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Help Choosing GPS - Geocaching and Snowmobiling


A4All
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My husband and I are both very new to our hobby's (mine geocaching, his snowmobiling). We want to purchase a GPS that will work well for both our hobby's.

 

We definitely want a Garmin.

 

I want a geocaching gps that will do everything i need it to easily to get our family accurately to it's destination - and we are a very tech savy family.

 

My husband thinks he needs a gps that includes pre-loaded maps for his snowmobiling adventures in the UP of Michigan. He would like the Garmin® Oregon 550T GPS. I think it's too pricey. He is not good with direction and is afraid of getting lost on his trails. Are there any other garmins that would include maps for his snowmobiling need (or is that even a need?)

 

Are there any suggestions of an item that would work well for both of us?

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Sounds like you and I may be looking for a similar use unit (except I don't do snow...)

Most (if not basically all) GPSrs have the ability to 'track' your route, so even without an actual 'map' you can follow your 'digital breadcrumbs' back out of where you are... However, TOPO maps would come in very handy on a snowmobile! (or other atv of choice)

What is your price range? Mine is around $300, and it would appear that some of the higher units can often be found second hand for under/around that $300 mark... Hopefully this thread will be very informative for both of us and others!

~Gator

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Are there any other garmins that would include maps for his snowmobiling need (or is that even a need?)

An advantage of going with Garmin is the huge user base and the 'homemade' mapping that this community has developed. You may find the snowmobile trail maps you're interested at http://www.gpsfiledepot.com/.

 

Do all garmin gps units have the ability to download and add maps to them?

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No the simpler basic models don't accept maps, but the Garmin website clearly identifies which ones do.

 

If you're interest in the 550 is the camera then that's the only one in Garmin's lineup with that feature. Otherwise, you might consider the Dakota series they're smaller than the Oregons, perhaps easier to use while snowmobiling?

 

I use an older Vista Cx. I find I can keep it safely tucked in an inside (chest) coat pocket and it can still get a good signal lock AND keep the batteries nice & warm :) I just pull it out whenever I want to use it.

 

..is that your plan? Or do you want a GPSr you can stick/velcro to the handlebars so you can see it constantly?

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Are there any other garmins that would include maps for his snowmobiling need (or is that even a need?)

An advantage of going with Garmin is the huge user base and the 'homemade' mapping that this community has developed. You may find the snowmobile trail maps you're interested at http://www.gpsfiledepot.com/.

 

Do all garmin gps units have the ability to download and add maps to them?

No - make sure it is listed as being a mapping unit. All the units that have expandable memory are mapping units if that helps ( the memory is for maps).

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Do all garmin gps units have the ability to download and add maps to them?

No - make sure it is listed as being a mapping unit. All the units that have expandable memory are mapping units if that helps ( the memory is for maps).

Not strictly true - there are mapping units without expandable memory. See Garmin's site (link) for a summary of handheld mapping units.

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Do all garmin gps units have the ability to download and add maps to them?

No - make sure it is listed as being a mapping unit. All the units that have expandable memory are mapping units if that helps ( the memory is for maps).

Not strictly true - there are mapping units without expandable memory. See Garmin's site (link) for a summary of handheld mapping units.

All units with expandable memory are mapping units but not all mapping units have expandable memory is what i was trying to say. :)

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Wow - this is all great information!!

 

We have narrowed it down to a few and realize that we need a mapping handheld, preferably with expandable memory (to add the maps for my husbands snowmobiling). I hear that WAAS enabled is helpful for geocaching, as well as at least 12 parallel channels (not sure what all that means yet).

 

I like the Garmin® GPSMAP® 76Cx and GPSMAP® 76CSx but it doesn't look like they have paperless geocaching. (Although I think it does have a geocache mode). Whats the difference between these two? Is it that the paperless would allow us to see the hints, etc.? That would be a nice feature for my kids, but is it worth the extra $$ to upgrade to a different model?

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Wow - this is all great information!!

 

We have narrowed it down to a few and realize that we need a mapping handheld, preferably with expandable memory (to add the maps for my husbands snowmobiling). I hear that WAAS enabled is helpful for geocaching, as well as at least 12 parallel channels (not sure what all that means yet).

