Satellite Navigation for Road and Trail
No matter what your outdoor adventures are, there’s a GPS navigational unit out there designed for you. We took a look at the new in-car nav units and handhelds that make most sense for outdoor recreation, as well as for driving to your outdoor destination. The in-car nav units offer more content-driven services, such as real-time traffic and weather information; some units cross over easily as portables for the outdoors. The GPS handheld segment is gaining more sophistication in the way of signal acquisition and retention, internal memory, SD card compatibility and preloaded topographic maps. Interestingly, some handhelds are going a little more practical, but with improved technology and ease of use.
Some of the mentioned models have sister units that vary in features and cost, so if one unit doesn’t quite make it in your book, visit the companies’ websites for a complete overview of all GPS units. Begin your navigation here.
Garmin Nuvi 500
This year Garmin includes outdoor recreation navigation capabilities in its new nuvi 500, converting this in-car nav unit into a portable personal navigator when needed. Preloaded with both road and U.S. topographic maps, the nuvi 500 provides a driving, bicycling, boating and walking mode via a usage mode indicator located at the top of the home screen. For the outdoors, the unit displays shaded digital elevation mapping on the 3.5-inch waterproof touchscreen, and comes standard with a compass page, track log, and a removable, rechargeable battery for extended outdoor use. Driving navigation features include a preloaded Historic Route 66 map guide. Options include marine cartography. $400. Garmin: 800/800-1020; garmin.com
Garmin Oregon 200
The intuitive touchscreen interface on the 6.8-ounce 200 is taken from Garmin’s in-car nav units, while preloaded features stem from the company’s Colorado handheld series. This unit’s basemap can be supplemented with additional mapping or charts via microSD cards for viewing on the 3-inch screen. Selected uploaded topographic maps can be viewed in 3-D for a better perspective of the elevation. A high-sensitivity receiver and Garmin’s HotFix satellite prediction feature locates one’s position quickly and precisely, and maintains the GPS location even in heavy cover and deep canyons. The 200 also supports geocache gaming, enabling users to download geocaches and details straight to the unit, as well as picture viewing. Information can be stored on the unit’s 24 MB built-in memory, and Garmin says the waterproof unit can be submerged down to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes. Two AA batteries (included) will generate about 16 hours of battery life. $450. Garmin: 800/800-1020; garmin.com
Lowrance XOG Cross-Navigation
Not new this year, but still a good contender in the GPS in-car nav category is the XOG Cross-Navigation GPS, which marries turn-by-turn guidance with the rugged, weatherproof outdoor travel functionality. It’s preloaded with NAVTEQ street map detail and offers more than three million points of interests. In Outdoor mode, the unit offers support for affordable field and on-water mapping options. Users have plug-and-play options, such as preloaded SD memory cards for different driving maps and fishing cartography. The XOG features a 3.5-inch touch screen, MP3 player and jpeg picture viewer. $160. Lowrance: 800/324-1356; lowrance.com
The new Safari handheld offers versatile mapping capabilities, as it’s preloaded with a comprehensive base map that shows hill shading, topographic contours, primary and secondary roads and key points of interest on a color touch screen. If that’s not enough, the Safari offers optional advance mapping, and is compatible with open mapping standards such as GPX. The unit also takes Micro SD cards supporting up to 32 GB. Multimedia perks are MP3/voice notes, and a picture and video player that can be viewed with the Safari’s trail camera. A trip computer records your trails, trip times and distances. $385. Lowrance: 800/324-1356; lowrance.com
Magellan Maestro 4350
The new Maestro 4350 is gaining rave reviews for its OneTouch feature and navigation features. Viewed as an icon on the 4.3-inch touch screen display, OneTouch makes it quick and easy to create shortcuts on a dedicated screen to favorite destinations and points of interest. Before driving, the display shows an overview of a calculated route along with possible alternate routes. Click on a button and the 4350 displays the estimated time of travel and distance for three different possible routes. For entertainment, OneTouch lets users set a shortcut to the 4350’s music player for instant launching. Other features include hands-free calling with Bluetooth-compatible cell phones, FM transmission to hear directions via the car stereo, and sending/receiving text messages. The unit comes with a traffic receiver and three months of traffic service. After that time, the service costs $60 for an annual subscription. $400. Magellan: 800/707-9971; magellangps.com
Magellan Triton 400 Adventure Pack
The Triton series of GPS handhelds initially turned heads due to a new touchscreen user interface flow and screen graphics, making it easy to operate by both experienced and novice users. Now Magellan offers an AdventurePack that includes National Geographic TOPO! Explorer Deluxe map software to accompany five Triton models, including the 400. The software offers topographic maps on two DVDs, and 25 map credits for downloading. There’s also access to National Geographics’ online database of trails, Forest Service roads and other recreational info. The 6.6-ounce waterproof Triton 400 has a 2.2-inch screen and offers 10 hours of battery life from two AA batteries (included). $250. Magellan: 800/707-9971; magellangps.com.
