Handheld GPS (Global Positioning System) Device


Garmin Oregon 400t v. VS Magellan Triton 2000

GPS devices are just cool. Though they’re designed for use in the great outdoors, they also have functionality for everyday use. The rise in popularity of the handheld gadgets inspired me to compare industry leaders Garmin and Magellan.

I must have looked like a dork ambling up the trail while looking back and forth between the two GPS devices, which I’ve affectionately named “Gary” and “Maggie”. I could just see it across the faces of passing hikers, they offered a friendly hello but they must have been thinking, “Sheesh that girl must be really afraid of getting lost.” Sure people were giving me funny looks, but it’s all in the name of research I tell you. I figured that my time in the mountains would be well spent exploring the intricacies of my new pals.

Both Gary and Maggie have barometric altimeters, electronic compasses, built-in maps, and both are water resistant. I felt like James Bond-ette plotting my elevation, calculating my area and determining my exact location on the planet with Gary while simultaneously using the voice-recorder, testing the flashlight range, and taking pics with Maggie. Now if I could only use these to summon my Benz for me!

So here’s the dirt. GPS devices don’t just give you latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates; they come ready to go with some super neat options and are designed more as an all-in-one unit. They are not simply digital maps. I didn’t just take my little buddies hiking, I also took them on a short road trip to Flaming Gorge, to my family’s cabin near Pineview Resevoir, and to the gym.

I’ll be honest, I’m not really a fisher-er-uh-woman, but I hear there is some darn good fishin’ near my cabin, and out of curiosity, I thought I should check with Gary and Maggie to see exactly what time would be the best time to sink a fishing line. They both agreed that 8:53 a.m. to 10:53 a.m. on that particular day would be the best window of opportunity, you know, just in case I wanted to attempt fishing.

Why would I take a GPS to the gym? Because Gary actually has a stopwatch and heart rate monitor built in. Maggie comes with a digital music player and an audio jack. If I really wanted to geek-out I could plug in my headphones to Maggie and jam while I do my reps with Gary monitoring my heart rate. Again, more funny looks.

One of the coolest features of these thingamabobs is that you can go Geocaching with them. Have you heard of Geocaching yet? Well let me tell you. Basically it’s modern treasure hunting, but instead of poking around with a metal detector or ciphering pirate maps in search of One-Eyed Willy (that’s a Goonies reference in case you didn’t get it), you use your high-tech GPS to find loot that fellow Geocachers in your area have hidden for you. Of course, you must in-turn leave something for the next cacher to find or you can create your own Geocache for some lucky seeker to find. Geocaches are currently placed in over 100 countries around the world and on all seven continents1. Both Gary and Maggie are Geocaching friendly, but require you to sign up for an account at geocaching.com. There you will find a whole online community of Geocaching enthusiasts that will share routes, resources, and tips with you.

On the trail Gary and Maggie perform basically the same. Both are easy to use and relatively the same price, but their features differ on some notable points. Gary has a 16-hour battery life while Maggie has a 10-hour battery life. Maggie has a built-in 2MP camera, flashlight, voice-recorder and digital music player; Gary has a bike cadence sensor, trip computer, alarm clock, calculator, picture viewer and wireless unit-to-unit transfer. Gary is smaller, sleeker and weighs 1.2 ounces less at 6.8 ounces than Maggie at 8 ounces. Every ounce counts when you’re backpacking right? Though Gary does have a few more options and is easier to use, you will pay about $100 more for those perks.

Garmin $500 garmin.com, Magellan $400 magellangps.com


About Author

Melissa McGibbon is the Senior Editor of Outdoor Sports Guide Magazine. She is an award-winning journalist and is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and the Adventure Travel Trade Association. Her work also appears in Outside Magazine, Lonely Planet, SKI Magazine, Backpacker Magazine, Elevation Outdoors, Scuba Diving Magazine, and Matador Network. She is usually in pursuit of adventure, travel, or some daring combination of the two. IG @missmliss // melissamcgibbon.com

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