News

Best Outdoor GPS unit

Best Outdoor GPS unit for Christmas 2020 and 2021

What is the best Outdoor GPS unit for 2020 and early 2021? This is a question we get asked lots as 2020 draws to an end.

It is been an amazing year for Outdoor GPS navigation. After the dreaded Covid 19 lockdown, many more people headed into the outdoors.

This has seen a massive increase in people looking for Outdoor GPS units to navigate them.

Last year The Guardian officially said walking is ‘No longer just an activity for older people with sticks, rambling in the countryside is catching on with a new generation’, it is now officially cool. You can read the article here.

GPS units – New Outdoor GPS units for late 2020.

It has been a busy second half of 2020. Garmin continued to dominate the sector, by launching a staggering six GPS units at all price brackets.

From the budget Garmin GPSMAP 65s, which has really livened that part of the market up right through to the stunning, large screen, Garmin Montana 700 range (read our review here).

With the new Montana 700 range having the option of two-way satellite communication being incorporated into this top end unit it has certainly shook the GPS market up lots.

Therefore, there is now even more Outdoor GPS units when looking at what is the best Outdoor GPS unit for Christmas 2020 and 2021. But don’t worry we have produced a great toot to guide you through them all.

GPS chooser bot – let us guide you through the process

In late October the Outdoor GPS Shop officially launched the Outdoor GPS chooser bot. This automated GPS chooser will ask you a few simple questions.

These questions include what you will be using your GPS for, what features you would like on your Outdoor GPS unit and your budget.

With this information from you the Outdoor GPS chooser bot analyses the answers you have given and recommends the best Outdoor GPS unit for you.

It rates the results in a % score on how well each Outdoor GPS unit will meet your requirements. Then it lists the best Outdoor GPS unit for you at the top of that list.

It is free and no personal information is requested from you.  Get yourself a tailored recommendation.

GPS Unit selector

undefined

  • What primary activity will you use the GPS unit for?

  • What secondary activity will you use the GPS unit for?

  • Would you like GB maps or GB and European maps?

  • Would you prefer a touch screen (easier to input information) or button (you can use with glovers on) GPS unit ?

  • Would you like a large screen on your GPS Unit?

  • Would you like your GPS to run from AA batteries or built in battery?

  • Would you like two way satellite communication (subscription required)

  • What is your budget?

  • Based on your selections, these are the best options for you...

    Back

 

 

 

 

 

Garmin GPSMAP 66sr

Review Garmin GPSMAP 66sr

This week Garmin launched the all new Garmin GPSMAP 66sr, the first multi band/ Multi GNSS handheld GPS from Garmin.

So, what do we think of the unit? Here’s our review of the Garmin GPSMAP 66sr

First of all, we have to ask ourselves a few questions, so we understand the GPS unit a little better.

Is the GPSMAP 66sr a replacement for the Garmin GPSMAP66st?

In some ways it is a replacement, but honestly it is more like a GPSMAP66st on steroids.

It will, I suspect, be a direct replacement for the existing GPSMAP 66st but it’s better, far better.

So how does the Garmin GPSMAP 66sr differ from the Garmin GPSMAP 66s, GPSMAP 66st or GPSMAP 66i?

What are the key features on the Garmin GPSMAP 66sr, lets review them.

  1. Multi-band GPSS

    – This is Garmin’s first Outdoor GPS unit to use five satellite systems. This being the GPS (American), GLONASS (Russian), Galileo (European), QZSS (Japanese) and IRSS (Indian).The key things, compared to previous Outdoor GPS units is you can choose all 5 types of satellite systems. On some previous models you have been limited to being able to choose two i.e. GPS and Glonass OR GPS and Galileo.

    This improves the speed the GPS locks onto the satellites dramatically and also improves the accuracy.

    There are four signals from the satellites available, in the past Outdoor GPS units has used L1, but this new unit also uses L5, in the past this has been used by the aeronautical industry. Wikipedia gives you a great understanding about how it all works.

    With this unit being able to use both bands it improves both the accuracy as it can double check and confirm your current location. This removes any errors that have been thrown up in the past from things like the signal being bounced off buildings etc.

  2. Pre-loaded TOPO Active mapping installed

    Like the Garmin GPSMAP66st and Garmin GPSMAP 66i the new Garmin GPSMAP 66sr comes pre-loaded with Garmin TOPO Active mapping. This is mapping for not only the UK but for all of Europe.

    As this map set originates from Open Sourced mapping it is super accurate, but, and this is the big but, it shows everything as a path. It does not decipher between a footpath, bridleway, BOAT, permissive path or frankly a private drive or far track.

    Therefore if you are walking in England or Wales (where we have trespass laws) you really need to add Ordnance Survey maps to this GPS device.

    Don’t get me wrong, TOPO Active mapping is great to compliment the Ordnance Survey mapping or as your only map if you are overseas. But in this country, UK, we are all so used to OS maps, we really need it on our GPS units.

