Garmin Oregon 600

Garmin Oregon 600

A Workable Touchscreen Trail GPS!

While touch screens work well on street GPS receivers, I've always preferred trail receivers with buttons. I've found touch screen trail GPS units to be unresponsive, hard to see in bright sun, and completely unusable with gloves. Marking my current position as a waypoint, which I'm constantly doing as I map trails, is a pain on older touchscreens. In the past I haven't been a believer in touchscreen trail GPS receivers. The new Garmin Oregon 600 is making a dent in that belief.

Garmin nüvi 2597LMT

This unit, updated for 2013, includes a dual-orientation 5-inch color touch screen, customizable "dashboards", lifetime North American street maps, lifetime traffic free traffic with no ads, high-sensitivity receiver, spoken street names, landmark navigation, voice-operated navigation, exit services, Bluetooth(R) wireless, microSD card socket, lane-assist, auto-sorting of multiple destinations, emergency location, pedestrian navigation, and an audiobook player. So far, I've found the touchscreen and the voice command to be much more responsive than the nuvi 2360LMT, which this unit replaced as my primary street GPS receiver.

Garmin nüvi 2597LMT 5-Inch Bluetooth Portable Vehicle GPS with Lifetime Maps and Traffic

GPS Trail Distance Measuring Tests

Garmin Oregon 600, image courtesy of Garmin

The problem with trying to measure trail distance in the field with civilian GPS (handheld GPS not corrected by differential GPS signals) has been that GPS has not been accurate enough to measure distance at walking speeds.

Garmin eTrex 10, 20, and 30

Garmin eTrex 30

All three eTrex models are waterproof and feature paperless geocaching. Both have basemaps- the eTrex 20 and 30 adds color screens, a micro-SD card slot, and the ability to add maps, including custom maps. The eTrex 30 further adds a three-axis compass and a barometric altimeter.

Garmin GPSMap 62s

Garmin GPSMap 62s

This is my favorite Garmin trail GPS receiver at present. I use it for trail mapping as I work on my hiking guides. If you need custom mapping and other advanced features and don't like touch screens this is your receiver. It comes preloaded with a worldwide base map, and detailed topo maps can be added, including Garmin 1:24000 topos and satellite imagery, as well as free maps.

Magellan Explorist 310

Magellan Explorist 310

The Explorist 310 is a paperless geocaching receiver with a micro-SD slot for memory expansion. The unit comes with a world-wide base map and detailed map coverage can be added, including National Geographic Topo! raster topographic maps from USGS and Magellan's Summit Series 1:24000 vector topo maps.

Garmin nüvi 3590LMT

Garmin nüvi 3590LMT

If you want it all, this is the street receiver for you. The nuvi 3590LMT features a 5-inch multi-touch screen, lifetime maps of North America, customizable "dashboards", lifetime traffic without ads, lane assist, Bluetooth, Android smartphone link, an SD card slot, voice navigation, spoken street names, junction view, real time traffic, a powered mount, pedestrian navigation, and an audio book player.

Garmin nuvi 2595LMT

Garmin nuvi 2595LMT

This unit, new for 2012, includes a 5-inch color screen, customizable "dashboards", lifetime North American street maps, lifetime traffic, high-sensitivity receiver, spoken street names, voice-operated navigation, exit services, Bluetooth(R) wireless, microSD card socket, lane-assist, auto-sorting of multiple destinations, emergency location, pedestrian navigation, and an audiobook player.

Smartphone and Tablet GPS- NOT!

Smartphones and tablet computers are useful and fun gadgets. But are they a good way to navigate in wilderness when your life depends on finding your way? No.

Want the Latest and Greatest?

Handheld GPS hardware is very reliable- the same mass-produced chipsets are used in most civilian receivers. But the firmware that drives the user interface is often buggy in the first release of a new GPS receiver. So it pays to wait a month or two before buying the latest thing, especially for serious backcountry use. While it's true that the GPS manufacturers release firmware updates to fix any problems, do you really want to be a beta tester in the wilderness? When you do buy a new GPS receiver, immediately check the manufacturer's website for firmware updates.

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