Monday, June 6, 2011

Top 10 Recreation GPS 2011

10. Lowrance Endura Out & Back 

Lowrance Endura Out & Back box shot 
The Endura Sierra from Lowrance is better than many GPS systems on the market today. It’s just not quite as impressive as the other GPS systems in our lineup. The price is quite nice, but some of the customer support is really weak and it’s missing a few of our favorite features. The features it does include are executed well, however.
As mentioned, the features it does include are good; not great, but good. Designers thought of the geocaching crowd when they made this unit ready for paperless geocaching. Just send the cache details directly to the Endura Out & Back, and you’re out the door.

The Out & Back comes with a base map that lists key landscape elements, including lakes, rivers, primary and secondary NAVTEQ roads and 200,000 points of interest. While its maps may look pretty basic compared to some of the more upscale GPS systems, they are more than adequate for a lot of basic outdoor adventures.
We like that you can use a combination of the touchscreen and buttons to control this handheld GPS unit. If you have gloves on, you might not feel like peeling them off every time you need to input a simple command to your handheld GPS. It’s also fairly rugged. If you drop it in the stream, just fish it out and you’re back in business. We like the picture viewer as well. That will come in handy when you are looking for specific locations. The battery life is pretty respectable when compared to other GPS systems. Expect to get 10-15 hours out of each set of batteries. The power standby mode will help conserve battery life.
Lowrance really takes the hunter's needs into consideration on all of their Endura GPS systems. There are features for keeping track of tree stands, blinds, tracks, rubs, blood trails and more. They made the display brightness easy to adjust, so you can create just the right light level – bright enough to read but dim enough to be undetected by game or waterfowl. This unit will also help you with basic tasks like finding your way back to the truck after a long day.
Little details will also mean a lot when you are out in the great outdoors. For example, there are two lanyard attachments points as well as handlebar mounts. Anything GPS systems manufacturers can do to make you more organized on your next trip is going to be of benefit.
There’s no 3D compass or barometric altimeter like there is on the other Endura models, but we didn’t really expect those at this price point. Also there are no voice prompt, turn-by-turn road directions with this model.
We had some real problems with Lowrance customer support. The FAQs page was not very helpful, and some of the documentation for its GPS systems was really bad, especially the warranty information. Every document on the website is about as clear as mud on this topic. This always gives a reviewer pause because it feels like Lowrance is not proudly standing by this product. They do offer a one-year warranty, but it took a lot of effort to tease that little bit of information out of this manufacturer.

We were disappointed with Lowrance's customer service offerings, and we missed some of the added features that are standard on other Endura models. However, the Endura Sierra offers solid features along with some extras that are specifically geared to hunters.

9. Garmin Rino 520HCx 

Garmin Rino 520HCx box shot 
The accuracy ratings are average, the battery life is comparatively short and there is no barometric altimeter or electronic compass. So what is there to like about the Garmin Rino 520HCx? The answer is: one amazing feature. This unit has something we did not see in the other GPS systems in our lineup – a two-way radio. You pay for that feature in a higher price and with a comparatively hefty weight in your backpack. While we’re not sure that one feature outweighs all of the things you subtract to get it for most users, it is still a pretty cool idea to combine a two-way radio with a quality GPS system.
The Rino series GPS systems use the standard FRS/GMRS radio, so you can easily communicate with other handheld radios over a 14-mile distance (line of sight). One of the more unique features about having a two-way radio built into a GPS device is that the Garmin Rino 520HCx can track the locations of any other Rino users in your group with ease. No more trying to explain where you are and how to get there, simply pull up the other Rino GPS system's users and walk to their location. The Rino 520HCx offers 22 channels and an amazing five watts of transmitting power, so even if your friends are a few miles away you can still contact them.
The Rino has an amazingly clear 256-color TFT display, so finding your exact location anywhere is simple. It has pre-installed basemaps that include U.S. rivers, lakes, main cities, roads and a few more extras. However, the the amount of maps you can have is practically endless due to the ability to add more maps at any time with the microSD card slot. Like many of the other GPS systems on the market today the Rino is fully waterproof, so it not only works on land but also when fishing at your favorite lake or exploring the coastline. If you choose to, you can even pull up city maps and find step-by-step and turn-by-turn directions when traveling to your favorite camping spot or while on your way to a national park for a few days.
The Garmin Rino 520HCx may not have all of the add-ons that come standard with other handheld GPS systems. However, everyone knows how frustrating it can be to lose someone in your group and spend all day, and even at times all night, searching for each other. For some users this one awesome feature – the two-way radio – may be worth it. The Rino 520HCx delivers an impressive, clear GPS unit which can pinpoint your location in seconds. With 500 Waypoints, 50 navigational routes and 20 navigation tracks you will be able to save your favorite trips and enjoy them at any time.

