Author Topic: Multi-use GPS  (Read 338 times)

martinf

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Multi-use GPS
« on: June 09, 2018, 09:07:32 AM »
Wondering if anyone on the forum has a GPS that works well for cycling, hiking and in a motor vehicle, or is it better to get dedicated models for each use.

At present, I use paper maps for cycling and hiking, and, when driving a motor vehicle at work, a mix of paper maps and a slightly unreliable Android tablet with a free off-line GPS application that gives good voice instructions.

My work colleagues generally use smartphones for vehicle GPS, but they often have battery life issues. I still have a dumbphone, which has the advantages of being light, very inexpensive and long battery life (typically a week in normal use, much longer when bike touring)

mickeg

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Re: Multi-use GPS
« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2018, 03:13:15 PM »
I have a Garmin 64 and Garmin 62S, both work well for hiking, biking, driving, etc.  The 64 series replaced the 62 series.  I think there are three models in each series with a different variety of extras added in.  My 64 will not work with a heart rate monitor strap, but the higher levels in the series I think will.  My 62S does work with a heart rate monitor ANT+ chest strap.

Driving a long distance (hundreds of miles) they can choke on trying to find the best route.  For routing, they have a driving option, a cycling option and a tour cycling option.  Plus a few other options.  I think that the tour cycling option will use bike paths where teh plain cycling option won't but I am not sure on that.

Uses AA batteries.  Garmin sells a battery pack that if you are using that battery pack in the 64 series (but not teh older 62 series) the battery pack pushes down a button in the battery case that tells the unit that the rechargeable battery pack is in use.  When that happens, you can operate the GPS on a mini (not micro) USB cord while you are also charging internal battery pack.  And, if you are a bit tricky, you can put a little piece of plastic or metal over that button and put two NiMH AA batteries in it and it will charge the AA batteries that way.  That is not something that Garmin wants you to know, they would rather have you use their proprietary battery pack.

I use Ikea Ladda rechargeable batteries in the Garmin 62S and 64, both have excellent battery life.  But the older non-low-discharge type NiMH batteries have terrible battery life.  Eneloop AA might also give good battery life, but I have not tried that.

I download maps and install them onto a micro SD card.  The card does not come with it.  Free maps available at:
http://garmin.opentopomap.org/  (you might have to click on the english flag in upper right corner to read it)
http://www.gpsfiledepot.com/maps/byuser/135/  (I do not think these are routable)
http://garmin.openstreetmap.nl/   (for a custom file that has map areas that you select, I use the cycling routable version)
https://www.openmapchest.org/  (I am not sure if I ever used these or not?, but I had the link on my computer)
http://www.openfietsmap.nl/downloads/europe  (I think I put these on my Garmins but never used them)

In the GPS you select which map you want to have enabled and which ones to disable.  So I load lots of maps onto the micro SD card, use the one that seems to work best for my purpose at that time.

In bright sunlight you can turn off the backlight to save battery power and see the screen well.  You can't do that on a phone.  I have them configured to turn off the screen after about 30 seconds or a minute to save batteries, touch a button and the screen comes alive.

The screen is not as hard as I would like.  I got scratches on my Garmin 62S screen.  When I bought my 64, I put clear packing tape on the screen (careful to avoid bubbles) to protect the screen before I ever used it.  Have replaced the tape a few times.

There are similar Garmins that are more compact, not sure what the various models really are.

First photo, inside battery case on Garmin 64 I have a small piece of metal covered in black plastic tape over the button so I can use it to recharge AA NiMH batteries.  If you do that and put Alkaline batteries in it and then plug in a USB cord, something bad will happen so never do that.

Second photo, Garmin 64 on my Sherpa.  I have a DIY stem bolt bracket to hold it on the bike.

Third photo, side view of Garmin 64 on my Titanium bike using the Garmin handlebar mount.  It is attached to handlebar with zip ties, note that I also have a small cord to keep it from falling completely off the bike if I do not get it firmly into the mount.  The zip ties can break if your bike falls over and it hits something, carry spares on a bike tour.

Fourth photo, I am charging up a pair of AA batteries with a solar charger on a kayak trip last summer.  In the photo I have an older GPS, disregard that one.  I like that vintage GPS for canoeing and kayaking, but not for anything else.


martinf

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Re: Multi-use GPS
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2018, 12:17:21 AM »
Thanks for the comprehensive reply, which reinforces advice from Dan off-forum.

So for cycling and hiking use, the best option seems to be a weather-resistant Garmin GPS with rechargeable low-discharge type NiMH AA batteries, plus protective tape or film on the screen.

For vehicle use I like a simple to operate device that gives voice instructions, so less distraction when driving. My options seem to be either to get a more reliable tablet (or smartphone) and continue using my current free GPS software, which performs well so long as the tablet is working, or get a dedicated vehicle GPS.

mickeg

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Re: Multi-use GPS
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2018, 02:58:04 AM »
You are welcome.  As I noted, I just used packing tape, not anything special for screen protection.

My Garmin 62S and 64 will not give me voice instructions for a turn, only a beep to let me know that a turn is coming soon. 

On a smartphone or a tablet (some tablets lack a GPS chip, some include it), I have been using an app called Maps.Me on an android smartphone.  I started using that app in 2012 or 2013 (it had a different name then), at that time it was maps only but now it offers routing, etc.  I do not recall if it has voice directions or not.  It recently added routing for bicycles, but so far the bike routing I thought was not very good.  I do not think it can keep a record of a track you create, but maybe it does?  I do not use it that much so I can't say much about it.  But the reason that I have occasionally used that app is that I could download maps when I had wifi, thus I did not need to consume a data plan loading maps if I had pre-loaded the maps I would need later.