  3. Built in battery – 36 hours battery life or 450 hours in Expedition Mode

    OK now, let’s take this with a pinch of salt. I always halve what Garmin tell you when it comes to battery life.

    But saying that, the case and battery on the Garmin GPSMAP 66sr is the same as we find on the Garmin GPSMAP 66i and I have been very impressed with this.

    I have never been a fan if built in batteries on a GPS unit. But I am a massive fan if the built in battery on the Garmin GPSMAP 66i. Over lots of long walking, in winter months, it has performed exceptionally.

    So therefore it stands I am an even bigger fan of the internal battery on the GPSMAP 66sr. Bigger fan you ask? Well the Garmin GPSMAP 66sr battery is not having to power the inReach technology that is built into the Garmin GPAMAP 66i so it performs even better.

  4. And the rest …

With the Garmin GPSMAP 66sr you still get all the rest –

– Large Colour screen (3 inch)

– ABC sensors – Altimeter, barometer to monitor weather and 3 axis electronic compass

– Birdseye Satellite Imagery – The ability to download satellite imagery directly onto the unit

– Garmin’s Active weather – when tethered to a smartphone you get real time weather forecasts

– LED flashlight – this can also be used as a flashing beacon if need be

– Live Geocaching – when tethered to smartphone or on a wifi

– Garmin Explore App – The Garmin GPSMAP 66sr works alongside the Garmin Explore app. With the app you can download .gpx files onto your mobile phone or tablet and transfer directly onto the Garmin GPSMAP 66sr.

Personally, I think the Garmin GPSMAP 66sr it a great piece of kit.

As a former Garmin Oregon GPS user I first started using the Garmin GPSMAP 66s when it was launched and then I moved onto a Garmin GPSMAP 66i.

The Garmin GPSMAP 66sr is really just a Garmin GPSMAP 66i without the inReach two way satellite communication.

BUT it also has this very impressive Multi-Band/ Multi-GNSS technology built in. So on paper it is a better spec GPS.

I will have my haters for saying this. But I am now totally taken by having a built in battery in an Outdoor GPS device and the Garmin GPSMAP 66sr has just that.

With the battery performing as it is, I would never go back to AA batteries. If you are going off grid, buy yourself a power pack or even better a solar panel to charge your power pack and you will never run out of battery life again.

So, what’s holding you back, it’s a must for the outdoor enthusiast. The Garmin GPSMAP 66sr is the best Outdoor GPS unit in its category.

Please take a look at the product on our website with all the different map options available – more here

Review - Garmin Montana 700 series

Review Garmin Montana 700 series

This week Garmin announced the all-new Garmin Montana 700/ 700i and 750i, the latest update for the Garmin Montana range of GPS units. Let’s review Garmin Montana 700 series.

Here at Outdoor GPS Shop we have had the Garmin Montana 700i for a number of months now and have walked extensively with it, so here is our review of the Garmin Montana 700/ 700i and 750i series of GPS units.

Long needed

An update of the Garmin Montana series has been a long time coming. The update from the Montana 600 to 610 (also 650 to 680) was a very small upgrade.

Therefore, a big upgrade was needed for the Garmin Montana series and this is certainly that, the unit is hardly recognisable compared to previous models.

Appearance and screen size

The Montana 700 series of units has certainly kept its rugged design, I personally think it has taken much of its design from the massively popular Garmin GPSMAP 66 range of units with the Quad Helix antenna sticking out of the top of the unit.

The screen size is a stunning 5 inches diagonal (6,4 x 10,8 cm (4″, 5,0 x 8,9 cm)) and this is crystal clear gorilla glass, which has been more proven on the Oregon range of GPS units.

The screen resolution on the Garmin Montana 700 series is 480 x 800 pixels (272 x 480 pixels)

Antenna

As with the Garmin GPSMAP 66s the new Garmin Montana 700 series of GPS units has upgraded to using GPS and GALILEO (new ultra-accurate European satellites).

The Montana 700 also has the option to use the Russian GLONASS system, but this is not the case with the 700i or 750i as these units have to incorporate an IRIDIUM antenna which is used for the two way satellite communication (inReach technology).

Model options

Montana 700, Montana 700i, Montana 750i:

These all come with Barometric altimeter, 3-axis compass, preinstalled maps (Garmin TopoActive), smartphone connectivity, compatible with Garmin Connect & Garmin Explore App.

Montana 700i

The Montana 700i comes with the key features above plus inReach technology (Iridium satellite network, 2-way-messaging, exchange text messages, SOS alerts, location sharing, active weather), preinstalled CityNavigator maps.

Montana 750i

The Montana 750i comes with all the features on the Montana 700 I and it also has the addition of an 8 MP camera

Review Garmin Montana 700 series – first impressions

The 5-inch screen is truly stunning and is crystal clear, in bright sunshine it is the best screen I have seen on any outdoor GPS unit.

The speed of the processor is good and the map renders quickly. I was walking with the unit, but I appreciate many will end on push and trail bikes and it is, therefore, essential the map renders quickly.

