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Off-Road GPS Navigation System Buyers Guide - Lost & Found

Lowrance Global Map Baja Gps Mapping Models
James J. Weber | Writer
Posted May 1, 2005

The Hottest Gps Units To Ever Hit The Trail

Way back when, the only people to even think of being able to use Global Positioning Systems (GPS) were our military and other government entities. Today, however, things have changed, and for the better. Consisting of a network of 24 orbiting satellites built by the U.S. Department of Defense, GPS technology is one of the most widely used networks in the world. With the ability to track virtually anything that moves, the GPS network is right at home among members of the off-roading community.

Used primarily for guidance on roads less traveled, the sheer number of GPS radios and transmitters available to the public is staggering. With so many units available, it can be a daunting task to choose the correct unit for your intended purposes. The terrain (street or trails) on which the unit will be used, the intended applications of usage (geocaching, waypoint tracking, or just turn-by-turn directions), and the user's level of skill are all important issues to address prior to making your purchase.

With these and many more issues to consider, we've compiled a sampling of what we believe to be some of the hottest GPS units available on the market today, with an emphasis on off-roading.

It's especially important to note that just because you may have a GPS unit does not guarantee your safety or rescue, should you venture into harm's way. As sophisticated as these GPS units are, they should never be used as a sole replacement to the more conventional compasses and maps. Always keep a compass and maps of the areas you'll traveling through with you. Keep in mind that GPS units are electronic devices, which rely on batteries that can run out and electronic components that can become damaged.

Lowrance iWAY 100mWhat It Does: The iWAY 100m provides precision, auto-routing, and turn-by-turn mobile navigation using visual and voice prompts to any destination across the nation.

Why It's Hot: This unit contains a built-in receiver/ antenna that tracks both 12-parallel channel GPS and WAAS signals, with position updates every second. An ample 3-inch diagonal, high-resolution 240Vx180H Film Super Twist monochrome display produces superb mapping details and easy readability, even in direct sunlight. The mapping software is the Lowrance exclusive MapCreate Turn-By-Turn program bundle.

Who To Contact: Lowrance Electronics, Dept. OR, 28156 Plymouth Rd., Tulsa, OK 74128, (918) 437-6881, www.lowrance.com

Lowrance GlobalMap Baja GPS Mapping ModelsWhat It Does: This new line of GPS mapping models is offered in two versions. The GlobalMap Baja contains a 5-inch-diagonal 480x480-pixel LCD screen for excellent glare-free viewing through a high-contrast Film Super Twist monochrome display with 16-level gray-scale definition and advanced white LED backlighting.

The GlobalMap Baja 480c features the new Lowrance 256-color TFT display, which provides super-wide viewing angles and fluorescent cold-cathode backlighting.

Why It's Hot: Both models are capable of navigating motorists from nowhere to anywhere by delivering full 12-parallel-channel GPS and WAAS reception provided from the ruggedized external LGC-2000 Baja receiver/antenna for super-fast satellite lock-ons and enhanced position accuracy to 3 meters. Each unit is memory-card-compatible with Lowrance's FreedomMap software and MapCreate topographical software. Each unit has been ruggedized and made shock-resistant to handle the off-road abuses encountered on the roads less traveled.

Who To Contact: Lowrance Electronics, Dept. OR, 28156 Plymouth Rd., Tulsa, OK 74128, (918) 437-6881, www.lowrance.com

Lowrance Ifinder Phdc Mapping GPSWhat It Does: This product provides a waterproof, color-display mobile-navigation system in a handheld package. Built-in continental U.S. and Hawaii background maps feature interstate-exit services. The built-in electronic compass and barometric altimeter provide additional surrounding condition reports, and the system is compatible with all plug-and-play FreedomMaps, Fishing Hot Spots, and Navionics electronic chart models.

Why It's Hot: Aside from the incredible GPS and mapping capabilities, the unit allows MP3 files to be stored and played for the ultimate convenience, regardless of where you are in the world.

Who To Contact: Lowrance Electronics, Dept. OR, 28156 Plymouth Rd., Tulsa, OK 74128, (918) 437-6881, www.lowrance.com

Lowrance iWAY 800c GPS SystemWhat It Does: The iWAY 800c contains a 10.4-inch diagonal mega-screen color display designed to appeal to larger vehicles. The behemoth GPS system is controlled by a 20GB internal hard drive, with 10 GBs preloaded with high-detail mapping. The remaining 10 GB of free space can be used to support the built-in MP3 player. The system uses Lowrance's 12-parallel-channel GPS and WAAS signals, with position updates every second.

Why It's Hot: Being a portable unit, the iWAY 800c system easily connects to any PC running Microsoft Windows XP, ME, or 2000 for loading music files. Two easily accessible MMC or SD digital-media memory-card slots are provided for additional mapping software programs.

Who To Contact: Lowrance Electronics, Dept. OR, 28156 Plymouth Rd., Tulsa, OK 74128, (918) 437-6881, www.lowrance.com

DeLorme Street Atlas USA 2005 Handheld VersionWhat It Does: The ever-popular Street Atlas USA 2005, which was originally built for laptop users, is now available to work on either the Palm OS or Pocket PC and offers the same data, routing, POIs, voice prompts, and GPS capabilities as the regular edition.

Why It's Hot: With this newest version, users can select precut maps for metro areas, or select custom maps, just as before. Getting the maps you want onto the PDA is easier than ever.

