Nearly all of the gear we rent and sell - including GPS units - at our retail store in Tempe and to our customers around the country has been tested on actual hiking or backpacking trips by the LowerGear owner and/or staff. For anything we haven't taken out ourselves, we consider user reviews and evaluations in outdoors magazines and relevant credible web sites before adding it to our offerings.
To help you make the best camping and backpacking gear choices for your next trip, feel free to give us a call for our recommendations. If you prefer to do your own research, read the product descriptions on each item, check out our selection of videos and informational pages, and read other user's reviews and descriptions of the backpacking and camping gear we carry.
Below are user reviews on some of the GPS units we offer for sale or rent. If we didn't find a review on the exact item we carry, we include one on a similar product that will give you a close feel on what to expect. We scavenged these reviews from other sites out on the big world web, so we don't really know the folks that did the write-ups. But, it never hurts to hear a second or third point of view. If it just gets confusing, you can always give us a call for clarification.
Garmin eTrex H
This is my primary Geocaching GPS. The high sensitivity chip has the same strong processing power, and thus signal sensitivity and position resolution, as any of the more expensive units. It gives me excellent accuracy in areas where my older GPS units just give up, even dense forest cover. The software that drives the unit is the same as the older Yellow model (see below) and has stood the test of time.
If you're only interested in point to point navigation (geocaching, trail tracks or just finding your way back to the car or the ski chalet), then this unit will do a great job for a no-regrets price. If you're looking for road network navigation, then this isn't for you.
Be aware that this is the 'H', for 'High Sensitivity' unit. It's appearance is almost identical to older Yellow Etrex units, the difference being "High Sensitivity" in red letters just above the screen. Although the older units do work and may still be found, their worth is significantly lessened by the availability of this unit. That's something to keep in mind when looking at used or "new old stock" units at other venues.
One thing that other reviews mention is true - straight out of the box it takes a long time (hours) to acquire it's almanac (a digital description of where satellites are in the sky which is transmitted periodically) and then it's satellite signals. Mine took at least 3 hours and had me thinking it was defective until it finally locked in. Don't despair, this is a one-time thing - once accomplished, start-up time is about 5 seconds.
As an avid Geocacher and teacher, I had to find out what all the buzz was about the H models. (I own a dozen regular ones that I use for instructional purposes) Everything is the same with features except that it is supposed to be able to get signals in heavy tree cover or in places with steep walls (like buildings) or in valleys, etc. When I used it for the first time, it took forever to catch the first satellite even though I reset the time zone right away. It comes with a central Asia time zone so be sure to change that. It lost power and shut off while trying to boot. It was becoming very frustrating. Took about 15 minutes. However, once it was able to find the local sats, it worked fine. Haven't tried in dense woods or valleys yest, but kept a good signal in woods regular park woods and gave me accuracies to less that 20 feet. The price is the same as a standard E-trex 100 but you get better reception. The down side is that you lose 5 hours of battery life (17 vs 22). I don't see this as a problem at all. And there is no cool globe logo on the front. I will buy more eventually.
Finally a GPS unit that simply works the way it's supposed to! Ok... I admit I am still on my honeymoon with the Garmin Map 60Cx, but so far it has worked like a dream and has exceeded my expectations.
This unit was very easy to use intuitively right out of the box. My greatest surprise was when I turned on the unit for the first time and, literally within a minute, I had locked 6 satellites! (with another 4 on the way). I just have to mention that with my previous 3 GPS units, I would have to wait 10 to 20 minutes for a lock on the minimum 3 satellites. Also, this Map 60Cx seems to keep lock well even with buildings, trees, and obstructions (whereas my previous GPS units would frustratingly lose lock when I entered a forest or even stood next to a building). This really makes the Map 60Cx a great pleasure to use. It initiates right away and keeps lock, just like it should. The displays are easy to read and interpret and it easily navigates through the different pages with simple intuitive controls (with Windows-like menus). Oh! and the colour display is great, very easy to see even without the backlight.
