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Handheld GPS advice


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My son and I are working through some of his Boy Scout merit badges and rank advancements. Lots of opportunity for using a handheld GPS, but there are literally dozens to choose from. Just hoping someone's gone through this and has a recommendation. Don't need anything fancy, but it's got to be water-resistant if not water proof and durable. Oh, and he's 12, so cheaper is better.


Thanks for any help,


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Dave McReynolds

I've used Garmin for hiking and backpacking since the first ones came out. They sell from sub-$100 to over $500, depending on the features. The installed maps are very useful here in the US, but don't know if any maps are available for Okinawa. As a boy scout, he would probably be interested in a model that includes an electronic compass. Of course, every time you add a gadget, you also add $$.


The last time I went hunting, the wife of the rancher where I was hunting was studying map and compass navigation. She heard I was a mountaineer, and thought I'd be able to help her to understand that. I thought I'd be able to do that too. Unfortunately, I've been using GPS for navigation in the mountains for so long, I found that I'd forgotten some of the basic concepts for map and compass navigation, so I think I confused her more than I helped her. Embarrased, I bought a book on map and compass navigation after I got home to give myself a refesher course. It's not like riding a bicycle. You have to do it regularly to stay good at it.

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For that purpose, you might even consider getting an Iphone (or similar smart phone) and installing a land nav app on it. The app won't be real expensive, and street mapping will be free and available (assuming you have a data connection available) but some apps will preload local map data anyway. It's smaller than a typical handheld GPS, is more than accurate enough for land nav purposes, and you can use it for a lot more than just a handheld GPS.


I have an oocasional need to use a handheld Garmin for marking coordinates. I don't bother with the Garmin anymore - my Iphone 4G does the job just as well.

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I can't give any comparisons, but I have used a Garmin ETrex Vista for years hiking, on my bike, and motorcycle. It's packed with features and can download routes using both Garmin and Delorme software. It will run for over a day on a set of AA's. I replaced it with a Nuvi on my motorcycle simply because the small screen was hard to see when riding.

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I've had one of the Garmin eTrex legend units for quite a while (I forget which model). It's been rained on. Exposed to 115+ degree temps. Lots of dust. Salt. And it's survived quite a few dirt bike crashes with it mounted on the handlebars on a RAM mount...including several where the bike landed inverted on top of the GPS.


Takes a lickin and keeps on tickin. :)


It doesn't do color, it doesn't talk, and the screen isn't very big (So it's hard to see detail at a glance when you're driving/riding), but it's worked well for everything I need.

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Silva makes a nice unit that's infinitely more engaging for little 12 year old minds. Add an altimeter, a timepiece and some very basic observations of the heavens, and you have everything you need to determine your location anywhere on earth.


The GPS only shines where the stakes are high or time is money.


Really - he'll be using an idiot-proofed gps his entire life. Take the opportunity to teach him how it was done way back when. It's really not very difficult, until you start splitting hairs with a sextant.

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