit has:

Barometer/altimeter: Whereas all GPS receivers can inform you altitude based mostly on satellite tv for pc knowledge, a unit with the barometer/altimeter function offers extra correct elevation readings by additionally contemplating barometric knowledge. This function additionally allows you to gauge climate developments.

Digital compass: All GPS receivers can inform you what course you’re going whilst you’re shifting. When you get a unit with an digital compass, although, it should additionally inform you what course you’re going through whilst you’re standing nonetheless. That’s an enormous comfort because it allows you to orient your self and plan your route at any relaxation cease.

Wi-fi knowledge switch: This enables your GPS to speak with suitable (same-brand) GPS models. It offers a fast and straightforward method to share knowledge like tracks, waypoints and routes with others.

Preloaded maps: All GPS models include a easy base map. Some models additionally embrace full-fledged topo maps. Most models additionally settle for individually bought topo maps which might be downloaded or supplied on a CD or a microSD card. You’ll be able to handle all of your maps and plan journeys by connecting to your PC or Mac, then utilizing this system that the maker of your GPS unit offers.

Third-party maps and software program: As a result of maps from GPS makers will be expensive, you may search on-line and discover an ever-changing array of websites which have cheap (or free) maps. When you aren’t a tech wiz or favor assured merchandise, then follow maps and software program out of your GPS producer.

Reminiscence and waypoint totals: The extra you might have, the extra map and navigation knowledge you may retailer. As well as, most models additionally allow you to develop your reminiscence, often by way of a microSD card.

Except you are doing a thru-hike, nearly any unit you get can have sufficient inner reminiscence (and waypoint capability) to retailer detailed maps and key location knowledge for a single journey. And it is easy to delete unneeded maps and waypoints as you go to release reminiscence for one more journey or one other part of a thru-hike.

Geocaching options: Many models have geocaching features that enable for paperless geocaching and managing your discovered caches. To be taught extra concerning the exercise, learn Geocaching: The best way to Get Began.

(Word: You don’t want to purchase a GPS receiver to attempt geocaching; telephone apps work positive for that. When you’re already a geocacher and desire a GPS unit for backcountry navigation, then geocaching options are useful to have.)

Digital digital camera: Providing comparable high quality to a fundamental telephone digital camera, it will probably additionally geotag images so you may see the place on the map you snapped every shot.

Two-way radio: Permits unit-to-unit calls so you may talk with close by mates within the backcountry and establish the place different members of your group are; you too can obtain NOAA weather-radio forecasts. Radio-equipped GPS models are particularly helpful for search-and-rescue groups.

Utilizing Your GPS

fitnessinf Expert Advice: How to Choose and Use a GPS - Using Your GPS - using your GPS device to navigate to a point

Even a easy GPS unit has a variety of settings and options. As a result of each unit’s operation varies, this text gained’t present step-by-step particulars. Learn the proprietor’s handbook to familiarize your self with it. Then observe within the neighborhood or a park till you are snug with how every part works.

When you’d like further assist, you too can join a GPS navigation class at an fitnessinf retailer.

Although steps differ, all GPS receivers do the next fundamental features:

  1. Show place: A GPS tells you the place you might be by displaying your coordinates; it additionally exhibits your place on its base map or topo map.
  2. Report tracks: When monitoring is turned on, a GPS mechanically lays down digital bread crumbs, referred to as “monitor factors,” at common intervals. You employ these later to retrace your steps or to judge the trail you traveled.
  3. Navigate point-to-point: A GPS directs you by supplying you with the course and distance to a location, or “waypoint.” You’ll be able to pre-mark waypoints by coming into their coordinates at dwelling. Within the discipline you may have the unit mark a waypoint at a spot you’d wish to return to, such because the trailhead or your campsite. A GPS unit offers the bearing and distance “because the crow flies” to a waypoint. As a result of trails don’t observe a straight line, the bearing modifications as you hike. The gap to journey additionally modifications (reducing, except you’re heading the mistaken course) as you method your objective.
  4. Show journey knowledge: This odometer-like perform tells you cumulative stats like how far you’ve come and the way excessive you’ve climbed.

