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Give Me An Electronic Compass Or Give Me Death!


Tenakee
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Here's the scenario........

 

I leave my scooter in the parking lot, mark it as waypoint #1, turn off the GPS unit, and head into the woods. I wander around looking at all the pretty flowers, empty beer cans, and field mice. Couple of hours later I turn on the GPS unit and WHILE STANDING STILL request a GOTO waypoint #1 and (here's where I need clarification)......

 

It seems that most units (those without electronic compasses) cannot point me back to my rig, WHILE STANDING STILL, and only those with an electronic compass can.

 

Sooooo, why doesn't everyone demand an electronic compass in their GPS?

 

Thanks.

 

Lost in Alaska

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Here's the scenario........

 

I leave my scooter in the parking lot, mark it as waypoint #1, turn off the GPS unit, and head into the woods. I wander around looking at all the pretty flowers, empty beer cans, and field mice. Couple of hours later I turn on the GPS unit and WHILE STANDING STILL request a GOTO waypoint #1 and (here's where I need clarification)......

 

It seems that most units (those without electronic compasses) cannot point me back to my rig, WHILE STANDING STILL, and only those with an electronic compass can.

 

Sooooo, why doesn't everyone demand an electronic compass in their GPS?

 

Thanks.

 

Lost in Alaska

Simple. Walk a few steps and your GPS will tell you which way too, but more importantly, a magnetic compass (which I always carry) requires no batteries to work! and it works as well or better than an electronic compass anyway. I do have a seperate electronic compass... it spends all its time at home in the drawer. Not so my magnetic compass.

 

You are 5 miles out in a snowy mountain valley. Your GPS dies from the cold. Your Magnetic compass relies on the Earths magnoshere alone (always there for you). It leads you home. :-)

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It's not particularly necessary in most cases. It sucks battery life. It typically needs recalibration after a battery change. They often will not function properly unless held a particular way.

 

I have the compass turned off on my Vista. It just isn't worth the hassle most of the time. If I have decent sat lock and I'm moving, which is most of the time, then the compass feature is kind of "pointless".

 

George

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Thanks for taking the time to respond and let me be a little less annoying.

 

First, I live in SE Alaska which has very heavy/thick growth so getting a signal and being forced to move is risky because I seem to lose the signal more often than not. In fact, any recommendations for the best GPS unit for getting/keeping a signal in thick cover would be appreciataed.

 

Second, I never enter the woods without a magnetic compass. I am comfortable with its use and will always have one as a backup.

 

Finally, it has dawned on me that perhaps I just haven't figured out how to use a GPS and compass together. Do GPS units, without compasses, use a default such as the top of the navigation circle is supposed to be pointing to magnetic north and when done so, the navigation arrow points in the correct direction?

 

Thanks.

 

Lost in Alaska

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I don't know about the Garmins, but my Meridian has a feature called Northfinder.

This is from Robert Lipe's excellent FAQ page, which I recommend that you read through:

 

What is "Northfinder"?

Unless you are moving (or have a unit like the Platinum that has an integral compass) the GPS doesn't know which way "North" is. You can prove this easily by punching in a GOTO and rotating the unit in your palm. The arrow rotates as the unit rotates. With Northfinder, a picture of celestial bodies (sun and/or moon) will appear on the outer edge of the rose. Rotate the unit to align the picture of the sun with the actual location of the sun. Now "north" on your screen actually points north and the arrow on the "compass" screen points to your GOTO destination.

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Having an on-board electronic compass is an added convenience. While manual magnetic compasses are acceptable, in my opinion, they're just another piece of equipment to carry in your second hand which makes carring other things like a hiking stick more difficult. I'm not suggesting you should not keep one with you as a backup - but you're already doing that.

 

With equipment such as the Garmin Vista, besides the on-board magenetic compass you also get 24 meg memory (over the Legends 8 meg) allowing a lot more mapping data. You also get an altimeter which seconds as an barometric instrument alerting you to changes in weather conditions which could be a life saver in the mountains especially.

 

In heavy tree cover where you might have trouble holding the satellites so that moving won't get you the compass, on-board compasses don't have that problem- the compass rose is always displayed as on a regular compass.

 

For me, the extra 75 bucks was worth getting the compass, altimeter and 24 megs.

Good luck.

 

Alan

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Thanks again for all the responses so far.

 

Having done a little research I've also discovered I am not the first to ask this question.

