Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are becoming more and more commonplace these days, in our phones, cars and watches. With practice and a good understanding of your GPS, it can add safety, peace of mind and can enhance your experience of the bush. We do not recommend discarding a compass altogether, but using a GPS and a compass in unison to make your navigation as efficient and accurate as possible.
At Alpsport we carry Garmin GPS units and accessories. Our range includes the most basic models like the eTrex H, suited towards the user who just wants extra peace of mind when they are in the bush, right up to the most complex models, which have colour screens and can accept detailed digital mapping software like the Legend and Vista HCx series. Check out the Dakota 20, which has a rugged touch screen, and can link up wirelessly to a heart rate monitor!
A few features of a modern day compact GPS include:
Accurate measurement of speed and distance.
Track Logging - This is a bread crumb trail of where you have been. This feature allows for easy backtracking. You can switch this feature on or off.
Waypoint & Route Marking - A waypoint is a single marked location on the earth. You can save a series of these on your GPS and link them together like join-the-dots, and when waypoints are followed in a sequence this is referred to as a route. Waypoints may be saved whilst on location, or can be entered into the GPS before a trip using either latitude and longitude, or grid position as a reference.
A single waypoint can also be used as a “GO TO” and the GPS will direct you to that point. It will also give you a distance to that point, and some models can even provide an estimated time of arrival dependent on your average speed.
Water resistance - Most outdoor GPS units will be waterproof or water resistant to some extent. IPX7 is the standard rating for most electronics, and this relates to submersion in water up to 1m deep for up to 30 minutes (without buttons being pressed). This means that these units are safe to operate in the rain. It is best to read the packaging for the unit that you are looking at.
Some extra features available on the higher end units include:
A GPS without an electronic compass will give you a heading as a bearing only when it is moving consistently i.e. the GPS cannot provide direction when standing still. So, having an electronic compass built in allows you to take bearings in a similar way to a regular compass. This feature is also found in some outdoor watches. For more information refer to the Specialist Watches page.
As the vertical accuracy is not as good at the horizontal accuracy on a GPS it is often desirable to have an altimeter which can be accurate to 1m. To maintain this accuracy the altimeter will have to be calibrated frequently at points of known altitude.
A barometer is an essential piece of equipment in the outdoors to keep an eye on the weather and the changing conditions. For more information on altimeters and barometers see the page on specialist watches.
Many GPS units are now coming with heart rate monitors, and specific fitness sensors like cadence, or stride. These enable your GPS to become a handy fitness training tool. For more information see the Specialist Watches page.
We are becoming more familiar with the benefits digital mapping software can provide with the likes of Google Earth.
Garmin provide map software for their GPS range to suit bushwalkers and adventurers which shows the finest topographic detail on your GPS screen, or other packages more suited to in-car navigation. Come in store for the run down on the best solution for you.
Other mapping software available from Alpsport is from Memory Map. This is a great tool for making route plans and printing sections of topographic map to suit your intended trip. It can save you carrying the bulk of a whole map when it is not necessary. This software is compatible with most GPS units and allows you to download waypoints from your GPS and display them in Memory Map for editing.