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 Post subject: Advice on GPS, please
PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 12:45 pm 
lord high faltbotmeister

Joined: Thu Sep 06, 2007 8:05 am
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Location: atlanta, georgia
Planning a kayak camping trip in Florida Keys, would appreciate some advice on a decent GPS to bring along. Though I will never be out of sight of land, the Keys can be really confusing. And I understand that some of the wilderness campsites are pretty much invisible without coordinates.

I thought (for a few seconds!) about using the nav app on my droid x, which works really well on land. But it requires cell towers which are scant on the Keys.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Thanks,
g

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:06 pm 
Garmin is the top brand, I think. Check their line of mapping hand-helds:
https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?cID=145

Didn't look into specs of current models, but GPSMap78sc looks like a successor to mine GPSMap76cs (models with letter S have added compass at added cost, and I don't think it's worth the added cost). 76cs has been discontinued, but it is still offered in X-version (X on older models means micro SD card slot).

Don't get intimidated by those prices on Garmin site, check online stores and Ebay. I bought my GPSMap76CS (CS means Color and Compass) new/open box on Ebay about $80 less than street price at that time. You might also look for those discontinued models like GPSMap76C, GPSMap76CS without micro-SD card slot - just make sure display is color (letter C in older models means Color, in newer models they may drop the C). It's usually cheaper without SD-slot, and I don't think this slot makes much difference. Models without SD-slot still allow you adding charts (normally unit comes pre-loaded with a so-so basic map). I also regret that could've saved even more money if bought 76C without S(= no compass). Compass consumes batteries faster and can not be turned off, and not as useful as magnetic compass. Without compass it will still have an arrow on screen pointing to the next waypoint, if you need.

Keep in mind that adding a chart like Bluechart isn't cheap - $80 or so, but again, you can get a 4-5 years old version of the same chart from Ebay for 1/3 of the cost. Just make sure the unlocked region is what you need. Retail chart in unopened package will have one free coupon for one unlocked region - there are many regions on this chart but you have to pay to unlock more than one region.

The bottom line is - even the cheapest Etrex without map, with gray screen and so-so waterproof case will still give you current coordinates, will store your route and waypoints in memory, and will point you (literally, with a big arrow on display) to your waypoint, at the cost under $100.

You may want to get a second opinion at the Watertribe forum - Everglades is their back yard: http://www.watertribe.com/Discussion/Default.aspx - not right now, because it seems they are in the middle of the marathon.


Last edited by Alm on Fri Sep 03, 2010 3:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 3:32 pm 
faltbootemeister
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What's the budget then?

The Garmin Oregon series is really nice, have a friend who uses one of those. Big screen that works great in sun and at night.

Myself, I'm using a Garmin Dakota 20, similar like the Oregons, but a bit smaller including screen. Bit less costly though and battery life is better. Very pleased with it so far, using it for both mountainbiking and kayaking.

And if you are hesitant on touch screen, don't worry. Actually works great, even with fairly thick neoprene gloves.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 4:05 pm 
I don't have experience with touch-screen. Probably there are advantages with thick gloves. In Baja in winter I wore REI Warmers with fake leather palm and neoprene top and buttons on GPS Map 76 worked fine. Older Legend series have less convenient buttons on the sides, but as long as they are in front - no problem. They still have buttons on Map 62 series, which is, I believe, a recent series.

As to the screen size - all 3 models are about the same - Map 76 has 2.7" diagonal, Map 62 and Dakota 20 have 2.6" diagonal. Battery life of all 3 is also the same at 20 hours. Discontinued 76C (no compass) had slightly better battery life. Those stated hours are always overstated, if it says 20 hours then it will work 14-16 hours on fresh rechargeable AA (and shorter yet if batteries were charged few weeks ago, and shorter yet in a hot weather). I always carry a few alkaline non-rechargeable AA, because you never know when those in rechargeable AA in GPS will die.

Map 60 series is a predecessor of Map 76 (or of Map 62), it is slightly cheaper than Map 76 and not as ergonomic, but usable - I think Dave Kruger has it. Without compass and SD-card it can be found new under $200. Map 76 - $260-280. Dakota 20 - from $320 or so.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 5:47 pm 
lord high faltbotmeister

Joined: Thu Sep 06, 2007 8:05 am
Posts: 811
Location: atlanta, georgia
All,

Thanks, great information. I have done a bit of research on the Map 76 and it has great reviews, I am leaning in that direction. I am usually a complete nut about technology but for my purposes, in this case, I just want a reliable and easy-to-use device that lets me enter waypoints and can be operated (read) in a hot, bright, marine environment.

This will guide me on the maiden voyage with my carbon/tpu quattro. I can't wait for October!

