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Old 15 May 2005
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Join Date: May 2005
Location: belgium
Posts: 54
GPS in Africa, tips are welcome

Hello, next year my friend and want to do the trip from Belgium to Capetown. Right now I'm busy searching information for a GPS.
We search a shock and waterproof GPS who leads us trough the beautiful continent of Africa.
We don't search the newest model with toughscreen an built-in toaster , it doesn't have to be a beauty, just a decent GPS that has enough memory.
We plan to buy a second hand GPS, so when he is a few years old, it's no problem.

My question; does anyone has experience (I'm sure) with GPS in Africa and if yes.
Wich brand and type is good for this kind of trip.
Other tips concerning a GPS are welcome.
1000 x thanks!!
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Old 16 May 2005
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Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Posts: 86
Hello Jelle – are you using motorcycles or a 4x4?
I have a Garmin GPSmap 60CS. The reason why I chose this model is that it has a large colour screen and auto-routing capability. It cost less than the Garmin StreetPilot, is more durable and you can carry it in you pocket if you like.
The unit is waterproof, all the buttons are on the face (not on the sides) and it is shock resistant (all of which is good for motorcycle use). It is also made of thick plastic and has a tough antenna that has good reception.

You can buy the “Bicycle Mount Kit” to easily mount it on the bike’s handlebar. My bike’s handlebar was a little too thick so I had to file down the bracket slightly to get a good fit. The bracket looks weak but my GPS has been on my bike for 5months now and has not come off yet (and it is small and unobtrusive) and that’s after very bad roads with corrugation and potholes. The only problem with it is that the GPS cannot be secured against theft. Perhaps the larger (ugly & expensive) brackets from Touratech would be better suited for protection against probing hands.

As for software: visit www.garmap.co.za for very excellent maps on South Africa and basic maps for the rest of Africa (don’t buy the US produced Garmin map for Africa. It’s not very accurate at all)

One drawback on the GPSmap 60CS is that it only has 32MB onboard memory and has no expansion card slot. This is a drawback because you wont be able to fit all of Africa and Europe on the device, just the areas surrounding your route from Belgium to Cape Town. (You could always take the CD-ROM along and use someone’s computer to delete the used maps and install fresh maps when you change your route)

One last thing: I would never buy electronic equipment second-hand, especially something that I intend to rely upon. GPSs are not so expensive, buy new if you can.

Suzuki TL1000S
Suzuki GSX750R
Honda MBX50
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Old 16 May 2005
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Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Posts: 86
Another thing that I forgot to mention:
Apparently (and I don’t know if its true) the US government is not concerned about keeping the satellite feed for Africa very accurate. Bad weather and magnetic storms in the upper atmosphere cause GPS readings to be hopelessly incorrect. The US military make no effort to manually adjust the signals for the whole of Africa unless they have soldiers in certain parts that need accuracy.
GPS guidance is nice but cannot substitute a good Michelin map and info from other travellers.

I leave you with these words of wisdom from the movie ‘An American Werewolf in London’: “Stick to the roads, lads. Stay of the moors! And beware the full moon…”
Suzuki TL1000S
Suzuki GSX750R
Honda MBX50
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Old 17 May 2005
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Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: London
Posts: 543
Although I have a Garmin E-trek vista on my bike, I must admit that I use it significantly more for its tripmeter capabilities than for GPS points or mapping software. On good roads with a good map, you don't really need one.

The standard Garmin handlebar bracket mount is perfect, although if you wire a connection to your battery, just make sure you cover the cable that plugs into the back of the GPS, as mine often take several hours to dry out after it has been in the rain (the plug connection that is, not the GPS)

Unlike Lucky Striker, I found the Garmin world map software (the US version) is quite good. Occassionally there might be a slight deviation on minor roads, or you find tracks will not be found at all, but for major routes I have found it very accurate.

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Old 9 Aug 2005
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Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Halden, Norway
Posts: 15
I would just like to add a couple of things regarding the Garmin GPSmap 60-series:
Like many other devices running on batteries, the terminals (contact points) have a tendency of breaking if you're mounting the gps onto the bike using the undamped bicycle mount, esp. on a single-cylinger bike caused by vibration from the engine. You can solve this in more than one way: use a bike with more cylinders :-), run the gps from the on-board 12v system, get a proper mount (touratech/ram) or fill battery compartment with glue/foam to prevent batteries "buzzing" between the terminals.
more on the subject here:
(touratech has some nice gps-mounts, even lockable)
I'm a happy owner of the GPSmap 60CS myself, and my device reports 56MB of usable memory. Note that you need maps from Garmin bought separate. Only a basemap is included from factory.
You will probably find the 60C "good enough" only lacking the letter S (sensors): the electronic compass (only works under a set speed, like at stand still and IMO not needed) and the barometric sensor is absent. With a stable satellite lock in "3 dimensions," the gps will calculate your height anyway, within 5-6 meters margin.
The GPSmap60 is even cheaper with no color screen.
Back to the maps: you will have problems finding Garmin maps for your journey so you might just sit down in front of your computer and pinpoint positions/all your interests up front and send them to the gps as waypoints. You won't get any automatic routing this way, but since the required maps for this sort of gps travelling is non-existent anyway, it's really the best you can do. If someone knows of working Garmin maps with routing capabilities outside central Europe/North America, send me a note!

But remember: the battery terminals WILL break and Garmin won't replace your gps. Run it on (stable) 12V or fix the battery store!
And don't leave your old Michelin maps at home! Good'ol paper maps rules!

Good luck.

[This message has been edited by JoHS (edited 09 August 2005).]
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