 

I like the Garmin® GPSMAP® 76Cx and GPSMAP® 76CSx but it doesn't look like they have paperless geocaching. (Although I think it does have a geocache mode). Whats the difference between these two? Is it that the paperless would allow us to see the hints, etc.? That would be a nice feature for my kids, but is it worth the extra $$ to upgrade to a different model?

The S is the difference between those 2 units - it stands for sensors. A barometric altimeter and an electronic compass. Some folks swear by these items - others swear at them.

 

Fully paperless units allow you to easily add all of the cache page information (except photos) to the unit and read it out on the trail. Very nice to have.

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For use on a snowmobile, the larger screen Oregons and Colorados are better. When plugging into external power their screens are much brighter than other units. If to be used for caching, they are substantially better than the old units.

 

I would suggest an Oregon 300.

 

Free maps including topographic maps and Snowmobile trails are here: http://www.gpsfiledepot.com/maps/state/mi

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Not to make waves, but can you tell us why you want Garmin?

 

As for a comment that the Garmins have an advantage with the free user-made maps....not so much IMHO. With the DeLorme PN series, you can get aerial imagery, 24k topo, NOAA charts etc for $30/yr. You also get routable topo maps FREE with the purchase.

 

If a Garmin is a must (not exactly sure why unless you are going to travel a lot outside the USA) I would definitely go with a paperless unit which the 76 series is not. Either a Dakota 20 or an OR series would be my suggestion (other than the DeLorme PN series which is truly a great deal...the "best bang for the buck" as many have stated in other threads).

 

Good luck, please shoot out any and all questions you can think up. We want you to be a happy buyer and the only way for this is to get as much info as possible so you make an informed decision!! :)

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For use on a snowmobile, the larger screen Oregons and Colorados are better. When plugging into external power their screens are much brighter than other units. If to be used for caching, they are substantially better than the old units.

 

I would suggest an Oregon 300.

 

Free maps including topographic maps and Snowmobile trails are here: http://www.gpsfiledepot.com/maps/state/mi

 

Red 90,

 

No arguments, just comments.

 

Many, (most?) snowmobiles don't have an easily available external power source for "plugging into".

Mine does, to run my Map76CSx and a ham radio for APRS operation, but it took some extensive "hard wiring" to facilitate.

 

What that means is less screen visibility (with no external power) and very short battery life due to exposure to the cold......unless an external antenna is used, where the actual GPS can be kept inside the users jacket and only the external antenna is exposed. The Oregon does NOT have external antenna capabilities whereas the Colorado series DOES.

 

All this is just saying that units with external antenna capabilities (60 series,76 series, Colorado series) have a slight "leg up" for extreme cold weather use. (but of course, no paperless capabilities on some of those)

 

While trail mapping, I run a Map 76CSx with external antenna. Sometimes hooked up to external power, sometimes not, depending on duration of the exercise.

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What that means is less screen visibility (with no external power) and very short battery life due to exposure to the cold......unless an external antenna is used, where the actual GPS can be kept inside the users jacket and only the external antenna is exposed. The Oregon does NOT have external antenna capabilities whereas the Colorado series DOES.

 

 

.. like I said in my post, I keep my Vista Cx in an inside coat pocket while snowmobiling and it seems to keep a great signal lock through my coat. At the end of the day I almost always have a nice unbroken plot trail of my days travels. Do you find you need an external antenna when keeping your GPSr inside your coat?

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What that means is less screen visibility (with no external power) and very short battery life due to exposure to the cold......unless an external antenna is used, where the actual GPS can be kept inside the users jacket and only the external antenna is exposed. The Oregon does NOT have external antenna capabilities whereas the Colorado series DOES.

 

 

.. like I said in my post, I keep my Vista Cx in an inside coat pocket while snowmobiling and it seems to keep a great signal lock through my coat. At the end of the day I almost always have a nice unbroken plot trail of my days travels. Do you find you need an external antenna when keeping your GPSr inside your coat?

 

Likewise with my PN-40....I often carried it in a pocket in the cold (and will likely do so again soon lol). I think the new receivers do a good job of keeping signal.

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Many, (most?) snowmobiles don't have an easily available external power source for "plugging into".

Mine does, to run my Map76CSx and a ham radio for APRS operation, but it took some extensive "hard wiring" to facilitate.

 

Put in the effort to wire it in. Running a GPS on batteries in the winter is just not smart. Putting it in your jacket kills the whole point of having it.