Quality not quantity is what you will find in the Garmin Rino 520HCx, it may not have a ton of extras but what it does have it does well. If you are willing to put the price aside and know a few others who want to get out and have some fun this summer you can all have more fun exploring the outdoors than ever before with the Garmin Rino 520HCx.

8. Garmin GPSMAP 62 

Garmin GPSMAP 62 box shot 
While we generally prefer handheld GPS devices that can accept a user’s data cards, the GPSMAP 62 has quite a lot to offer. This unit has a battery life that puts some GPS systems to shame, for instance. There is also its high-sensitivity receiver to consider.
The GPSMAP 62 comes with a worldwide basemap with shaded relief as well as photo navigation capabilities. With photo navigation you can download pictures from a Garmin site and GPSMAP 62 will guide you to the sites pictured.
When you are ready to add to the basemap, it is fairly easy to buy more maps based on your interests. There are marine maps and road maps and even custom maps readily available.
This unit supports BirdsEye Satellite imagery, which is a wonderful way to view the world. The clarity and detail of these high-resolution color images will amaze you – for a price. They’re not free, but the annual subscription fee will be well worth it to help you get access to these wonderful images of the world from above. The detail in these images could be helpful to a number of different types of GPS systems users. Hikers and campers will be able to find trails and clearings for campsites, geocachers can glean information about terrain in their target areas, and hunters can scout places for standards.
You can load geocache details straight onto the GPSMAP 62. No need to write it all down and input it yourself. This will save time and trees.
This design does not feature a touch screen, but this will only be a drawback for some users. There are still plenty of outdoor enthusiasts that prefer buttons on GPS systems controls. The screen is backlit, so viewing it at night will not be a problem.
This unit has accuracy levels that are comparable with others in our lineup – within 10 meters of your exact location about 95 percent of the time.
These GPS systems have a pretty impressive battery life. You will get about 20 hours out of just two AA batteries. It’s nice not to have to worry about batteries constantly when you are on a great outdoor adventure.
Unfortunately, these GPS systems do not accept SD cards. There is quite a bit of onboard storage, but allowing SD cards would make storage essentially limitless. Also, this unit lacks an electronic compass and a barometric altimeter. We had come to expect these features, as most of its competitors in the GPS system arena offer them, but the GPSMAP 62 does not. This unit’s sibling GPS systems, the GPSMAP 62st and the 62s, offer a lot of what was missing on the one we considered, but they cost quite a bit more.

Each user has unique adventures in mind when shopping for GPS systems. The GPSMAP 62 offers a high-sensitivity receiver, good battery life, worldwide basemap, geocache-friendly features and a high level of accuracy. It lacks things like SD card compatibility, a barometric altimeter and an electronic compass. However, this system is particularly rugged and may be especially well suited to backpackers who need to find an accurate reading regardless of heavy tree cover or deep canyons. 

