/ GPS for hiking
What I'm looking for is something to support my ropey map reading skills and something extremely reliable should we ever get in strife and need to give an accurate position.
I have GPS on my smartphone but it loses it's signal as often as it keeps it and the battery life is short when it's on. Basically I don't trust it and it's put me off just using the phone GPS function.
I've just upgraded my car sat nav and it's been an education in just how much improved systems can get - that they are not all the same when it comes to keeping or losing signal and usability.
Any advice welcome.
As a side note, I would strongly recommend that you take a "course" for navigation skills. N ot necessarily from a pro, maybe you can find a friend who knows enough. But if you have no friend and £50 to invest in a GPS, I would rather invest them in a one-day course with a professional. It doesn't take a lot of time to learn the basics and you can practice on easy days. This is definitely a set of skills worth having. You can then impress your child, and tell him/her you have learned all these skills when you were captain in the southern seas/explorer in Patagonia/treasure hunter in New Guinea. Sorry for the lecture, but I really really think you would be happier with OS wizardry than shiny gadgets.
Agreed. Not only that, but a 1m (10 figure) grid ref fix from a simple GPS receiver isn't a lot of good if you cannot relate it the the ground, and how to get out of where you are; you need to be able to read a map to understand where you are, where you want to go, and how to get there safely.
You could download a route and load it into a GPS receiver, and get it to guide you along the route, but you could get into real trouble if you do, and a map, and the ability to read it, is essential.
The OS have some fairly good teaching materials, which should cover the basics:
or for younger readers:
These comments aren't in any way meant to be having a go at you.
If you do get a GPS, some kids do seem to love geocaching, and, if used with a map to plan routes between caches, this can be a fun way to learn to navigate, and to hunt 'treasure'.
GPS receivers come in all flavours, from simple ones that give just a grid ref, to ones that have full OS or other mapping, can plan routes, etc. I use a mapping GPS PDA that doesn't support routes, and use it as a 'live map'; it shows me where I am, but I still have to work out where to go, and how.
I would be interested in recommendations for GPS devices that can last a long day (>10, up to 24 hours) in the hills on a single charge. My garmin 410 watch costs about £150 or so but lasts about 8 hours only, which is fine for running and probably for any walk a 5 year old could manage, but is not enough for whole-day outings.
Even with superb map reading skills, a GPS device is still great for finding out where you went, how fast you were, ascent etc. I love mine. It has not replaced use of a compass etc, but has added to the pleasure of having been out and about
Is it for navigating? Or for recording where you went?
If its the latter, the igotu logger would be ideal.
It's about the size of a single chunk from a Yorkie bar, and the battery can last weeks (depending on the recording freqency).
Maplin sell them for £40.
> I would be interested in recommendations for GPS devices that can last a long day (>10, up to 24 hours) in the hills on a single charge. My garmin 410 watch costs about £150 or so but lasts about 8 hours only, which is fine for running and probably for any walk a 5 year old could manage, but is not enough for whole-day outings.
The etrex Legend I have lasts well over 16 hours,( I use rechargeables) and there are some very high capacity rechargeable batteries available. ( OR just carry spare batteries)
I always do carry spares anyway, but rarely need them, so that perhaps the easy answer, and good practice.
Could do with brushing up myself, where you based?
Nothing wrong with using a GPS, but it can make you lazy.
Depends on your limits don't it.
I've been through a few GPS units, two died and got warranty replaced (not as waterproof as the marketing would have you believe!).
Lately, I've been really liking GPS status android app (when I want UTM) and google earth. Awesome tech, but as you say - delicate and short of battery life.
Just got a Foretrex 401 (was talking about it in another thread). Really like it. It has no built in maps, but that's not the sorta feature I want as big screen is bulk and cost, and I think you should always carry a real map.
Thanks for all the advice. I'm not looking for a GPS to replace map reading or to get out of it. I have friends that can show me the basics (some of which I have already) and I'm not looking to stop learning.