 

Wire it up, get a good bar mount and it becomes useful.

 

The smaller screens of the 60/76 series, etrexes and Delormes are just not big enough to use safely while driving a snow machine or ATV.

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The smaller screens of the 60/76 series, etrexes and Delormes are just not big enough to use safely while driving a snow machine or ATV.

 

I would say it depends on how one uses it. I can easily see the screen on my PN40 while on the ATV and know where I am heading. If I to look at something in detail I can always stop and look at the unit. And the buttons make zooming in and out and changing display very easy while I think it might be a problem with the TS units if you happen to be on a bouncy trail.

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You will never want to go Geocaching while the husband is out Snowing ?

 

Get two GPS's. One for Geocaching and one for Snowmobile. If cost if a factor do paperless geocaching with a second PDA for the clues / data etc and a good cheap GPS like a Extrex H series. Put a motor bike mount type GPS on the snowmobile so it will never need batteries.

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What that means is less screen visibility (with no external power) and very short battery life due to exposure to the cold......unless an external antenna is used, where the actual GPS can be kept inside the users jacket and only the external antenna is exposed. The Oregon does NOT have external antenna capabilities whereas the Colorado series DOES.

 

 

.. like I said in my post, I keep my Vista Cx in an inside coat pocket while snowmobiling and it seems to keep a great signal lock through my coat. At the end of the day I almost always have a nice unbroken plot trail of my days travels. Do you find you need an external antenna when keeping your GPSr inside your coat?

 

After mapping several thousand miles of hiking, ATV, Snowmobile trails I find that using a high mounted (velcro'd on top of cap or helmet) external antenna regularly results in a higher quality track being recorded, especially in less than ideal conditions.(ie heavy canopy)

It's also the main reason I do not own an ETrex series, an Oregon 550t, or a PN series.

An external antenna also helps to reduce the "dreaded" undesirable random points logged by some of the new high sensitivity chipsets.

 

If you don't care about obtaining the highest quality track possible for reproduction, and are only interested in having a breadcrumb trail to follow back, then the X antenna is not necessary. You can carry it in your coat or in the top of your pack and it will generally maintain an acceptable "lock", but will have some discrepancies due to signal blocking and/or multipath errors.

 

Just personal experience and opinion.

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For use on a snowmobile, the larger screen Oregons and Colorados are better. When plugging into external power their screens are much brighter than other units. If to be used for caching, they are substantially better than the old units.

 

I would suggest an Oregon 300.

 

Free maps including topographic maps and Snowmobile trails are here: http://www.gpsfiledepot.com/maps/state/mi

 

I agree that the Oregon series would be your best choice, I have had the GPS Map 60Cx, GPS Map 76Cx, and the Oregon 200. The Oregon is the best of the 3, mostly because of the touch screen and paperless caching. The Oregon with the preloaded maps would be a better choice, because with the Oregon 200 you have to load your own maps which I already purchased previously. Most of my geocache hides are on the snowmobile trails in UP Michigan and I have used a 4-Wheeler, Snowmobile, and Snowshoes to hide.

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Ok, great! I think we have decided that we need two different devices. And with my birthday coming up, my husband has decided to let me choose mine now. As I said, I'm very new to geocaching and am still learning the terms.

 

So, if you can help me with these questions, I would be sooo grateful....

 

Paperless caching will allow me to download the locations and hints directly to my GPS unit???

(so if I'm out with our four children and we decide we want to geocache, I can just turn it on and get all the info I need about cache's in the area?)(Including the hints, which are so helpful since we just started?)

 

When I go to Garmin's website, and put a checkmark in the features that I think I want on a mapping handheld (Geocaching Mode, Paperless Geocaching, Touchscreen, Accepts data cards), it eliminates almost everything except the Oregon models. If I go with an Oregon, is the 200 or 300 a good enough product?

 

We have always had navigational devices in our vehicles and started geocaching using those devices. They, of course, only took us to a general area near the cache. Will these handhelds help take us to the exact location of the cache?

 

Thanks to everyone for your knowledge!

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Ok, great! I think we have decided that we need two different devices. And with my birthday coming up, my husband has decided to let me choose mine now. As I said, I'm very new to geocaching and am still learning the terms.

 

So, if you can help me with these questions, I would be sooo grateful....

