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Where am I now? Cheapest GPS that "works well enough&qu


Jul 7, 2006
Victoria, British Columbia since 1955
Last year I got lost somewhere on Meares Island (we thought it was Vargas)...pretty silly really, but chart reading and matching to the appearance of those damnedly fractal coastlines is sure deceptive. Anyway, what is the "best" cheap GPS that is...

a.) less than 140 dollars.
b.) waterproof
c.) will give me a latitude/longitude fix...i.e. "where the heck am I now"
d.) reasonable battery life

I don't need fancy mapping capabilities - just getting a position fix...
Magellan Explorist 100. Basic as they come, cost me peanuts on ebay, has worked fine for 2 seasons so far and 2 rechargable AA seem to last me at least 10+hours.
For me, you can't beat the basic Garmin eTrex (the little yellow thingy), I've used this model for the past three or four years.

Last year I bought a Garmin Etrex Legend with mapping and all the gismo's however, I still prefer using my basic Etrex, it's so simple to operate and has all the functions that you need to - 'know just where you are' and get yourself back home again!

You can pick up a brand new eTrex for well under $100.
I've got a Magellan Explorist, too, the 210. I racked up enough VISA points to get it free (!) as my "reward", only to find out the mapware to really use it would co$t about $100 !

They sell the device itself for about $125, but that's with only the basemap loaded into it, and as said, any detailed mapping will cost you the same amount again for the additional software.

Seems like that's the way they all do things these days, hook you in and then you have to buy something else in order to use it. So it goes, the little thing works really well for what it is, I like it after all.
Garmin GPS72 for US$99 (that would be about $10 Canadian) as of this morning at West Marine in Everett. I have used one for two years. No map but it does display nav aids (buoys) and cookie-crumb track. Easy to see. Easy to use. Has a great trip meter with both average speed while moving and average speed overall (factors out time spent with no velocity). Trip meter will also display cumulative mileage so you can see how far you went this morning as well as how far you've gone this season. Water resistant (mine's fallen in a bunch of times).

Best of all: Tide tables built-in. At least for US locations. Have not tested it in Canada.

Craig Jungers
Moses Lake, WA
I have both a Garmin Etrex Venture and a Magellan Explorist 500

Of the two, the Etrex wins hands down. Battery life is considerably longer, much more user friendly.

The Etrex is also far more idiot proof. You can actually render the Magellan inoperative as a user. I deleted the basemap from it and it had to be sent to a repair facility. That in itself speaks volumes. The "failsafes" are poorly implemented.

Magellan will have to do a lot of work on the units before I purchase another ( if ever ). I have it as a loaner now for friends who don't have one, but have backed up the basemap to SD cards in the event it is ever deleted again. Hopefully I can copy it back to the handheld if that happens.
Have a look on EBay for a used Garmin ETrex - try to get the colour screen because it's SO much easier to visualize in sunlight. We got a second hand ETrex LegendC (the C is for colour) on EBay last year for $110 USD. It takes maps and the batteries last a long time. Newer Garmin GPS units come with an 'x' in the name to signify that they have a higher sensitivity receiver. This is more important in heavy tree cover than on the ocean. For your purpose you don't need the 'x' chip, but you might consider it if you're also going to rely on the gps to navigate you hiking in our coastal rainforests.
I meant to add... we were teaching a handheld GPS use class (geared for Garmin users) to a group yesterday and one fellow arrived with a Magellan that he insisted could not take waypoints for him to navigate to. He'd been using it for a long time and was walking or paddling until the Lat and Long read the correct location on the satellite page :shock: . Supposedly he'd read the manual cover to cover and was resigned that he'd found the only way to navigate to a point. Finally after a little 'humour me... let me have a look' we determined that 'yes' we could enter waypoints into it. The Magellan manual was almost no help compared to the Garmin full colour instruction books - you'd think that 'Mark a Waypoint' would be a simple function to find....
I'd say in a class of 20 we might have 1 or 2 Magellan users arrive and the rest are Garmin users.