In my truck I usually use a dedicated vehicle type Garmin GPS, one that I can use in any vehicle, but a few times I misplaced it and had to use a different GPS, thus I have a bit of knowledge on how to use the other GPS units for driving somewhere.

If you are trying to figure out why I have so many GPS units, I am a retired Geological Engineer, I worked with maps every day during my professional career, so tools for mapping and location are things that I am accustomed to using and have a tendency to accumulate.

martinf

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Re: Multi-use GPS
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2018, 09:53:13 AM »
On a smartphone or a tablet (some tablets lack a GPS chip, some include it), I have been using an app called Maps.Me on an android smartphone.  I started using that app in 2012 or 2013 (it had a different name then), at that time it was maps only but now it offers routing, etc.  I do not recall if it has voice directions or not.  It recently added routing for bicycles, but so far the bike routing I thought was not very good.  I do not think it can keep a record of a track you create, but maybe it does?  I do not use it that much so I can't say much about it.  But the reason that I have occasionally used that app is that I could download maps when I had wifi, thus I did not need to consume a data plan loading maps if I had pre-loaded the maps I would need later.

In my truck I usually use a dedicated vehicle type Garmin GPS, one that I can use in any vehicle, but a few times I misplaced it and had to use a different GPS, thus I have a bit of knowledge on how to use the other GPS units for driving somewhere.

If you are trying to figure out why I have so many GPS units, I am a retired Geological Engineer, I worked with maps every day during my professional career, so tools for mapping and location are things that I am accustomed to using and have a tendency to accumulate.

I got my first Android machine in 2014, a 7" tablet, mainly to use as a cheap vehicle GPS for work and while on holiday, but also for several other things:

- consulting e-mails while on holiday, when free WiFi was available
- for my wife to be able to use Skype to contact one of my daughters
- consulting maps off line
- consulting tourist information offline (prepared on one of my PCs before the trip)
- use as an ebook reader on train journeys

The Android software I use is currently called Navmii, it uses off-line maps that I download before visiting the country concerned.

My tablet worked very well for the applications I bought it for, except for some issues when using it as a GPS:

- limited battery life, not sufficient for 8 hours driving. Solved this one with an external battery, as my tablet didn't always work with a plug-in adapter.
- it would sometimes get too hot and stop working.
- GPS acquisition was often a bit slow when starting the tablet.
- not so easy to use as a good dedicated vehicle GPS. I have sometimes had these in hire cars (I don't own a motor vehicle, so hire when I need one).

For cycling and hiking, my tablet GPS solution has several drawbacks:

- too big
- too fragile
- not weatherproof
- insufficient battery life

Professionally, for vegetation and flora survey work I use a 10" Panasonic Toughpad fz-g1 tablet PC with field-replaceable batteries, running Windows 10 and with specific mapping software (rather like a cut-down version of QJIS, which I use in the office). This works well, except in torrential rain, but is far too expensive and heavy for home use.

 


John Saxby

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Re: Multi-use GPS
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2018, 03:26:16 PM »
Martin, I don't have much experience with Garmin, etc., but this is what I use as smartphone & mapping app:

    >  Motorola Moto G phone:  Mine is a first-gen item, bought new a year or so ago. Its uses the Android OS. It's reasonably compact, but the main reason I bought it is that it has a very good battery.  In regular use, mine lasts a couple of days between recharges. The more recent Moto G models have more bells and whistles.  [Appeal to authority here: Our son's uni colleague and business partner, an Italian engineer, pronounced the Moto G (2017 model) to be first-rate, and Paolo's opinion convinced son David of the wisdom of ditching his ageing Samsung and accepting the Moto G as a b'day gift from his parents.]

    >  OSMAnd app:  I got this because it offers offline access to maps, and I don't purchase data in my cheapo prepaid phone plan. (I use WiFi when I have access.)  I've found that OSMAnd works quite well for cycling routes--I use it when I'm in areas I don't know well.  OSMAnd gives you five free downloads for its maps.  You can get the "OSMAnd Plus" app for US$ 5 or 6, and that gives you unlimited access to the various maps.  Some of the maps are quite heavy, but you can of course delete or download as needed, to protect your phone's storage space.

Hope that's helpful -- good luck navigating the e-thicket.

Cheers,  John

martinf

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Re: Multi-use GPS
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2018, 12:24:36 AM »
Thanks John for the smartphone recommendation and another Android app.

Today I had the opportunity to get a nearly new dedicated vehicle GPS for 30 Euros (TomTom Start 40), so I am sorted for driving. It won't do for hiking and cycling (max battery life 2 hours) but I may test it while cycling (on a fine day) to get an idea of what I really want from a hiking/cycling GPS unit. Unlike while driving, I'm pretty sure I don't want a hiking/cycling GPS to talk to me.

I do have a bit of experience with dedicated Garmin hand-held GPS units, IIRC the 62 series with the prominent antenna, but for mapping rather than routing. We used them at work, combined with plasticized aerial photo printouts, before we got the Panasonic Toughpads, mainly to pinpoint rare or invasive flora, sometimes to track boundaries between vegetation types. With good rechargeable AA batteries these Garmin units worked for about 14 hours, so with a spare set of batteries they were OK for 2 or 3 days away from a charger. They were also very tough and survived abuse by my marine biologist colleagues who used them in boats.