7. Garmin Dakota 20 

Garmin Dakota 20 box shot 
The super sleek styling of the Garmin Dakota 20 may be a bit jarring at first for those accustomed to at least a few buttons, but most users will grow to adore the touch-screen simplicity of this handheld GPS.
This unit is smooth through and through. The controls are just the beginning. Garmin Dakota 20 GPS systems will smooth out the roads with turn-by-turn directions and smooth out the terrain with a tilt-compensating, three-axis compass. This handheld GPS will smooth out the transitions too, with wireless unit-to-unit transfers of information with other GPS systems. With 20 hours of battery life, your adventures will go more smoothly too. Two AA batteries will last for miles and miles.
The only time this unit hits a bit of a rough spot compared to other GPS systems is in the price tag. The super sleek touchscreen is nice for some users, but that seems to be just about the only way this one stands out when compared to other GPS systems – and it comes at a price, literally.
It does have some built-in memory, a rare feature considering that other GPS systems generally have no storage on board. Sure it is easy to add it, but we like the idea of having at least a bit of memory without fiddling with SD cards. You’ll also find the fairly standard added features of a barometric altimeter and an electronic compass included with this unit.
Garmin Dakota 20 acquisition times are pretty great – only one second with a warm start or 33 seconds with a cold start. This unit can pinpoint a spot within 10 meters of your location, and it’s more like 3-5 meters if you are in a WAAS area. Additionally, a quick dip in the shallow end of the mountain pond will be ok for this unit, as long as it is not deeper than one meter of water.
This unit will be good to go for the geochachers, thanks to its paperless capabilities. Geochachers look for units that can accept cache descriptions, ratings and recent log info directly. No need to jot it all down from the internet and input it into this GPS system becauseas you can upload this information directly to the Dakota 20.
This is one of the GPS systems that allow for custom maps, too. We love this feature. It will allow users to input maps from a variety of sources and then treat them like any other GPS map. This could lead to a great time as you input maps from historical sites and use the GPS to find specific points of interest and compare how they might have looked a hundred years ago to the way they look today. In addition, these GPS systems have information on hunting and fishing related to specific dates, as well as sunrise and sunset times.

The Dakota 20 has a really nice touch screen design and a lot of great Garmin features. We liked almost everything about it. However, while the touch screen is an added nicety, some GPS systems consumers may not find it worth the added price tag. 

6. Magellan Triton 2000

Magellan Triton 2000 box shot 
The Magellan Triton 2000 stores far fewer track log points and has much less battery life than other GPS systems we reviewed but this unit has something rarely seen in similar GPS units – a camera. That will add a whole new dimension to your outdoor adventures. And shorter battery life may be worth it when you consider the added capabilities of this unit. Aside from the camera, there is a voice recorder and digital music player. Each of these will add a layer of enjoyment to your experiences and offer something rare among comparable GPS systems.
With the two-megapixel camera you can take photos along the way and attach them to waypoints so you can find your way back to the same spot. Photos will also make the recounting of your treks much more fun for family and friends. You can tell vivid stories with vivid color photos. Add your comments with the voice recorder, and your retelling will be even more fun. The camera and voice recorder could also have very practical applications for those who work with GPS systems in areas like forestry. A photo and comments from the field about specific locations will help keep information organized and easy to find later.
A built-in music player means you can upload your favorite tunes to Magellan Triton 2000 with an SD card. There is also an audio jack so you can plug in your headphones for a personalized soundtrack to your explorations. Other creature comforts with Magellan Triton 2000 include a touch-screen interface and easy-to-use menus.
This unit may look daintier than some GPS systems, but it shares the IPX7 waterproof rating of most of the other GPS systems we reviewed. A drop into a pond will not spell the end of this device. It also is designed to offer accurate location information – within three meters of exact location when in a WAAS zone. A built-in barometer can provide a heads-up about changing weather conditions, and a satellite status screen offers information about satellites and the signal strength being used to give you your location.
A built-in basemap portrays worldwide geographic boundaries and the major highways, bodies of water, city centers and more of the 48 contiguous United States, Alaska and Canada. It is fairly easy to expand the included content with additional maps. Triton 2000 is even compatible with the National Geographic TOPO! State series, a detailed set of topographic maps based on U.S. Geological Survey data. Not all GPS systems can offer that. This device can also offer you information about the best hunting and fishing times, elevation profiles of your trail, sunrise/sunset times and more.
Magellan Triton 2000 comes with a one-year warranty, basically the norm for GPS systems. Their FAQs page was easy to navigate and quite helpful, with the exception of the Ask Maggie feature. The answers we got from “Maggie” were not even closely related to our questions.
If you are willing to trade some battery life for a few good added features this unit is for you. The camera and voice recorder will add to your wonderful adventures outdoors.

