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Getting To The Trail GPS Basics

Posted in How To on July 1, 2010
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Now that we have told you all about our favorite trails and what to expect, getting there and negotiating them might help too. Since the day our first driver's license was handed to us we quickly learned how to get around town, but since then technology and mapping have come a very long way.

We can always grab the current Rand McNally or Road Atlas off the convenience store shelf, or we can MapQuest directions to the trailhead. However, these methods won't show extremely detailed trail information or the secrets one can only see on topographical maps.

Global positioning systems (GPS) are a great way to get around the trail and safely negotiate your way out of unfamiliar territory. They work by intercepting satellite signals to determine your position on earth. For decades geologist and geographers have used both handheld and fixed GPS technology to map everything from college campuses to the great coral reefs. In recent years the technology and mapping software has grown tremendously, and today you can view greatly detailed maps of everything from your favorite trail to the best burger joint. GPS devices are a great way to make a fine trail run better and a good way to share your experience with others.

Handheld GPS units are available by the hundreds. Choosing the right one requires consideration of the features you want and need. We recommend getting a unit with a large display for easy viewing and one that is easy to understand and operate. Also, look for units that give easy access to your latitude and longitude so you can find outdoor destinations more easily. Be careful when purchasing these little GPS units, as prices vary widely and the more expensive device might just have one more feature you may never use.

There are so many GPS navigations systems to choose from that it's a mind-boggling. This navigation system from Lowrance is pricey but will do everything from guiding you to your destination to mapping the routes you've traveled to displaying the weather. Topographical maps can be uploaded to the device. The routes traveled off road can be downloaded to your computer and shared with friends. Also, you can note extremely detailed trail information, such as hazards and obstacles, for future reference.

Factory GPS units like this Trail Guide from Jeep are great companions on the road and trail. The unit can be removed from the vehicle and used while you're hiking or mountain biking. GPS units are not only a good way to find your way around the trail and town, but having one handy is a matter of safety in unfamiliar territory; they will always point you in the right direction.


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