The difference between the Garmin GPS Map 60Cx and the Garmin GPS Map 60CSx is that the 60CSx has an electronic compass and a barometric altimeter built in and it usually costs about $30 more than the 60Cx. I opted for the 60Cx (minus the compass and altimeter) because I already had these instruments on my wrist watch, they were redundant with the GPS compass and GPS altimeter already included with the unit, and I noticed that compared to the 60CSx with an 18 hour battery life, the Map 60Cx sips power with up to a 30 hour battery life. Since the only difference between the two are these two additional instruments (compass and altimeter), I can only surmise that the exta power drain must be related to them.
As for battery life, I have not encountered any problems yet. One of my reasons for choosing this product is because it did NOT use an internal or proprietary rechargeable battery. I needed a unit that used plain, readily available, easily replaceable alkaline batteries. Rechargeable batteries do gradually lose their effectiveness over time (as another reviewer noted and attributed to the GPS unit). For me, it is easier and more reliable to just pop in 2 fresh Duracells than to wonder what the current max charge is on my rechargeables (or to pay $20-$30 for some exotic hard to find "EL-1078-4a" battery when it finally dies). This principle holds true for most consumer electronics. I try to avoid anything that uses some special battery (even a CR123 at $5 each) or worse, some specific proprietary battery made just for the device.
Another key feature that I required was waterproofness. I use my GPS unit on, in and over the water (not to mention inclement weather).
The base map is sufficient for my needs so far (hiking and geocaching), but eventually I will pick up the City Navigator software for road directions when I travel. I have seen this software in use on my friend's GPS Map 60CSx (the sister unit to the 60Cx) and despite the seemingly high additional cost, I think that for what you get, it is a good deal. Not only does it upgrade the unit into a highly effective turn by turn road navigator, but it also adds a nice city guide feature that allows you to find restaurants, gas stations, hotels, and Starbucks.
Also, having had some previous experience in law enforcement and familiarity with the California Vehicle Code, I would like to mention that the suction-cup mount accessory for the windshield is illegal in the State of California. It's CVC 26708(a).
UPDATE TO REVIEW:
Ok, I've used this product for a year now, the honeymoon's over... LOL... ...and I still love this product. It has performed superbly way beyond my expectations. First of all, it is indeed very rugged. I've dropped this unit many times, abraded the casing against rocks, accidentally given it impromptu dunkings in rivers and streams (not sea water yet!), and have taken it into extremes of temperature from freezing 20 below, to 120 degree desert. All I can say is, it has endured all of this abuse admirably.
Secondly, the unit when hooked up with the North America Map Pack and the car power cord (which illuminates the display constantly) serves as an excellent turn-by-turn driving GPS. Sure a bigger screen might be nice, but the GPS and directions work (with audible alerts), so I have no complaints. The big advantage is that you can easily unhook it and take the unit with you since it was designed to be handheld, thus avoiding the biggest new temptation for auto burglars.
Thirdly, much to my delight, the base maps pre-installed with the unit include INTERNATIONAL locations also! I was able to use my GPS extensively while traveling abroad 1) ensuring that I could not get "lost" and 2) keeping an automatic, constantly updating travel track log for me. This has turned out to be a wonderful extra benefit of traveling with a good GPS unit. Everywhere I went, every interesting site, every store, every restaurant, every beautiful vista, was accurately and duly recorded, and when I got home and uploaded this track log to my computer, I have a perfect travel diary of my journey. Also, marking waypoints and actually labeling them is quite easy with this GPS unit, and I've been able to do it with gloved hands. If I'm in a hurry, I'd just set a "marker" and then come back and label it later.
I burn through batteries at a consistent rate of 2 AAs every 3 or 4 days (as I power down at night), which is fine with me, to avoid all the hassles of recharging or degrading performance of rechargeables.
Well, I wish that instead of suspending all functions and wasting power to give