HOW USEFUL ARE GPS UNITS REALLY?

Submitted: Thursday, May 03, 2001 at 00:00
ThreadID: 210 Views:2525 Replies:8 FollowUps:7
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I know GPS units are not a toy, but do we really need one for a CSR trip?

Our party have betwen us been to heaps of out of the way destinations, and have generally been comfortable about our navigation performance, ie we have not got lost.

We are going down the Canning Stock route in late August and I have been given the job of investigating / getting the GPS. I have read a good text, talked to lots of sales people and am still not convinced we need one.

If I do get one, I reckon the $400 bushwalkers unit would be enough. The $800 outfits seem to be lots of fun, but the extra features like built in maps and brackets and computer download facilities and more user friendly keyboards seem nice but hardly needed. The accuracy and the info on the cheapie seem the same.

But - do we need any? The enthusiasts among the sales people tell how easy it is to navigate all the time with them - but the big green signs on even minor tracks seem pretty easy to me. When you get to station country and remote area tracks a few odometer readings scribbled on the map seem to give accurate enough waypoints to keep track of where you are. And a silva compass and remembering the old boy scout training seem to tell you which direction you are going ok.

What am I overlooking?

Any user experience in the Canning or anywhere else that can help us decide please?

Thanks

Max
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Reply By: Russell Vincent - Thursday, May 03, 2001 at 00:00

Thursday, May 03, 2001 at 00:00
I use a small GPS unit while hiking for DofE expeditions and have been trained in navigating without GPS. I reckon that if your navigation skills are up to scratch and can triangulate your position then you can do without a GPS, however, in saying that they do come in handy when you come across irregularities on a map and need to confirm your position. GPS in itself I believe comes second to someone who knows how to use a compass. I hope this helps.
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Follow Up By: Max Boyley - Friday, May 04, 2001 at 00:00

Friday, May 04, 2001 at 00:00
Thanks Russell for the input. Across the range of answers comes the whole range of perspectives! GPS is obviously still new enough to be controversial.

But I agree on the need to be able to use a compass properly!

Reagrds

Max
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Reply By: Allan - Thursday, May 03, 2001 at 00:00

Thursday, May 03, 2001 at 00:00
Max, We had the same doubts as you but after having to refer to it on only two occasions, we changed our mind. Once in the Kalumburu / Pago region of the Kimberleys we followed another vehicle into a remote area and then tried to find our way out on our own. All the tracks look the same when you come from a different direction. Using a GPS with a plotter you can soon see when you depart from your original route.
Another time we were quite close to civilisation but became lost in a myriad of tracks. Using the ‘track back’ facility guided us back to safety. If you ever need to call for help you can give the rescuers your exact coordinates guiding them directly to you. Overall a cheap insurance policy and saves you having to write down your every move.

99% of the time they sit on the dash and are nothing more than a gimmicky toy but when you need them they are invaluable. I found a cheap basic unit has more features than you will ever use (or remember how to use). Most have a basic plotter and this is what I use most of the time. Make sure you get one with an external power supply so you do not have to worry about batteries.
AnswerID: 418

Follow Up By: Max Boyley - Friday, May 04, 2001 at 00:00

Friday, May 04, 2001 at 00:00
Thanks Allan

The minimalist view seems to make sense - will debate it with our team over the next week or two.

Appreciate your help

Max
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Reply By: Will - Friday, May 04, 2001 at 00:00

Friday, May 04, 2001 at 00:00
Max,
I had a GPS for several years now, it is a handy thing to have as you do not have to stop to workout your position. On a trip to the Cape last year we went through Kawanyama and the Gulf and at one stage we could not find the river crossing they told us to use.... Using the GPS connected to a laptop and software called Oziexplorer (written by an Australian) we found it on no time but we would have wasted fuel trying to work it out otherwise. It is also a nice thing to have to add waypoints as you drive past a nice camp spot you may want to come back to.
Get one you can connect to an external power supply and one you can connect to a Laptop.
AnswerID: 422

Follow Up By: Max Boyley - Friday, May 04, 2001 at 00:00

Friday, May 04, 2001 at 00:00
Will

You have obviously had value from your GPS setup - I appreciate the info. I hadnt intended to take the laptop on the Canning Trip but your experience of using map software is worth a thought.