Review Garmin Montana 700 series – power

The Montana 700 series comes with an interchangeable Lithium battery.

Whilst using this it has performed very well. Garmin quote an 18-hour battery life, but I was finding it nearer to 14 hours, still plenty of power for a good day in the hills.

It is so good to see such good battery improvements from Garmin, the first we saw of such good battery performance was on the Garmin GPSMAP 66i, but with the 66i the battery was not interchangeable. With the new Montana 700 series, the lithium battery is interchangeable, and you can even get an accessory that enables you to even run the unit from AA batteries if you so wish.
Also, it’s great to see the addition of Expedition Mode, this cuts down some of the functionality but improves the battery life to up 2 weeks (according to Garmin).

Review Garmin Montana 700 series – interface

The Montana 700 has an interesting interface, it seems to be a hybrid of both the Oregon and the GPSMAP 66s.

It has a short cut ribbon across the bottom (similar to the Garmin GPSMAP 66s/ 66i) but you still have the tradition ‘main menu’, with all the icons we have grown to love with a Garmin GPS unit.

With the unit having such a large screen it gives you the ability to view all the icons on the main menu.

On so many Garmin GPS units you must scroll through pages and pages of icons but the large screen on the Garmin Montana makes life so much easier, with everything visible on the one screen.

Review Garmin Montana 700 series – connectivity

Connectivity is the new buzz word with GPS units, with the new Garmin Montana. With the Garmin Montana 700 series of GPS unit you get –

ANT+ – This enables you to connect to sensors and devices and allows you to exchange data with a compatible Garmin GPS devices.

Bluetooth – The Montana range of GPS units uses the Bluetooth for pairing with your smartphone and thus exchanging data with the Garmin Connect App and the Garmin Explore App, which enables you to transfer .gpx files to your GPS without the need for a PC or Mac.

USB – Used for charging and data exchange with PC and Mac, enabling you to plan activities on either the TOPO active mapping or the OS maps on your computer.

Wi-Fi – This is used for downloading BirdsEye satellite images, retrieving weather data, uploading activities to Garmin Connect, performing software updates and retrieving live geocaching data.

Review Garmin Montana 700i/ 750i series – two-way satellite communication

Using the worldwide coverage of the Iridium satellite network the Montana 700i and 750i lets you exchange text messages with any mobile phone number or email address anywhere – while using GPS to track and share your journey’s progress. You can also post to social media or even communicate inReach-to-inReach in the field.

For the inReach two-way satellite communication to work, you need to sign up to a subscription with Garmin, these start from £15.99/ month (safety plan).

In case of an at-risk situation, you can also use inReach to trigger an SOS message to the 24/7 monitoring centre, text back and forth about the nature of your emergency, and receive professional advice and confirmation when help is on the way.

We first saw the inReach technology built into the Garmin GPSMAP66i unit and it is great to now see this on the new Montana 700i and 750i.

Summary

After spending a couple of months walking with the Montana 700i I cannot fault it.

It is a larger GPS to carry, but of course, it has to be as it has that stunning 5-inch screen on it. I think the unit will certainly change the marketplace for large screen GPS units going forward.

Garmin has certainly rewritten the rule book here, producing a large screen GPS unit without the bulk we see from other large-screen units.

Products

  1. Garmin Montana 700 GPS unit – more here – all Ordnance Survey map options available.
  2. Garmin Montana 700i GPS unit – more here – all Ordnance Survey map options available.
  3. Garmin Montana 750i GPS unit – more here – all Ordnance Survey map options available.
Best GPS for Mountain biking - Oregon 700

Best GPS for mountain biking

A question we get asked a lot is what is the best GPS for mountain biking.

The most common mistake people make is going for a Garmin Edge or one of the road cycling GPS units.

They should have been looking at an outdoor GPS mountain bike unit. The main reason is these come with Ordnance Survey Maps and you need this map set when mountain biking as it is the only map set that shows Bridleways, which you need to follow when mountain biking. The mapping the edge range comes with (TOPO Active mapping) does not show Bridleways, it just shows everything as tracks, and these could be Footpaths, Bridleways or even a private drive!

Ordnance Survey mapping

Now we now understand that we need an Outdoor GPS unit with Ordnance Survey maps we now need to consider which of the map options we need to go for, with a Garmin mountain biking GPS unit we have three options.

1. Birdseye Plus Voucher, enabling you to download 25,000 sq km of 1:25k maps
2. TOPO Great Britain Pro 1:50k – Full GB 1:50k maps (same as a OS Landranger map – key here)
3. TOPO Great Britain Pro 1:25k – Full GB 1:25k maps (same as the OS Explorer map – key here)

Most people believe they need a 1:25k map option for mountain biking but they actually don’t, the 1:50k maps show all bridleways, as well as footpaths and roads etc. The only thing you don’t get on a 1:50k map is the map showing you where walkers have ‘a right to roam’ (open access areas) and field boundaries.

