Choosing a GPS – A Quick Guide from NHBS

GPS handsets have become standard field items for much routine survey work. It is quick and easy to record sighting locations and download the information when back from the field for sample identification or analysis with GIS software. Geotagging (adding location metadata to a file or item) has also become increasingly common for digital photographs and video clips – these data can then be overlaid on geographical web services such as Google Earth.

Choosing a GPS can be bewildering due to the range of models and features on offer. This handy NHBS Quick Guide highlights the key features of the GPS models we stock.  Please feel free to contact us by email or phone if you would like further assistance in choosing the right GPS for your needs.

Garmin eTrex Venture HC

Garmin eTrex Venture HC
Affordable mapping GPS with built in memory, 500 waypoints and 14 hour battery life.

Garmin eTrex Summit HC

Garmin eTrex Summit HC
Mapping GPS with built in memory, compass, barometric altimeter, 500 waypoints and 14 hour battery life.

Garmin eTrex Vista HCx

Garmin eTrex Vista HCx
Mapping GPS with expandable SD card memory (not included – you will need to buy a separate SD memory card for this device), compass, barometric altimeter, 1000 waypoints and 25 hour battery life.

Garmin Map60Cx

Garmin Map60Cx
Larger screen mapping GPS with expandable SD card memory (included), 1000 waypoints and 18 hour battery life.

Garmin Map60CSx

Garmin Map60CSx
Larger screen mapping GPS with expandable SD card memory (included), compass, barometric altimeter, 1000 waypoints and 18 hour battery life.

Garmin Colorado 300

Garmin Colorado 300
Large high resolution mapping GPS with built in memory and expandable SD card memory (not included), compass, barometric altimeter, 1000 waypoints and 15 hours battery life.

Frequently Asked Questions about GPS

These are all mapping GPS – what does that mean?

All mapping GPS models come with the Atlantic Highway basemap. This includes Europe, extreme western Russia, Africa, and the Middle East, and covers an area from N75 to S60 Latitude, W30 to E60 Longitude. Also included is a high-level worldwide map with political boundaries and major cities.

The standard global map coverage is:

  • Oceans, rivers and lakes (greater than 30 square miles)
  • Principal cities and a small amount of smaller cities and towns
  • Major motorways and/or interstates and principal highways
  • Political boundaries (state and international borders)
  • Large and medium airports
  • Urban areas greater than 200K

In Iceland, Great Britain, Baltic States, Denmark, Germany, Benelux, France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Southern Africa (up to S20 Latitude) the basemap also includes:

  • Small lakes, major streams and rivers
  • Urban areas
  • Railroads
  • Regional arterial roadways
  • Exits for major motorways and/or interstates (Europe Only)
  • Small cities and towns

Many users purchase additional mapping software to download onto their GPS handset. In the UK the Topo Map of Great Britain extends the basic base map on your GPS handset with topographical data from Ordnance Survey.

What accessories should I get?

Our most popular accessories are carry cases to protect your GPS from the elements e.g. the eTrex Carry case & Map60 Carry Case. You may also find a neck strap useful to stop your GPS wandering off.

Waypoints – what should I consider when choosing a GPS model?

If you are using your GPS for survey data then you need to make sure that you have enough waypoints to suit your project. For example, the eTrex Venture HC has 500 waypoints, whereas the Map60Cx has 1,000.

What books can help me get the best out of GPS?

The best guides for beginners are:
Getting Started with your GPS
Using Digital Maps and GPS in Fieldwork
Navigating with GPS
For more advanced users:
GPS for Land Surveyors
Fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems

What’s WAAS and how does it differ from older GPS accuracy?

All the new Garmin models are WAAS enabled. WAAS stands for Wide Area Augmentation System – it’s a US system of satellites and ground stations that provide GPS signal corrections, giving you even better position accuracy. How much better? A WAAS-capable receiver can give you a position accuracy of better than three meters 95 percent of the time.

The WAAS system is for North America, in Europe the recently launched Euro Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) does the same job and your WAAS enabled GPS handset is fully compatible with EGNOS meaning you will get accuracy of <3m in Europe.

In parts of the world without an enhanced GPS service resolution is typically 5-15m.

Do I need a cable to connect one of these GPS to my computer?

No – all of these models include a USB cable to connect your GPS to you computer.

I have an older model without a cable – what do I need to connect to my PC?

If you have an older GPS handset without a USB cable then you will need two additional cables to connect to USB: first the Garmin eTrex PC Interface Cable to connect to a 9-pin serial port. If you have a newer PC without the 9-pin serial port then you will also need a Garmin eTrex Serial to USB converter cable. Given that the cost of these cables is quite high most customers end up replacing their GPS handset.

Browse our full range of GPS handsets
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Author: Nigel

Nigel is NHBS' Managing Director - his background is in ecology and conservation.

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