 

It appears that most folks use a magnetic compass, in conjunction with their GPS, to locate objects. I am curious on the method they use. It would seem that I must be missing a very basic navigating concept.

 

The question comes down to: If the GPS unit does not have a built-in electronic compass, and I have a magnetic compass in hand, is there a way to orient the GPS so that while not moving it will point towards the GOTO waypoint?

 

Thanks.

 

Semi-Lost in Alaska

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The 'method' I use with a magnetic compass is once I get to within 30' of a cache I take the "Bearing" number off the GPS and follow my compass on that bearing.

 

I can't wait til I can get back out again. Haven't been for too long now.

 

The question comes down to: If the GPS unit does not have a built-in electronic compass, and I have a magnetic compass in hand, is there a way to orient the GPS so that while not moving it will point towards the GOTO waypoint?

 

Well, if you align the compass with the bearing number, I suppose you could turn the GPS until it's direction finder (it is not a compass, BTW) lines up. But the problem is that the direction finder may jump around, and so it is pointless. My Legend does this.

 

Good luck!

Edited by New England n00b
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I've been finding that my 76S's compass isn't as accurate as a good hand held.

 

I've taken bearings to summits that I know and can see clear and compare the two and have found it off.

 

I've checked for magnetic auto mode and that's set o.k.

 

Also it's so sensitive it moves very easy. It's gotten so I would rather just have my hand held compass in my pocket or on a clip and use that. Save's battery also.

 

Maybe the new 60CS will be better.

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I use the bearing method. If the GPSr says the direction to the cache is 96 degress, I let the compas point north, and walk in the direction that is 96 degrees from north.

 

Using the direction pointer to line up is silly as the slightest movement and things can jump around.

 

If you have a proper compass you will have a pointer attached which you can turn to the correct angle betwen north and the cache as read of the GPSr.

Edited by Learned Gerbil
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personally i never rely on my gps for navigation. i allow it to tell me where it thinks i should go but as the manufacturers say it is not a replacement for good judgement. to me good judgement means having a fail safe method of navigation as a backup. personally i carry a basic silva compass and have hands on my wristwatch so that if ithe gps craps out and i lose the compass i still know north and coupled with the research that i do before entering the wilderness (which i always assume ill be there for a week or so) i study the local maps so i know the topography/geography.

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The "Northfinder" feature on all Magellan units is very handy. I'm amazed that Garmin hasn't added this to their units. Even my old Magellan GPS 315 had it. I use it any time I'm standing still, and it's always been right on the money. The only limitation is that you have to be able to see where either the sun or the moon is at the present time. I also have a small "ball-style" compass attached to the front of my hydropack's shoulder strap, so I can just look down at it any time I want to. I also carry another, better, compass in my pack, but between the "Northfinder" and the "ball" compass, I've yet to ever even get it out of my pack. :unsure:

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Also I discoverd while looking at the GPSMAP 76 and the 60C that along with them missing the compass,barometer, theres alot of vertical information not available that I would much rather have than a electronic compass.

 

So I am going to get the 60CS as long as it's similar to the 76S's more choices of options in data fields and for the trip computer. The 76S has a deicated Vertical Trip computer.

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Also I discoverd while looking at the GPSMAP 76 and the 60C that along with them missing the compass,barometer, theres alot of vertical information not available that I would much rather have than a electronic compass.

 

So I am going to get the 60CS as long as it's similar to the 76S's more choices of options in data fields and for the trip computer. The 76S has a deicated Vertical Trip computer.

On the Map76 if you dump your track into the mapsource program on your computer you can see the profile of your trip along with all alttitude data for each point in the track.

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It's not particularly necessary in most cases. It sucks battery life. It typically needs recalibration after a battery change. They often will not function properly unless held a particular way.

 

I have the compass turned off on my Vista. It just isn't worth the hassle most of the time. If I have decent sat lock and I'm moving, which is most of the time, then the compass feature is kind of "pointless".

 

George

I've noticed only about an hour difference in battery life. With the fact any geocacher knows to carry extra batteries, that becomes academic. Carrying a magnetic compass is also recommended so again - academics.

 

I've also noted the calibration doesn't necessarily have to be done, is merely recommended. My variation has never gone over 3° when I don't calibrate between rechargeable changes.

 

I would have never bought a GPS with an electronic compass unless it was 3-axis. I hate the touchiness of having to hold them so horizontal so the 3-axis is very handy.

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