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Topic: talk me into...or out of...a GPS< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 12 2013, 6:25 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Last year I got a Garmin Oregon 450t (touch-screen, pre-loaded with 100k contour map of entire USA). I was foreseeing all kinds of uses, but it never lived up to the potential for me. Operator error I'm sure is a big part -- I found it confusing with so many options to do the particular few things I wanted to do. Maybe others find it useful, I found I would be out on the trail all day and realized I hadn't needed to turn to it or even thought to mark a waypoint (though I would see the battery was mostly drained =/).

So I returned it. Now I'm wondering if I just needed to learn more about it, but also I'm wondering why I need that extra weight if I wasn't using it and, so far, am not missing it.

It was interesting to me that there was a thread here a couple months back asking people what they use their GPS for. Most people said to plot their own trek -- lay down waypoints or a "breadcrumb" trail, miles and elevations, some would later upload it a computer and have it as some sort of archive or database entry of the trek. This is different from what I would want from a GPS, and if this is the reality of what it is best for then I definitely don't need it.

What I would want to do with a GPS is mark waypoints and breadcrumbs, total miles and elevation change, definitely that, and also I would want to load in the tracks from others who have done the hike before so that I can see if I'm following in their footsteps, if that's what I want to do. Maybe even multiple other tracks, to see the overlays of alternative routes and such.

I am at least as interested in where I'm going as in where I've been.

In that other thread I referenced, some people even said they use GPS to record their hike in order to make it available to others. But hardly anyone said anything about downloading someone else's trek. So everyone's posting but nobody's downloading? Why not?

I have found and downloaded gpx files of other people's hikes, and loaded them to the Garmin no problem. But then I can't figure out how to easily see my breadcrumbs against theirs on top of the topo map, all at once. I found ways to see this info by jumping between maps/files, but that's not good.

I also loaded Basecamp, and when I synced the GPS it downloaded a trip I took in the North Ga mountains, fine, but then proceeded to show my route laid out perfectly, just 200 miles away. Big shrug to that.

Most of my hiking is along established trails. If I go off-trail it usually is not hard and allows landmarks to clearly guide me. If I was going where no man has gone before I could see more utility in the GPS, but, again, I'm wondering.

So...am I wanting the device to do more than it can do? Do I need some kind of tutorial? Am I basically just an idiot? (OK don't answer that one). Do you consider a GPS device to be an important safety/survival tool, a luxury/toy/convenience, or just dead weight?

I'm sure there are a variety of opinions on this, curious to hear. Thanks.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 12 2013, 6:39 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(JRinGeorgia @ Jun. 12 2013, 6:25 pm)
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But hardly anyone said anything about downloading someone else's trek. So everyone's posting but nobody's downloading? Why not?

I use other people's tracks once in a while, especially for off-trail hikes.  For example, it's nice to know when to be on which side of the canyon for routes that frequently cliff out in ways that aren't evident on a map.  I can progress faster if someone else has found the way.

In any case, I like being able to pull a grid once in a while to verify position.  I may only turn on my GPS a couple times in a trip, but it's nice to have.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 12 2013, 6:41 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I download and use other's tracks when available for an area I haven't been to.  But because I do mostly bushwhacking, I don't find a lot of such tracks online to follow.

For established trails, other people's tracks are good for planning distances and elevation.  Drawing a track on a topo in a mapping program doesn't always result in a true depiction of the distance one needs to travel to follow that track.

I also use my gps tracks to locate my pictures.  ExpertGPS imports the pics and coordinates the locations based on the time of the pictures and the time of the trackpoints.  This alone is worth the cost of the GPS to me.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 12 2013, 6:43 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(JRinGeorgia @ Jun. 12 2013, 6:25 pm)
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I have found and downloaded gpx files of other people's hikes, and loaded them to the Garmin no problem. But then I can't figure out how to easily see my breadcrumbs against theirs on top of the topo map, all at once. I found ways to see this info by jumping between maps/files, but that's not good.

There's a setting you need to change to make both tracks visible.  I don't have the same device, but the user interface is probably similar.  I think you'll find the settings of interest by hitting the menu button on the tracks page.   I'll check when I get home.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 12 2013, 6:46 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I don't know and doubt if I would use one for on-trail personally. A compass and map would be plenty enough for my needs in the areas I hike. I really appreciate one off-trail which is pretty much all of my hiking. In combination with a good map, it is a very valuable resource for me. I really only need coordinates but the built-in maps on the newer units don't hurt.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 12 2013, 6:47 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I found that as long as I was on foot, I did not need or want a GPS.  Might have been nice when I was finding my way across LaMarck Col, but that is about it.