As neither of these is applicable for mountain biking the 1:50k maps are the best option.

The other great thing about the TOPO Great Britain Pro 1:50k map card is that it also gives you turn by turn on-road routing, which makes it feel like a car satnav when on the road. So, at any time during your ride you do end up on the road this navigational feature is second to none.

So, what is the best GPS for mountain biking?

Most of the modern Garmin GPS units are truly multi-activity outdoor GPS units, you can quickly swap between profiles so your GPS acts differently when walking, mountain biking or even road riding.

This ability to swap quickly and easily between these profiles I think is invaluable when deciding what is the best GPS for mountain biking.

I also think the look and feel of a touch screen unit is another asset that needs to be thought about. We are all used to touch screens and the compact nature of a touch screen unit (i.e. you do not have buttons underneath), keeps the unit showing you a large screen without you accidentally knocking the bottom of the unit with your knee on that tricky downhill section.

This leaves us with two contenders for the best GPS for mountain biking.

1. On a budget – Garmin eTrex 25t – more

The Garmin eTrex Touch 25 is just a smaller version of the Garmin Oregon 700 unit, it looks and feels exactly the same, except for the smaller screen.

this therefore gives you great battery life and with the stunning sunlight-readable screen you get on any Garmin GPS unit it makes for a great addition to any mountain bike.

2. Not on a budget – Garmin Oregon 700 – more

The Garmin Oregon 700 is ideal for complimenting your mountain bike experience and navigating you whilst out on the trail.

Its large screen is second to none and with its connectivity, to a smartphone it even tells you who is calling you whilst your mobile phone is safely tucked away.

The option with the 1:50k TOPO Great Britain pro is the one to look at and please do not forget your bike mount, as the Garmin Oregon 700 does not come with one in the box.

Garmin Instinct Solar GPS Watches

Garmin Instinct Solar GPS Watch – just launched

The Garmin Instinct Solar GPS watch is the latest upgrade on the Garmin Instinct range of GPS watches.

The key differences are –

1. Solar charging
2. Updated heart rate sensors
3. Increased battery life
4. Power management
5. New profiles including expedition mode
6. New colours

Solar Charging

Garmin has added solar panels to the gorilla glass display on the Garmin Instinct Solar GPS watch.

Heart Rate Sensor

The heart rate sensor has been updated to the latest version which also includes the pulse ox into it, this measures your blood oxygen levels. This is similar to the one you find on the Garmin Fenix 6 range of GPS watches.

Increased Battery Life

On the Garmin Instinct solar, you now get with the GPS off –

– 24 days of battery life when in the smartwatch mode, not using with the GPS on (14 days on the original Instinct GPS watch).
– If you expose the watch to 3 hours of sunshine per day this increases the battery life to 54 days, which is impressive.

And with the GPS on –

– 30 hours. This was 16 hours on the previous version (i.e. non-solar version)
– If you again add some direct sunlight this can be extended to 38 hours on the Garmin Instinct solar.

Power Management

The Power management technology that you find on the Fenix 6 range of GPS watches is now found on the Garmin Instinct solar range.

It enables you to conserve battery life enabling or disabling features you may or may not want to use.

In battery save mode the battery life is extended to 56 days and if you have access to sunlight it can make the battery life indefinite.

If you want to extend the battery life with the GPS on there are a couple of modes already built-in.

The ultra trac mode (Garmin forum discussing its accuracy) increases the battery life up to 60 hours, in this mode the trac is measured less frequently.

Profiles

The Garmin Instinct Solar has three addition activity profiles –

– Hunt
– Fish
– Expedition profile. Using this profile it records many things, but a little less frequent (i.e track points every hour), but it has a battery life of up to 28 days with no sunlight in this profile and up to 68 days in ideal solar conditions.

New Colours

The Garmin Instinct Solar is now available in 7 colours – Graphite Camo, Lichen Camo, Orchid, Tidal Blue, Flame Red, Graphite, Sun Burst.

More information can be found here.

Best batteries for an Outdoor Garmin GPS unit

Best batteries for an Outdoor Garmin GPS unit

A common question we get asked here at the Outdoor GPS Shop is what are the best batteries for an Outdoor Garmin GPS unit.

Because there is never a straight answer there some questions you need to ask.

1. Does you GPS have a built-in power cell (units like the GPSMAP 66i, GPSMAP86s, GPSMAP86i and the Garmin Montana range.

If the answer is yes, you can charge your unit both from the mains or by using a portable power pack like the –

– Goal Zero Venture 30 Power Bank – more
or the
– Goal Zero Sherpa 100 PD Power Bank – more

In my experience Goal Zero are the market leaders in outdoor power. Both these products above can be charged by mains power of with a solar panel if you are heading ‘off grid’ –

– Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Kit – Solar Panel and Recharger – more
or
– Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus Solar Panel – stand-alone solar panel (plug into an existing power pack) – more

2. Does your Outdoor Garmin GPS run on AA batteries?

The majority of Garmin Outdoor GPS units are powered by 2 x AA batteries.

