GPS for Leisure
Technology's Take on the Traditional Compass
How Does it Work?
10 Key Buying Features
- Positions & Receivers: look for a unit that displays positions in at least longitude and latitude, and Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM grids). Also, the more channels the receiver has, the more satellites it will pick up, resulting in stronger signals and more accurate readings. A 12—channel parallel receiver is most commonly chosen for this reason.
- Power: do your homework on the longevity of battery power, specifically with handheld GPS's. Make sure mounted units can plug into the cigarette lighter while you are driving. If there is one downfall to GPS units, it's their need for a power source. Blogs and user reviews are great resources for this research. A lithium battery back up will prevent you from losing your data if your unit does run out of power.
- Capacity: at least 8 megs of memory is recommended but more memory is always better, and therefore 16 - 32 megs is ideal.
- Mapping Capabilities: if you do a lot of driving, look for a GPS with a built-in road map package and the ability to upgrade, or download more maps. If you want to see surrounding terrain (outside of roads), advanced mapping functionality may be required.
- Computer Interface: your unit should be able to upload and download information from mapping systems and computers.
- Light: make sure the unit is equipped with a light, or built-in backlight for use at night or in low-light situations.
- Durability: your GPS should be housed in a durable and weatherproof case, even though many models are shockproof and waterproof. GPS units will maintain accuracy in cold conditions, although their LCD screens may display the information more slowly.
- Size: number of batteries (therefore battery life) is directly related to the size of a GPS. Smaller units will accommodate fewer batteries, and therefore have a shorter power source. Smaller units are however a lot lighter, and therefore more convenient for those using them in the backcountry.
- Route Mapping: this function stores a set of waypoints for a particular area and is useful for trips to unfamiliar places. Make sure your unit can store several routes at a time.
- Screen size: again, screen size is directly related to the over all size and weight of the unit. If you intend to use the device in your vehicle, be sure to choose a model with a larger LCD so you can read the screen and see directions clearly.
Top Five Additional Features & Accessories
- External Antennae: all GPS's come with a built-in antenna, but an external antenna will provide additional satellite coverage and is particularly useful when using a handheld unit in the car.
- Text to Speech: simply means a GPS that will say the actual street name rather than telling you to “take the next turn left” ie. “turn left onto Yonge Street”.
- Mounting: most units attach by suction cup onto the dashboard. Look for a model that is effective at holding the GPS steady over bumps.
- Traffic: some systems offer traffic-reporting capability through a subscription service. The map and detour functions will then guide you around congested areas.
- Map packages: although your GPS should be loaded with a set of local maps when you buy it, additional map packages are usually available online or on CD/DVD.
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