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

Posted in Product Reviews on May 1, 2005 Comment (0)
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Off-Road GPS Navigation System Buyers Guide - Lost & Found

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

Garmin QuestWhat It Does: With the Garmin Quest at your side, portability meets capability in this pocket-size unit. Loaded with the high-end navigation features, this unit can be used in multiple vehicles or slipped into your pocket for handy street-level directions when you're navigating on foot, or off-highway directions when in the four-wheeler. Offering the most advanced automatic routing with turn-by-turn directions and voice guidance to get you where you're going, the high-speed processor means fast, automatic off-route and detour recalculation. The unit contains a rechargeable internal lithium-ion battery that provides at least 20 hours of use, while the USB data connection allows for fast map downloads from Garmin's entire line of MapSource CDs.

Why It's Hot: Smaller than a standard television remote, the Quest provides an ample screen-viewing area, but it won't demand a lot of room on the dashboard. The unique antenna folds flush with the unit when not in use, and users can connect an optional external antenna as well. Best of all, the 256-color bright, sunlight-readable display makes it easy to view map details.

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

Garmin Etrex Legend CWhat It Does: The eTrex Legend C is Garmin's exciting new pocket-size handheld, bringing color, automatic routing, longer battery life, and a 256-color sunlight-readable display to make it easy to distinguish map details and see where you're going. The automatic route generation, off-route recalculation, turn-by-turn directions with alert tones, and icon-driven menus for finding points of interest all help to navigate you safely to your destination.

Why It's Hot: Thanks to a longer battery life, there are more hours of outdoor enjoyment to be had. Also, the mini USB port provides fast and convenient downloads of map data from Garmin's entire library of optional MapSource CDs using PC interface. The 24 MB of internal memory provides plenty of storage for maps. The eTrex Legend C is WAAS-enabled and has had the primary controls oriented on the side of the unit so the user can conveniently operate it with one hand. Also, an innovative rocker switch is located on the face of the unit, which enables the user to input data easily, scroll through menus, or pan the map page.

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

Garmin GPS 18What It Does: With the Garmin GPS 18, your laptop PC is instantly turned into a powerful street and land navigator.

The external USB-connected GPS sensor antenna combines Garmin's advanced GPS software discs, which automatically provide turn-by-turn directions and voice prompts to get you safely to your destination.

Why It's Hot: The GPS 18 ships with fully unlocked MapSource City Select CDs, which provide full coverage of the entire United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico (North America version), or major metropolitan areas throughout Western Europe (Europe version). Map detail includes highways, interstates, business, and residential roads, with turn restrictions, speed categories, and other navigational features. It also features more than 5 million points of interest, including restaurants, lodging, attractions, shopping, emergency services, post offices, and more. The GPS 18 includes a 12-parallel-channel WAAS-enabled sensor. The receiver includes an integrated magnetic base and is less than 3 inches in diameter.

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

Garmin GPSMAP 76What It Does: The GPSMAP 76 is designed to provide precise GPS positioning using correction data obtained from the Wide Area Augmentation

System (WAAS). This unit features a built-in quad-helix antenna for superior reception and can provide position accuracy to less than 3 meters when receiving WAAS corrections. The GPSMAP 76 has an internal memory capacity of 8 MB. In addition, it comes with a built-in basemap of cities, coastlines, lakes, rivers, interstates, interstate exit information, and a database of nautical navaids.

Why It's Hot: An extra-large display measuring 1.6x2.2 inches gives users a clear view of information, while a waterproof case means the GPSMAP 76 will keep working well even if it's been submerged in water. Even more amazing, this unit will actually float if accidentally dropped in the water.

who to contact: rei, Dept. OR, 6750 S. 228th St., Kent, WA 98032, (253) 395-3780, www.rei.com

Magellan eXplorist 100 North AmericaWhat It Does: The pocket-size eXplorist 100 recreational GPS receiver is both powerful and affordable. The eXplorist 100 features TrueFix technology, which takes advantage of 14 parallel channels supported by WAAS and EGNOS for fast signal acquisition, minimal signal loss, and reliable accuracy to within 3 meters. Given its incredible versatility, you are able to save as much as three track log files, 500 points of interest, and 20 routes to guide you back to your favorite off-road trails.

Why It's Hot: With its TrueFix GPS Technology, users are able to take advantage of 14 parallel channels supported by both the WAAS and EGNOS Satellite-Based Augmentation Systems for fast signal acquisition, minimal signal loss, and reliable accuracy to within 3 meters of your position and destination.

Who To Contact: Thales Navigation/Magellan GPS, Dept. OR, 471 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050, (408) 615-5100, www.magellangps.com

Magellan MapSend WorldWide Basemap SoftwareWhat It Does: The MapSend WorldWide Basemap software enables you to create a basemap for any region of the world and upload it to your mapping Magellan GPS receiver. Adding WorldWide basemaps to your Magellan GPS receiver enables you to add basic reference-map coverage for areas not covered by the built-in maps. New basemaps can be loaded and saved via a PC-to-GPS cable from your PC to your Magellan Meridian series handheld, directly to the SD card using a card reader/writer, or directly to the memory of your Magellan SporTrak Pro, SporTrak Pro Marine, SporTrak Map, SporTrak Color, or MAP 330 GPS receiver.