The reason for this is then you can easily double your power time by taking a further 2 AA batteries in your rucksack, an easy solution.

BUT, not all AA batteries are good batteries to power your Garmin GPS unit with. If you buy cheap disposable batteries, they, frankly, will not last very long, and throwing away the batteries will also have an environmental impact.

Therefore, you really should be powering your Outdoor Garmin GPS unit with rechargeable AA batteries. Depending on if you are walking just day walks or multiple days there are several battery options to choose from.

Day walks – best batteries for your Garmin GPS unit

The assumption for your day walks is that you will have access to mains power before your walk, so you can charge

– Best budget option – Energizer Battery Charger 1 Hour inc 4 batteries – more

Which did a test a couple of years ago and they rated these as the best rechargeable batteries currently on the market. In one hour of charging you have got yourself two batteries to power you for one days walking and a second ‘backup’ set just in case.

– Panasonic Eneloop Charger, Including 4 x AA batteries – more

Over the past year, we have had lots of customers raving about these batteries, so we gave them a go ourselves. In our eyes, they are worth the money.

This battery charger charges each battery cell individually, so if a cell is 40% full it will charge it the further 60% then stop charging it. It treats every battery cell individually.

If you can afford them you will not be disappointed.

Long-distance walks – best batteries for your Garmin GPS unit

If you are doing a multiple-day walk, do not have access to mains power or just don’t fancy carrying a battery charger with a three-pin plug on the back in your rucksack the option to go for is the –

– Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus – Recharger – more

This you can charge from a USB plug (like the one you more than likely use to charge your smartphone), alternatively, you can also charge this from a solar panel.

– Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus Solar Recharging Kit with Nomad 7 Panel – more

The great thing about the Goal Zero Guide 10 plus is not only charges 4 AA batteries but if you leave those batteries in it also becomes a power pack that you can charge your phone or other electronic devices with. Therefore a top tip is to buy both a Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus and a second set of 4 x AA batteries.

Then you can charge your four batteries, put two in your unit, two in you rucksack as your backup. Then charge another 4 batteries in the Guide 10 and use that then as a power pack.
To do this all you need to buy is a further –

– 4 x AA rechargeable batteries – more

How long do batteries last in a Garmin Outdoor GPS unit?

The six-million-dollar question, how long will my batteries last in your Outdoor Garmin GPS unit.

Aa good set of batteries should enable you to get a good day walking under your belt, this would be 7 – 8 hours.

I know Garmin says you will get twice as long as that, but frankly, if you are using your GPS properly, to navigate you I would expect a good 7 – 8 hours of battery life.

There are a number of things you can do to extend your battery life on an Outdoor Garmin GPS unit. GPS Training created this short video that will help you look at how to preserve your batteries on a Garmin Oregon GPS unit.

GPS unit, GPS watch or mobile phone app

Outdoor GPS unit or mobile GPS app

Outdoor GPS unit or mobile GPS app on your mobile phone, which will meet your requirements best.

Each year people come to us here at the Outdoor GPS Shop and ask, what is the difference between a standalone Outdoor GPS Unit or Mobile GPS App, which will meet your requirements best.

This is a very good question as it is important as when you are heading out that you have the correct choice for your needs.

Here at Outdoor GPS Shop we only sell handheld GPS units and GPS watches but the truth of the matter is one of these options may not be the best fit for you, in fact, a GPS app you can download and use on your mobile phone may be a better option.

What this article is going to do is explain the pros and cons of each type of navigational experience in an honest transparent manner. This way by the end you will be able to identify which is the best fit for you.

Before I start I must thank you for everybody who helped me put this article together, including friends from the Outdoor Gear UK Facebook page and also Lindley Chambers, from Challenge Running (safety co-coordinator for the Spine races, both summer and winter editions).

Mobile Phone app

Some examples (in no order) – Viewranger, OS App, Memory Map, Google maps

1. Battery life

One of the key things to think of if you are going to download and use a GPS app on your mobile phone is battery life. As we have all experienced, when the screen on your smartphone is lit it uses plenty of battery, also if you are out of mobile phone signal or out in cold conditions this can also drain your battery.

Yes, there are solutions to this, you could take a power pack and charge your mobile phone halfway through the day, this would always be recommended as if your phone goes flat and you need it in an emergency, the phone could literally save your life.

Therefore, if you are thinking of using your mobile GPS app please do think about a backup battery to keep your phone charged ‘just in case’.

Another good top tip if you use your smartphone as a GPS put it in airplane mode, this will still let the  GPS work but it doesn’t keep using a lot of energy hunting for a signal in poor reception areas. Also keeping your smartphone close to your body in very cold temperatures can also help preserve the battery life.

2. Durability

The second factor when using your mobile phone outdoors is durability and what happens if it rains.

Many of us have accidentally dropped our phones and had to pay for a replacement screen, a modern smartphone is frankly a very expensive high-quality screen so we need to protect it.