Different story on the water.  In my kayak, I can get turned around fairly easily, in unfamiliar waters with mangrove islands everywhere.  It starts looking all alike.  So, now I own one with all of the blue waters in the US on one card, and I can navigate with a chart and check on my accuracy when needed,  


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 12 2013, 8:12 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I had bought a Geocache GPS unit to help me find some Geocache locations, and also pinpoint some Trailcam's that I had setup.  Honestly, the thing was accurate at first, but eventually was totally useless.  I spent about $150 on it, and I wonder how much I really have to spend to get a quality unit that can pinpoint a location accurately?  I sold mine!
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 12 2013, 10:13 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(big_load @ Jun. 12 2013, 6:43 pm)
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(JRinGeorgia @ Jun. 12 2013, 6:25 pm)
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I have found and downloaded gpx files of other people's hikes, and loaded them to the Garmin no problem. But then I can't figure out how to easily see my breadcrumbs against theirs on top of the topo map, all at once. I found ways to see this info by jumping between maps/files, but that's not good.

There's a setting you need to change to make both tracks visible.  I don't have the same device, but the user interface is probably similar.  I think you'll find the settings of interest by hitting the menu button on the tracks page.   I'll check when I get home.

OK, I think this is what you're looking for.  Go to the "Tracks" menu, where you'll see the list of available saved tracks.  Select the desired track, which brings up a bunch of options.  One of them is a check box that says "Show on Map".  This is what makes the track visible on the map during use (not the same as pushing the "Map" button on the same menu, which just shows it for that instance.  You can have has many tracks checked as you like.  Your own current track and position will be superimposed.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 13 2013, 12:06 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(kovert @ Jun. 12 2013, 6:12 pm)
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 Honestly, the thing was accurate at first, but eventually was totally useless.  ....

I hate it when they do that.  The correlatrons get tired and the geowobulators get off track, first thing you know, it just isn't as sharp as it used to be.  Gotta get a new one to find those stashes.  

Prolly a conspiracy.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 13 2013, 3:36 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Interesting feedback, thanks all. BL, I returned the unit so can't experiment with the settings you've suggested, but it's good to know that there is a way to do one of the main things I've been looking for it to do.

The big question remains, do I go out and buy another one or fuggedaboudit? I know that's a choice only I can make, would welcome additional food for thought.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 13 2013, 3:47 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

On foot in most places, I've found a map & compass suitable for my needs.  There have been a time or two (in years of backcountry travel) that it might have been handy, but in general I prefer to go without.  One less thing to fuss about and carry batteries for.  I used to own a couple over a span of several years, and I did use them.  When I got rid of the last one I didn't look back.

On a recent campaign on the Greenland ice sheet, a GPS was absolutely necessary.  Navigating to one particular point in hundreds of miles of completely featureless terrain proves difficult otherwise, at least without hiring a full-time astronomer to navigate (as they used to do on such expeditions).  During storms, we each put a GPS in our pockets to go alone to the restroom, which could prove fatal if you didn't find your way back to camp.  But that's less applicable for most folks in most situations.

I think it's just over that next hill...


Short of that, I don't bother.  A good map and an accurate compass suit me just fine, and even the compass only gets used occasionally.

To clarify, I guess that's me "talking you out" of one, unless you have to take a crap in Greenland.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 13 2013, 4:50 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I view a gps like a camera - generally unnecessary but adds to my enjoyment of the experience, both in planning, during, and after the event.

If weight were the only factor in my decision, then gps, camera, and hiking hammock, and hiking poles would all stay home.  Don't need none of them.  But I always take all of them.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 13 2013, 4:50 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(GoBlueHiker @ Jun. 13 2013, 3:47 pm)
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One less thing to fuss about and carry batteries for.
^Zactly. Not to mention the few hundred dollars still in your pocket (or more likely spent on other gear).


(GoBlueHiker @ Jun. 13 2013, 3:47 pm)
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When I got rid of the last one I didn't look back.
This is how I'm feeling now, but I've had a nagging feeling I must be missing something about GPS. Maybe not.


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(nogods @ Jun. 13 2013, 4:50 pm)
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I view a gps like a camera - generally unnecessary but adds to my enjoyment of the experience, both in planning, during, and after the event.
I can see that but for others, that's not the trigger for me. I seem to be fine planning without it, and I've managed to avoid becoming a Missing Hiker headline, so the weight vs. enjoyment is tipping towards the weight (losing it) for me.