Who To Contact: DeLorme Mapping Inc., Dept. OR, 2 DeLorme Dr., Yarmouth, ME 04096, (800) 511-2459, www.delorme.com

DeLorme Street Atlas USA 2005What It Does: The Street Atlas USA 2005 provides a detailed mapping software program that incorporates voice commands, both spoken commands and replies, which are then incorporated into the advanced Back-on-Track settings and controls, allowing the user to control when automatic rerouting is to be used. The software also contains more than 4 million places of interest - more than double the number in other programs.

Why It's Hot: When in GPS mode, a split-screen setting provides close-up and pulled-out views designed to provide the ideal map magnification levels for GPS usage as well as for GPS radar searches, for locating nearby services from your current GPS position

Who To Contact: DeLorme Mapping Inc., Dept. OR, 2 DeLorme Dr., Yarmouth, ME 04096, (800) 511-2459, www.delorme.com

DeLorme 3-D TopoQuads Mapping SoftwareWhat It Does: Whether an outdoorsman, hunter, business professional, or land developer, those needing topographic maps have long relied on USGS 7-1/2-minute quadrangular maps to meet their needs. That is all coming to an end with the new 3-D TopoQuads software program that provides a seamless integration of the USGS series of 7-1/2-minute quad maps. Each map may be broken down by individual states or regions, such as Connecticut or Rhode Island. The seamless integration of the maps allows viewing and printing of any of these regions, regardless of how many quad maps may overlap. With more than 97 different levels of map details, including 17 levels of scanned USGS 7-1/2-minute quad maps at a 1:24,000 scale, and more than 80 various types of viewing levels, rest assured that wherever you are, you'll know where you're headed and over what type of terrain.

Why It's Hot: Given the 3-D modeling of the terrain, an instant realistic view of the land is available. Also, the software's ability to identify probable land use (based on land cover, terrain, and drainage characteristics) is also a benefit to the end-user. Incorporated into the system's design are various drawing tools that enable customization of the maps with MapNotes, polygons, and lines of varying color and fill patterns. An easy-to-use tool for measuring distances and areas is standard issue with the product.

Who To Contact: DeLorme Mapping, Inc., Dept. OR, 2 DeLorme Dr., Yarmouth, ME 04096, (800) 511-2459, www.delorme.com

DeLorme Earthmate USB GPS ReceiverWhat It Does: The Earthmate USB GPS receiver is the perfect GPS receiver for any off-highway excursion. Roughly the size of a matchbox, the Earthmate can be powered off the user's laptop via a USB connection and operated through any one of the manufacturer's GPS software programs.

Why It's Hot: The Earthmate can also be used on many of today's popular handheld devices, including Bluetooth-enabled PDAs (or laptops).

Who To Contact: DeLorme Mapping Inc., Dept. OR, 2 DeLorme Dr., Yarmouth, ME 04096, (800) 511-2459, www.delorme.com

Garmin Foretrex 101What It Does: Garmin's Foretrex 101 is an economical wrist-mounted GPS system that frees up your hands so you can focus on your outdoor activities. The Foretrex 101 contains all the features and functionality of some of the larger, more expensive systems. Included with the unit are PC interface capabilities for downloading waypoints, tracks, and routes.

Why It's Hot: This unit features Garmin's intuitive operating logic, using six dedicated buttons to simplify navigation. Whether it's a campsite, deer stand, or other place of interest, users can mark its location, identify the waypoint, and navigate to it later using the GoTo function. Also, with the help of Garmin's exclusive TracBack technology, users can retrace their steps by following an electronic breadcrumb trail back to their original starting point. Its easy-to-use interface and basic GPS capabilities are perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who would rather replace the batteries than recharge the unit in the field.

Who To Contact: Rei, Dept. OR, 6750 S. 228th St., Kent, WA 98032, (253) 395-3780, www.rei.com

DeLorme Earthmate Blue Logger GPSWhat It Does: The Blue Logger GPS provides real-time positional tracking and plotting, while continuing to function as a navigational aid when used in conjunction with any DeLorme mapping software on your PC laptop or PDA via a USB port.

Why It's Hot: Capable of logging either standard tracking data or raw GPS satellite data, the unit can be easily customized to log points based on predetermined time, distance, or speed intervals using the accompanying Blue Logger Manager desktop software. With 16 MB of memory and a long-life rechargeable lithium-ion battery, Blue Logger GPS offers six to eight hours of logging time and an unsurpassed capacity of as much as 50,000 GPS points per session.

Who To Contact: DeLorme Mapping Inc., Dept. OR, 2 DeLorme Dr., Yarmouth, ME 04096, (800) 511-2459, www.delorme.com

Garmine TrexWhat It Does: Truly a small wonder, the eTrex takes the best features of a 12-parallel-channel GPS receiver and places them into a 6-ounce package that's only 4 inches high and 2 inches wide. The result is a unit that will literally fit in the palm of your hand. Besides its small size, off-roaders and outdoorsmen will notice the sleek design of the eTrex. All buttons are located on either side of the unit, allowing for simple one-handed operation that won't obstruct the view of the display. The eTrex features only five operator buttons for the ultimate in user-friendly design. Thanks to its bright-yellow case, the eTrex will be hard to misplace and easy to find in any boat or backpack. Completely waterproof, the eTrex can take an accidental splash or dunk in the water and still continue to perform.

Why It's Hot: Inside the eTrex, you'll find the proven performance of a 12-parallel-channel GPS receiver that will run for 22 hours on just two AA batteries. The eTrex will store as many as 500 user waypoints with graphic icons and boasts Garmin's exclusive TracBack feature, which will reverse your track log and help you navigate your way back home. The eTrex also uses animated graphics to help you identify your marked waypoints quickly and easily.

Who To Contact: Garmin International Inc., Dept. OR, 1200 E. 151st St., Olathe, KS 66062, (913) 397-8200, www.garmin.com

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