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June 2004 GPS Units

I Climbed Los Angeles

One small step for our stair-obsessed man, one giant leap for fitness freaks everywhere.

Stair Climbing Technology For Obsessive-Compulsives

I used two GPS systems to record my routes. The cell-phone-size Garmin Geko 201 (www.garmin.com; $150) was usually strapped to my arm with an optional Walkman-style band. I used it to record waypoints, elevation, and total distance. Then, to extrapolate on that information, I uploaded my routes to an online fitness program called Endless Pursuit (www.endlesspursuit.com). The service sells an enhanced GPS package, featuring the Geko, along with the armband, bike mounts, and a computer interface cable, for $300. The package includes lifetime access to the service’s fantastic mapping and metrics–you can upload your treks, get more than 50 information variables (I found the stats and graphs for total altitude gain/loss most useful)–as well as workout tracking and scheduling.

Though Endless Pursuit offers satellite and topographic mapping, the function proved a little unwieldy. So I turned to software called TopoFusion (www.topofusion.com; $40). This product provides better access to satellite and topo maps, and many–though not all–of the metrics offered by Endless Pursuit.

Finally, I used a second kind of GPS to get the turn-by-turn charts I generated. Pharos Pocket GPS unit is an extraordinarily versatile system; it works with handheld computers and laptops, and has multiple connectivity options, including USB, compact flash, and wireless Bluetooth. Mated with the company’s Ostia navigation software, I was able to generate a real-time map, complete with street names, with very little fuss. The system isn’t terribly well suited to wilderness use, since handheld computers like my HP iPaq Pocket PC aren’t rugged enough and don’t offer sufficient battery life. But it may be the best product for uncovering the specifics of urban treks (www.pharosgps.com; prices start at $190).

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