The other thing to think of is what will you do if it rains. Some of the more expensive smartphones are now fully waterproof, I know I have done some underwater footage with my smartphone and it survived.

You need to check with your manufacturer if your GPS is waterproof.

A good solution to both of these problems is putting your GPS in something like an aquapac. These are waterproof pouches that you can still use the touchscreen on your smartphone and also it will help protect your screen, Also they make your phone easier to handle and less chance of your dropping your phone when outdoors.

If the weather is cold you may struggle to use the touch screen on your smartphone, if this is the case you may want to get some gloves that have the small pads on so you can use a touchscreen with the gloves on. Another alternative is to use a touch screen stylus on a piece of cord.

3. GPS Fix on your mobile phone

Sometimes smartphones can struggle to get a fix on where you are. If your phone is struggling to get a GPS fix make sure that you have the GPS switched on, iPhones refer to this as – location services. As well as using the GPS the phone will use the mobile phone network 9if you have one to give you an accurate position of where you are.

4. Which mobile phone GPS apps

This is not a review of the different mobile phone GPS apps, that may come later, but some examples are Viewranger, OS App, Memory Map and Google maps

The key thing is mobile phone GPS apps come in three categories and it is the third of these we need to use if wanting maps when in the outdoors.

– Map only Apps

Google maps fall into this category, many of us have used an app like this to navigate in an urban environment, and it is a great navigational experience in the town and city, far better than any outdoor GPS unit will ever be. It streams the map data over a fast-urban mobile phone network.

But these should not be used in a rural setting, the maps need to be streamed live so if no network, no maps and the maps don’t show footpaths and bridleways which is what we are going to walk along in the countryside. They also will not give you a grid reference.

– Maps and navigational Apps

Some of these apps are like a standalone GPS unit, the key thing is to choose an app that can be used offline. Some of the free or entry-level GPS apps have to be online to download the map, so just like Google maps above, no mobile phone signal, no maps.

So you need to use a GPS app that you can download the maps onto your phone before you head off, the maps will be large file sizes so again make sure you have the memory capacity on your phone to store these downloaded maps.

What better excuse to delete all those pictures, videos and music tracks from your smartphone? You can’t beat a good tidy up.

– Position Only Apps

These mobile apps are very limited in their functionality, but they are are for one thing, to give you a position fix. In the UK we will be looking for a Grid Reference, or British National Grid to give it the correct name.

It is not bad practice to have one of these apps on your mobile phone as a backup, either to your standalone GPS device or your maps and navigational app described above.

Many of these apps are free and vary in accuracy, so download one and test it before you head off. I know we have experienced some very varied results in these kinds of apps.

5. So, to summarise

Over recent times many Mountain rescue teams, rightly, have expressed concerns about heading into the countryside with just a mobile phone app to navigate. BUT if you are using a paper map as your main form of navigation and your mobile phone app is just for backup and just to confirm you are where you think you are and as long as you have addressed the issues in points one and two (battery like and durability) and you have chosen a map that can be used offline these apps are a great introduction into the world of outdoor GPS navigation.

I have also met a number of people that use an old smartphone as their GPS, take the SIM card out and download the GPS app onto it at home using the wifi. Then as your unit is not searching for a mobile phone signal it should improve the battery life considerably. But please be aware, if you are using an old phone the battery life may be poorer as the battery may be coming to the end of its like anyway.

Often GPS apps are cheap, so there is no harm in downloading one and giving it a go.

6. When I asked Lindley Chambers, from Challenge Running (safety co-coordinator for the Spine races, both summer and winter editions), when is a phone acceptable he kindly gave the following advice

  • It’s one of those “It depends” scenarios.

If you cant read a map but can use your phone with an app like Viewranger or OS locate/maps then that’s better than not having anything.

If you are on a tourist path with lots of other people in good weather on an easy to find route then no big deal, after all we see people all the time on paths with a phone and no map and they are usually ok.

If you are competent with an app and your phone or your GPS watch and know how long the battery lasts and how to use them then great as long as you know your limits and the limit of the kit you are using. But many don’t.

  • If you are going somewhere in bad or changeable weather with higher risk and more remote then a phone really should not be your only means of navigation.

Always think “what if”, if you drop your phone or it gets wet or runs out of power then what’s the plan?

Standalone Outdoor GPS device

Some examples – Garmin and SatMaphandheld units and GPS watches

1. Durability

The key thing with a dedicated GPS device (whether a watch or a handheld unit) is the durability.

These things are meant for the outdoors, you can drop them, submerge them in water and hit them with a hammer and the don’t break. Before you ask, yes, I have hit a GPS screen with a hammer.

2. Cost

The big downside of a standalone GPS unit is the cost, and this is where the GPS app on your mobile phone wins over. If you are a summer walker and don’t tend to venture out if the weather is bad and you always take a paper map, why not use the GPS app on your mobile phone.