All the best

Max
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Follow Up By: Tim - Saturday, May 05, 2001 at 00:00

Saturday, May 05, 2001 at 00:00
Max, I have a garmin 12XL and while I havent done the CSR, I reference quite a bit when Im travelling in the bush.
As you wpuld already know, maps are seldom accurate and never up to date and some tracks are and are not on the maps, this problem is quickly overcome by taking a glance at the GPS.
In the event of an emergency, it is a lot easier to tell the rescue services a grid then decribing a location (in most cases) but when it all boils down, a GPS is built from stuff that can break down easily, a map and compass are still vital survival tools.
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Reply By: Nigel - Wednesday, May 09, 2001 at 00:00

Wednesday, May 09, 2001 at 00:00
Something to keep in mind is if you have a HF Radio that allows connection with a GPS then it may be worth getting a GPS that has data output (eg most Garmins). This gives you the ability to transmit your position to another HF radio digitally, which is more likely to work in bad propagation conditions when voice communication can be difficult.
AnswerID: 443

Follow Up By: Will - Thursday, May 10, 2001 at 00:00

Thursday, May 10, 2001 at 00:00
Good point, more towards my opinion on getting a GPS with connections to external batteries and external devices.
I have a Garmin II plus and I find it excellent.
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Reply By: Mark Callaghan - Friday, May 11, 2001 at 00:00

Friday, May 11, 2001 at 00:00
Hi Max
I agree with the others that you must have good nav skills first.
A GPS is a great backup and i have used one for years.
The ability to send your posi via HF radio, not needing to stop to find your posi, saves fuel by not taking the wrong track,
and the best is navigation at night or in poor weather.
We often return to camp in the dark and this guides you in perfectly
Get one that runs from cars power supply because they chew up AA battery like mad.
Its like having an EPIRB, good cheap insurance when you need it.


AnswerID: 451

Reply By: Edwin Callard - Sunday, May 13, 2001 at 00:00

Sunday, May 13, 2001 at 00:00
Max.I crossed the csr just a while back with no GPS (I HAVE ONE NOW) with no problems. The Well positions keep you on track so you wont wonder to far out of the way. There are not to many other tracks to get confused with. I have a complete itnerary if you want a copy give me a hoi and Ill send it off to you. Either way its a great trip. Ill be doing it again. Edwin.
AnswerID: 454

Follow Up By: Max Boyley - Sunday, May 13, 2001 at 00:00

Sunday, May 13, 2001 at 00:00
Edwin

If its not too much trouble, Id appreciate a copy. Thanks.Probably easiest by email janmax@bigpond.com

Thanks for that, and for your comment.

Regards

Max
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Reply By: paul - Saturday, May 19, 2001 at 00:00

Saturday, May 19, 2001 at 00:00
Max, As you already know a gps wont replace a good map and compas. Where a gps is good is when you have no idea where you are and there is nothing distinctive around that you can triangulate on to find you position. with a gps and a decent map you can work out exactly where you are and which direction to head,(using either map or compass). After all for all the money youve no doubt forked out to prepare for the canning, a garmin etrex for under $300 is cheap insurance. If buying one got to a Marine place not a 4X4 place. they are always cheaper. Eg if in VIC Whitworths marine in Melb or Boronia Marine In east suburbs.
AnswerID: 507

Reply By: max boyley - Tuesday, May 22, 2001 at 00:00

Tuesday, May 22, 2001 at 00:00
Hey Paul - that is a real help, thanks. I have scratched around finding someone in Sydney that wants to talk about anything less than about $700! We had pretty well decided to rent one instead, but I will head off to a Marine shop and see what they can offer.

It certainly seemns that a base level unit offers all the functionality that you need!

Many thanks

Max
AnswerID: 517

Follow Up By: Graham - Thursday, Jun 28, 2001 at 00:00

Thursday, Jun 28, 2001 at 00:00
Max have you got your GPS yet? if not
Try this web site for price comparisons....
http://www.navtrak.com.au/cgi-bin/commercesql/index.cgi?exact_match=yes&product=gh
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