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  #1  
Old 16 Jun 2009
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to GPS or not to GPS?

I had to think for a moment if this belongs under technical or non-technical

Here's my thought: We all, well, I do anyway, love to think that traveling with a GPS is 'essential'.

To answer this question correctly one must first define traveling. Traveling through the sahara, or Amsterdam, or India?

Well, not the Sahara, just from Oz to Amsterdam. For a long time I was 'convinced' I should really take one. Now:

MelbourneToLondon.com didn't bring one
The Ringdahl Family (Sweden to SE Asia) brought one but it's never been out the box, they just use a compass
LOS ZAPP (Argentina to Alaska and now Oz to India) definitely don't have one

AND I now have this lovely little app on my iphone called GPS MotionX, which takes a little longer to acquire sat positioning, as it's not 12 channel, but still does the job of giving you your coordinates, stores 300 waypoints and 100 tracks, it even has a compass!

Of course you can't download maps onto it (allthough you can cache openstreetmap tiles), but most of the countries we're traveling through don't exist for, say, a garmin gps anyway, although I don't know if the 'world map' that comes with a garmin would be any use whatsoever, considering we carry 1:1200.000 paper maps of all countries anyway.

So, is bringing, say a Garmin 60csx REALLY going to make the trip, um, shall we say 'better'?

Any thoughts appreciated!

Kai
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  #2  
Old 16 Jun 2009
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A very personal choice. This is my angle.

I like to keep a record for reliving journeys via Google Earth so I nearly always have some GPS switched on, though I don't necessarily refer to it.

I'd suggest that if you're sticking to roads and main routes then use a paper map. More rewarding IMHO and makes you pay attention to where you are. Especially if you have the time.

If you're in a hurry / going through urban areas then I'd take a routing GPS / satnav so one doesn't get stuck in one-way systems etc.

If you're going offroad then I think a simple GPS is a good idea if you plan to use waypoints. Depends on your map-reading/navigation skills.

I nearly always ride with a GPS Nokia logging my route. If I need OS maps I have them, and if I need satnav routing I can switch that on too. Otherwise I simply have a fully charged 'phone

I'm planning on touring The Balkans this summer and will primarily use paper maps. I will have the satnav powered on for my location, and I'll only use the routing to home in on addresses in cities. When I get home I will have a nice record of exactly where I went. But then I have the time to get lost...

Food for thought.
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  #3  
Old 17 Jun 2009
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A GPS is certainly not essential, but they are very handy, especially if you have good maps for them. i find that I can pay much more attention to other things, like the road and scenery, if I am not constarnly worried about where I am and looking for road signs (where they exist).

even if you don't have any (or decent) maps, a gps is good to have as a handle-bar mounted compass, which is very handy for dead reckoning (today I'm heading west...).

definitely plan on paper maps as well, but I enjoy travelling much more with a gps.
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Old 17 Jun 2009
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I love my GPS for the reason that I can set waypoints for important places that I've visited and want to return to maybe a few months later.

If you have good maps, most GPS's will tell you where hotels, hostels, petrol stations are etc too. Thats really handy after 10 hours riding in the dark and rain.

They are REALLY handy in big built up cities (like buenos Aires etc) where the road network is bit mad.

If you know other people with GPS's. They can just give you co-ordiates of cool places, altrenative routes, wild camp sites, danger areas etc etc etc.

In a rush ?? havnt got time to plan a route or dig out maps !! Just type in the address or town and BAM, you're there.

Obviously, you'd be mad to go into the wilderness without paper maps and a good compass and they can make you very lazy and dependant but that's upto the user.

I have absolutely NO SHAME in using my GPS a lot. It's a tool and makes travelling more enjoyable for me.

Did the early navigators / explorers shun off the first guy who used a sextant or a compass ???? (think not)

I really do think that the people who don't like GPS are generally people who dont know how to use them properly or to their full potential.

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  #5  
Old 17 Jun 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tedmagnum View Post
Did the early navigators / explorers shun off the first guy who used a sextant or a compass ???? (think not)
Heh, I disagree, I can practically hear them saying "Sextants are for sissies!"
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  #6  
Old 17 Jun 2009
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I struggled with this as well. Not in a hurry, one more thing to worry about, cost, maps etc, prefer map and compass, but.....

Quote:
If you know other people with GPS's. They can just give you co-ordiates of cool places, altrenative routes, wild camp sites, danger areas etc etc etc.
This was the big one for me.

