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Old 08-07-2013, 19:00   #1
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A good hand-held GPS

If you had $150 to spend on a hand-held GPS to be used for navigation in coastal California sailing what would be good? I am interested in hearing from those who use a hand-held for their primary navigation tool. Personally, I use a chart-plotter, paper charts and a hand-held as backup but I would like to know how others might be getting by with a more simple system. (Note- I feel everyone should have some paper charts.)

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Old 08-07-2013, 19:44   #2
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Re: A good hand-held GPS

i have a 37 footer that i take florida to bahamas (in the abacos right now). my only gps gear is two old garmin 12's and a more recent garmin 72. none of these are available any longer but it gives you some idea of what you can get along with. the downside is they're battery powered so you need to bring a mess of double a's with you. one has a cigarette lighter adapter but i've never used it. the batteries are supposed to last 16 to 20 hours but that's continuous use. i sometimes keep them off for an hour and just turn one on to check my course.

i also use the explorer chart series for the bahamas and the steve dodge guide for the abacos.

i've seen all that high priced stuff and i guess they are wonderful but i've never felt i needed them. all i need is bearing to the next waypoint, track over the ground, and distance to waypoint.

i can see one big advantage of the built in plotters; you have less of a mess in the cockpit.

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Old 08-07-2013, 19:59   #3
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Re: A good hand-held GPS

$200 you can nab the Garmin 78.
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Old 08-07-2013, 20:41   #4
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Re: A good hand-held GPS

When I first got Boracay I put in a small auto Uniden GPS. It came with a mounting bracket and cigarette lighter plug. Set to knots it works really well. No longer made.

I also have the basic Garmin ETrex. Also works well but does not come with power cable or mounting bracket.

From what I can see available in Oz the Garmin GPS 72H looks like it may be OK. The mounting bracket and power cord are extra which is is a bit of a pain. Do check that the speed can be set to knots and the speed display can be read from behind the wheel. You'd need to wire in a cigarette lighter socket or similar power outlet.

Do try not to drop it. I dropped mine on a shopping mall floor in the Philippines and it stopped working. Garmin replaced it under warranty so keep your docket.
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Old 08-07-2013, 20:44   #5
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Re: A good hand-held GPS

Just to put a slightly different opinion. Get an iPAD and download Navionics the apps is $45 AUD and is a reasonable backup chart plotter. Then get Anchor watch, waterproof case etc. Just a thought.
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Old 08-07-2013, 20:54   #6
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Re: A good hand-held GPS

I have an etrex 10 $115. Can only put in one waypoint and can't recall it after a shut down. Ran into someone who has one also and doesn't want to know about it.
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Old 08-07-2013, 20:57   #7
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Re: A good hand-held GPS

Garmin 76 or 78 would be sufficient, and in your price range.
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Old 08-07-2013, 21:05   #8
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Re: A good hand-held GPS

I have an old 12 channel Yellow Terror, the nickname on the hunting forums here for the old entry level Etrex from Garmin.

I got it 2005 as a hunting "Oh ****, I'm LOST!" emergency device for when hunting in unfamiliar areas and the maps are useless due to weather/fog/rain/whatever. I'm a map and compass navigator, only optimist and kayak experience as boat navigator :P but it tells me where to kayak to drop a crap pot.

Given your lat/long and a chart, an etrex would work. You'd need to upgrade if you want on-screen maps.

I can put in a couple of dozen waypoints and they are saved even during battery-out.
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Old 09-09-2013, 19:26   #9
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Re: A good hand-held GPS

I have used Lowrance H2O series for many years here for the ice fishing business. Had 1 in each of the 5 bombardiers we operated. I do not care what anyone says, being in a white-out at -30 at night with 4-8 people, one has to have 100% faith in your electronics. I use one on both boats on Lake of the Woods and also Lake Superior. Cannot imagine a better or more trustworthy companion than that. 2 will be going as a back-up on our retirement trip to the carib. next spring. That is my feelings on "cheap" hand-held. Peace to all
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Old 09-09-2013, 19:37   #10
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Re: A good hand-held GPS

Im still useing old stuff, no maps just lat n long. Have 4 of em , use batts,carry a bunch! I do, that and paper charts do me just fine! Connie has her puter with the Capt set up which I ck with a couple of times a day! works for us ! I have found that cockpit mounted chart plotters are a pain in the butt! When your running in a harbor or thru a pass I prefer my eyes and a paper chart ! But Im old and set in my ways LOL
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Old 09-09-2013, 19:37   #11
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Re: A good hand-held GPS

I bought a monochrome etrex Vista from ebay about 5 years ago. It has rudimentary maps and compass, and is a good "oh, sh!t where am i?" unit. It takes 2 AA, you can also run it from +12 with the right cable.

