GPS stands for "Global Positioning System" and is a satellite navigation system developed and maintained by the Department of Defense. Today, when people refer to GPS, however, they usually mean a GPS receiver. A GPS receiver is basically a handheld or vehicle-mounted device that accurately defines the location of a designated position (latitude and longitude). This is done by triangulating radio signals from a network of 28 satellites orbiting Earth. In order for any GPS receiver device to receive a good reading, three satellites must be visible to the unit at one time.
Do you need to carry a GPS receiver on your person or in your vehicle if you are an avid four-wheeler? You bet! Not only will a good receiver keep you from wandering off the right trail, the new units on the market today, such as our Garmin Rino 530 units, offer a wealth of features such as speed indicators, route finders, waypoints, barometric altimeters, electronic compasses, hunting/fishing calendars, geocaching tools, sunrise/sunset information, and weatherproof construction. The bright color screen and 12-mile transmit range of the Garmin Rino 530 make marking your trail and reading your base map extremely simple even in the worst weather conditions. All of these features, combined with Garmin's MapSource software, provided us with detailed color maps of even the smallest trails throughout our testing in Moab, Utah. We tested one of our units without the MapSource software installed and felt almost blind when compared to the great detail provided by the additional maps.
A couple of things to keep in mind when purchasing and carrying a GPS unit are:. Figure out before your purchase if you need a small handheld unit or a larger vehicle-mounted unit. Both can provide excellent information depending upon your needs.
. GPS units run on batteries. If you purchase a receiver with rechargeable batteries, make sure they are fully charged before heading out. If your receiver uses disposable batteries, carrying extras is a must.
. Do not ONLY rely on your GPS device to guide you. You may pass through a cave or area where the GPS signal is blocked. Keep aware of your surroundings by noticing distinguishing landmarks and trails.
. It is a good idea to mark your campsite on your receiver as soon as you arrive.
. Carrying a topographical map with you is always a good idea, just in case something happens to your receiver.