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Upgrading GPS Qustions

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A few GPS related questions too which may help some others on the answers.


Some history first.


I started seriously by buying a Garmin GPS 38 last year from eBay for under £15 delivered. This was initially to be used for walking in the Lake District as I was about to move form one end of the country to the other. With using it for Geocaching, it got me in to the hobby and I started searching for more. The battery life was pretty poor with using 4 AA batteries only lasting a few hours. The lock on time was a little slow but when you know how to use it I found was pretty accurate, in some cases it been better than my current GPS.


After a few months I upgraded to the basic Garmin eTrex (yellow one), which with only taking 2AA batteries the charge lasted for more hours per battery change, ideal you can go out for a very long time and maybe not need to change the batteries, but if you do it's only two which are easier to carry. The speed and accuracy were also better. Cost again around £50 from eBay.


Today I use a mixture of the eTrex along with a mobile. In the past I had a Samsung Mini 2 and now been given the HTC X8 Windows Phone. Not sure how long I will have this as I'm awaiting the go ahead to roll these out to all our sales staff. If that doesn't go ahead it may be a change of phone again.




Is there much difference between the accuracy of GPS devices?

If so is this down to the number of satellites they lock on to or is there a step up in models where things become far more accurate?


What I'm Looking For


So here is a list of the things I'd really like from a GPS, it would be nice if people could fire some models back for which cover all or some of these features.




It would be nice to have a mapping solution included, if maps are to be included then they need to be down to footpath level in the UK otherwise I might as well just use the phone for mapping.

Free map solutions for the above. If it means using software to download and install the latest map for a region then that is fine.




How much further up the model list do you need to go to have a more noticeable accuracy than the eTrex?

Which models work better in the poorer signal areas like tree cover?


Inputting Data


None of the GPS's I have have the capability of entering the coordinates from a computer. I would like options to either download them direct from the geocaching site or at the moment as I'm a basic member using a free third party software that will allow them to be input into a GPS.


I know that the price ranges will go right up but I'm on a budget of only spending what I really have to, therefore if models are listed that only have some of the required features it may be that I end up going for them based on cost.


Normally with expensive items I prefer to buy new, but with a source of funds in my PayPal account would consider good items from eBay.


Thanks in advance.

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First of all... you are playing around with equipment that is "good enough" (barely). As such, you are putting yourself into a position of always either playing catch-up (technologically) or never having the tools capable of performing as you really would like them to. In other words, you are digging a hole and climbing into it before even getting started.


I'm not being a smart-alec, as I used to do that, too! Finally, with old-age approaching (very rapidly), I finally saw the light. No, I still don't buy the newest or the "best", but I make sure that I have something that is capable of performing as I want, at least.


Regarding accuracy:

ALL current crop of GPSr units (release dates within, say 3 or 4-years) have far better receiving antenna than either of which you named.

Too, GPSr units use an antenna that is specifically designed to receive satellite signals. Cell phones must rely on an antenna that is OK for multiple applications. There can be great variations between makes and/or models; I am not equipped to advise much about phones.

Many of today's units (GPSr and phones) use differing systems in order to obtain "accuracy": i.e. GPS satellites, WAAS (an augmentation system) and GLONASS (Russian) satellites.

Consumer-grade units are generally considered incapable of promising accuracy much greater than 3 or 4 meters. They can be better, but they cannot promise to be better than that. Non-Consumer grade units are pretty much out of most or our price ranges, so because nobody(?) uses them, having one would do you no good anyway.

True "accuracy" is not necessary for geocaching purposes, "consistency" is, as well as the ability to obtain and hold satellite signals in less-than-ideal circumstances or conditions.


"What I'm Looking For":

Your older units CAN load directly from a computer, but you need adapter cords to bridge the technology gap (USB/Serial Port adapters). Your older units cannot support better mapping. Technical support from the manufacture usually is not available with aged equipment.

You probably want (at least) easy connect-ability: USB cord (supplied with current units); color display - not mandatory, but you are hard-pressed to get a decent unit with other than color displays today that will accept good mapping; Removable memory (SD or micro SD cards) - they allow for greater mapping capabilities and memory use/storage, but this is not mandatory, either.

Garmin - any unit, eTrex 20 and higher,

Magellan - crossing lines, here. eXplorist line: the GC is a lower-end unit but many people love 'em. Other than the GC model, those designated 310 and higher. The lowest one that accepts an SD card is the 510.

US websites (sorry) Garmin , Magellan .


