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GPS for hiking and cycling

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 Arbu 21 Sep 2021

My Garmin etrex 20 has stopped working after seven years. I have replaced the drivers but it just won't start up. I found it really useful for hiking - being able to know exactly where I was and see a small map without having to get the paper map out, and for cycling - I like to record my routes and upload them to Google Earth. 

So I need to replace it. Any recommendations? I paid £130 for the etrex and a lot of the new models seem to be 2-3 times that. I have difficulty seeing what extra they do that should make me want to pay that extra money.

Or could I just use the GPS in my phone? The batteries don't last as long but some sort of extra battery pack would probably weigh no more than a handheld GPS? If so, are there any apps you would recommend? I use the Google Maps app but it doesn't offer great precision.

Thanks.

 Marek 21 Sep 2021
In reply to Arbu:

This is what I did and I'm happy with it...

Got a cheap (~£100, but a bit heavy) waterproof armoured Android phone (Ulafone 7) via ebay. Install LocusMaps (free version) and download the UK maps from openAndroMaps (hence have offline maps, no need for SIM or phone signal). Since I use it for cycling, I wanted good turn-by-turn navigation, so I upgraded to the silver subscription (~1 euro per month) - you might not need that, so it's optional. The battery consumption is about 5% per hour with the satnav running and screen switching on for 30s at every turn (every 5 of minutes on average?), so the battery lasts more than a big day out.

Maps are available for the whole world (free based on OSM, or paid for Ordnance Survey etc).

For mounting on a bike I got a stick-on Garmin compatible 'button' that goes on the back of the phone (I specifically chose a phone with a flat back). It's stuck on with 3M VHB tape, so it's not coming off.

Works for me.

 Arbu 21 Sep 2021
In reply to Marek:

Thanks, I've downloaded it and it looks really good. I have a feeling that the GPS on a handheld unit would work better than that on my phone, but I'll give it a go and see.

 StuPoo2 22 Sep 2021
In reply to Arbu:

I've got an Garmin eTrex 20x .. like you ... I like it.  Bit old skool in look and feel (small screen, not-touch screen).  But it's fairly bullet proof and the batteries can do 24hrs.  Takes AA's .. so it's free to carry a couple of spares.  I would replace with a new GPS device if it broke.

Worth remembering that in many cases you are being sold both the GPS hardware unit and a preloaded map .. and the map is often worth more than the hardware.  Example:  Garmin Topo 1:50 from Cotswald(1) will set you back £200 ... map alone. 

I've posted on here a heap of times ... you don't need to buy a digital Garmin map. For sure ... it will be more convenient for many (You just plug the device into your PC, start Garmin Express and it will periodically update your map for you) but if you're willing to do just a little work you can get an excellent map for free.  OpenMTB (2) is a great free open source map that I use on my Garmin.  

Why not just replace with the latest Garmin eTrex?  32x is £204 on amazon, 22x is £167 on amazon.  Those prices are reflective of the fact that the Garmin map those devices come with is, IMO, unusable for hiking. (3)

(1) https://shop.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/garmin-1-50k-full-country-sd-card/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwqKuKBhCxARIsACf4XuFpmg7xxZPvZMLo4TXyq6ZpPb7RiN0QeY5uF7CAGytn0Izo97rsyg8aAgCHEALw_wcB

(2) https://openmtbmap.org/

(3) Garmin TopoActive Europe https://buy.garmin.com/en-GB/GB/p/586905 

 GrahamD 22 Sep 2021
In reply to Arbu:

Personally I would never advocate using a phone as the primary navigation device.  Partly because specialised GPS is asier to use with gloves and in bad weather, but mainly because I then know I have a dry, fully charged phone for emergencies (including primary GPS failure)

 Marek 22 Sep 2021
In reply to GrahamD:

> Personally I would never advocate using a phone as the primary navigation device...

Depends on what you mean by 'phone'. I use an Android device that is sold as a 'phone' but it has no SIM card and is used just as a GPS-tracking-mapping-navigation device, My proper phone stays stashed. Yes, the touch screen is less than ideal in bad weather (although a lot of dedicated GPS devices rely on touch screen too), but the screen is far bigger and clearer than any GPS device.  Trade-offs I'm happy with.

 Arbu 23 Sep 2021

I went out last night on my bike and recorded a route with Locus. It actually worked better than the GPS unit did as it was easier to set up and easier to transfer the track onto Google Earth once I got back.

As for hiking, I always take a paper map as my main means of navigation - screens on GPSs are just too small. So anything else is secondary, and I think my phone is OK for that. If ever I were to go somewhere really remote, with no paper map available, maybe then I would consider buying a new GPS unit for that.

