GPS units

14 Mar 2013 11:12 #56277 by Smurfatefrog
Replied by Smurfatefrog on topic GPS units

Anyone using the Garmin Etrex 20?
Is it worth getting, or should i fork out the extra cash for a better model?

I'm happy with mine, the only issue I have which I guess is common to a lot of GPSs is that the signal sometimes bounces off cliffs, for example up Bannerman pass we stopped at Spare Rib cave, and it was bouncing all over the show, had a nice spiderweb on the track

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14 Mar 2013 11:52 #56281 by JustinBaker
Replied by JustinBaker on topic GPS units
Very happy with mine.

Though moving around on screen & zooming in/out is a bit slow and frustrating with the toggle button. But it is this simplicity that makes it robust.

I run the disposable batteries in mine and get about 6 days life of pretty much continuous use.

I also bought the Drakensberg Topo map from Madmappers for about R300 or so which adds alot of power to the package.

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15 Mar 2013 05:31 #56293 by tonymarshall
Replied by tonymarshall on topic GPS units
I'm also using a Garmin Etrex 20 with SA topo map series, and it does everything I require from a gps. I agree with Justin on the inconveniance of the buttons, but can't compare this to anything else as I've only used this gps, this may be normal for other gps models too. The Basecamp software is also easy to learn and use to transfer tracks between your gps and pc, and I have no problems with it other than the print settings are quite limited for printing tracks on maps and elevation profiles etc, although I would think this would be the same for better models too.

I use rechargeable batteries and get about 4 days out of a set, but this reduces to about 3 days in very cold / snow conditions. It is important to use the correct setting for the type of batteries you are using to optimise battery life.

I also went through the cost vs features/functionality balance act when I was planning to get a gps,and would say the Etrex 20 is definately worth getting.

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16 Mar 2013 07:02 #56300 by Geordie
Replied by Geordie on topic GPS units
Garmin 62S for me. Set up properly and with nmhi?? whatever batteries , it makesa worthy berg companion.
I was helping a friend with a Oregon 300 yesterday and was not very impressed. Are these "problem childs" or was it just me being used to the old push buttons?

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21 May 2013 18:06 #57008 by thomas
Replied by thomas on topic GPS units
Intrepid, when you describe the pass in such loving detail please go slowly as I have even less grey matter than you! Thanks for giving me the “flavour” of the trail.

Mnt_tiska, my understanding of maps and GPS is that they are to each other like chalk and cheese. With maps you read and lead; with GPS you dial and follow. Maps require mountain craft skill; GPS require technological “skill”. Maps require analysis and application of spatial plane reasoning to 3D reality; GPS requires a battery and owner’s manual. I hang my maps on walls to plot and plan; a GPS would get thrown in the drawer. Maps are living documents to fold, write on, colour, indicate and relate to but are my own and take me on my personal journeys of discovery and even trail blazing; GPS is an extension of some else’s satellite taking me to where someone else has already been.

I admit to having Luddite tendencies and yes my favorite button on powered technology is the Off Switch. Give me a real book any day, a Berg cave to sequester in, and I can recline in resplendent pleasure for days (and I have). So shoot me. And shoot me twice because I do love turning on my coffee maker.

I might also suggest that readers look up the Peltzman Effect. A GPS is a device that leads itself to what Peltzman discovered about human behavior and could easily apply to some hikers in the Berg. It basically says that the safer people believe they are (as with a GPS, but could be a cell phone) the more likely they are to engage in risky behavior. It can be associated with a false sense of security. It is also stated as the tendency to increase one’s personal danger because of reliance on a safety “net” which ends up offsetting some or all of the benefits of the safety factor they believe to be protecting them.