5. Garmin eTrex Legend HCx 

Garmin eTrex Legend HCx box shot 
Basically, if you subtract the electronic compass and the barometric altimeter from the eTrex Vista HCx you arrive at the eTrex Legend HCx, another of the great handheld GPS systems from Garmin. We think for many users the extra investment it takes to get the compass and altimeter will be worth it, but if missing those features is not a deal-breaker, consider the eTrex Legend HCx.

This Garmin GPS is designed to compare well to others in its class based on its reputation for reception in any conditions. Bring on the adventure in the deep canyons and heavy cover because Garmin GPS systems are built to hold a signal regardless of location. This unit is also Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS)-enabled so the accuracy of readings in North America should be quite impressive – within three meters on average. The readings outside of the WAAS area will be within about 10 meters.
Acquisition times are pretty impressive – only three seconds from a hot start, 33 seconds from a warm start and 39 seconds from a cold start.
We like the features unrelated to GPS that Garmin tends to add to their GPS systems. In the case of the eTrex Legend HCx there is a calendar, calculator, stopwatch and a sun and moon feature that gives the moon phases and sunrise/sunset times. There is also a feature that predicts hunting and fishing conditions for a specified date and location, and a collection of games.

This unit is designed with a 256-color, high resolution, backlit screen that will make images look pretty sharp. Other design elements will keep this unit from going dark before its time. It is made to be rugged and water resistant to a rating of IPX7, which means dropping it in a mountain stream for a short time will not ruin this unit.
For the geocacher this unit is compatible with Garmin’s Chirp, a wireless beacon that can aid in a successful search. This unit also allows you to send locations directly to it instead of manually entering coordinates.
This unit also allows for custom maps, a great feature for outdoor enthusiasts in any sport. It makes it possible to transform paper and electronic maps into downloadable items. Got a campus map that you want to use on your GPS systems? You can download it to the eTrex Legend HCx and have your GPS guide you around campus rather than struggling with a map.

The 25-hour battery life is truly impressive. This is not the only GPS system in our lineup to have that quality but it’s still awesome. That’s a full trip around the clock without having to think about batteries. At 5.5 ounces this is one of the lightest GPS systems we considered. That’s a nice feature for the backpacker who brings everything in and packs everything out. Every last ounce counts when you’ve been hiking for eight hours.

Help & Support:
The eTrex Legend HCx is backed by the same good customer support options as the rest of the Garmin products. Expect helpful people to respond to telephone and email inquiries. This unit features a one-year warranty. 

The eTrex Legend HCx is a pretty safe bet if you are not too concerned about having an electronic compass and barometric altimeter. While these features will be missed by some people, this unit compares well to many GPS systems in many ways and has a very user-friendly price

4. Garmin ETrex Vista HCX 

Garmin ETrex Vista HCX box shot 
The eTrex Vista HCx from Garmin represents another excellent option among handheld GPS systems. Though not our favorite, this unit has some good features, including those that will please the geocaching community.