 Arbu 01 Oct 2021
In reply to StuPoo2:

Thanks, I think I should get one of the units you suggest next time I go somewhere remote. I'm confused because I hear of phones having GPS chips, but in the Cairngorms just now with no phone signal, I certainly wasn't able to get my phone to determine a location with whatever GPS chip it may have. 

In reply to Arbu:

Might depend on whether phone is set to allow course grained or fine grained location. The former just works it out based on phone masts the latter based on GPS.  If set to former and no signal. It won’t give you a position.

Post edited at 14:10
 Arbu 01 Oct 2021
In reply to Currently Resting:

Any idea how you set that on Android? 

In reply to Arbu:

Generally found under app permissions

In reply to Arbu:

I have a Satmap - works well if expensive. 

Waterproof, long battery, heavy

 Arbu 03 Oct 2021
In reply to Currently Resting:

I can see a Location setting under app permissions, but it's just an on/off switch for each app (it's on for Locus). Nothing about coarse/fine-grained.

 spenser 03 Oct 2021
In reply to blurty:

I have an Active 20 which I am pretty happy with, the Adventure Maps for the whole of the UK cost £40. 

The 10/12 is pretty poorly designed with external buttons able to fail due to damage to the rubber on the outside of the case. There have also been multiple iterations of the 20, one of which had no strain protection on the charging socket (I ripped the socket off the board when removing the charging cable, warranty replacement had strain relief installed which has prevented a repeat), customer service is good.

Battery lasts about 10 hours of reasonably frequent use.

In reply to Arbu:

You must have an older version of Android. On mine it offers coarse / fine grained and also whether app can access location when in background etc.

In reply to GrahamD:

> Personally I would never advocate using a phone as the primary navigation device.  Partly because specialised GPS is easier to use with gloves and in bad weather, but mainly because I then know I have a dry, fully charged phone for emergencies (including primary GPS failure)

I may have misunderstood you but are you saying that GPS failure could be an emergency justifying phoning for help?

 deepsoup 03 Oct 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

The phone doubles as a back up GPS device.

 GrahamD 04 Oct 2021
In reply to deepsoup:

^^ This. Phone is back up GPS and map as a first port of call, reference source (eg nearest station) second and thirdly in a real emergency calling for help.

 StuPoo2 04 Oct 2021
In reply to Arbu:

Cool.  

I'll be honest ... I'm not a vote for the mixing GPS & Phone idea.  Yes - your phone almost certainly has a GPS chip on it and yes - you can use it as a GPS for general navigation (No - I have no idea why yours was not working) ... but your phone is your primary S.O.S machine for when the sh1t hits the fan.  When in the hills, my phone is in a ziplock inside my backpack.  Never know when you're next going to need your phone in anger - last thing you want is low battery.  

All that being said ... always take a map and compass ... just in case.

In reply to Arbu:

On Android 6:

Settings/Location

There are three options: High accuracy (which fuses GPS, WiFi & mobile antenna positions), Battery Saving (which only uses WiFi and mobile), and Device Only (which only uses GPS).

Since I have my phone in airplane mode most of the time, and there's no WiFi outside urban areas, I have mine set to 'Device only'.

 Arbu 04 Oct 2021
In reply to captain paranoia:

I'm on Android 9. There's no Location item under Settings.

I think my phone updates automatically. 

 Arbu 04 Oct 2021
In reply to StuPoo2:

I take a SPOT locator device as I do tend to go off trail quite a bit. A phone wouldn't help because it would have no reception.

I take a paper map and have a compass on my watch. 

In reply to Arbu:

Google is good for searching for things like this...

"Android 9 location settings"

It seems Location Settings have been moved under Security & Privacy. And that it has been 'simplified', so that there are only two settings: GPS only, or GPS/WiFi/cell antenna. The latter is called 'improved accuracy', but an alternative viewpoint is 'improved data mining for Google'.

https://x-gps.app/en/help/tracker/android9/

 Arbu 08 Oct 2021
In reply to captain paranoia:

Whatever, GPS didn't work. I had improved accuracy selected. Maybe I'll try deselecting it next time I am in the wilds, to try to force it to use GPS. But I doubt it will work.

 jimtitt 08 Oct 2021
In reply to Arbu:

> Thanks, I've downloaded it and it looks really good. I have a feeling that the GPS on a handheld unit would work better than that on my phone, but I'll give it a go and see.

I run Locus on my phone and a Samsung tablet, the GPS on the tablet is vastly better than the phone. Mine are used on off-road motorbikes and at speed the difference in position update/lag is noticeable! Being able to actually see anything at speed in bright sun is another advantage!

Tip for reading glasses users:, polycarbonate wrap-round bifocal safety glasses, just flick your eyes down and you can actually read town names. Cost about 8 quid.


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