 

Paperless caching will allow me to download the locations and hints directly to my GPS unit???

(so if I'm out with our four children and we decide we want to geocache, I can just turn it on and get all the info I need about cache's in the area?)(Including the hints, which are so helpful since we just started?)

 

When I go to Garmin's website, and put a checkmark in the features that I think I want on a mapping handheld (Geocaching Mode, Paperless Geocaching, Touchscreen, Accepts data cards), it eliminates almost everything except the Oregon models. If I go with an Oregon, is the 200 or 300 a good enough product?

 

We have always had navigational devices in our vehicles and started geocaching using those devices. They, of course, only took us to a general area near the cache. Will these handhelds help take us to the exact location of the cache?

 

Thanks to everyone for your knowledge!

 

Paperless caching means you can simply turn on the unit and go caching anywhere you have already loaded caches for. In other words, you load the GPS full of caches (PQs are your friend here) and you get ALL the info you'll need to go out and find caches. So, YES is the answer to that question.

 

The reason it eliminates all others is because you chose touchscreen. OR is the only touchscreen series Garmin has. The 300 is a good choice but remember you'll need to buy or find maps for it. The 400t comes with maps loaded, but you can get free maps and I see routing isn't needed.

 

Yes, the handheld is going to get you near GZ!! Finding caches will soon be much easier for you!

 

Good luck on your purchase, please share your thoughts after playing with it awhile!!

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Paperless caching means you can simply turn on the unit and go caching anywhere you have already loaded caches for. In other words, you load the GPS full of caches (PQs are your friend here) and you get ALL the info you'll need to go out and find caches. So, YES is the answer to that question.

 

 

Again, excuse my lack of knowledge. So, the GPS doesn't act as a mini-computer? We have to actually load the caches from home or a computer before we set out? We can't just connect to geocaching.com on our gps from a park or woods and get info on a cache in the area?

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You have to load the caches into your GPS, your GPS cannot acquire them for you. As I said, PQs will be your friend there.

 

The touchscreen is a bit hard to see, but you can tilt it into a position which will make it OK to use. The only time it'll be a problem is if you mount it in a fixed position like when bicycling or such where there isn't a power source to plug into.

 

I don't know the differences enough to help there...sorry. Anyone??

Edited by Rockin Roddy
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Also, I've read reviews that the Oregon screen is hard to see in sunlight. Does anyone know if this has been corrected?

 

Are there any big differences between the Oregon and the Colorado (other than the touch screen?) Which is better?

 

I prefer the touch screen to the Colorado's rock n' roller wheel. It makes a huge difference. I'd go for a low end Oregon over a high end Colorado. Don't forget the Dakota series as an option.

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Also, I've read reviews that the Oregon screen is hard to see in sunlight. Does anyone know if this has been corrected?

 

Are there any big differences between the Oregon and the Colorado (other than the touch screen?) Which is better?

 

I prefer the touch screen to the Colorado's rock n' roller wheel. It makes a huge difference. I'd go for a low end Oregon over a high end Colorado. Don't forget the Dakota series as an option.

 

I'm pretty sure (after doing some serious research over the last couple of days) that the Dakota series is also touch screen.

ANY touch screen will be more difficult to see in direct sunlight than an non-TS.

Of the units you are looking at, they have enough storage that you can pre-load lots and LOTS of caches, so, like has been mentioned a few times already, get PQs (Pocket Queries) for any areas that you think you might cache in, load them into your unit, and you are ready to go wherever you are!

 

Since you have decided to get 2 units, are you insistent that they both be Garmin?

When you started this thread I was completely up in the air (see my 'narrowing it down' thread) as well, and had some pretty serious 'wants' at a specific price ($300) and I ended up ordering a DeLorme PN-40 from Amazon for right at $300! I will be able to better let you know tomorrow when it gets here, but I am confident that it was the best choice for me at least, and it looks like it probably would fit your bill very well also!

Just a thought...

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I prefer the touch screen to the Colorado's rock n' roller wheel. It makes a huge difference. I'd go for a low end Oregon over a high end Colorado. Don't forget the Dakota series as an option.

 

And just to show that it is a personal choice.... I prefer the Colorado buttons to the Oregon touchscreen, especially when Geocaching. The Oregon Geocaching interface is quite clunky in comparison to the Colorado.

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