This unit has an excellent reputation for accuracy and reception in any conditions when compared with other GPS systems. Just about every review we’ve read had something to say about this unit’s ability to work in any setting.
Expect to get extra accurate readings, especially if you live in the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) zone. The eTrex Vista HCx pinpoints your location to within 10 meters, and does even better in the WAAS-enabled areas, where it can come within three meters of pinpointing the spot. The WAAS was developed by the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Transportation to aid in flight approaches. This network of reference stations can correct and perfect GPS readings. Countries around the world are working on similar systems so they can eventually provide WAAS-like accuracy for GPS systems in other areas as well.
There is no built-in memory on this unit – something that is becoming the norm among handheld GPS systems – but it accepts microSD cards. Many handheld GPS systems include one but that is not the case with the eTrex Vista HCx. Including one to get the user started would have been nice.
Geocachers will love the ability of the eTrex Vista HCx to interact with Chirp, a beacon designed to send out signals from a hidden cache. They will also notice the paperless capabilities of this unit.
Users can store up to 20 tracks with 10,000 points on eTrex Vista HCx, a very respectable number. So are its acquisition times – three seconds from a hot start, 33 seconds from a warm start and 39 seconds from a cold start.

The eTrex Vista HCx is rugged and waterproof to a rating of IPX7, which is pretty standard for handheld GPS systems. That does not mean it floats, but if you drop it in one meter of water or less you won’t lose your investment.
This device is not a touchscreen and features a design with all of the buttons on the side. Both of these are mostly a matter of preference. If you are not used to this configuration it may take some getting used to initially.

The battery life on this device is truly impressive. Expect to get just over a full day – 25 hours – of GPS readings on just one set of batteries. The eTrex Vista HCx runs on just regular AA batteries too so it is not a major operation to replace them when it is finally time.
Help & Support:
We like Garmin’s help and support options. The website is quite helpful. The warranty on this unit is the standard one-year.

Including an SD card would be a nice way to make eTrex Vista HCx stand out even more among GPS systems, but we think the geocaching capabilities and long battery life will make it a good fit for many users.

3. Garmin Oregon 450t 

Garmin Oregon 450t box shot 
The Garmin Oregon 450t, our TopTenREVIEWS Bronze Award winner, is one of the four different models offered in the Oregon lineup for recreational GPS systems. In our view the 450t is the most well-rounded of the series, with its pre-loaded U.S. or European topographic maps, 3D map view, and even maps for many of the inland lakes and coasts. This amazing little device is perfect for any type of outdoor activity you can imagine, from driving or geocaching to biking and even boating. The Garmin Oregon 450t GPS systems does it all and is durable enough to handle any bumps, dust, dirt, humidity or water and keep on going strong. The included electronic compass and altimeter offer additional help with finding your way around and there truly is no place you won’t be able to visit while using this unique and amazing geocaching GPS gadget.

One of the coolest features that the Garmin Oregon 450t has to offer the big time hiker or climber out there is the ability to explore the backcountry in 3D. Not sure how tall that hill you’re about to climb or how steep it is? With the GPS system’s 3D view you’ll have a much better perspective of what you’re getting yourself into and be able to prepare for the road ahead. The map detail includes national, state and local parks and forests, along with trails, rivers, lakes, and other important points of interest you may wish to stop off and see along the way. Seeing the world the way it was meant to be seen is what Garmin is all about and the Garmin Oregon 450t is a wonderful handheld GPS for delivering that.
The 450t has all the other features that you would expect from GPS systems such as trip computers, routes and maps. It can store 200 routes, 1000 waypoints and 200 saved tracks with 10,000 points. It also features a built-in picture viewer so you can load and share your favorite digital photos. It would be nice to have a camera actually built into the device, but you have to go to the next price point up to get that from Garmin.
The idea of transferring data from one handheld GPS device to another has been around for quite some time. But the idea of transferring routes, way points and other data from one handheld GPS system to another is somewhat new. The Garmin Oregon 450t allows you to transfer all of this data through the built-in Bluetooth to any other Oregon, Colorado or Dakota handheld GPS. Sharing the adventures you have been on with others makes the idea of going out and finding new and interesting places that much more exciting.
The Garmin Oregon GPS systems are among the first to have the Whereigo application preloaded onto it. Whereigo is similar to geocaching only it takes you to different locations in a game. So you head off on an adventure with different objectives to accomplish at each spot.
The Garmin Oregon 450t GPS systems make finding your way across any terrain quick and simple with a built-in compass. There is also a barometric altimeter which is able to tell the difference in air pressure so pinpointing your altitude is as simple as touching one icon on the screen and you’re done.
As mentioned, the Garmin Oregon 450t comes with a large selection of the state park maps and national forest maps, which include trails, POIs and other information. However, if you figure out that where you are planning on going isn’t pre-installed in your GPS you can plug in one of many preloaded microSD cards with additional maps. There are even cards that come with maps for inland lakes, coastlines, and other locations not typically found on these handheld GPS systems.

