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Choosing My First Garmin


washoe185
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Been Geocaching a couple of times and want to get my own unit. I can spend around $300 and want to get the right unit the first time. Lets compare the Legend C, the Vista C, and the 60C. Is the 60C antennae really that much better than those of the etrex? Is it worth getting a unit with an electronic compass and barimetric altimeter? How much do we care about loading US Topo or do most just follow the other screens and stick with the basemap? Most importantly, which unit will get us there most accurately while leaving some cashola in the ole pocketbook? I'm probably leaning most toward a Legend C with the US Topo loadable maps. What to do? :rolleyes:

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I don't know much about the "C" series (relatively new) but have the "old" eTrex Vista and like it a lot. Here's my thinking based on my experience with the Vista.

 

In terms of accuracy, the most important feature is WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System). WAAS is an error correction system that uses special geosynchonous satellites and ground stations to correct errors (timing and positional drift) from the other satellites. It will improve the accuracy of the unit (under most conditions) from 20-30 feet down to less than 10 feet. I think all of the units you're considering are "WAAS" enabled, but you should double check.

 

An electronic compass comes in handy when you stop or move very slowly. The GPSr knows your position but does not know your direction of travel (i.e. which way you are facing) unless you are moving. If you're moving, the GPSr infers direction by comparing your last positin with the current one and assuming that you have the GPSr in front of you. When you slow down or stop, there isn't enough movement for the GPSr to determine your heading, and the needle will start flipping around (and if you follow it, you'll be doing the "drunken bee dance"). On the Vista, you set the speed and time delay when the compass takes over from the GPS. Thus, at slow speeds or stopped, you get a steady heading because the compass takes over from the GPS. An alternative is to carry a regular (magnetic compass) and use it when the drunken bee dance begins.

 

As for maps, I'm a believer in having as much capaibility as possible - i.e. buy as much memory and map compatibility as you can afford. I have Metroguide street maps (the C series uses a different map series with more routing capabilities) and feel they were worth the investment (vs. just the base map). Although I may use online topo maps to scout an area , I don't think I'd use the topo maps in the field - the GPSr is accurate enough that you don't need topographical landmarks to find a cache. It is sometimes hard to figure out how to get to the cache parking area, and for that the street maps are handy. I also use the street maps to get to places other than caches.

 

I also have the barimetic altimeter, but it's mostly been a curiosity for me ("hmm, that's interesting") vs. a necessity, at least for caching purposes.

 

When estimating the total amount you can afford, you might want to factor in some accessories (or you can do what I did and not think about accessories, then spend $100 more than you planned :rolleyes:). I have a Belt Holster that's very handy when you're close to the cache and want to use both hands to look for the cache (or hold on, depending on the terrain) and I have a car charger (again, the C series uses a different model) and Windshield Suction Cup Mount (the C series also uses this model), which are indispensible when using the GPSr to navigate while driving!

 

Finally, you should know that you can find many (but not all) units, map sets, and accessories at other sites besides Garmin, often at lower prices. If you find something you want, search for the Garmin part number in Google.com (or Froogle.com) to see who else has it!

 

Hope this helps and doesn't just add to your confusion!

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Been Geocaching a couple of times and want to get my own unit. I can spend around $300 and want to get the right unit the first time. Lets compare the Legend C, the Vista C, and the 60C. Is the 60C antennae really that much better than those of the etrex? Is it worth getting a unit with an electronic compass and barimetric altimeter? How much do we care about loading US Topo or do most just follow the other screens and stick with the basemap? Most importantly, which unit will get us there most accurately while leaving some cashola in the ole pocketbook? I'm probably leaning most toward a Legend C with the US Topo loadable maps. What to do? :rolleyes:

I can't speak toward the Vista C, but I have both a Legend and a 60CS and can say that, without doubt, the 60 is worlds above the Legend. However, it's also much more expensive.

 

The Legend will display the topo maps just fine, though the larger color display on the 60 is more easy to read. Definitely get the topo software; the basemaps aren't much use.

 

The 60 is great in that it will give you turn-by-turn directions if you load the street maps.

 

I've never really used the altimeter, so it's not an important feature for me. I personally don't think it's worth spending the extra money for if you don't have a legitimate use for it.

 

Electronic compass? Definitely a good idea to have.

 

As far as which will get you there more accurately, they are all the same. None oare more "accurate" than the others. However, I've found that the antenna on the 60 does help hold signal under tree cover than the standard antenna on the eTrex does. Since I live in the desert, that's rarely a factor for me.