Yes, you can get a basic GPS for a couple of hundred pounds but really you should be thinking of spending around £500.00 for a decent GPS unit or watch. We could get into the debate that the latest iPhone or Galaxy phone is twice that much if you buy it outright, but many people are shielded from that cost by buying these devices on a monthly contract.

3. Offline maps

With and dedicated GPS device the maps are all offline, either on a memory card or stored on the internal memory.

The other nice thing is if you are heading overseas you can just pop in the map card for that country, you change a few settings, as I suspect giving the rescue services a British National Grid in Portugal may not go down too well.

4. True navigational device

A dedicated GPS system gives you a great ‘navigational experience’, this is the car sat nav experience but off-road.

When you are navigating a pre-planned walk your GPS will be telling you how long it is until your next turn and how far and at what time you are going to get to your final destination. If you do plan your walks beforehand on your PC or a mobile phone app (now that’s ironic isn’t it), to me the maps on the screen are just a background image as you are following an arrow telling you where you should be going.

I am amazed how many people get hung up about the maps, I say to these people, I don’t get in your BMW and tell you how great your maps are on your SatNav compared to by trust Tom Tom, I don’t really care I just want the thing to tell me to turn left in three miles.

The same also should be looked at when buying an Outdoor GPS, the maps are there for you to plan your route on, but when you are being navigated along that activity the maps are frankly just a background image.

5. Power and batteries

This to me is one of the key things. Many outdoor GPS devices have either phenomenal battery life if they have built-in batteries or often many devices run on AA batteries so you can change them if they go flat.

Some of the new GPS watches have power management modes so you can shut off non-essential things on your watch and the battery life turns into days and weeks.

These things are made to run day after day and if you are camping or off-grid, that’s not a problem as you can either just pop another set of batteries in many of the Outdoor GPS devices.

6. Dedicated device

I believe you should have a dedicated device, I love my smartphone and I am the person who goes and buys the latest iPhone outright from the Apple store and loves it to bits, but when out in the hills on that wet misty day my smartphone is packed away in a waterproof Aquapac in my rucksack, just in case.

My standalone buttoned GPS unit is on my rucksack strap on a backpack tether, soaking through and with my thick winter gloves on I can use it and I know this thing is going to power on whatever the elements throw at it.

7. When I asked Lindley Chambers, from Challenge Running (safety co-coordinator for the Spine races, both summer and winter editions), why an outdoor GPS unit should be used he kindly gave the following advice and also he touched on some other key points

  • Durability and reliability – Outdoor GPS unit or Mobile GPS App, handhelds are generally built for the job and are reliable and waterproof and tough. Depending on models they are easier to use in bad weather and can be used with gloves on etc.
  • Crossover of safety roles, if you use your watch to record the run or route then also relying on it to be your emergency location device to get you a grid or navigate with is putting all your eggs in one basket which has risks. If you use your phone as navigation and your emergency call facility again too many eggs in one basket. If your phone or watch goes down you loose everything.
  • We cant discuss the merits of each device and capabilities between watches and phones and handhelds, there is so much crossover in function. Handhelds have similar capability and function so on events this is what we require participants to use.
  • Learn to read a map and use a compass well, even if you mostly use a dedicated GPS device or your phone or watch.
  • Know how to use your kit, like the map and compass any electronic device is useless if you don’t know how to use it well. I spend time teaching this stuff and it amazes me how many people think you just take it out of a box and use it.
  • Think about battery life in cold and wet weather, phones are crap with gps running constantly, think 4 hours for an iphone to maybe 8 hours for a top android phone. Touch screens are rubbish in the wet and cold. How do you charge it?
  • If you don’t practice with any of this stuff often it’s pointless how good it is.
  • Know how to call for help and text 999.

These are Lindley’s thoughts on what he takes on his activities – Outdoor GPS unit or Mobile GPS App

  • Local routes or familiar areas of low risk and shorter duration.

I am unlikely to take a map as I either have a rough idea or I have my phone as a back-up GPS with Viewranger on it. I will primarily use my GPS watch for navigation and GPS location in an emergency. I have a phone that I know will last for 3-4 days with GPS on that is fully waterproof and drop tested.

  • Longer routes or unfamiliar areas with medium risk

I will take my GPS watch still probably as a primary source and use my phone as an occasional check or overview, my watch can load routes I have planned onto it. I will probably take my handheld Garmin as an emergency back up with a fresh set of batteries.

  • Very long or high risk routes including multi-day stuff

All of the above plus a map and compass and most likely my spot tracker too. I would still usually use my GPS watch on a planned route and my handheld or phone on a route I have not planned or maybe be practising with my map and compass.

I hope this helped – Outdoor GPS unit or mobile GPS app

As I said at the beginning I have tried to be as impartial as I can, it is important as when you are heading out for that walk or cycle ride that you have the correct choice for your needs.