These GPS systems are designed to be rugged – waterproof in up to one meter of water. The design features a touch screen design. Whether you like the touch screen or not is a matter of personal preference, but for those used to iPhones, the touch screen will feel just like home. 

Garmin Oregon 450t GPS systems offer a very respectable 16 hours of battery life and one of the highest-resolution screens we looked at. Measuring under 5 inches long, it is also one of the most compact units we considered. This might be a big bonus for a backpacker that needs to justify every last square inch of an already-heavy pack. 

Help & Support:
Garmin help options are great. Their website is well organized and helpful. Answers about the GPS systems are easy to find online and customer service experts are available by phone during normal business hours.

The options truly are endless when you choose the Garmin Oregon 450t GPS system. Whether you want to explore the Rocky Mountains, sail the open sea, ride the thousands of biking trails or find the hidden treasures of those who came before you. The Garmin Oregon 450t makes all of this possible and more with the durable, waterproof handheld designed for active explorers.

2. Garmin GPSMap 60CSx 

Garmin GPSMap 60CSx box shot 
The GPSMAP 60CSx, our TopTenREVIEWS Silver Award winner, is often compared to our top pick among GPS systems. The GPSMap 60CSx is an excellent product and is extremely well-suited to geocachers, hikers, climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

The GPSMAP 60CSx represents the best of the best from a wonderful series of handheld GPS systems from Garmin geared to the adventurous user. The rugged exterior protects a long list of intricate and impressive workings. Exhibit A would be the high-sensitivity GPS receiver, which will pinpoint your location regardless of tree cover. Expect excellent reception and readings that are within 10 meters or less of the exact location. If you are using this handheld GPS unit in North America you can expect that number to be even better – 3-5 meters or less – thanks to this handheld GPS unit’s WAAS capabilities. The Wide Area Augmentation System was developed by the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Transportation to aid in flight approaches. This network of reference stations can correct GPS systems readings. Continents around the world are working on similar systems which should eventually provide WAAS-like accuracy for GPS systems in other areas.
This handheld GPS will help you in the woods and on your way to the woods with a built-in basemap listing highways, exits and turn-by-turn directions. An included barometric altimeter will offer accurate elevation data and an electronic compass will indicate your heading and direction, even when you are not in motion.
The GPSMAP 60CSx acquisition is a very respectable 38 seconds from a cold start and the warm start is a downright impressive one second.
It is a minor point but we think you’ll get a kick out of the included games with the 60CSx. You get Memory Race, Virtua Maze, GekoSmak, Nibbons, Gekoids and Beast Hunt. These games could help sharpen your GPS skills and provide a fun distraction for all ages.
Memory for this unit is basically unlimited. There is no built-in GPSMAP 60CSx memory but it is compatible with micro SD cards and a 64 MB card is included when you purchase this unit.
Other notable GPSMAP 60CSx features include turn-by-turn routing on roads, hunting and fishing calendars, sun and moon information, and area calculation.
This handheld GPS will be great for most outdoor adventures and there are some geocacher-friendly features that will especially stand out. For instance this unit is compatible with Chirp, a wireless beacon that is placed inside many caches by cache owners. When compatible GPS systems get close to a cache with a Chirp unit inside it will let them know they are getting close. The Chirp unit will also send handheld GPS systems information about the cache. It can also send information about the next cache if you are on a multi-cache adventure. A simple “Chirp device detected” message will appear on compatible GPS systems and a transfer of data will begin. When complete, the geocacher can choose to view the Chirp information or not.
The GPSMAP 60CSx also accommodates the hobby by allowing for paperless geocaching. This means participants can send locations directly to handheld GPS systems without having to print out information about the site from the internet. Garmin facilitates a site called that will also be a hit with geocaching GPS systems users. There they can begin their search for nearby caches, send them to their handheld GPS systems and leave comments and advice for others in the hobby.
One of the few features we feel could be improved is the price. This is priced quite a bit higher than many of the other GPS systems in our lineup, and its features do not quite justify that price gap, though it is an amazing handheld GPS.

