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Do you like your Garmin GPS?

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  • Do you like your Garmin GPS?

    In anticipation of summer I am now starting to think about getting a Garmin GPS for back country riding. I'm not planning on going that far out but I am planning on places that aren't signposted and don't have detailed official maps.

    I was looking at the Garmin 64x and the InTouch today. The inTouch has texting and emergency capability. Does anyone know if there are any other substantial performance differences?

    How good are the installed maps? How possible is it to download other data or maps? How easy are they to use with one hand?
  • Original Poster

    #2
    Bumping in case anyone has thoughts

    Comment


    • #3
      I have the garmin 64, it gets used for trail riding and walking cones courses for optimal routes. I don't need it that much and it doesn't have any trail maps loaded, just the maps that come standard with it. But it is great in a place like Southern Pines with unmarked trails especially when you are unfamiliar with the system (my friend and I go up 1-2x a year). We just set a couple waypoints - the barn, an intersection between 2 main trails etc. and that allows us to do our annual "Get Lost" trail ride, where we just take any turn we like, follow any jump line and so on. And when it is time to go back, we just work the trails back to a known waypoint. I've never used it to follow an existing path on the loaded maps though... (it should have a function that allows you to retrace your path, I used it on the trexx once or twice, but haven't bothered on the 64, so I am assuming it too has that function)

      I used to have the garmin trexx. That one was mostly not useful, didn't get great reception in deep cover and the screen was so small it was mostly unusable, it also had drastically different readings than a friend's higher end garmin (probably a precursor to the 64) so I assume it didn't ping the satellite as often and missed things like rolling back on a trail while changing elevations . The 64 is much easier to use and I've never had an issue with it having issues in deep cover. I still need to bring glasses, but the screen and buttons are pretty user friendly, with one caveat - if I don't use it enough, and don't brush up on it before I actually NEED it, I end up not being able to operate it effectively while riding. No problems using it one handed though
      Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.

      Comment


      • #4
        I had the Garmin etrex (a way more basic model than the 64.) I found it awkward to use while riding (it was fine for hiking), though loading maps was easy. I switched to MotionX GPS on my phone. It downloads the map into your phone so does not use satellite for data. I've been able to use it in back country Sierra mountains where there is no phone service. I like only having one device, but admit the battery life is not as good as the Garmin.
        "Do your best, and leave the rest, twill all come right, some day or night" -Black Beauty

        http://trails-and-trials-with-major.blogspot.com/

        Comment


        • #5
          The InReach GPS units require a satcom subscription to use the communication features. Apart from that, they are pretty much identical to the other handheld Garmin GPS units of mid-range or high-end design and do not perform better or worse, software oddities notwithstanding. It is possible to upload/download maps and you can even get them for free, from third-party sources and there is an Internet community of Garmin users who can educate you on what's what and how to do things. It is possible to attach the hand-held Garmin units to a saddle, bridle, or whatever else works for you, but you really need to think about what works best for you when you are riding, by looking at the accessories and figuring it out for yourself.
          Thus do we growl that our big toes have, at this moment, been thrown up from below!

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Thank you all! There's a big price jump between the 64x and the InReach plus the cost of the subscription service monthly. But I'm starting to feel I should go for the InReach as we quickly get out of cellphone range in our back country.

            I want to keep oriented in new terrain plus make maps from tracking myself. Last summer I went horse camping in the range country and three days in a row we got not lost, exactly, but disoriented enough to never quite get to where we thought we were going. There is no comprehensive map of the area and a lot of cattle trails. And enough elevation gain that you can end up on something steep enough to regret it.

            I used to hike everywhere with a good hiking guide and stayed oriented but somehow I feel that because you have more range with horses, you can get further away and into more trouble.

            I figured I would get the carabiner clip attachment and have the GPS either attached to my body or the pommel of the saddle. I find my cell phone useless outdoors. I can't read the screen in sunlight plus you need to take off your gloves and toggle through all kinds of touch screens to make anything work. Plus it needs two hands and is fragile and slippery. And paper maps are not that easy to handle in the saddle either.