Thanks.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 13 2013, 4:58 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Here's an application I haven't seen discussed.  On a recent group hike, there developed some mistrust about how much time/distance remained for the day.  Of course my recommendation is for participants to do their own navigation and their own estimates, but people get lax about that when they see others keeping track.   Anyway, in a situation like that, it's nice to be able to fire up the GPS and show actual current position relative to pre-marked route and waypoints.
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(JRinGeorgia @ Jun. 13 2013, 2:50 pm)
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.... I've had a nagging feeling I must be missing something about GPS. Maybe not.

You are, but that's OK.  There's nothing wrong with that.  Don't feel bad about it.  Don't beat yourself up over it.  Just find some peace with it, and be comfortable with it.  It's OK.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 13 2013, 5:42 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Jim Fuller @ Jun. 13 2013, 5:05 pm)
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(JRinGeorgia @ Jun. 13 2013, 2:50 pm)
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.... I've had a nagging feeling I must be missing something about GPS. Maybe not.

You are, but that's OK.  There's nothing wrong with that.  Don't feel bad about it.  Don't beat yourself up over it.  Just find some peace with it, and be comfortable with it.  It's OK.

Yes, unless you really want a GPS, there's no reason to feel like you should have one.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 13 2013, 6:04 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(JRinGeorgia @ Jun. 13 2013, 1:56 pm)
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(nogods @ Jun. 13 2013, 4:50 pm)
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I view a gps like a camera - generally unnecessary but adds to my enjoyment of the experience, both in planning, during, and after the event.
I can see that but for others, that's not the trigger for me. I seem to be fine planning without it, and I've managed to avoid becoming a Missing Hiker headline, so the weight vs. enjoyment is tipping towards the weight (losing it) for me.

Thanks.

If you happen to have a smartphone you could dabble with a GPS app to see whether it would be worth a "real" one for anything ranging from free to a couple of dollars.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 13 2013, 7:30 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(big_load @ Jun. 13 2013, 2:42 pm)
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(Jim Fuller @ Jun. 13 2013, 5:05 pm)
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(JRinGeorgia @ Jun. 13 2013, 2:50 pm)
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.... I've had a nagging feeling I must be missing something about GPS. Maybe not.

You are, but that's OK.  There's nothing wrong with that.  Don't feel bad about it.  Don't beat yourself up over it.  Just find some peace with it, and be comfortable with it.  It's OK.

Yes, unless you really want a GPS, there's no reason to feel like you should have one.

And there's no pressure to have one but I have one and I like mine. I'm not saying you have to like mine but I think you should consider having one, or not.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 13 2013, 9:44 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

More good points. HSF, I don't yet have a smartphone, I've thought of that too as a possible permanent solution but I thought that the GPS apps on smartphones relied on tower signals to triangulate position, which I won't always be in range for. But still a good way to fiddle around with GPS apps to see if I get the hang of it.

Surprised no one has created a dongle you can plug into your smartphone with the dongle being a satellite receiver and then relying on the existing electronics in the smartphone to do the rest.

Another situation I could see a GPS being especially useful is marking and then later finding food/water caches in the desert.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 13 2013, 9:53 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(JRinGeorgia @ Jun. 13 2013, 9:44 pm)
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More good points. HSF, I don't yet have a smartphone, I've thought of that too as a possible permanent solution but I thought that the GPS apps on smartphones relied on tower signals to triangulate position, which I won't always be in range for.

That's pretty much ancient history now.  Cell phones in general (not just smart phones) have real GPS receivers in them, although they're often not as robust from a signal processing standpoint as hand-held GPS receivers.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 13 2013, 11:13 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(big_load @ Jun. 13 2013, 6:53 pm)
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(JRinGeorgia @ Jun. 13 2013, 9:44 pm)
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More good points. HSF, I don't yet have a smartphone, I've thought of that too as a possible permanent solution but I thought that the GPS apps on smartphones relied on tower signals to triangulate position, which I won't always be in range for.

That's pretty much ancient history now.  Cell phones in general (not just smart phones) have real GPS receivers in them, although they're often not as robust from a signal processing standpoint as hand-held GPS receivers.

My smartphone GPS is my primary GPS. It has been working very well so far for my use, both in winter and summer the last couple years.


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(big_load @ Jun. 13 2013, 9:53 pm)
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That's pretty much ancient history now.  Cell phones in general (not just smart phones) have real GPS receivers in them, although they're often not as robust from a signal processing standpoint as hand-held GPS receivers.
Really? That's good to know, I'd rather put a few hundred dollars into a new cell phone that can run a GPS app and do a million other things than put that money into a dedicated GPS that can't make phone calls. Definitely going to think about that...

