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  #1  
Old 4 Oct 2008
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Gps

Thick , naive or stupid. I don't have a GPS and not sure what they actually do and how you use them but everybody else seems to theink they are a 'good thing' .
We will be going to Mauri and Mali in Nov with own Landcruiser - come on convince me a I need one. No facetious answers please this is a serious question.
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  #2  
Old 4 Oct 2008
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I'm in your position too, mind you my travel has to date been in densely-populated regions with access to high-quality maps of the folding variety! But the areas you're planning are what gps was designed for so yes, get one - but i haven't a clue as to the technicalities/models etc, sorry! I'll be watching this thread with interest... it's gadgettastic!
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Old 4 Oct 2008
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They are only useful if you can get a map loaded for the area you are traveling in. I have no idea about the country that you mentioned. However here in North America they are wonderful to take you right where you want to go. If you have ever looked for a place in a large city at night and had trouble reading the street signs and finding your way that is what a GPS unit shines at. No more need to see where you are as the unit know where it is and can tell you the way to your destination. I wish I had had one years before.
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Old 4 Oct 2008
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Out there on the highway obviously they're less useful than a good map and even off-road in these places, 99% of travellers follow clearly-defined tracks marked on maps and even a route description; GPS is just a positioning aid.
We all managed fine in the pre-GPS era (the odometre was very important) but these days - AQ-M etc notwithstanding - we are able to be more adventurous off piste with the back up of GPS alongside maps.

In remote areas of UnTomTomed/UnOlaffed countries like Mauri and Mali you need to relate your position to a precise point on a map or GPS'ed route description and then act accordingly. In this way GPS helps eliminate the element of doubt and is these days also used as a very effective 'address' for a hard-to-find place like a consulate, campsite or rock art site. They can save time.
IMO a good paper map and a bit of nous is always far more useful. There are excellent paper or CD maps of Mauri and Mali too, right down to 200k scale.

Ch
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Old 4 Oct 2008
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I got chucked out of a party at 4am once in Khartoum, and since I'd marked my hotel that evening I could find it - we were a sad collection of drunks staggering down the dirt roads in town in the dark, but we got the 2km home and we'd have been really hopelessly stuffed otherwise! I Love GPS!

in Tashkent I used to get into random cars, tell the drivers where to go with my awful Russian - Leva, Prima Prava (left, straight & right) and gradually circle in on restaurants, hotels etc.

I always wonder what the people I used as taxis made of me - "you know dear,a strange westerner waved me down, got in my Volga, put a mini TV on the dashboard and then told me to drive round in circles until we got to a restaurant, then he gave me a dollar, picked up his TV and got out - they are very strange people these westerners..."

Don't bother with a road directions version, get a 'hiking' version - far more useful when you are out of europe, and get one which takes SD cards for putting maps on - then google for Garmin Maps (insert country name here..!)


Tony
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Old 5 Oct 2008
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Personally I hate the things; there was one in my clients car the other day when I was in the UK, driving on the 'wrong' side of the road & then having a machine flash messages at me every damn second was enough to cause an accident.

Talking of which I've seen 2 GPS-caused accidents in France & I had a very near miss with someone who was watching the GPS having turned accidentally onto a slip road & then re-joined the main road because his GPS was telling him to!

As for Africa, I still wouldn't bother, possibly if I was crossing the Sahara from Algeria to Libya off-piste for instance but for places like Mauritania - no, I don't think it's strictly necessary. I've met a lot of people in Mauri who've gone & had a lot of fun WITHOUT a GPS!

Horses for courses, personally if you've never had one, why get one now??? - a compass always does the trick!

Kira
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Old 5 Oct 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thestens View Post
Thick , naive or stupid. I don't have a GPS and not sure what they actually do and how you use them but everybody else seems to theink they are a 'good thing' .
We will be going to Mauri and Mali in Nov with own Landcruiser - come on convince me a I need one. No facetious answers please this is a serious question.
thestens:
A gps is a tool, it tells your position on the globe (GPS= Global Positioning System). It can display your position in numbers (called a waypoint) or the more advanced ones, can pinpoint your position on a digital map.