Thanks,
g

_________________
"There is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats"

1990's A1 Expedition
2010 Klepper Quattro
Kayaksailer
Balogh sail rig, 24 + 36 HP
Torqeedo outboard
1938 Sachs-Fichtel seitenbordmotor


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 9:09 pm 
G, don't dismiss those newer gizmos with touch-screen. Go to the nearest store (REI or West Marine will do) and see for yourself how difficult is to hit the touchscreen areas with bare fingers or in gloves, and how good is the backlight. It's hard for me to believe that 2009-ish Dacota is dimmer than 2006-ish Map76C. (Beware of Map 76 with no letter C - those are gray screens).

It is possible that reviews are right Dakota has slower lock-up time (signal acquisition time) due to smaller antenna inside, but even of this I am not sure. Some reviews are plain stupid. People complain on Dakota having poor reception under tree canopy - ANY gps is prone to this. Or they complain on Dakota not locking up at all - read instructions, people. After driving 500-600 miles to new location with any hand-held unit you have to check the New Location box on the menu (and then you're happy camper to the end of paddling trip) - otherwise it may indeed take hours when you turn it on first time.

Or they complain on unlock coupon code not working (i.e. he purchased some map to augment the free basemap, and needs to unlock specific area), and Garmin doesn't do this over the phone on Labor day weekend. I do NOTHING on holidays, this is what they are for. My unlock code for Baja area didn't work too, had to phone Garmin and they made it work (not that it made a big difference compared to basemap - Baja is mapped poorly).

Or they complain on (don't remember - Dakota or 76) not supporting maps newer than 2009 - c'mon, be reasonable, get 2006 map. Earth hasn't changed much since days of Magellan and Columbus. True, more fast-food joints now, but who needs it on wilderness paddling trip...

Garmin expanded their manufacturing facilities in China in 2007, so some drop in quality is to be expected - this is the price we pay for higher profit margins of corporations. Happens all over the electronics sector, as I can see.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 04, 2010 1:34 am 
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Lots of good responses here -- no clinkers that I can detect.

Three bottom lines:

1. a color mapping unit is worth the extra expense, if those dollars are within reach. I used a non-mapping unit for a couple seasons and that is @%&$ tedious!

2. Alex's memory is correct: I was an early user of the Garmin Map60C, which preceded the 76C (I think), and have driven the thing all over down here, and on both sides of Vancouver Island. However, the smaller screen size, inability to float, and "potato" shape of the 60C all work against it. In the end, I fabricated a minicell foam cradle for mine which has hook-version velcro on its underside so the unit will "stick" to the surface of a neoprene sprayskirt, and provides the needed flotation so it won't sink like a stone.

Inasmuch as I now have more invested in BlueCharts (three regions) than in the original Map60C, it would be wildly expensive to "upgrade" to a newer 76-series unit, because the newest ones can not use the kind of BlueChart I have (I think), mandating a complete re-do. EDIT: this is wrong; see below about three posts.
I'm going to use mine until it dies. And when it does, I'll find another 60C to replace it. Garmin allows you to stick a BlueChart on TWO GPS units, if you cobble through their fine print on the web site.

3. If you are truly looking for a cost-effective combination, consider a 76C (current series), get TOPO-USA (and/or TOPO-Canada) for it, and skip the marine charts. For our use, topographical maps are pretty darn good, and will rarely fail you despite the lack of navaids and decent bathymetry. I use TOPO Canada for the _other_ regions of BC beyond what my BlueCharts cover, and get by, even though the BlueCharts are better. If TOPO had navaids, that would help a lot.

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Astoria, OR
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 04, 2010 2:48 am 
Quote:
If you are truly looking for a cost-effective combination, consider a 76C (current series), get TOPO-USA (and/or TOPO-Canada) for it, and skip the marine charts.

May be... Don't know how far offshore this Topo Usa covers Florida waters - he wants to go to the keys. Probably covers most of it - though any map won't show exact details of mangrove channels, since those are nothing but water, technically.

I was wrong when wrote that Map 76 color costs from $260 - it is $220 at Amazon (76CS, not CSX, i.e. there is no SD slot). My preference would've been 76C without compass, but probably harder to find new than CS. According to Garmin, Topo Usa on DVD for CS is better than Topo Usa on SD card for CSX - more coverage. Though, you can load map from DVD in CSX unit via USB cable (this nullifies benefits of having SD slot, but you can if you want).

Yeah, potato-shape of Map 60 was the reason why I decided to pay a little more and get Map 76CS. It is flat, though not awfully small, Dakota 20 is smaller at the same screen size. Either one is small enough for PFD pocket (if you don't have anything else in that pocket). Since I usually do, my Map 76 stays in the deckbag when not in use. It doesn't have to be on deck and On at all times - only when I'm not sure of location, and then I pull it out of the bag onto the skirt - it is tied to the bag with lanyard. Life is more interesting with GPS Off ;-) ...