Thanks!


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 14 2013, 9:14 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Most cell phones aren't designed for outdoor gps use.

First compare the gps chip and the gps antenna.  A gps and a cell phone with the same gps chip are not comparable if the gps antenna is not the same.

Second, is durability - water, shock, and temperature factors make a difference as to whether or not a cell phone is a suitable substitute for a gps.

Third, be sure the carrier of your cell phone does not block independent access to the gps chip.  Otherwise you'll only be able to use the gps connection with cell service.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 14 2013, 9:45 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

One of the smarter things I've learned from the smarter folks here is to not lump your equipment into multipurpose baskets.  If they're one thing and you lose your phone, you lose your gps.  Same with cameras and phones.

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(nogods @ Jun. 14 2013, 6:14 am)
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Most cell phones aren't designed for outdoor gps use.

First compare the gps chip and the gps antenna.  A gps and a cell phone with the same gps chip are not comparable if the gps antenna is not the same.

Second, is durability - water, shock, and temperature factors make a difference as to whether or not a cell phone is a suitable substitute for a gps.

Third, be sure the carrier of your cell phone does not block independent access to the gps chip.  Otherwise you'll only be able to use the gps connection with cell service.

I don't know about comparable to "today's" GPS's, but my smartphone's GPS is way better than my backup "true" ETrex GPS. It uses both A-GPS support and GLONASS for accurate positioning. I don't know if it would work for Geocaching but I usually get accuracy down to within 20 feet in all weather conditions so far and that's more than enough for my needs.

I do keep mine in a ziplock for protection from the elements when I'm not using it. I've used mine in temps down into the single digits without issue. I store it in my pocket when not in use except for at night when it goes in my pack. I do let it warm up in my pocket before I turn it on when it's really cold. I've fried a laptop turning it on when it was too cold and I'm concerned that it might happen to my phone. That said, a few times I have forgotten to warm it up first and it worked just fine. I bought touch screen gloves and they do help but find them gimmicky and rarely use them.

Carriers block independent access to the GPS chip? Which carrier does that? I would like to know so I can avoid them.


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(nogods @ Jun. 14 2013, 6:14 am)
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....Third, be sure the carrier of your cell phone does not block independent access to the gps chip.  Otherwise you'll only be able to use the gps connection with cell service.

The only thing about that which I'm aware of is that both the gps chip and cell service radios are both controlled by the same setting in a number of phones so that when you select "airplane mode" you lose both functions, gps and cell service.

But even in areas of no cell reception, those devices will provide gps location, albeit initially slower without the cell tower "cheat" in selecting the correct ephemeris (satellite list, without that cheat the unit does a systematic search for every satellite and that takes longer than just searching for the ones from the short list based on a rough location: hence some older gps units taken from one coast to another only getting a lock after many, many minutes the first time: after that they "remember" where they are and do the short list search too), that's what's referred to as "enhanced gps" as I recall.

The more critical detail, IMHO, about cell/data service is regarding the app: for out of cell range usage the app must have the ability to cache maps for access when the device is out of data service range. Users heading out beyond the towers have to preload their map units while they have a conection to cell service for access to the map servers.

For when I don't want to risk my phone I've got an Otterbox "Armor" waterproof case.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 14 2013, 12:44 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

otter boxes, plastic bags, keeping the phone close to your chest...you can turn your uncle into an aunt too.  

I don't take my smart phone on the trail.  I have a dedicated small tracfone for that purpose.  Moreover, I bought a CDMA tracfone just for that purpose because in WNY and in the Adirondacks CDMA's have better coverage, but in the metro Buffalo area where I work and live, AT&T is best and is what I use for my smartphone.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 14 2013, 1:21 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I wouldn't leave my aunt or uncle in my car at the trailhead either.

Leaving my smartphone at home on an extended trip to a backpacking location just to avoid a 5 oz. extra pack weight doesn't appeal to me, I find them too useful on the road. So rather than leave it in the car at the TH I stick it in my pack, powered off but somewhat protected, previously in a doubled ziploc and more recently I'm thinking in a case.

I don't do backcountry communication so I've no need of any special trail phone.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 19 2013, 9:49 am Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

This trail guide is one of the uses for my gps. I enjoy creating them so I don't fret the extra weight of the gps.

Hike to the Summit Area Lean-tos in Allegany State Park
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