I want the GPS as back-up, augmentation and a confidence giver. When it was just me and adult friends I was content with the abilities I already have but now I have a 5 yr old in tow it feels different and anything that has the potential to make a difference feels worth it - like a bivvy bag, I wouldn't take it planning on kipping outside or not bother to get off the hills by nightfall, but it's light and no bother and has huge potential should I screw up, and people wiser than me do sometimes screw up.
I worked 4 mths 7 days a week in snowdonia leading treks in the hills (horseback) and I'm aware that mountain 'mist' ain't always just misty! I've known pretty solid map readers (who seem better than me - certainly ooodles more confident) climb the wrong peak! Coupled with my being highly respectful not just of me and mine's limbs but that MR have better ways to spend their time, I want to help myself.
If I feel I've done what I can to be belts and braces I'm far more likely to keep practising with maps - of which I have very very many and I think that it every bit as valuable as the help of friends etc.
So, for reliability, accuracy and battery life any other recommendations? I'll follow up the one's already made too.
Possibly though there was the gentleman on the Glyderau who's GPS broke/ran out of batteries, had to be rescued because the map he had was for the scottish highlands.
It's a bit like stupid deaths! I'm not sure a story or 2 of map loss would put me off wanting a map, likewise...
> I want the GPS as back-up, augmentation and a confidence giver.
In that case (i.e. you want to get a ref in an 'emergency', and hardly ever use the thing otherwise), you could do a lot worse than a second hand Garmin Etrex 10H or Geko 201. Or a GPS smartphone with an OSGB grid ref display app (turned off most of the time and stored in a waterproof container).
The thing to bear in mind with 'emergency' GPS is that you can't just turn them on and get an immediate fix; you'll need to wait for the cold start time for the receiver to find a satellite, collect the almanac, and then decide what satellites to look for, before being able to receive ranging data and compute a fix. 'Assisted-GPS', provided by smartphones, allows the almanac to be delivered by the phone network, thus avoiding the cold start time.
Yes, I know that cold start isn't that big an issue. But you might be surprised at just how many people complain that their receiver won't give them an instant fix. All I was trying to do is explain why, and also explain what A-GPS does.
Since the almanac message repeat rate from a satellite is 12.5 minutes, if the receiver has an expired almanac, it can take at least this long to update. This can be reduced by using the multiple receiver channels in a modern GPS receiver to collate the almanac from a number of satellites, assuming the satellites the receiver picks to listen out for are visible...
Yeah, I agree.
I thought it might be helpful to just list the things I imagine (as I haven't used one yet!) using the GPS for.
1. Increasing my confidence and getting feedback re map reading:
I feel a great sense of relief when I see a firm, un-mistakable landmark on a walk, confirmation that I have navigated accurately. When sitting down for a snack I want to use the sat nav to confirm position in the same way, mostly to boost my own confidence but also to be aware if something's wrong when I have a 5 yr old in tow. Waiting for a sat signal is no bother as nothing happens quickly with munchkin along anyway.
2. Fear of fog!:
With my little one with me I've lost my bottle and from being someone who has always been respectful and cautious of the hills, I'm now only tackling routes that are crowded. I've never forgotten the instant fogs in Snowdonia, GPS or no they would still scare me.(I mean the ones where your feet disappear from sight!.) I fully accept that a GPS has more psychological impact than realistic help but a back track function is something I had on horseback and used. Trek ponies have inbuilt sat navs! What I've always known is that without that, even on routes I did daily, I'm not sure I'd have got every one back.
3. If something has gone wrong:
I've always kind of run my own fire drills - mentally practised simple routines if stuff goes pear shaped. I'm the mum, we take a whistle, my daughter knows to stay with me and whistle/shout like hell! that's as far as it goes while she's 5! But if I was awake I feel more confident I could provide an exact location in the terms that help shares, of course a means of communication is another thing but I cannot see the logic in saying 'because you may not have a means to communicate there's no point in bettering what you would communicate'.