            Anyhow I just figured out an access point into a completely undeveloped Provincial Park that is riddled with logging roads and bike trails. I really want to start exploring and mapping, and figure it would be prudent to have GPS from the start.

            I did acquire a Garmin map of another local trail system from an endurance rider acquaintance and it was really useful. Again another complex trail system that's got no official maps and you just learn as you go. That one is just behind suburbia but again had enough elevation gain and gnarly bits and redundancies that you could get disoriented without a map. I did ride it first with no map and while we were fine in the end we pushed the horses more than we'd planned and ended up backtracking a bit.

            Comment


            • #7
              I have a Garmin InReach, but really have not used it. You can freeze the subscription service for periods of time when you are not using it. Garmin does offer training on the usage of the device with webinars and a collection of YouTube videos.

              As far as carrying it when riding, always keep it or any navigation device on yourself. I use a fishing vest, as it was relatively inexpensive, made of mesh and lightweight material, and has many easy access pockets that either Velcro or zipper. It is also great because I carry Epi Pens, and they fit well into the fishing vest.
              "You can't fix stupid"- Ron White

              Comment


              • #8
                We used the 64s in our search and rescue unit. Worked very well. For long rides, it is always a good idea to have GPS function separate from your phone due to GPS apps using up your phone's battery life very quickly. We taught our members to make their own maps using a compass and a blank sheet of paper. You can make it as detailed as you want. A little cumbersome at first, but you will be surprised how well you can do and it will keep you oriented.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by Southernboy View Post
                  We used the 64s in our search and rescue unit. Worked very well. For long rides, it is always a good idea to have GPS function separate from your phone due to GPS apps using up your phone's battery life very quickly. We taught our members to make their own maps using a compass and a blank sheet of paper. You can make it as detailed as you want. A little cumbersome at first, but you will be surprised how well you can do and it will keep you oriented.
                  How did you make the maps? Did you make them in advance and if so what did you base them on? Or did you take a pencil on your trip and draw the map as you traveled? If so how did you manage that on horseback? It does sound like a great training exercise.

                  I'm pretty good with a road map driving and touristing and while I was mulling over all this I realized that I *like* being oriented to where I am, and I get rather irritated with companions who lead us off on poor directions.

                  If I could ride off good paper maps I wouldn't care about GPS but maps just don't really exist for the back country.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Compass, clip board with string, paper, and pen. Hang the clipboard from your saddle when you are not using it. Top of your paper is North. Orient your drawn lines using your compass to determine direction traveled. Draw it as you go. Just about anything unique to a location can be a landmark on your map. The logging roads and bike trails not taken make good landmarks. You can either guess at the distance separating your landmarks or you can write down the time from one to another. It sounds like a lot of work at first, but when you get better, it will take less than 5% of your time and you'll never run out of battery.

                    You are welcome to pm me if you want a more detailed explanation.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I print myself a map off of google my maps where I draw my route over their terrain lines and then I just the declination down at the bottom so I know what to use for converting my azimuths from magnetic grid and grid to magnetic. Then I just take a decent compass and the map with me in a zip lock bag. I do that when I am up in the remote areas around where I live here in NW Montana.

                      If I am in closer to town and I need things like land ownership boundaries I use a Garmin Oregon 650t with an OnX chip in it so I can see lot lines.

                      I have also in the past made myself lot line maps from the Montana Cadastral data. You can download the shape files online and then I strip out all the attributes minus the owner names and convert from state plane coordinates to WGS84 and export it to a kml file and put it into Google maps and then print out the map. It is a lot of tedium but if you have ArcGIS Desktop for work or whatever it is an easy way to make yourself free maps that show ownership and terrain data etc.

                      I have been thinking about getting one of those Garmin's with the InReach capabilities though for longer pack trips when I am out for days or weeks at a time. It would be nice to have just in case even if I never ended up using it. If you buy one, post back a review of how you like it.
                      A cadenced horse is not a sleepy horse. It is a horse on whom one can rest, but who remains powerful. - Nuno Oliveira.