I also have an elderly Lowrance Globalnav that I got for $15 at a flea-market, including with 12v cable and mount, and it still runs great.

Finally I also have a small netbook and a GPS-USB fob ($30, ebay) that makes a nifty chartplotter running OpenCPN.

One downside to handhelds as primary GPS is that it's not as easy or reliable to use them as NMEA0183 position data sources for your VHF radio with DSC. The handhelds must be on and working, which might not be the case when you most need DSC.

Last thought - most smartphones with built-in GPS receivers are pretty good too.
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Old 09-09-2013, 20:31   #12
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Re: A good hand-held GPS

Welcome to the forum.

Ahh, such an interesting and new question.

Really, have you Googled low priced GPS?

The basic choice is a handheld "chartplotter" which may or may not include the charts you need or have ones of such a large scale that they're useless for close-in piloting, or the iPad stuff.

Your boat, your choice.

Good luck.

PS - We use a GPSMap76Cx Garmin, paid $300 for it years ago, now available for half that, but costs for the charts.

You can do homework on this.

It's kinda like asking your mom: "What car should I buy?"

Sooooo many choices.
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Old 09-09-2013, 21:15   #13
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Re: A good hand-held GPS

I've been through several Garmin E-trex units over the past 10 years or so. The performance was good. The accuracy was good. They are truly pocket sized. The price was usually just over $100 for the yellow ones if you shopped around a little. The blue ones were usually about $30 more.

The blue ones came with basic highway maps & coastal buoys & I think a little more memory for additional maps &/or way points. The yellow ones just gave you a blank screen to start with, but would track a breadcrumb trail just like the blue ones & did hold at least 100 way points. There were also a bunch of extra functions that I never really used like moon phase, calendar & I don't remember what all else.

They all worked well for a year or two, then some connections inside, that go to the display, got decrepit & the screens started to blank out. When they get in that condition, you can bend the cases a little to get them to work again as an emergency measure, but once that starts to become necessary, I always considered it time to start shopping for a new one. The other thing that often got decrepit over time was the little toggle button on the front of them.

My units all led a pretty hard life physically. I traveled with them extensively & they often lived in the front pocket of a pair of jeans along with a ring of keys. When I leaned up against things, it probably wasn't very good for them.

As was said before, a pair of AA batteries were good for over 12 hours if you used alkalines. I got more like 8 hours out of rechargeable batteries. I also have an adapter that lets me plug into a cigarette lighter outlet for external power.

They all give you a few different screens to choose from, like compass heading, map field, statistics, etc.

The E-trex version that I have is now discontinued & I see that Garmin now has a new case style out to replace it. Hopefully the new version will hold up longer under the kind of abuse that I give them. I'll probably find out in a year or two. I plan to stick with them.

The E-trex units can all be hooked up to a computer with Garmin Mapsource software. The really old ones used a DB9 serial connection. The newer ones use USB. Different versions of Mapsource had different maps included. Some were road maps. Some were topo maps. Some were ocean maps. All that I used communicated equally well with the individual units.

This looks like the out-of-production yellow one that I had, except that this one has maps on it -

This is the modern version of the yellow one. This is the one that I have not tried yet -
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Old 09-09-2013, 21:40   #14
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Re: A good hand-held GPS

I would recommend a garmin, magellan, or delorme that supports the satellite imageray offered by each company for around $30, leaving you $120 for the GPS itself on ebay. The satellite imagery is incredibly accurate. where I sail (sea of cortez) it's actually much more accurate than the best electronic charts.
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Old 10-09-2013, 02:30   #15
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Re: A good hand-held GPS

I use the Etrex, there are a various different options for it, one includes a barometer. Waterproof, loadable maps, and takes a SD sim, so you can add all the layouts you want.


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