 

For the money, both the Legend and the Vista are a good buy. I love my 60CS, but most of what I need for geocaching, my Legend can do just fine.

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The 60C's antenna will be marginally better than the Vista under most conditions. Not enough to make it a deal breaker or maker though. I have the Vista and its a nice unit, but if I had a choice between the Vista and the 60C I'd go with the 60C.

 

From what I hear the Vista C is more than just a Vista with a color screen. I think it has more memory and more features than the regular Vista, which means the Vista C and 60 C probably compare quite well. The electric compass is a very nice feature to have, but not a necessity. The barometric altimeter has not been an important feature to me.

 

One advantage of the Vista is that its very compact. If that is important to you, then the Vista C might be the better choice.

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Having just completed one of our statewide cache fest, I would say that there is minimal if any difference between the capabilities of any of the units. I witnessed all of them successfully finding caches. I would go with the Vista C over the other two, strickly because of the compass. Price wise, it is a lot cheaper than the 60C.

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This is my theory on accuracy, which has been discussed at length, and you can search for those threads: Any normal unit will be accurate within about 12' of any other unit, should they be used side-by-side. The real accuracy issue, which is out of your control and is inflicted up all units equally (except those with extreme antennas, like for surveying), is from the satellites and the atmosphere. You will get inaccuracies of as much as 50' depending on the day or time of day, and whatever unit you choose will make very little difference.

There are better units for maps than the Vista, but it is certainly good enough for me. I find the electronic compass to be worth a whole lot. I often share with friends, even children, and the compass saves a lot of confusion.

Edited by Robespierre
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If money were no object, then I'd recommend the 60c. Having the ability to do auto-routing is great! Of course, you have to factor in the cost of the additional mapping software as well.

 

I don't have the colour models, but I do have a Legend and a Vista GPS. Both are great little units. I'm still getting used to the electronic compass on the Vista. It seems to be a bit jumpy, even after I've gone through the calibration process.

Edited by junglehair
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Here's another consideration. I've just upgraded from a Legend to a 76CS... the 76CS is a great unit, awesome screen, blah, blah, blah.... BUT I still cannot get used to carrying it in a vertical position.

 

With the patch antenna used in the Legend C and the Vista C, the optimum position is horizontal. With the quad-helix in the 60C/CS it's vertical. To me, it makes a lot more sense to carry the unit horizontally, especially when you are following the bearing pointer (arrow) to the cache.

 

The altimeter is neat, but not, IMHO worth spending the money on UNLESS you need it. The compass? Cool, but I tend to haul out my $25.00 lensatic and use that. The big annoyance with the Garmin compasses is their need to be held horizontally and level. Maybe I'm clumsy, but I have a hard time holding it in a position it likes!

 

See how much mapping memory you need... talk to some local cachers and see what sort of memory would be required to store the topo for your intended caching area. You might find that the Legend C is all you need... Whatever you decide, Good luck and happy caching!

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The 60C/S antanea is a quad helix. Marginally better in tree cover.

The Vista/C antenea is a path. Marginally better near vertical surfaces such as canyon walls.

 

In my area I'm going to be split on terrain so it doesn't matter for that reason.

 

The Compass is nice once you get used to it. I'm used to taking two steps and having a good direction and the Hold Level warning drove me nuts. Unless you need the compass I'd dump it and save the money for software.

 

You can pick any of these and have no regrets though, so go with your gut or your terrain, or you specific needs.

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Here's another consideration. I've just upgraded from a Legend to a 76CS... the 76CS is a great unit, awesome screen, blah, blah, blah.... BUT I still cannot get used to carrying it in a vertical position.

You know, my 60CS used to prefer to be held vertical. Then I dropped it pretty hard, and now it seems to prefer being held horizontally. :)

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I just up-graded from a Magellan 330 to a Garmin 60cs. Both have about the same accuracy. The other feature's of the Garmin is what sold me.The color screen is great and lots of memory even better. I have most of western NY and some of Penna. topo loaded into the 60cs with room to spare. Only I find I don't use the maps much when caching. Only to find the best way to the next cache.

The couple I cache with use a Legend and Vista c.. The biggest difference's in use is the 60cs picks up signals a little faster and keeps them a little better in heavy woods. But not enough better to be a selling point.

As for the electronic compass. Could take it or leave it. But, nothing beats having a 4 year old grandson following the red arrow and yelling " We have to go this way". That is worth the extra cost to me. :)

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