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Originally posted by AndyTheCornbread View Post
                        I print myself a map off of google my maps where I draw my route over their terrain lines and then I just the declination down at the bottom so I know what to use for converting my azimuths from magnetic grid and grid to magnetic. Then I just take a decent compass and the map with me in a zip lock bag. I do that when I am up in the remote areas around where I live here in NW Montana.

                        If I am in closer to town and I need things like land ownership boundaries I use a Garmin Oregon 650t with an OnX chip in it so I can see lot lines.

                        I have also in the past made myself lot line maps from the Montana Cadastral data. You can download the shape files online and then I strip out all the attributes minus the owner names and convert from state plane coordinates to WGS84 and export it to a kml file and put it into Google maps and then print out the map. It is a lot of tedium but if you have ArcGIS Desktop for work or whatever it is an easy way to make yourself free maps that show ownership and terrain data etc.

                        I have been thinking about getting one of those Garmin's with the InReach capabilities though for longer pack trips when I am out for days or weeks at a time. It would be nice to have just in case even if I never ended up using it. If you buy one, post back a review of how you like it.
                        Ah, if I could actually draw my route on a downloaded topographic map, I wouldn't feel the need for a GPS! My problem is that I don't know the route in advance. And I'm in places with a lot of interlocking trails and logging roads, and elevation changes.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Scribbler View Post

                          Ah, if I could actually draw my route on a downloaded topographic map, I wouldn't feel the need for a GPS! My problem is that I don't know the route in advance. And I'm in places with a lot of interlocking trails and logging roads, and elevation changes.
                          Another thing I do when I am mapping routes is I will record the track on the Garmin and then upload it to Google MyMaps that way I have previous ride routes.

                          For your purposes you can switch between base layers on MyMaps so you can look at the aerial view and trace out where you want to go as you can see the various trails and roads etc. from the air and then switch to topo base map and print that. I sometimes print both so I have both views at once if I get really stuck. OnX maps online subscription stuff has this ability as well.

                          I live at the joining area of 3 national forests in NW Montana up in the mountains so I have about 10,000 square miles(7 million-ish acres) to ride in give or take. Maps in one form or another is pretty much a must as getting lost up here would be really, really bad, and there are thousands of trails, roads, gated roads etc. so knowing where you are and which one to take is really important.
                          A cadenced horse is not a sleepy horse. It is a horse on whom one can rest, but who remains powerful. - Nuno Oliveira.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Originally posted by AndyTheCornbread View Post

                            Another thing I do when I am mapping routes is I will record the track on the Garmin and then upload it to Google MyMaps that way I have previous ride routes.

                            For your purposes you can switch between base layers on MyMaps so you can look at the aerial view and trace out where you want to go as you can see the various trails and roads etc. from the air and then switch to topo base map and print that. I sometimes print both so I have both views at once if I get really stuck. OnX maps online subscription stuff has this ability as well.

                            I live at the joining area of 3 national forests in NW Montana up in the mountains so I have about 10,000 square miles(7 million-ish acres) to ride in give or take. Maps in one form or another is pretty much a must as getting lost up here would be really, really bad, and there are thousands of trails, roads, gated roads etc. so knowing where you are and which one to take is really important.
                            Unfortunately we don't have good trail maps of anything beyond the groomed loops in parks. And the conifer forests in the PNW make it impossible to see trails or even logging roads in Google Earth. Google Earth will have some basic official trails or roads mapped but not all. Trail forks has amateur logged trails though it is heavily slanted towards mountain bike trails that are too steep for horses. Mountain bike trails can get too steep to even hike down safely, the bikes just shoot down no brakes.

                            I have found a big area of undeveloped forest and figure I need to do multiple rides in charting with GPS so that I've always got a trail of breadcrumbs back to the trail head.

                            I'm in Canada btw and it seems like national mapping has been privatized and devolved a bit. I would *love* to have something like the British National Ordinance Maps with every landmark noted! But it's also true that in our back country roads can be built and can be washed out year to year, and that the mountain bike community is very active trail building anywhere they are allowed to bushwhack, and in the grasslands the trail riding trails overlap with cattle trails which go different places and serve different functions. So I don't know who could ever make a definitive map.