Check the research: since the widespread adoption of safety helmets for recreational skiers, the drop in annual fatal ski accidents has been ZERO. The drop in risk of a knee tear is likewise zero for someone who plays wearing a knee brace. The Peltzman Effect, in effect, says that protective devices and technological crutches cause people to behave more recklessly. I believe a GPS could qualify to some degree as a causative factor in risk taking, without which hikers would not take risks. And true it opens doors for many people as well to get out and explore and does not necessarily “cause” more accidents. The real issue about Peltzman is that human behavior is the issue, not technology. And it is the human factor that appeals to me the most, not the dependency on a GPS. A person’s qualified or unqualified brain is the ultimate deciding factor in safe or risky mountain behavior. Anything that requires brain power in the Berg (map reading) is my kind of fun. With the brains I still have :silly:
The following user(s) said Thank You: Bigsnake

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21 May 2013 20:20 #57010 by tiska
Replied by tiska on topic GPS units
Moderators - please do move the GPS related stuff here somewhere else more appropriate. I'm replying here to keep the comments together. Apologies to the Gray's Pass thread and the exra admin.

Thanks for your thoughts Thomas. As ever, they are an interesting read.

I agree with your categorisation of maps and GPS: "With maps you read and lead; with GPS you dial and follow". That is nicely put and sums up the mindset that leads to GPS related nav errors.

The two can be connected though and I have done so on a few occasions in the mountains. I'll provide some examples later. But first, I should say that I do put a GPS and a map in my bag. I use the map mostly out of interest or on a new route to keep track. I use the GPS only if I have to and only then with my own GPS points. That last bit sounds contrived but that's what I do. I can't fool myself that I haven't been there before. In fact I look forward to going back if you see what I mean.

Where the GPS has been particularly helpful is in making the prospect of going on a multi-day summer hike in the Berg without a tent a less reckless affair. It was something I did without GPS in pre GPS days and it defintely added an edge. There were times when we *had* to find a cave for the first time given bad weather with no tent and were relying on the map alone. It was always stressy but fantastic when that cave finally appeared. You never forget where the cave is after that.

I have also used GPS to learn more from the map and the lay of the land. A good example of the latter was when we were going west on the Bell-Twins traverse. There are a lot of features on the main Berg that one looks onto but cannot be absolutely sure about. For example, seeing exactly where Easter Cave is from the Bell-Twins traverse is hard to do without a GPS. You can get a map and compass out and take a bearing but setting a GOTO on the GPS points the feature out more quickly and probably more accurately and amounts to much the same thing. I do similar things on an aircraft when passing ground points underneath the plane. This makes SA-London flights much more interesting because I have hundreds of GPS points entered from trips in the Sahara. It is really nice to see remote spots we've stayed at from the air. The Durban-Jhb flight allows the same for the Berg when the aircraft takes a more westerly route.

At times we've used a GPS in the Berg because the map was not doing its job and we wanted to save a wet night out. An example comes from another summer trip without tents. We were heading up Yodler's on the way to Ndedema Cave. The version of the map we had didn't mark in the substantial river that runs down that valley (I think this was a straight printing error) and so after a while we had no way real way of knowing where we were apart from gaining the escarpment and a lot of extra hiking time. On this occasion we plugged in the co-ords for the cave which we digitised from the map on the hoof. GPS took us to within 200m of the cave as the mist eased in. We could have left the GPS behind and taken a tent. But I prefer caves. Some might argue we shouldn't take tents.

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22 May 2013 02:57 - 22 May 2013 03:00 #57012 by Serious tribe
Replied by Serious tribe on topic GPS units
Certainly night hiking on indistinct paths on the escarpment can be done a lot more easily if there is a gps track to follow, and the person who is leading knows what to do with the device.

On my trip last year with Chris his gps certainly came into its own. It was a simpler and quicker alternative, however i did have my map out on occasions to check where we where. I think though that it is good to use the map regularly so that just in case the gps stops working, you at least have a basic idea of where you are.

I can say that the gps gave me at any rate, the confidence to tackle that particular night leg of the escarpment, away from the main paths. Something that i would not likely do had we not had it.