4. Sense of community:
I used to always have WD40 in my car as it hated the wet and I started no end of other people's cars in those years, mostly in heavy rain my spray got folk back on the road. What's mine is mine to share, for any of the above, for anyone if needed. That's a central part of rearing my kid too.
Running with my phone GPS, stretching out to get the best MPH up and down hills in my local woods - then my heart would sink as it failed to record half the time - usually the half I really wanted it to! I'd love to be able to show my daughter a record of how far we went, how high, etc and (pure opinion) a recording is different from just saying it, I could say we went anywhere but a GPS is just different. Loading tracks up, Google earthin' it, plus little detours and ambles that it's impossible to remember.
I don't think any of that replaces a map, I am hoping it helps me boost my own confidence so that I practice more which will make a difference.
This thread has raised some questions for me and luckily I know a retired mountain rescue guy of many years experience. In addition to what's been said here I'm going to have a very open chat with him before investing.
You need to understand the limitations of a GPS, especially in mountain environments. In particular, you need to be aware of the effects of multipath on the reported position. Multipath (reflections off large objects, such as cliffs or large buildings) can shift the reported position considerably, and no amount of WAAS/EGNOS correction will help, since they don't, and cannot address multipath. And, due to the constantly-changing satellite constellation, multipath errors won't be consistent on outward and backtrack paths...
I'm painting a bit of a bleak picture, perhaps, and one that you aren't guaranteed to encounter, but it's important for GNSS users to understand the limitations, just as it's important for map & compass users to understand their limitations. You cannot always rely on the GNSS fix to be correct, and you must know when it might not be trustworthy.
In case you think I'm some sort of Luddite, I'll point out that I've worked with GNSS systems for a number of years, both in GNSS applications, and developing the Galileo system.
I'm just after a rough order of magnitude.
True, this is a starting point and there's plenty to consider. Knowing what you know - do you see any use in having a GPS in fog, or would you even use it if you did?
I don't think any replies have been Luddite like, just there seemed to be a confusion re whether I was planning to abandon maps. I did feel a bit like I'd blasphemed initially, but I'm not miss super confident all skills, it takes me quite a while to get to a point where I consider a skill thoroughly mastered.
Using a plain gps means transferring grid references to a map. Using a satmap or similar means having a map on the screen with you with a handy blue dot showing your position. You can still use your map reading skills and indeed often need to. It shows you where you are but not where you're going. I've taken bearings off the screen in the past in whiteout conditions, walked on the compass bearing while pacing distances all the while keeping an eye on the blue dot.
flopsicle, I've got an older grey scale Garmin Vista I hardly use. hugely expensive when I got it a few years ago, half that price now but does have decent memory if you want to track yourself.
If you want to borrow it for a while you're welcome, dunno if the manual is still about though, although it'll be online. PM me if you're interested.
Since it depends on the terrain and the visibility of satellites, and the direct paths, it's hard to put a hard-and-fast figure on it, but highclimber's example is pretty good; it can be 50-100m.
Strictly, it's not multipath that's a problem (because multipath assumes that the direct signal does get to the receiver); the real problem is where the direct path is blocked, but a reflected signal arrives instead. Imagine you're in a steep valley between two vertical cliff faces, a hundred metres apart. The direct paths to the satellites might not be visible, but the vertical faces might reflect the signal back to you, so the path length is quite a bit longer than the direct path. Since the position fix is calculated by triangulating distances to the known satellite positions, you can be out by as much as the additional path length (if you're unlucky with the satellites you can see indirectly).
In such cases, it's likely that the solution will detect a high error, since the path lengths won't be consistent, so watch the DOP display which will give you an idea that the receiver thinks its solution is questionable; DOP=Dilution Of Precision, a unit-free 'goodness' measure.
I've also seen my receiver (which has a SiRFStarIII chipset) give static offsets from my known location (using clear landmarks), with no multipath reflectors nearby. I still have no idea what caused that, but it snapped back into place some time later (I'd power cycled the receiver, and removed the battery, but it was adamant I was somewhere else).
Yes, they do muck about with it, but not in places like the Ridgeway...
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