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Touring with a Garmin

Old 03-20-09, 12:46 AM
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Touring with a Garmin

I am curious to hear experiences of touring with a Garmin gps computer before making the plunge. How detailed are the maps? Does a Garmin completely eliminate the need for paper maps? Does it depend more on where you're touring? Are all the features with newer models helpful for touring? Thanks...
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Old 03-20-09, 01:59 AM
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Of course charging it will be an issue. Solar charger? Nights in hotels?
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Old 03-20-09, 02:29 AM
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Hi,

The details are similiar to a paper map (depends on the map). But the size is different - For a good overview I prefer paper maps. Of course it depends where you tour. So for Ghana is no map from Garmin available. So you have to search for other venders/free maps. Not all features are helpful for touring except you want to geocache on a tour..
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Old 03-20-09, 07:05 AM
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I haven't taken my Garmin GPS on a long tour, but I've used it on short trips. I find the GPS most helpful for figuring out exactly where you are when you're not sure. Ex, when you're wondering if you've missed a turn or whether it's still ahead of you. It can be a helpful supplement to a map, but for myself I would not consider relying only on the GPS.
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Old 03-20-09, 08:29 AM
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The most useful thing about a GPS is being able to plot a route on the computer and download it to your device. A GPS does replace maps the same size as the screen but since they don't make maps that size, a backup paper map can come in handy. Another helpful feature is finding food or a place to stay if something happens and you don't cover the ground you intended to cover in a day.
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Old 03-20-09, 08:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Boston Commuter
I haven't taken my Garmin GPS on a long tour, but I've used it on short trips. I find the GPS most helpful for figuring out exactly where you are when you're not sure. Ex, when you're wondering if you've missed a turn or whether it's still ahead of you. It can be a helpful supplement to a map, but for myself I would not consider relying only on the GPS.
What kind do you have? I'm thinking the same thing. I missed two turns and one campground on my tour last summer. A gps might have been helpful (considering what a space case I can be.)

I also carry an mp3 player and a phone. Charging them has been a minor hassle, but not that big of a deal. I keep the cell phone turned off when I'm not calling home. The mp3 player plays for 3 days between charges at the rate I listen. I never came seriously close to discharging either. I'm thinking a GPS would run on AA batteries, which might be a bit pricey, but certainly do-able.
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Old 03-20-09, 08:44 AM
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I am a big GPS user. I seldom run, hike, or sail without one. That said it was one of the first things to get sent home from the Trans America.

If I was going on an AC route I wouldn't bother, otherwise I'd carry maps and a hand held GPS that runs on AA batteries. The maps would be the primary navigation tool and the GPS would be turned off most of the time.

But those are just my preferences.
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Old 03-20-09, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by BigBlueToe
What kind do you have? I'm thinking the same thing. I missed two turns and one campground on my tour last summer. A gps might have been helpful (considering what a space case I can be.)
Mine is a Garmin GPSMAP 60C. That particular model is several years old, but Garmin makes newer models in the same series -- the newer ones accept SD memory cards, mine doesn't. It weighs about 6 oz. You can get a handlebar mount for it from Garmin or REI. I have loaded some of the US Topo maps, which contain every little road (even unpaved) and show elevation changes.

This GPS runs on 2 AA batteries, and if you leave it on for hours, it will use them up after few days. If it's turned on now and then to check your position, I find the batteries last a very long time.
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Old 03-20-09, 12:12 PM
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Charging it wouldn't be much of an issue. I usually use couchsurfing, hospitality club, or bewelcome, and camping when in between cities/hosts. For that, I have a brunton solar roll. I am more curious to see if I can counter the cost by not buying maps for most countries. I have learned the hard way to lower the amount of weight carried, so is it necessary to carry a laptop or have access to a computer for the garmin when doing an extended tour?
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Old 03-20-09, 12:30 PM
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As with some others, I don't think a GPS is a good choice to replace paper maps -- except on a really short tour with an easy route. It's much better as a backup in case you get lost or want to find a resource quickly (e.g. convenience store).

Keep in mind that most GPS's sold in the US will have the US maps, and will charge quite a bit for international maps. Many of the international maps are somewhat spotty, won't have bike-only routes (which are common in Europe) and are definitely not a replacement for paper maps.

The cheaper units, like my Garmin Nuvi 205, don't let you load a full route onto the GPS unit. Some of the snazzier units have topo maps, which can be helpful.
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Old 03-20-09, 04:23 PM
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charge life may be an issue. the garmin GPSs I have seen use a mini USB connector, I use a 705 and a minty boost (search the forums) so I can power the gps using 2 AA lithium batteries when the juice gets low which happens when charging is not available or you are on the road a LONG time.
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Old 03-20-09, 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by jbpence
charge life may be an issue. the garmin GPSs I have seen use a mini USB connector, I use a 705 and a minty boost (search the forums) so I can power the gps using 2 AA lithium batteries when the juice gets low which happens when charging is not available or you are on the road a LONG time.
Not if you are smart and choose a unit like the GPS Map 60 or 76.
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Old 03-20-09, 08:49 PM
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I'm on a Florida to Alaska tour at the moment and have found my Garmin 60CSx to be extremely helpful (even more so when I found the option to not follow unpaved roads). Even when following ACA maps I've used it to seek less-traveled roads and, as someone else mentioned, find POIs such as motels/places to eat. www.poi-factory.com also had some decent files for US campgrounds and parks (you can also find POIs for BLM, NP and SP land).

The unit takes AA batteries and if AC isn't available I have a solar panel. Its mounted on my handlebars with the RAM mounting system (www.ram-mount.com). My base map at the moment is the City Navigator for North America. If an ACA map wasn't available and I was using a GPX file built from Google Maps it was perfect at auto-routing using "bicycle" as the travel method. Now if only they could make it route based on elevation preferences I'd be all set.

Would I bring it and skip paper maps? Nope. Paper maps provide a great overview and if my GPS konks out I'd hate to be stuck with nothing.
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Old 03-21-09, 07:50 AM
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You should check out the Garmin Etrex Vista HCX. It has auto-routing just like the car units except it doesn't "talk" to you - it beeps when you come to a new waypoint and tells you how many meters and seconds you have to travel before turning. Nice little handlebar mount and a very small unit.
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Old 03-22-09, 03:14 PM
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My GPS runs on rechargable AAs, same as my camera. I usually bring along more than I need, but if I ran out, I could pick up AAs pretty much anywhere I tour.
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Old 03-22-09, 10:43 PM
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I can't imagine taking a GPS on a tour. Besides the whole battery/computer thing, looking at maps on paper is one of the pleasures of touring. I review them in camp, on the road, in coffee shops, etc. People see you with a map and they know you're on tour. It starts a conversation. I also think there is more information to be absorbed from a paper map - landmarks, geographic features, major routes, the "big picture" etc... subtle things that lend a better feel for a place. Of course if you just want to follow directions I suppose a GPS is fine.
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