This handheld GPS not only looks rugged it actually is pretty rugged. The tough exterior is more about function than form, though it looks sharp, too. The casing is waterproof and helped this handheld GPS unit earn a rating of IPX-7, which means it can easily survive a drop into a mountain stream or any body of water that is less than a meter deep.
There are no touchscreen capabilities with this handheld GPS, but we don’t consider that a weakness, just a matter of preference. Most GPS systems enthusiasts are used to buttons anyway.

Modern handheld GPS systems have truly impressive battery life and the GPSMAP 60CSx is no exception. Expect a full 18 hours of uninterrupted outdoor adventures with this device. And it is powered by two AA batteries so keeping it charged up is pretty easy. Remember to pack along a few extra batteries and all will be well.
At 7.5 ounces this unit falls just about in the middle of the pack compared to other handheld GPS systems in our lineup and at 6.1 inches long it is almost the longest device we considered. We think it will be well worth the space in your backpack though.

Help & Support:
Garmin has a FAQs page that is really quite impressive. Using filters for market, product group and specific product, the system was able to do a pretty good job of finding our questions and providing the appropriate answers.
Garmin offers a one-year warranty. The manufacturer will replace or repair this unit if it has any problems within the first year that were not caused by operator errors.

GPSMAP 60CSx is the product to get if you want the best and are afraid of our top-ranked product, which has a well-documented reputation for a steep learning curve. As mentioned, GPSMAP 60CSx is also a little higher on the price scale. But this handheld GPS unit’s reputation also includes amazing marks for ruggedness, accuracy and storage capacity. We think it will be a great unit for any outdoor adventure. The geocaching crowd will especially enjoy it thanks to the paperless capabilities and Chirp compatibility.

1. DeLorme Earthmate PN-40 

DeLorme Earthmate PN-40 box shot 
The Delorme Earthmate PN-40 is one of the best handheld GPS systems on the market today for the big outdoor adventure. Our TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award winner has a wide range of features at a reasonable price. This unit is ultra-rugged and can be filled to the brim with maps or every different type. It is ready for any type of outdoor adventure, from boating to hiking to hunting.