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 04, 2010 10:00 am 
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Alex wrote: May be... Don't know how far offshore this Topo Usa covers Florida waters - he wants to go to the keys. Probably covers most of it - though any map won't show exact details of mangrove channels, since those are nothing but water, technically.

I was wrong when wrote that Map 76 color costs from $260 - it is $220 at Amazon (76CS, not CSX, i.e. there is no SD slot). My preference would've been 76C without compass, but probably harder to find new than CS. According to Garmin, Topo Usa on DVD for CS is better than Topo Usa on SD card for CSX - more coverage. Though, you can load map from DVD in CSX unit via USB cable (this nullifies benefits of having SD slot, but you can if you want).


Four comments:

1. If there is "contiguous" land, TOPO will cover it, in "quad" format (e.g., 15 minutes on a side or 7.5 minutes on a side), which typically gives you some detail on the water, but perhaps no depths, if you care about that. With a 4-5 inch draft, except for enormous drying flats, we almost never need those depths. Because the Florida Keys are "connected" to the Florida mainland by a road (!!), they will be covered all the way down.

I don't own the US version. The Canadian version is considerably dumbed down from paper topos for detail and topographic precision, at least compared to the 1:50,000 paper topos. Considering you get _all_ of Canada for the price of _one_ BlueChart region, however, it is a very useful item to own (however, see 3. below). Downloading these TOPO maps from the DVD to the GPS is very quick on a USB port.

2. I am uncertain about availability of the old-style BlueCharts for the 76-non-X series. Anyone intending to buy a non-X unit should verify they can get the charts they want, first. The Garmin site says they have discontinued the product, but clicking on "Buy" brings up the usual checkout procedure; confusing!!! http://www8.garmin.com/cartography/mapS ... artCD.jsp#

In addition, if you click on the "Maps" tab for the 76CX, up come the BlueCharts in CD format. How does that compute if Garmin says they are discontinuing the product??? Am I missing something here?

Go here for the 76CX: https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?cID ... featureTab The 76CX is the cheapest color screen handheld in this series. They do not offer the old 76C. You can get a gray-scale version, but grayscale sucks for use with maps.

3. The good news is that with the X-series, you can get enormous coverage in the form of G2 charts, for not many dollars. For example, $160 will get you all of the BC coast, including Vancouver Island: https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?pID ... pvID=38990 I've heard these are inferior as to detail, but have no personal experience.

4. Finally, if you want a crossover unit that is comparable to the old 60C series, consider the 62: https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?cID=145&pID=63800 It will handle G2 marine charts, and in my use, the smaller screen is not a problem. YMMV

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Astoria, OR
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Folbot Kodiak, Cooper, and Edisto; three hardshells; Mothership: Surf Scoter the Bartender; dinghy Little Blue Duck.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 04, 2010 9:42 pm 
krudave wrote:
2. I am uncertain about availability of the old-style BlueCharts for the 76-non-X series. Anyone intending to buy a non-X unit should verify they can get the charts they want, first. The Garmin site says they have discontinued the product, but clicking on "Buy" brings up the usual checkout procedure; confusing!!! http://www8.garmin.com/cartography/mapS ... artCD.jsp#

In addition, if you click on the "Maps" tab for the 76CX, up come the BlueCharts in CD format. How does that compute if Garmin says they are discontinuing the product??? Am I missing something here?

Not to argue (wanted to add one more thought, though).
It appears that Garmin as a company has grown up beyond their management's capability ;-) ...
They were the best of the few a while ago, - now it's difficult for them to keep up, competing with zillion of no-name knock-offs, though those are mostly interested in dashboard GPS (with voice reminders - next turn left etc). One side effect of this car-based "devolution" is growing number of people who can't find their way around the city without GPS. Spoiled (and not always educated) customers want GPS to work same as their cell phone, under the roof and with 24/7 support. Well - if one isn't ready for something more complicated than cell phone, he shouldn't be out in a wilderness with GPS.

Back to the topic - Garmin is still the best in handhelds, IMO. They discontinued BlueChart on CD, but didn't stop selling it. They are still offering units without SD-slot, and those do need CD, so there will be CD for some time - probably as long as they offer those units and slightly longer. Official warning says: "... discontinued. Updates to the 2008.5 version will be available until December 31st 2009" - but they still sell it. Just don't expect updates (heck, I'm using non-updated 2006 version and still alive). The OP won't need a BlueChart for coastal trips if he'll use Topo Usa, so this point is moot anyway.

What I really wanted to say was one of devil's advocate things: he should check whether it fits in a PFD pocket (if this is the plan). Map 76 should fit, but some pockets are obscenely small. Dakota 20 has twice smaller surface area, and same screen size as Map 76. I like small items, as long as it's easy to operate.