There are a number of European units, but I am not at all familiar with them, as well as a new (not yet released) Chinese unit.



For the UK, I understand that http://talkytoaster.info/ukmaps.htm are very good. Also http://www.gpsfiledepot.com./ .


Accuracy and Inputting Data are all pretty much taken care of with newer units noted.


I understand that price is always a concern, but if you keep ducking behind the barrel, you will stay behind a barrel and never "scramble" ahead. You might try some previously used models in those lines, they are available as other folks upgrade. Check out the GPS Garage Sale forums.

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Thanks for the quick reply. I didn't think that you could upload / download anything on the basic eTrex apart from software updates.

Just done a Google and found the Easy GPS software, this may take my experience to another level straight away, now where did I put the cable? :unsure: Not going to be easy as I moved a year ago and it's in a box somewhere.


I think if I can enter the coordinates from my laptop etc first it's going to make using the GPS far more enjoyable.:rolleyes:


I usually let the kids have the eTrex if they come out with me, and I know you have to learn how it behaves, as I've often found in my own hands that it takes me to the right spot. However these last few days on two caches we visited it was a bit out. The first was 100+ feet away from my phone and the true GZ, second was wrong side of a road. I did recheck the coordinates on them. The difference may well have been satellite coverage as when I have them in hand they usually get the best exposure, ie dashboard when driving etc.


The only reason I asked about the maps was for walking purposes in the Lake District. I usually use the eTrex, get all the coordinates off Geocaching.com for where the footpaths change direction and plot them all in. Then on the day of the walk start of a route and use it for backup, making sure I go where I should and don't get lost.



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I didn't think that you could upload / download anything on the basic eTrex apart from software updates.


You can download geocache data, but the info which that unit can display is limited. I believe the "name" datafield is limited to 7 characters. It is capable of providing you only with the cache ID, coordinates and maybe the D/T rating and cache size.


It will however, hold a fair number of caches in memory list, both Not Found and Found.

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The difficulty really is making the older GPS work with modern PCs. Serial to USB cables are available, but often they don't work 'straight out the box' and require some finesse to get them connecting to your PC so that you can download data. By the time you pay for the necessary cable etc you'd be better off with the entry level Etrex 10, or if you wish to pay more there are numerous GPS that you can spend your money on.


I use an Etrex 20 loaded with free UK OSM mapping from www.talkytoaster.co.uk and find it more than adequate for my hiking and caching needs.

Edited by sussamb
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Hunted high and low and unable to find the cable, now thinking it was the older GPS that had the cable.

I've found a few sites to build a cable, but now the laptop I'm using at the moment doesn't have an RS232 socket.


So now looking again at the new GPS options. Looked at the eTrex 20 and it looks very good, so shopping around to see how cheap I can get it and ideally pay through PayPal.

If I'm paying three figures I'd like to get something that I want to keep for life and not upgrade for a very long time.

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Can someone give me some details about mapping on the eTrex 20?

I would like to be able to see footpaths and I'm sure there are plenty of free maps out there.

Will the free www.talkytoaster.co.ukUK maps be the best option?


Here are some screen shots from my Etrex 20 at different zoom ranges with talkytoaster mappping:







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Many thanks for the screen shots, looks just what I'm after.


Hopefully last question, how easy is it to get cache details into the eTrex 20 based on caches from Geocaching.com if you are not a premium member?

Happy to do a bit of copy and paste between applications if I can get detail in.


Will be off to Go Outdoors this morning to buy one!

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Simple enough, but being a premium member makes it even easier :)


If you do quote this site at them http://www.handtec.co.uk/garmin-etrex-20-010-00970-10.html (Edit: oops, just noticed they have none in stock so Go probably wouldn't accept that)


GoOutdoors offer a price match and 10% off I think if you can buy it cheaper elsewhere. Incidentally I've bought from Handtec and they're a good company to deal with.

Edited by sussamb
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Found a sports shop in Ambleside that was slightly cheaper, even though it wasn't exactly the same package (OS voucher included) they price matched and knocked off 10%.

Now to try and download maps and install software,


Many thanks for everyones help.

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Software is normally simple on the Etrex. Map should be fine. I keep all mine on the micro sd card (you'll need to buy one if you want to) ... but either on the card or on the GPS just ensure you put the map into the Garmin folder (you'll need to create one on the card). I suggest you try the top map in the OS 1:50 thou Look and Feel Mapsets, that is the one I use and the best for hiking/caching IMO.

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