While bicycle touring we always met others on the side of the road and we would pull out our maps and speak of road conditions and great places to stay. But no matter how good your memory was.... it was hard describe in detail or how to get to some of the great places you where in a few countries back. Or your notes just don't line up where the other biker was telling you about...

Traveling overland in/on a motorized vehicle it seams that everyone is carrying a GPS now days. It's so easy to share accurate detailed information with others of places not to miss with a GPS. For big trips. this is the main reason I don't leave home with out it.

Good Luck
EW
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  #7  
Old 18 Jun 2009
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Phone gps or proper gps then?

I think the argument for being able to share locations with others is a very good one. This could be achieved with an iphone.

Tracking your route and being able to view post trip in google earth - valid point again, also possible on iPhone.

The argument of being able to navigate large cities with ease certainly applies to those cities you can get good maps for, ie garmins Europe map. This, the iPhone could not compete with.

Thanks all, great feedback!

Last edited by brethouwer; 18 Jun 2009 at 08:06.
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  #8  
Old 18 Jun 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brethouwer View Post
I think the argument for being able to share locations with others is a very good one. This could be achieved with an iphone.
as long as you can mount it on your handlebars in some kind of weather-resistant casing, I guess an iPhone would work, otherwise it would be borderline useless if you had to pull over every few minutes to whip out iPhone and figure out where you had to go.
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Old 18 Jun 2009
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Most cellphone GPS units have a much poorer battery life, and are nowhere near as rugged either. Moisture collecting inside the plastic cover when it rains won't do the phone any good. I don't know about the i phone, but most nokias have much poorer satellite acquisition and accuracy as well.

Even if you don't have a map, the GPS will guide you back to your hotel/campground etc with minimum fuss, plus give some sort of positional awareness too.

And it's not like it's occupying a huge amount of space if you choose not to use it.

TIP: Mount it as high as you can in front of you, makes usage a lot easier, and the road still stays within your peripheral vision even while you are looking at the GPS and vice versa, rather than a mount that is low down near the switch cluster. Unlike the instrument which you can take in at just a glance, you will tend to look at the GPS for a greater length of time.
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  #10  
Old 18 Jun 2009
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Traveling through large cities with a GPS as your only direction finder is fine most of the time but not always. As I discovered, a GPS will take you to your destination via the shortest route. We were traveling on a freeway and the GPS turned us off it, through a business area, and then hooked us back onto the same freeway. There was no problem with the freeway and no problem with the alternate business route but ???

Bill
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  #11  
Old 18 Jun 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buyarbi View Post
We were traveling on a freeway and the GPS turned us off it, through a business area, and then hooked us back onto the same freeway.
This happens to me all the time, it is just taking you on the physically shortest route...now before following the GPS off a highway I look to see if the next turn is back on to the highway, and as you suggest, try to have some context by looking at a papermap before I set out.
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  #12  
Old 18 Jun 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by motoreiter View Post
as long as you can mount it on your handlebars in some kind of weather-resistant casing, I guess an iPhone would work, otherwise it would be borderline useless if you had to pull over every few minutes to whip out iPhone and figure out where you had to go.
Traveling by van, so in my case not an issue, but, yes you can get a waterproof case for the iphone...
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  #13  
Old 18 Jun 2009
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Yes, satellite acquisition on iphone is most likely going to be not as good, as it won't be 12 channels like most dedicated gps's.

The precision seems alright, when you can get good signal...

I think I'll be investing in a Garmin 60Csx
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  #14  
Old 18 Jun 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by motoreiter View Post
This happens to me all the time, it is just taking you on the physically shortest route...now before following the GPS off a highway I look to see if the next turn is back on to the highway, and as you suggest, try to have some context by looking at a papermap before I set out.
Yeah, i've been hit by this one too..

I had mine to "fastest" route which it thought would be the outer suburbs and smaller gridlocked roads of Buenos Aires in rush hour !!

All I had to do was to tell it to go only major highways and it would of taken me straight in using the freeway...
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  #15  
Old 18 Jun 2009
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gps the fastest route - warning!

Once, traveling with my auntie in holland, who did and could not read paper maps, hence didn't have a paper map, and relied solely on her tom-tom, we decided to take my daughter to visit a castle.

We arrived 50 meters from the castle, with the tom-tom announcing that we had reached our destination, however we were in a carpark next to a (big) river, we could see the castle, but it was on the other side of the river, with no bridge in site for miles!
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