Compared to other GPS systems, this unit has a really impressive map collection. There are quite a few included right out of the box and it has the capacity to handle many more in every size and style. Earthmate PN-40 comes with complete U.S. and Canada topographic details, extensive U.S. Trails coverage and U.S. and Canada streets, roads, places of interest, boat launches, natural features, prime hunting spots and more. This little wonder can even layer multiple types of images and maps on top of the included Topo North America map.
The Delorme Earthmate PN-40 comes with three discs that include detailed hybrid 1:100k topographic and street maps. These maps allow you to explore thousands of trails, find as many geocaches as you can imagine and navigate backcountry like it’s a walk in the park. All of this is possible because the Delorme Earthmate PN-40 has a 32-channel STMicroelectronics Cartesio chipset for ultra fast performance. Along with a 32-channel chipset you will also find that this amazing device runs off a dual core processor so those high resolution maps will load up in seconds even with large aerial images that include multiple map layers. Another thing that makes this unit amazing compared to other GPS systems is the ability to rotate your view 360 degrees; this is so you can actually tell if the mountain, stream, building or whatever it may be, is actually on your right or left.
One thing that we really liked about this handheld that some of the other GPS systems don’t offer is an annual map subscription. This allows you to get all of the most up-to-date USGS Quads, NOAA nautical charts and even high resolution color aerial maps for a low yearly price . Delorme continues to expand their offerings in high resolutions color aerial imagery. In 2010 they added complete coverage for Delaware, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming. Once you download specific maps with the Delorme subscription service, now called MapPack, the selected images will be available for viewing and use on a PC, or they can be put on an SD card.
This handheld GPS is designed with a three-axis electronic compass and accelerometer. Those two components working together mean the unit can take into account the angle the GPS is tilted and determine an accurate reading regardless of how you are holding it. There is also a barometric altimeter onboard this handheld GPS so you can have accurate altitude readings. Typical GPS systems can offer some measure of altitude, but the altimeter ensures precise altitude information.
Another feature that is quite important in today’s world of exploration and discovery is the ability to exchange maps to and from GPS systems. Some would say that you can simply email the coordinates to someone and the problem is solved. However, this handheld GPS has a built-in 500MB flash memory drive, can store up to 1,000 waypoints for step-by-step directions to the next trip and 50 different routes. The need to send hundreds of different waypoints and destinations over email would cause a lot of problems. The Delorme Earthmate PN-40 handheld GPS has a slot for SDHC high capacity SD cards (up to 32GB) so sharing the many different trips and hikes you went on with a friend or family member is quick and easy. You can also purchase pre-installed maps on SD cards so you don’t have to wait for slow downloads or other such delays.

The PN-40 handheld GPS makes its own stand when it comes to durable yet lightweight handheld GPS systems. One of the most important things when looking at handheld GPS systems is whether it will be able to withstand the elements and conditions you put it through. If GPS systems have every type of extra possible but are so fragile that merely taking them on a hike is going to break them, then all of those extras do you no good. The PN-40 is designed in such a way that no matter where you are you’re going to get the best reception and know its waterproof exterior will endure the elements. In fact, this unit conforms to the IPX-7 waterproof standard, which is common among handheld GPS systems. That means it should withstand submersion in up to one meter of water.
Earthmate PN-40 can withstand pretty much anything you can throw at it. It was designed to work in high humidity, and even in high-vibration conditions, so the off-roaders should love it. The operating temperature range is -20 degrees Celsius to 75 degrees Celsius.
Today’s handheld GPS systems are not like they used to be by any means. Back in the day, most GPS systems used a type of black and white coloring on their screens which required very little to run. Now the idea behind most handheld GPS systems is to have a detailed color picture so you know exactly what you are looking at and where you are. The PN-40’s screen is full-color, picture perfect, but perhaps a little on the small side. The screen is designed incorporating technologies that allow it to work well in bright sunlight and in total darkness.

When compared with other GPS systems, the lack of a touch screen and the small size of screen on the Delorme Earthmate PN-40 are a few of the drawbacks to look at if you decide to purchase this unit over some of the other GPS systems that are available from Garmin and other companies. However, if you can get past the slightly smaller screen (you’ll get used to it), the Delorme Earthmate PN-40 is well worth the lower price.

Help & Support:
The warranty for Delorme Earthmate PN-40 is pretty solid. The manufacturer will repair or replace the unit if it malfunctions in the first year. Help is readily available through email and through phone lines. Their hours for phone support are a bit limited but most questions can wait until business hours.

There has been a lot of talk that the PN-40 takes a little longer than some other handheld GPS systems to figure out. Navigating through all the different features can get a little daunting and there is not always a clear cut way of getting from one set of information to another. If you don’t mind spending a little time learning unfamiliar GPS systems inside and out than you will love everything it has to offer.
We like its reputation for ruggedness, too. The PN-40 is known for getting good reception even in dense forest cover. We read countless reviews from professionals as well as everyday users heaping praise on this handheld GPS for the wide range of quality maps included and its unparalleled ability to get reception anywhere. This is a quality piece of equipment at a fair price. Expect to have the outdoor adventures of a lifetime with the Delorme Earthmate PN-40.

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