I have been doing night hikes since i started walking the berg in 91 without a gps, however that was on the lower berg and the paths are more distinct. On those past trips though, we did get 'lost' once or twice as even a path can get lost in the pitch dark when it peters out for a 100m or so and you bumble around for 30min or so in the correct general direction until you stumble upon it again.

So my view is if you have it, know it backwards, but have the map to shadow it at important route points and be the kind of hiker that can use the map properly even if there is no gps.
Last edit: 22 May 2013 03:00 by Serious tribe.

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22 May 2013 03:04 #57013 by thomas
Replied by thomas on topic GPS units
Moderators, sorry I have blown VE Forum protocol out of the water and I know Intrepid will kill me for it. If someone moves these I will be happy to continue this very interesting thread and leave Gray's Pass to its own devices. GPS is merely the door to further Berg enlightenment (which I probably need more than anyone).

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22 May 2013 05:42 #57017 by thomas
Replied by thomas on topic GPS units
(thank you moderators)

Mnt_tiska, you describe with confidence and believability enough to almost get this dog to want to learn new tricks on a GPS. Thank you for taking the time to do so. It would certainly add a new dimension to Berg hiking that never experienced before. If you had the opportunity to show me personally it would be a pleasure.

I trust that my tone is facetious enough to allay any righteous convictions that you might infer as I admit to some degree of self-examination and certainly openness to other points of view. Yet, “they” say technology is neutral, but certainly no human being is. I use GPS more as a metaphor, than an artifact, certainly in discussing Peltzman but maybe moreso because I have never seen anyone on VE take exception to a GPS or technology in general, or at least question it. VE surveys and forums go on about “favorites” and “how to’s” and “which ones”, not about either/or. If I asked the forum what is the single most essential piece of equipment one needs to bring in the Berg, and you did not suspect it was a trick question, I am sure there would be all sorts of techno answers: footwear, sleeping bag, GPS!, stove, etc. etc. when in fact the answer is your own competent, intelligent, discerning brain. I understand it is not either/or for technology vs brain, of course not, all I am saying is that it detracts from what is really important when going into a quite dangerous environment (and the Peltzman Effect proves it).

A perfect technological similarity applies to cars, in particular SUVs, and even more so, going up Sani Pass. I can assure you that over the years that I have listened and engaged in conversations about just getting up the pass, it has almost always revolved around the technology of the cars and NOT the intelligence/capabilities of the drivers. It was the bells and whistles of the latest and greatest “space age” features, which will end up for naught and plunge over the edge if the driver is incompetent or unknowing about mountain road hazards. Get the point? Technology doesn’t drive the car, the driver drives the car. A GPS doesn’t hike the Berg, the hiker hikes the Berg.

As Mnt_tiska implies, a GPS is an added advantage but to an already skilled and knowledgeable hiker; it is not a substitute for. I hope that resonates. What some would take as a given would shock others to the core but given what I have seen on many occasion in the Berg, some should stay far away from it before they kill themselves. No technology would save such souls. I am talking to the choir I suppose, but not always. Techno gear is quite distracting.

If there are “idiots guides” websites on the ins and outs of what GPS are and do I would gladly take a look. Please suggest. In the meantime I will sharpen, refuel and charge up my brain for the next hike.

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22 May 2013 06:27 #57019 by PeterHowells
Replied by PeterHowells on topic GPS units
I love using my gps but always carry a proper map with me when hiking. As has been inferred already, hiking with only a gps for guidance leads into a false sense of security and could be dangerous.

What has not been mentioned is that some of the waypoints on the gps maps are not correct. They are being updated and corrected continually but there is a chance that using a gps to find an out-of-the-way place will be an effort in frustration. A few years ago I used one of the first Garmin eTrex's to find Nkhosazana cave only to realise that the gps waypoint was some 150m from the actual cave. I have since updated my waypoint and given the waypoint details (with various others) to the company producing the maps for them to update.

Bottom line - gps navigation is the future but for now I recommend having a gps and a good map when hiking.

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