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Looking For Simple GPS Unit?

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Re: Looking For Simple GPS Unit?

Postby SirBC » Thu Jul 06, 2017 8:55 pm

I take a map/compass but I also like having a GPS to mark locations when I'm scouting for photo locations during the day that I may have to hike back to/from when it's dark out. I use Gaia GPS on my (android) phone but I usually only bring up the map and find the location when I'm dropping a pin to mark a location and that saves a lot on the battery versus leaving it in tracking mode full time. I can get a good 5+ days using it this way.

I also have a Suunto Traverse watch which I use both to log my route and also to load and follow a route. It has a "breadcrumb" feature where you can follow your route back to where you started which I've found helpful when heading back to camp in the dark after a sunset shoot. The watch has three different power savings modes and I typically use the one that drains the battery the fastest, which gives me about 8 hours of tracking. It also shows elevation which I use quite a bit.
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Re: Looking For Simple GPS Unit?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Jul 07, 2017 6:50 am

I am "I-phone ignorant". I thought you had to have cell coverage to use the I-phone. Half the time or more I have no cell coverage. That is why I do not bother to take a cell phone. I thought GPS units access via satellite and thus are more reliable, yet there are still places where you cannot get adequate lines to satellites.

With my cell phone, I have found that there is a vast difference in getting coverage based on your carrier. We have ATT&T which is terrible in rural areas. Evidently Verizon is better.

I disagree that old maps from the 1970's are just fine for the Sierra. I would buy the updated maps since it is incrementally a small cost compared to the total cost of having a GPS.

Trails marked on maps are simply over-simplifications of the real trail. Do the trails show up on a GPS or I-phone as someone's actual GPS track or just as scanned lines? When you say Google Earth is used by an application, does that then overlay the Google Earth data on the map? How is the image/vs map projection distortion problem solved?

All too iffy and complicated for me! I will stick to my old paper maps.
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Re: Looking For Simple GPS Unit?

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Jul 07, 2017 7:33 am

I'm using the ViewRanger app to mark downed trees on the trail and attach a picture to the coordinate with the iPhone. It's in airplane mode for the duration of the trip. Since my camera is dead (third camera deceased in ten years, a fourth was lost) and I just had to replace another couple gear items and another pair of pants that tore, I'm left using the phone instead. It's working so far. But that's not navigation. I've been printing maps from CalTopo in addition to having the good ol' Tom Harrison maps.
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Re: Looking For Simple GPS Unit?

Postby SirBC » Fri Jul 07, 2017 8:36 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:I am "I-phone ignorant". I thought you had to have cell coverage to use the I-phone. Half the time or more I have no cell coverage. That is why I do not bother to take a cell phone. I thought GPS units access via satellite and thus are more reliable, yet there are still places where you cannot get adequate lines to satellites.


You do not need to be connected to a cell tower for the GPS to work. So the idea is to first put the phone on "airplane" mode which will turn off all connections, including to cell towers and GPS satellites. Then you turn on GPS function. This lets you use the phone as a GPS device only and the phone won't try and connect to cell towers. Also, if you allow your camera app on the phone to tag your GPS location on photos all of your trip photos will be geotagged.
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Re: Looking For Simple GPS Unit?

Postby Joemorton85 » Fri Jul 07, 2017 10:12 am

I use the "topo maps" app by Phil Endecott. It's a great app with some cool features. It let's me download map data at home before I head into the backcountry. Very precise locating and great looking maps. I use this app while iphone is on airplane mode and it doesn't use up much battery at all. Definitely worth the few bucks they charge for it.
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Re: Looking For Simple GPS Unit?

Postby Fyrmng » Wed Aug 23, 2017 7:54 am

I have used Gaia/iPhone 6s on my last 2 trips. Simple, accurate, and easy to use. Just download maps for the area you are hiking. I used airplane mode and brought a small battery pack and had no problems using for frequent nav checks, recording my route, and taking a lot of pics over 5 days. Electronics are prone to fail due to damage, water, or just being electronics. ALWAYS have a map and compass for backup.
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Re: Looking For Simple GPS Unit?

Postby rhyang » Wed Aug 23, 2017 1:31 pm

I have an Android phone (I like being able to root it and modify things :) ), and switch to Airplane mode for backcountry GPS use. I've been using Backcountry Navigator; I like its ability to download maps onto a microSD card before trips and organize maps and waypoints/tracks into discrete folders. My current phone is a 2014 Moto G LTE which gets decent battery life and GPS reception. For longer trips (3-4 days in my case usually) I take a small battery pack which charges the phone via micro-USB.

It's also nice to be able to use Google Keep to remember which flies I lost, what supplies I will need to replace after the trip, and other notes. Not to mention being lulled off to sleep by Robert Rich ... :)

One caveat is that I've read charging consumer-grade lithium ion batteries below freezing (0 C) will cause permanent damage to the battery. I suspect most phones have a battery temp sensor and protection code to prevent that though (ie. will not allow charging below freezing). I don't do a lot of extended winter trips anyway, though in 2013 I snowshoed around Crater Lake in Oregon over three days and charged an older phone using the battery pack. At the time I did not know about the freezing temps thing, and wondered why the phone didn't seem to charge up when it dropped into the 20's (F) ...

I also have an older Garmin Foretrex 301, which is a fairly simple and light GPS unit for checking waypoints and so on. It uses AAA batteries, so I usually stick some lithiums in there for cold weather. I rarely use that anymore except on winter trips. I used to use it for things like finding my way back to camp in the dark after long alpine climbs (when this situation became more common I realized that I was getting too old for that kind of stuff :) )
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