Tips On How To Select A Handheld, Walking, Hiking GPS

Hiking GPS, also termed Walking GPS or Handheld GPS Units help you find your position whilst out and about on your adventures around the globe. They are especially helpful should you be traversing terrain that does not have any distinguishing landmarks or features to aid navigation. There are many GPS devices on the market for hiking and walking with different combinations of physical and functional features. So how do you choose one from amongst all the different makes and models available? Here are some tips to help you choose:

1. Your Skills At Navigation - Consider how you want to use your hiking GPS whilst you are actually travelling around:

    * Use It Occasionally - Do you just want to use a hiking GPS occasionally in order to validate the usual paper map reading and compass navigation work you do or in emergency situations? If so then any cheaper entry-level GPS model will be suitable for you by providing you with a grid reference. Once you transfer your grid reference from the GPS device to the paper map to verify your location you can carry on with your usual manual navigation.

    * Use It Frequently - In contrast, do you want to make use of a GPS device to do all of your navigation during your adventure without referring to a paper map? If this is the case then you will need a more expensive higher end GPS model with the capability to do some degree of digital mapping.

2. Your Organisation Skills - Consider how good your organisation skills are just before you actually go on your outdoor adventure!

    * You Are A Good Organiser - Consider a GPS device that needs to be charged up before you go on your adventure if you are a good enough organiser to make sure it is charged up. Also make sure that the life of the power source is quite a bit longer than the journey you will take. Bear in mind that GPS models that need to be charged usually have a shorter battery*life. If your journey could be longer in time than the life of the power source then because rechargeable power sources cannot usually be removed from the GPS unit they cannot be replaced during your adventure. Carrying a backup battery device like a Power Monkey could be one solution but that means carrying extra equipment. Also, if you need to recharge whilst travelling in wet or windy conditions it could lead to difficulties.

    * You Are Not Very Organised - Using a GPS device that uses standard batteries is advisable if you are not a very good organiser. You can easily replace standard batteries during your outdoor adventure should they run out of power. However, you will need to be organised enough to remember to carry spare batteries during your journeys. Also, purchasing extra spare batteries whilst you are out and about is usually easy as they are commonly stocked products in many countries.

3. Your Hiking Region - Consider the region in which you want to hike!You can get a location from any GPS device anywhere around the globe. However, you need to ensure your GPS device is set up correctly in order to translate your location into a grid format that is correct for the local map and region of your current location. Bear in mind the following points:

    * You Do Not Have Region Mapping - If you have GPS device with digital mapping capability and have not obtained the digital mapping for the region of your current location, then you only see your location on a blank screen.

    * Is Region Mapping Available? - If you want a GPS device with digital mapping then you should ensure that the devices you consider have digital mapping available for the region want to visit.

4. Your Hiking Environment - Consider the type of weather and environmental conditions you will be hiking in! In order to use your hiking handheld GPS effectively, it needs to be of a robust enough design; easy enough to operate; and easy to view the display screen! Take these points into account:

    * Operation - Is the handheld GPS suitable for weather conditions that are cold, wet or windy? Consider the following:

    * Small Buttons - If the handheld GPS has small buttons, they may not be easy to press under good weather conditions. If you are wearing thick gloves due to poor weather conditions, if will be even more difficult to press the buttons.

    * Touch Screen - If the handheld GPS model has a touch screen then it will require the use of either a stylus or your bare fingers. This may be ok to operate under good weather conditions but if you are wearing gloves it may prove to be difficult. If you use your bare fingers they will be exposed to the elements.

    * Changing Batteries - Is it easy enough to change the batteries in poor weather conditions? The use of long life batteries can reduce the frequency of battery changes and reduce the quantity of spare batteries you need to carry. Nevertheless, I always recommend carrying at least one set of battery replacements.

    * Screen Readability - How easy is it to read the display screen? Is it easy to see the fine details of map contours? This will be determined by the size of the display screen and how good your eyesight is. Black and white displays are usually fine but it can be difficult to distinguish different types of information on complex screen displays. Colour screens are better for displaying different types of information on the same screen but they can also prove difficult to see when in direct sunlight. Some of the more modern, advanced models use a "Trans-reflective Colour" display technology which is easier to read in bright sunlight.

    * Waterproof - How waterproof do you need you walking GPS to be? Waterproof ratings are based on the IEC 529 European (ECC) Water Protection Specifications and an IPX number is assigned to the device. A GPS device rated as IPX7 or IPX8 is submersible and is therefore waterproof. IPX8 is the highest but IPX7 is good enough for most hiking situations.To improve waterproofing you can place the walking GPS device in a waterproof Ziploc bag when not using it.

    * Robustness - Is the walking GPS of a rugged, shock-proof design that can withstand the potential knocks it may receive. Robustness or ruggedness of GPS devices does not seem to have a standard for measurement or rating. You can read the specification and reviews on walking GPS but at the end of the day this will be up to your own judgement.

5. Features Tips - The GPS features you need for your hiking adventures is considered a matter of personal preference. However, here are two points worth considering:

    * If you want a GPS device that is easy to carry then choose one that is compact and light in weight.
    * A useful functional feature for hiking is one that gives you a bearing, that is, direction of travel to reach the next waypoint along your route.

6. Your Budget - What is your budget for your hiking GPS? The amount you are ready to part with is likely to depend on extent to which you intend to make use of it. An entry-level handheld hiking GPS which has a black and white display screen without digital mapping can be purchased for about £70. A high-end model which has OS mapping on a colour display screen costs hundred of pounds. If cost is your limiting criteria, purchase the most expensive model within your budget that satisfies your hiking requirements.

Hiking, walking, handheld GPS devices are great tools to aid navigation during your outdoor adventures. They are most useful when you cross regions with no landmarks to assist navigation. How you select a specific GPS model from amongst the wide range and various features available?

As with most purchases your budget is likely to have a big influence on your choice of GPS model. Your choice may be made easier by considering your navigation and organisation skills together with the regions in which you will be hiking. Other factors to think about are your intended hiking environments in terms of: operation, that is, button size, touch screen and battery changing; screen readability; and levels of waterproofing and robustness. A few desirable features you may want are a compact and lightweight design plus a functional feature to provide a bearing, that is, a direction in which to hike.

There are a variety of hiking GPS to choose from. To learn all about the benefits, categories, physical and functional features and some purchasing strategies read my detailed guide on Hiking, Walking, Handheld GPS.

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