If you enjoy hiking and the great outdoors, one of the most valuable tools you can own is a hand-held GPS receiver. GPS technology provides an amazingly precise level of navigation assistance almost anywhere on the planet and may serve as an important lifeline in a time of crisis. A good hiking GPS tracker will include a number of valuable tools any outdoor enthusiast can rely on.
Maps and Charts
Any hand-held GPS device will come preloaded with topographical maps, and many include an altimeter that measures air pressure and a digital compass to help correlate your exact position in rough terrain. Coupled with a paper map with coordinate information, this can significantly reduce your chances of getting lost in the wilderness. Simply enter the coordinates of your chosen destination into the GPS receiver, and the device will present you with a direct route to get there.
Another valuable feature of hand-held GPS units is the ability to set waypoints, marking your current location without having to worry about calculating coordinates. If you are following a trail and notice something worth investigating off the path, you can quickly set a marker at your current location, allowing you to return at your leisure. Drop a waypoint at your campsite, and you can explore the surrounding wilderness during the day without fear of losing the way back to your supplies. A good hand-held GPS unit can manage multiple sets of waypoints, allowing you to plot out activities over multiple days or document interesting natural features to share with others.
Durability and Reliability
Durability and reliability are important features in any hiking GPS. An automotive GPS unit will spend most of its days securely mounted to the dashboard, while an outdoor GPS device will encounter a number of different hazards. Look for a unit with a rugged, waterproof case to minimize the chances of losing your navigational tool at an inopportune moment. You should also consider battery life, testing your GPS to see just how long a set of cells will last you. Carrying extra batteries may add some weight to your pack, but it can be well worth it for the additional safety a GPS navigator provides.
A GPS unit can also serve as a method of communication and information gathering in the field. Some hand-held GPS units include a weather radio to provide regular updates of conditions in your area. You may also consider a GPS with a built-in two-way radio, as these devices can allow communication over miles of rough terrain. Having the ability to see weather problems coming and call for help if needed could be a lifesaver in the right situation.
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