GPS and your laptop: GPS models include a robust software program program that allows you to handle maps, plan routes, analyze journeys and extra. Make investments the time to be taught it and to observe utilizing all of its capabilities.

Setting Up Your GPS

fitnessinf Expert Advice: How to Choose and Use a GPS - Setting Up Your GPS - handheld gps unit in hand, adjusting position format menu

Earlier than-Journey Settings

With the intention to allow you to customise your unit’s features, the setup menu affords what will be an amazing variety of choices. You may get began doing fundamental navigation with out worrying about most of those. The place format menu, which incorporates each place format and map datum, is one it’s best to arrange:

Place format (coordinates): Your GPS can show coordinates in dozens of techniques. You’ll be able to change this setting to whichever system you might be most snug with at any time. When marking waypoints, although, it’s best to select the identical system as your e-book, map, or different supply of location info. (Everytime you change this setting, the GPS will seamlessly convert your info to match the present setting.)

Map Datum: That is each obscure and necessary. The important thing concept is that the datum you set in your GPS should match your topographic map’s datum (discovered within the legend), or the datum of any path information or different supply of location info you might be utilizing. If it doesn’t, then place coordinates in your GPS will place some extent within the mistaken location in your map. Datum has to do with geographic modeling of the Earth on the time a map was produced. Word that this may mechanically fill in the identical data for the associated setting, “Map Spheroid,” which is okay.

Locking onto Satellites

“GPS” stands for “International Positioning System,” the worldwide community of satellites that broadcasts the alerts GPS unit receives. As a result of a lot of at present’s GPS receivers may also get alerts from Russian GLONASS satellites, they perform far more reliably than their predecessors, particularly in conditions like having a heavy tree cover overhead.

To facilitate preliminary satellite tv for pc calibration, merely go outdoors, flip your GPS on and let it start looking out. Buying satellites after startup takes a couple of minutes. After that, it readily locates satellites as you journey.

While you flip off the unit, satellites overhead proceed to maneuver. So your unit will all the time want a couple of minutes to reacquire satellites every time it’s turned again on. If it’s off for a very long time otherwise you journey an extended distance earlier than turning it on once more, acquisition takes a couple of minutes longer.

When you’re beneath a dense tree cowl or in a slot canyon, alerts get blocked. When you attain some extent the place overhead sky isn’t obstructed, it takes a couple of minutes to recalibrate with satellites. Word that GPS alerts are usually not impaired by cloud cowl, regardless that clouds block your view of the solar and moon.

While you’re mountain climbing, don’t block satellite tv for pc alerts by stashing your GPS deep inside an enormous pocket or on the backside of your pack. Carrying the unit in your hand or a strap pocket will work positive.

Word: GPS models can show sign power (accuracy) in a number of methods, together with an in depth satellite tv for pc web page, a collection of bars or a toes of accuracy spec. In case your GPS allows you to customise fields in your compass, journey laptop and map pages, it’s best to add a sign power discipline. Keeping track of that can assist you resolve how a lot to belief the GPS when exact navigation is required.

Startup Routine

Develop steps to observe every time you’re at a trailhead. The routine will differ with the options of your GPS unit, however it ought to embrace lots of the following:

  1. Purchase satellites
  2. Reset journey knowledge
  3. Clear monitor log
  4. Set a waypoint on the trailhead
  5. Calibrate compass
  6. Calibrate barometer/altimeter

Calibration directions for the compass and barometer/altimeter can usually be discovered within the unit itself.

GPS Battery Suggestions

fitnessinf Expert Advice: How to Choose and Use a GPS - GPS Battery Tips: dimming the backlight on your GPS device

  • Rechargeables are nice for day hikes.
  • For in a single day journeys, long-life lithium batteries are your greatest guess.
  • Make sure that batteries are recent earlier than you begin.
  • All the time carry spares.
  • Dimming your backlight extends battery life.
  • Switching to a brief display screen timeout setting additionally helps protect batteries.


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