There's an argument that a map and compass is great for navigation since that won't run out of batteries. But it is convenient to be able to look down at a GPS unit and know exactly where you are, how far it is to the next camp or landmark, how much elevation change you have left, and how much longer to go is pretty valuable. The Garmin Map62 unit we rent is a great option for wilderness navigation or geocaching. We suggest one of these with your map and compass!
We test our gps units with batteries before we ship to make sure all is working ok, but WE DO NOT INCLUDE NEW BATTERIES WITH ANY OF OUR GPS UNITS. Most of the units use AA batteries - you can get the cheapest or most expensive as you want and keep them afterwards for other uses. Expect a set to last 12-18 hours of constant use.
This is an advanced version of our more basic eTrex gps unit; that eTrex is the one we recommend to rent for group outings.
The additional features of this model include:
More sensitive receiver chip for faster satellite pickup, even in tree-covered areas.
Built in base maps with major roads and landmarks (note - these are not USGS topo or street-detail maps)
Turn by turn guidance
Accepts mini SD cards for more detailed map options and data storage
More powerful tools and options
We encourage you to review Garmin's site for that latest info on this model to decide if this series meets your needs. We only have a few of either of these models, so reserve early to ensure best availability.
The question comes up from time to time, so please note none of the gps units we rent are so-called "survey grade" (those cost thousands of dollars), which is the kind you'd use for establishing a legal property border line and other uses where accuracy down to inches is critical. These GPS units that we rent are potentially accurate to within a few feet, so they could help you find a property marker, but you don't want to build something on a property just based on results from these GPS units.
So what can you do with a GPS on your next trip? As with a lot of gadgets, the more you know about it, the more things you can find for it to do when you rent one. But some of the basics: 1) let it track your route going one direction away from your car, then let the GPS guide you back out to where you started; 2) Before your hike, select some "waypoints" along your trail, such as intended camp sites, trail intersections etc, and using print or online maps with degree/minute/second guides, input the waypoints into the GPS unit to use as guideposts along the way; 3) you'll always know how far you've gone and how far you've got to go so you can pace yourself - avoid that creepy nighttime hiking making up for lost time; 4) you can see what elevation you're at to compare to the elevation of where you're headed - thus knowing whether the worst is over, or yet to come; and 5) if you want to wander off trail and not get lost - a GPS unit is the way to go. See more information and photos of screen shots for the Garmin GPSMAP series.
Because of its compact size, we don't recommend this unit for auto travel. Instead, rent our domestic auto GPS or other comparable domestic or international model. See our full selection of gps models.
There's more of course - as much as you can think to use it for - this GPS unit is one of the best out there for the money. What it won't do is replace common sense, print maps and a compass; it won't do you a bit of good if you run the batteries down and have no backups; and like any electronic device or golf club, sometimes you'll feel like throwing it away. But that would be a user problem, not the GPS unit's. Always carry backups - these models use 2 AA batteries.
We rent these units very inexpensively, so rental is definitely the way to go if you just want to check one out to see how you like it. We don't supply a user manual but they are readily available online. We don't supply any cables but a standard mini USB cable will work if needed.
To learn more about navigating in the backcountry see our books GPS Made Easy and Wilderness Navigation.
We also have a nice library of how-to articles for using handheld GPS units, including:
Our GPS Overview page
How to Mark a Waypoint with a GPS
How to Manually Enter a Waypoint Coordinate into a GPS
How to Navigate to a Waypoint with a GPS
How and Why to Change Map Orientation on a GPS
How to Change Measurement Units and Map Format Setting on a GPS
How to Record a Track of Waypoints on a GPS
How to Use a GPS to Find Your Location on a Map
What does WAAS Mean for a GPS
Using a GPS for Geocaching
For some third-party user reviews of this and other gear we rent and sell, visit our backpacking and camping user gear review page.