Here at the Outdoor GPS Shop we only sell handheld GPS units and GPS watches but the truth of the matter is one of these options may not be the best fit for you, in fact a GPS app you can download and use on your mobile phone may be a better option. The choice is yours – Outdoor GPS unit or mobile GPS app

Blencathra

Hill skills and planning

Whatever your planned activity for the day or multiple days, be honest with yourself about your hill skills and planning for both you and your fellow walkers, it’s all about having the knowledge, fitness, and ability.

We all like to kid ourselves that we are fitter, or indeed more capable than we are. It pays to be honest with yourself and why not look at improving your planning and hill skills.

Plan before you go and carry the correct gear – hill skills and planning

Carry a map and compass and know how to use them. Compliment these with your Outdoor GPS unit or GPS watch. And don’t forget those spare batteries for your GPS unit and backup power pack for your phone and watch.

Every year thousands of people end up calling for help because they are lost and/or tired. Nowadays paper maps may seem unnecessary, but they are light to carry and their batteries don’t run out of charge!

For simple guides to map reading and using a compass check out the GPS Training online resource (free course)

Plan for the least able member of your group – hill skills and planning

For example, if reaching the summit is going to be a challenge then switch to a lower level walk that you can all enjoy and achieve comfortably.

If you are out with friends please do respect them. You are not going out to prove your ability you are going out to build friendships so don’t push them beyond their capabilities.

Know your limits – hill skills and planning

If the weather, ground conditions or route are beyond your capabilities or equipment, consider your options. It’s OK to choose a more suitable route or to turn back. Remember to allow enough time for the least able member of your group.

Plan your escape routes, how will you get off the planned route at x, y and z if the weather suddenly changes.

If you’re doing something new or going somewhere new…

Why not go with a qualified guide or instructor, think about signing up for some training?

If you are looking for GPS training our partners at GPS Training have some great courses, both online and physical GPS training courses around the country.

It costs nothing to plan and think about your adventure ahead before you set off and gaining further training is fun, like-minded people wanting to gain new skills.

Check the weather and be prepared

Weather in the hills – plan before you head off

Weather in the hills – what to do before you head into the hills.

Yes, in the UK we are a little obsessed with the weather. But keeping an eye on the weather is essential when planning your walk in the hills.

When heading out into the hills being prepared for the weather can make a big difference as to how you feel at the end of the day.

Be flexible

There’s no shame in changing your plans.

Choose a different route or turn back if the forecast doesn’t look too clever; if the weather closes in unexpectedly or if the conditions turn out to be more difficult than you’d expected.

If you are heading for the hills and realise that reaching the summit is going to be a challenge, then switch to a lower level walk that you can all enjoy and achieve comfortably.

Check the latest weather forecast before you set off and alter your plans if need be

Check the weather forecast – the Met Office (https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/) is a good place to start.

Remember to check conditions for different points on your route, for example, if you are heading for the hills find out how cold and windy it will be at the top of your climb, and also what level the cloud base will be.

Don’t forget to take into consideration the wind chill factor.

Many of the new generation GPS units will give you a live weather update as you are ‘out in the field’, so this can be invaluable so you can alter your route if the forecast and weather conditions change.

Don’t forget, the sun sometimes shines!

If this is the case don’t forget your sunscreen and sun hat!

And don’t forget your Outdoor GPS unit.

Planning is key, plan your route before you head off and transfer this to your Outdoor GPS unit or Multisport GPS watch.

Then whatever the weather brings you will be able to navigate at ease.

Essential walking kit for a walk

Essential walking kit for a walk

If you are heading out into the hills or even on a low-level walk what kit should you be taking with you, what essential walking kit when heading out for a walk? I know these days many people are wanting to walk light, but there are a number of essentials you should be taking with you.

If you think of anything that we have missed, please do let us know.

Clothing

The correct clothing at the very least will make your walk more comfortable, but it could also prevent much worse. Things like waterproofs will help you tackle the elements, but avoiding materials like denim and cotton where possible will help you dry quicker and maintain your body temperature. Lots of thin layers are the key so you can take off and put on as need be.

– Breathable base layer
– Insulating mid-layer
– Walking trousers, not jeans
– Waterproof jacket
– Waterproof over-trousers
– Hats & gloves
– Sun hat
– Rucksack/daypack

Footwear

Arguably the difference between a pleasant walk and an unpleasant walk, getting the right footwear and thus caring for your feet is of the utmost importance.

– Walking boots/shoes. Need to be comfortable and well-fitting
– Walking socks, these must be breathable – Mohair, Marino or other specialist socks

Rucksack essentials

The art of being prepared isn’t just in what you wear, it’s what you take with you to be ready for every eventuality. These can literally make or break a day in the hills for you.

– Fully charged mobile phone in a dry bag, something like an Aquapac
– Map & compass (even if you use GPS)
– Torch or head torch
– Bottled water
– Flask of hot drink
– High energy snacks
– Spare warm clothing
– Spare socks
– Survival bag (just in case)
– Emergency contact details
– First aid kit
– Suncream
– Sunglasses

If you think we have missed anything out of our essential walking kit when heading out for a walk please do let us know.