Why It's Hot: Each basemap region you define contains the essential basic map features, such as cities, highways, waterways, railroads, national boundaries, and shorelines. WorldWide Basemap also includes basic topography contours, which can help you stay oriented to your environment and find points of interest. In addition to the visual map presentation, the map features can be located using tabular search functions on the GPS as well as in the PC application and can be used with your Magellan Meridian-series SporTrak Map, SporTrak Pro, SporTrak Pro Marine, or MAP 330 GPS receivers.

Who To Contact: Thales Navigation/Magellan GPS, Dept. OR, 471 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050, (800) 707-9971, www.magellangps.com

Magellan MapSend TopoWhat It Does: The MapSend Topo software by Magellan is available only for the U.S. region. This cutting-edge software provides a fun and simple way to navigate with your Magellan GPS handheld receiver. These highly detailed topographic maps of the U.S. are easily downloaded from your PC and may be used on virtually every outdoor adventure you embark on.

Why It's Hot: Map details include streets, roads, lakes, rivers, coastlines, parks, railways, topographic contours, and much more. An expansive database of popular points of interest throughout the U.S. makes it easy to select a destination and let your Magellan GPS be your guide. Best of all, the user has the ability to select the regions and level of detail to be downloaded for maximum memory efficiency. The data can then be updated or overwritten with new map regions. Topography derived from the U.S. Government Digital Elevation Model (DEM) provides elevation details for every location on the map. The software is easily compatible with the Magellan Meridian-series SporTrak Color, SporTrak Pro, SporTrak Pro Marine, SporTrak Map, SporTrak Topo, MAP 330, and MAP 330M handheld receiver.

Who To Contact: Thales Navigation/Magellan GPS, Dept. OR, 471 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050, (800) 707-9971, www.magellangps.com

Magellan GPS CompanionWhat It Does: The GPS Companion is a compact, lightweight receiver that easily attaches without cables to the Palm V and Palm Vx handheld computers and the IBM Workpad. With the accompanying free MAP Companion and NAV Companion software, the GPS Companion provides satellite navigation information and detailed street maps of the entire U.S. for anyone exploring the great outdoors. For business or recreation, the GPS Companion and software offer mapping, navigation, and information management solutions in a single device. The 12-parallel-channel GPS unit has a sleek and stylish design that provides a comfortable fit. The unit is the first GPS clip-on that does not require cables to connect to the IBM Workpad or Palm V/Vx handheld communications ports.

Why It's Hot: The convenient pull-down menus and the ability to scroll through maps by dragging the Palm V handheld's stylus across the screen makes this system worth its weight in gold. Users can also load or remove several U.S. map regions as often as needed to keep clutter to a minimum and memory levels high. For convenience while traveling, map icons identify airports, lodging, train and bus stations, shopping centers, office buildings, hospitals, educational facilities, and golf courses.

Who To Contact: Thales Navigation/Magellan GPS, Dept. OR, 471 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050, (800) 707-9971, www.magellangps.com

Fugawi Map of America SoftwareWhat It Does: Fugawi's Map of America is a stunning atlas of the continental USA that may be used either at home, or on a laptop or GPS receiver unit in the outback. Incorporating a 3-D view and imagery program into the maps, users can "fly" across detailed maps of whatever area they're referencing.

Why It's Hot: The software is compatible with many of today's most popular laptop computers, PDAs, and GPS receivers. Included with the software is the ability to print in color and maps at various sizes and scales, including topographical maps to 1:100,000 scale of the entire continental U.S.

Who To Contact: Northport Systems Inc./Fugawi, Dept. OR, 95 Saint Clair Ave. W., Ste. 1406, Toronto, Ontario, M4V 1N6 Canada, (416) 920-6313, www.fugawi.com.

Magellan SporTrak TopoWhat It Does: The Magellan SporTrak Topo GPS unit comes preloaded with everything you need to find your way on your next backcountry adventure. This high-tech unit contains built-in nationwide topography, major roads, waterways, and more. The exclusive built-in nationwide topography makes SporTrak Topo the first and only "grab-and-go" topographical GPS unit available anywhere. The best and most convenient feature is that there's no need to download additional topography. An additional 16 MB of memory enables you to expand your mapping capabilities with detailed street-level maps for navigating over roads, using additional Magellan software products.

Why It's Hot: The pocket-size, lightweight rugged design provides the advantage of GPS navigation, the confidence of knowing where you are and where you're going at all times and no burden of carrying bulky equipment and cumbersome paper topographic maps everywhere you go. The SporTrak Topo provides superior tracking and accuracy, showing your position to within 3 meters, even in difficult environments such as mountains or dense foliage.

Who To Contact: Thales Navigation/Magellan GPS, Dept. OR, 471 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050, (800) 707-9971, www.magellangps.com

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