Nowadays, most people mix the terms gps and navigator as they like, but a (street)navigator is a gadget which makes use of a gps-unit and mapping software to direct you to a location from turn-to-turn on a digital streetmap. In europe it seems almost everybody has them on their dash these days. They can be very handy and can be loaded with tons of goodies along the basic streetfinding and routing options, like POI's (points of interest), fuelstations, speedingcamera's and scenic routes options.

Going to Africa (or into other less developed parts of the globe) these Tomtoms (and all the others) are of no use, because there are no (or hardly any) streetmaps available.
So here the 'real' GPS-units and waypoints comes in. You have to enter the position, waypoint, of the location you want to reach and the unit points you in the right direction. You can get these waypoints from others (like Chris Scotts books or the internet) in the form of routes, or substract them from papermaps. Putting them into the unit can be done by hand (basic-models) or with the use of a computer.

Just like with everything else concerning travelling you can go as far as you want (can afford) from basicmodels with a monochrome screen to big screen fullcolour models with mapping, in which you can put your own digital maps (scanned yourself or bought on CD), these types can show your routes on this maps in realtime.
Another angle can be a laptop (or a palmtop) mounted on your dashboard loaded with navigator software and al the maps you can find and connected to a gps-unit or gps-mouse(sort antenna) on your roofrack.

Do you need them? If you stick to tarmac, no.
When you want to explore more of the country on your own (without a guide), they can be extremly helpfull.
For instance, if you are planning to go from Atar to Tidjikja with no good maps and have no experience (yet), bringing along at least a basic unit and some waypoints should be part of your preparation. The piste is just not as clear and well travelled as you would expect from a small red line on a papermap.
Do you really need a fullscreen flashy mapping gadget ? no.
But a small basic unit can give you alot of comfort (in your mind) knowing where you are and where you are going, while you deal with the stress of not seeing any road, piste, track or passage and trying hard not to get bodged.

have a beautifull trip
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Old 5 Oct 2008
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So which gadget?

Follow up question, which Garmin or other manufacturer's unit do we travellers use these days. 4 years ago I bought a Garmin 60 CS. What are you guys using these days to go from Atar to Tidjikdja? Hope the initial poster doesn't mind discussing this?. Rgds Manfred
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  #9  
Old 5 Oct 2008
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I use a Garmin GPS126 ( bought second hand on ebay for £100) on the dash board.

It isn't very sophisticated and doesn't take maps but the lap top will do that. What it does do is give me a big display that tells me where I am, speed, eta, altitude distance to waypoint, distance traveled and being a nautical model deviation from course and a bearing to get back on track as well as a bearing to you destination which is very useful when the track disapears. It plots my track and allows you to retrace if needs be. It may have been superseded now but it does all I want - the receiver picks up fine through the windscreen and feeds through to the laptop for all the clever stuff via fugawi/touratech QV etc.etc.
Chris Scott sumed it up for you - a basic gps to tell you where you are, paper maps as big as you can get and all the rest is great fun to play with but not essential - except a compass with the knowledge to use it.

