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December 2007

Smart Chart: Find Your Perfect GPS Unit

Whether you're a backpacker, dayhiker, geocacher, runner, or cyclist we have a GPS unit for you.

GPS Units

I am a… Backpacker

Features wanted: sensitive GPS reception, weather-resistant body, large screen, long battery life, pre-loaded with base maps or better

An all-around champ, the Garmin 60Cx locks in fast and holds a connection where lesser units fail, like in old-growth firs and narrow canyons. The 2.2-inch color screen reads well in direct sunlight, and ample memory holds weeks of data and maps. Takes AA batteries. $428; 7.5 oz.

Aside from navigation, I want…

The best on-screen maps and satellite images

With the DeLorme PN-20, imagery is king. Download super-detailed topo, street, and aerial maps onto the 1GB memory card. Bonus: It can run on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery (good for day trips) or two AAs. $450; 5.1 oz.

Multimedia options

The Magellan Triton 2000 has all the usual stuff–2.7-inch color screen, touchscreen menus, barometer, electronic compass, lots of brain power–plus a 2MB camera, LED flashlight, and voice recorder. Download shaded National Geographic topos and music files, too. Takes AAs. $499; 6.3 oz.

Weather reports

Carry the Bushnell Onix 400, and you’ll never get caught in a storm again. Scroll the 3.5-inch color screen for live reports, 5-day forecasts, and storm warnings from XM satellite radio. Then plan a re-route using pre-loaded sat photos, or hunker down in your tent and listen to 170 radio channels. It comes with map software, too. Rechargeable battery. $500 (plus monthly XM service).

Something cheaper than $350

The new GPS chip in the Garmin etrex Vista HCx provides pinpoint accuracy at a mid-range price. Other features: barometric altimeter, electronic compass, color screen, memory card slot, and intuitive user interface. Takes AAs. $321; 5.5 oz.

I am a…Dayhiker

Features wanted: basic navigation, lower price, battery lasts 6-plus hours

Give me power, hold the frills

The Garmin etrex Venture HC is a stripped-down version of the Vista HCx featuring the same rugged body and GPS hardware at a lower price. The 24MB memory stores up to 500 points and 10 tracks, but you give up the electronic compass, barometer, and turn-by-turn directions. Takes AAs. $214; 5.5 oz.

Pimp my phone

When loaded with Trimble Outdoors (; $7/month), the GPS-enhanced Nextel Motorola i560 can track your hikes, take photos and sound clips, and wirelessly send them all to Google Maps on the web. The rubberized clamshell also passes strict military standards for dust and shock. Drawback: Topos are hard to read on small phone screen. Rechargeable battery. $99 (with service); 4.8 oz.

Take me driving, too

The Magellan Crossover works for short hikes or fly-fishing trips (the rechargeable battery lasts about 8 hours), and it spits out turn-by-turn road directions on a big, easy-to-navigate touch screen. It comes pre-loaded with topo maps and 1.5 million points of interest, including gas stations, hotels, and outdoor shops. Rechargeable battery. $399; 8.5 oz.

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