Quote:
The 76CX is the cheapest color screen handheld in this series. They do not offer the old 76C

They do not offer 76C, but Amazon has plenty of 76CS - same as C, only with added compass.
Yes, 76CX is the cheapest on the "Water" list, but if you open the "Trail" list, there will be same units AND many more, also waterproof, and the cheapest color mappable is Summit HC (and then - Legend HCX, this one even has SD-slot). https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?cID=145
Both units have IPX7 rating, which means - submersible (and so is Dakota series). You see, they consider us kayakers not quite a "marine" crowd :-) ... I wouldn't suggest Summit and Legend, though - due to inconvenient controls and the fact that 76 series has better waterproof seal than Legend/Summit.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 05, 2010 4:02 pm 
faltbootemeister
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I can confirm that the Dakota definately is submersible; I often drop and drag it in the water from the string attached to my life jacket, as I like to have it in front of me on the spray skirt... Guess all the Garmins in the same class handle water just as fine.

Btw, anyone who have a good solution on how to get a good GPS attachment on a Feathercraft? Been thinking of some strings sewn through the front part of spray skirt (and seam-sealed), that grabs a silicon case or bicycle holder for the Dakota. So I can use the GPS single handed and have it steady where I want it. Solutions for this are probably easier on hardshells..

_________________
Kayak: Nautiraid Narak '11
Kayak sail rig: Kuvia Kayaksailor 1.6 '10
Sailboat: StorTriss MKII, 17.5 Feet, '75
Blog: jarladventures.blogspot.com


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 05, 2010 5:44 pm 
lord high faltbotmeister

Joined: Thu Sep 06, 2007 8:05 am
Posts: 811
Location: atlanta, georgia
All,

Thanks for the thoughtful advice, I really appreciate it. The 76CSx looks like a winner. It is more than I need, but it is not that much more $ than the next best device. I have found it new for $250 or so. The wild card is whether I need to buy BlueWater. My current thinking is that it will not be necessary as the only crossings will be at bridges (including the 7-mile) where the land maps are support enough.

Thanks for the help!
g

_________________
"There is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats"

1990's A1 Expedition
2010 Klepper Quattro
Kayaksailer
Balogh sail rig, 24 + 36 HP
Torqeedo outboard
1938 Sachs-Fichtel seitenbordmotor


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 05, 2010 9:53 pm 
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gbell,

Check the Garmin site for their G2 charts. If the cost for _all_ of the BC coast is representative, I suspect you may decide, for the extra bucks, G2 charts may be a better investment than TOPO, assuming your use is primarily on the water.

Some choices: G2 Vision SE US (expensive): http://www.jandhproducts.com/_e/Garmin_ ... egular.htm

G2 Bluechart (entire US waters): https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?pID ... overageTab

Tha latter is the bargain choice, I believe.

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Astoria, OR
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Folbot Kodiak, Cooper, and Edisto; three hardshells; Mothership: Surf Scoter the Bartender; dinghy Little Blue Duck.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 05, 2010 11:41 pm 
MoeJoe wrote:
I often drop and drag it in the water from the string attached to my life jacket, as I like to have it in front of me on the spray skirt... Guess all the Garmins in the same class handle water just as fine.

Not quite so; Legend (and probably Summit, and Vista) had complaints on occasional water ingress after rolling and similar activities (not after splashing). Many people had to carry it in a clear waterproof pouch (not in a Ziplock, of course). I dunked my Legend once, it survived, but then decided not to take chances and got an Aquapack clear bag. Map 76 (or Map 60) was the first truly waterproof handheld unit by Garmin that needed no waterproof pouch. It was before the era of touchscreens - of the latter I don't know much.

Quote:
Btw, anyone who have a good solution on how to get a good GPS attachment on a Feathercraft?

There are some mounts in stores, they can be attached with bungees similarly to the mast base of Spirit sail. Check this: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=3505 (photo by Greg in red K1). His mount is on the top of a deckbag, but may be it can be attached directly onto the deck ridge. Like I wrote, I don't like this thing to be always in front of me, and pull it out of the bag only when I need it (then it lays on the skirt, attached with a lanyard to the deck). Lanyard is standard that came with the unit, it is just long enough to pull it out, and not long enough for GPS to take a dive (which would be more a nuisance than a danger, because it's waterproof).


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 06, 2010 3:43 am 
faltbootemeister
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..Might try this one:

Image

-and only use the top piece, with a couple of drilled holes to attach it to the spray skirt. I'd prefer to have the GPS low and fairly close in front of me. Otherwise it may get in the way of paddling strokes and the sailing rig as well.

_________________
Kayak: Nautiraid Narak '11
Kayak sail rig: Kuvia Kayaksailor 1.6 '10
Sailboat: StorTriss MKII, 17.5 Feet, '75
Blog: jarladventures.blogspot.com


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