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Posted: 6/13/2009 3:29:37 PM EST
I was out with my nephews trying to cut a trail that followed a property line very closely. Unfortunately the fence line that was supposed to run the entire length of the property just flat out disappeared after a few hundred yards! We tried to stay as straight as possible, but going around trees made it hard to follow precisely. We are trying to make a trail that runs parallel, but does not require cutting any of the large trees. We made huge progress in a few hours. Probably over 1/2 mile. They are going to be bummed when I re-route part of the trail back on course!

I decided that this was the excuse I needed to buy one of them new fangled hand held GPS units! I called up the local wally world and asked them what they had on hand. Of the units they had, this one seemed to have the best features for the price I was willing to pay. (I have had two different Garmin on road gps units and they are great. My sister inherited my old one when I upgraded and it still works perfect.)


I bought the Garmin eTrex HCx. It seems pretty simple. I ran it on the way home to see what it was about. Not a lot of road data, but I have other options that make that easy. I am going to try it out some tomorrow and see how easy it is to plot waypoints and figure out my new trail. We will be building two trails that will intersect so it will be super easy to figure out where to turn in the deep woods.

I was surprised with modern technology that the compass is not electronic, but gps based. You have to move to get it to register. Not sure how far, but its a minor inconvenience. I will be carrying a compass anyway (always).

Just wanted to get some of your thoughts on this gps and what its good and bad points are.
Link Posted: 6/13/2009 5:45:06 PM EST
[Last Edit: 6/13/2009 5:48:48 PM EST by ED_P]
Spend another $100 on s/w, and you'll have every road or topo elevation mark in the country, depending if you buy the road or topo s/w.

You'll have to buy a micro SD card of at least 2GB as well, to hold this data.

The old Garmins used to have roads down to undivided highway state level roads, and were very useful without buying Garmin's additional sw.

The new ones have down to major interstate, and that's it. Sort of a way of making you buy their s/w. It really is worth it though.

Link Posted: 6/13/2009 6:08:15 PM EST
[Last Edit: 6/13/2009 6:08:57 PM EST by MikeK5117]
Go here http://www.gpsfiledepot.com/ and download all the maps including very good state topo maps for free - they are user contributed generated from USGS and other public sources. Only caveat is they won't autoroute with your Garmin (if it is an autorouting model) but for topo's they are great and free.
Link Posted: 6/14/2009 1:42:43 AM EST
I'd say you did good. I have a few gps units, one of them set me back almost a grand. And you know what, I always seem to go back to that etrx. It is just so simple.
Link Posted: 6/14/2009 5:40:03 AM EST
I have an Etrex Vista Hcx. So far it has been an excellent consumer GPS and I would say you did well. Do not, however, rely on the Garmin Mapsource software to be accurate when it comes to trails, landmarks, etc.

You mentioned the compass being tied to the GPS and therefore not updating heading until you start walking. On mine, holding the "X" button while in the compass/heading window will activate the electronic compass that visibly functions exactly like a mechanical compass, i.e., rotating the unit in your hand will cause the compass to update. I only turn this feature on when I need it, as it seems to consume more power.
Link Posted: 6/14/2009 4:13:07 PM EST
This one does not have the electronic compass feature, but it would cost more than twice as much to get that feature. I am trying to figure out if I can make this one update faster.
Link Posted: 6/14/2009 5:50:29 PM EST
[Last Edit: 6/14/2009 5:51:15 PM EST by m1awolf]
Originally Posted By MikeK5117:
Go here http://www.gpsfiledepot.com/ and download all the maps including very good state topo maps for free - they are user contributed generated from USGS and other public sources. Only caveat is they won't autoroute with your Garmin (if it is an autorouting model) but for topo's they are great and free.


My first post here and a big plus one on this. I got an etrex venture for my b-day from my parents. I have spent most of the day downloading and installing different maps just to get the feel of it. The landowner topo for Montana is a little off but it might just be the accuracy of my GPS.

ETA made the link hot
Link Posted: 6/14/2009 6:14:12 PM EST
[Last Edit: 6/14/2009 6:17:49 PM EST by MikeK5117]
Originally Posted By batmanacw:
This one does not have the electronic compass feature, but it would cost more than twice as much to get that feature. I am trying to figure out if I can make this one update faster.


I just spent the day in the woods with my new GPSMAP 76CSx which is my first GPS with the electronic compass. I hate to tell you but based on today's experience, I fell this is a major need to have feature. My previous etrex models didn't have this and I just moved any time I needed a bearing. Using this it is very hard to site a bearing on a landmark and then move to that mark.

I was in these same woods about 2 weeks ago with my old GPS unit and I was not nearly as efficient in finding the marks I was looking for (map features, not coordinates) and I had wished I had brought my compass along with the GPS. Today I was going back to the same locations and was totally confident in my navigation, only using the GPS function for plotting my progress and marking the points when I reached them, and checking if it looked like I was getting close (I haven't perfected counting while I walk). Used the electronic compass for everything else.

If you intend to do any cross-country navigation to a map rather than to known GPS points, I would spring for the one with the electronic compass or figure on using the regular compass with the GPS as backup (I still have my Camenga in my pack but the GPS fills the bill as long as the batteries are good.

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