                            At least with GPS I could keep myself oriented to the major roads or trails that come with the map program and not get completely lost.

                            I am very envious of your 10 thousand miles of playground!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The Garmins let you record a boat load of tracks so if you remember to record when you start and stop recording when you are done so you don't get your drive etc. in the route they work really well for mapping out various routes. The state land behind my place is like what you describe, you can't see the old skid roads because the canopy is grown over them but there is plenty of room to ride or hike on them you just can't see it from the air. This is what it looks like after a summer of mapping various tracks. This is just the 25 square miles immediately behind my house. I named all my routes and I share the map with some friends who ride so they don't have to figure it on their own like I did. FWIW the polygon in the middle is a private ranch that I had to get permission to make trails on. They were all for it though, if I wanted to cut trail to be able to get some places quicker/more easily on horseback they are all for it. The owner took me out to one of them in his rig and helped me cut and flag it. He rides that route a few times a year and really likes that there is a decent marked trail there now.
                              A cadenced horse is not a sleepy horse. It is a horse on whom one can rest, but who remains powerful. - Nuno Oliveira.

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                Originally posted by AndyTheCornbread View Post
                                The Garmins let you record a boat load of tracks so if you remember to record when you start and stop recording when you are done so you don't get your drive etc. in the route they work really well for mapping out various routes. The state land behind my place is like what you describe, you can't see the old skid roads because the canopy is grown over them but there is plenty of room to ride or hike on them you just can't see it from the air. This is what it looks like after a summer of mapping various tracks. This is just the 25 square miles immediately behind my house. I named all my routes and I share the map with some friends who ride so they don't have to figure it on their own like I did. FWIW the polygon in the middle is a private ranch that I had to get permission to make trails on. They were all for it though, if I wanted to cut trail to be able to get some places quicker/more easily on horseback they are all for it. The owner took me out to one of them in his rig and helped me cut and flag it. He rides that route a few times a year and really likes that there is a decent marked trail there now.
                                LOVE it. This is exactly what I want to be able to do!!

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  When you are track mapping like this there are two things you want to remember to do, first turn off auto pause or you will end up taking one break and then if you forget to start recording again you won't get any more of that track. It is a really annoying feature that was turned on by default in my Garmin. The second is make sure you lock the screen / lock entry once you start recording or just bumping the screen or one of the buttons can screw everything up and you won't notice until you get back. I put a shortcut in mine that lets me lock the screen on single click of one of the side buttons. As that button is flush with the side I haven't had any accidental click issues with it while riding or hiking.

                                  When you finish your ride you can plug your Garmin into a USB port on your computer and access it like a USB drive and browse into the gpx folder and grab the current track called Current.gpx and copy it to your computer and then upload it into Google MyMaps. So long as you don't change the projection on your GPS it should be mapping coordinates on the tracks in WGS84 or something equivalent so it will position spatially correct inside MyMaps. Then I just rename the track polyline and move it to my rides layer and delete the imported layer created to import the gpx file. That way you only have one layer with multiple rides on it, instead of a gazillion layers with one ride on each.
                                  A cadenced horse is not a sleepy horse. It is a horse on whom one can rest, but who remains powerful. - Nuno Oliveira.

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Ok! I am planning to buy this soon! I may have some technical questions for you then!!

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Take a look at the Garmin Explore and Garmin Earthmate apps before you buy a stand-alone unit. Learn to use those apps and you might find that you don't need a stand-alone, though both apps will augment use of a stand-alone GPS.
                                      Thus do we growl that our big toes have, at this moment, been thrown up from below!

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Originally posted by LexInVA View Post
                                        Take a look at the Garmin Explore and Garmin Earthmate apps before you buy a stand-alone unit. Learn to use those apps and you might find that you don't need a stand-alone, though both apps will augment use of a stand-alone GPS.
                                        I don't want to use my phone to navigate on the trail. It's too fiddly and needs two hands. Plus I can't read the screen in daylight. And the battery doesn't last that long. And I will be out of cellphone range of those apps require data connection.

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