DeLorme Earthmate PN-40
Building upon its Earthmate PN-20 model, the company’s new waterproof 6.7-ounce PN-40 offers a duel-core processor and distinctive capabilities that are tied to the included standard Topo USA 7.0 software. The software enables users to view supplemental aerial imagery on a PC, as well as view Topo USA’s terrain views in 3-D. Some exclusive Topo USA features: users can automatically create trail routes rather than load trail points, and import collected GPS tracks and convert them to routable roads or trails. Geocachers will have 800 characters to choose from for cache descriptions. Other features include a 1 GB internal memory, support of SD cards up to 32 MB of memory, a three-axis electronic compass and a barometric altimeter. An optional annual all-you-can-download subscription of $29.95 is available for 7.5-minute quad maps, charts and images. $400. DeLorme: 800/561-5105; delorme.com
While GPS handheld units have become more sophisticated with plenty of extra features, one new interesting entry in this category is keeping it simple and to the point: to get you from point A to point B and back. Bushnell’s BackTrack pairs a digital compass with a high-sensitivity GPS receiver. It actually resembles a compass, and features a blue backlight and a lanyard. The unit does not include maps or turn-by-turn directions; it offers a simple two-button operation and three location modes that guide you back to a marked spot, with directional arrows and distance estimations guiding you along the way. The weather-resistant BackTrack runs on two AAA batteries and is ideal for getting back to your camp, and finding your car after a concert or your way back home. $70. Bushnell: 800/423-3537; bushnell.com
Bushnell Onix 110
The real perk about this new unit is its four user-defined navigation modes—simple, advanced, geocaching and sport—meeting the needs of those who want to vary up their outdoor adventures. Simple mode offers the basic functions of saving locations and navigating between them. Advanced mode allows you to build routes with various waypoints. Geocaching mode allows you to enter and find hidden caches, and Sport mode works for runners and bikers looking to build training logs, track distances and save times. The Onix 110 has a 2.6-inch screen, has 128 MB of internal memory, and includes a built-in map of the U.S. and Canada. Ready to go right out of the box, the unit comes with a USB cable and GPS PC companion software. Offers 12 hours of battery life on a single charge. $130. Bushnell: 800/423-3537; bushnell.com
FUEL-SAVING SOFTWARE FOR GARMIN NUVI; GPS APPLICATION FOR CELL PHONES
This year Garmin nuvi owners can download a new free software update that helps conserve money and fuel. The ecoRoute software offers a “faster time” and “shorter distance” route preference, and lets users choose “less fuel” as the best way to save fuel and money. The software allows you to customize the nuvi model to fit your vehicle so you can enter the vehicle’s fuel economy and the current price of fuel so the unit better calculates the savings. For more information, visit garmin.com
Outside of this GPS unit world, there are still GPS services you can take advantage of. For example, Alltell Wireless is offering its customers with GPS-enabled phones a new service called Trimble Outdoors. Offering a yearly ($40), monthly ($6) and daily ($2) rate, customers can review and plan trips online, and receive trekking routes, maps and waypoints wirelessly to their phones. Customers can also track previous and current routes with a GPS breadcrumb trail, and mark and edit waypoints along the way. For more information, visit Alltel.com