Don't be scared of the technology - they are really easy to use, work in all languages, miles or kilometers and map systems as well as basic latitude and longitude. They also tell you sunrise and sunset
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Last edited by silver G; 5 Oct 2008 at 19:23.
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Old 5 Oct 2008
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Originally Posted by thestens View Post
Thick , naive or stupid. I don't have a GPS and not sure what they actually do and how you use them but everybody else seems to theink they are a 'good thing' .
We will be going to Mauri and Mali in Nov with own Landcruiser - come on convince me a I need one. No facetious answers please this is a serious question.
Imagine being in a sailing boat in the Southern Ocean, 3000 miles from the nearest land and wanting to know which way to go. The GPS will tell you where you are and which way you need to go to reach your objective, and many other things depending on the model.
I have a Garmin Etrex that I use as a "receiver" this recognises anything up to 12 satellites at a time and works out where I am on the globe. The clever bit is that I connect the GPS to my laptop, this has Geo-referenced maps of the country that I'm in, and the GPS locates my position and shows it on the map. For all intents and purposes the map is just a "picture" of where I am, be it land or sea, and my position within the picture. As I move along the GPS will "track" my movement and I can determine whether or not I'm travelling in the right direction. Yes I also have road maps of Europe, and I do use the GPS with them too, and in the UK. In fact only yesterday I had to go to and address in Taunton, I looked it up at home and pin-pointed it on Microsoft Autoroute, and put the laptop in the car. Arrived in Taunton, had a coffee, plugged in the GPS and switched on the laptop. Two minutes later I could see where I was and where I needed to go. I didn't have to find the road that I was on, on a road map, the GPS did that for me, all I had to do was follow the "green line", created earlier, and in five minutes I had arrived at my destination.
Navigating is a skill, creating waypoints, plotting, dead reckoning and watching the stars, as well as working out your position by taking bearings, however, many people don't have those skills and don't want to learn them. The GPS removes the guess work.
Just bear in mind, all electronics can fail!
My two penny's worth,
Kevin
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Old 5 Oct 2008
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No facetious answers please this is a serious question.
Sorry, too silly to resist :-)

Thick , naive or stupid. I have a GPS and am sure what they actually do and how you use them but some people seem to think they are a 'bad thing'.

We will be going to Egypt in Dec with own Landcruiser - come on convince me a I don't need one. No facetious answers please this is a serious question.




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Old 5 Oct 2008
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Originally Posted by kevinrbeech View Post
Navigating is a skill, creating waypoints, plotting, dead reckoning and watching the stars, as well as working out your position by taking bearings, however, many people don't have those skills and don't want to learn them. The GPS removes the guess work.
Kevin,

That was true up to the 90s in the last century. In the 21st century, navigating is also a skill, only it requires different instruments. Many people don't have the skill of using modern navigation tools and don't want to learn them. It doesn't make a paper map or a sextant more useful than it actually is, just as it doesn't make a virtue out of the reluctance to learn new skills.

Quote:
Just bear in mind, all electronics can fail!
Correction, all things can fail. The fact that something can't be fixed with a hammer doesn't make it fail more often. Cheap electronics fail more often than high quality electronics. Cheap electronics, on the other hand, can be had by the dozen, hence failure rate is not the essential parameter.
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Old 6 Oct 2008
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Quote:
Just bear in mind, all electronics can fail!
And they need power, too ,always a tenuous thing to rely on - but this pro'ing and con'ing will fall down against the desire of a bloke (or lady...) to have a new thing which bleeps or flashes
. I rest my case!
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Old 6 Oct 2008
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Originally Posted by Roman View Post
Kevin,

That was true up to the 90s in the last century. In the 21st century, navigating is also a skill, only it requires different instruments. Many people don't have the skill of using modern navigation tools and don't want to learn them. It doesn't make a paper map or a sextant more useful than it actually is, just as it doesn't make a virtue out of the reluctance to learn new skills.

Correction, all things can fail. The fact that something can't be fixed with a hammer doesn't make it fail more often. Cheap electronics fail more often than high quality electronics. Cheap electronics, on the other hand, can be had by the dozen, hence failure rate is not the essential parameter.
Roman,
I wasn't looking for an argument with a superior human being/traveller, I was merely trying to put across, in layman's terms, what a GPS does. I have never tested my navigational skills in a difficult situation, and I do use, and indeed swear by, my GPS when in Tunisia, however I can read a map.
I do not know how I can ever apologise for daring to comment on something that obviously is out of my league, but please accept my best attempt.
If you read your post I'm sure you'll be of the same opinion as me - it was completely un-necessary.
Kevin
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Old 6 Oct 2008
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Kevin,

This is not an argument, unless you want to see it that way. I just find it amazing that almost 15 years after a complete constellation of 24 satellites was put in orbit, the global positioning system is still discussed in terms of a novelty that needs to be explained in simple terms, even to people who most benefit from it, and seen as "a new thing which bleeps or flashes".

"Vivere non est necesse, navigare necesse est". Remember?
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