When it comes to navigating, I’ve always steered clear of GPS. They present two fundamental problems: instructions (which I can’t be bothered to read) and batteries (which I don’t want to buy or carry). Then they have a habit of losing contact with satellites when you need them most.
And, let’s face it, the outdoors is the very place to escape technology – using a map is precisely 23.8 per cent of the fun of getting up a mountain.
So I was unexpectedly excited to get my hands on the Garmin Colorado 300, which is intuitively easy to use and packed with really interesting features.
It’s the large Rock ‘n’ Roller wheel that makes this such a novice-friendly device. Press the top right button and you use the wheel to scroll between different features. Spin to ‘Trip Computer’ and you get stats for your most recent trip. Spin to ‘Compass’ and you get a digital needle to direct you to your next waypoint. Spin to ‘Map’ to see your location and next waypoint.
And with the dial wheel it was easy to whisk through the Colorado’s glut of features. This has functions for geocaching and for sailing. Cyclists can use it to monitor their cadence, runners can measure their heart rate, hippies can check the next full moon, and backcountry types can use it for huntin’ and fishin’. And it offers vision-only satnav in your car.
My first taste of using it outdoors was on the bike. Garmin describes this as a high-sensitivity receiver, and I was very impressed with how quickly it located my position; but one reviewer on our website was less impressed with both this and the unit’s accuracy (see www.lfto.com). Clipping it onto my rucksack with its overtly fashionable Garmin karabiner, I could keep an eye on speed, distance covered and elevation.
Out on the hill it works brilliantly. The dial wheel is easy to use even with gloves on, and it’s far less fiddly than devices such as the Road Angel Adventurer 7000. I’d happily use this in winter when functionality and ease of use are vital. But, unlike the Road Angel, Garmin’s GPS doesn’t come with OS mapping. Only a few years ago, GPS units gave you little more than a flashing pixel on a screen; but these days, full colour maps are a minimum requirement. We’d been supplied with an SD card packed with Garmin’s MapSource Topo vector mapping. That means contours, shaded relief and enough features to easily relate to your surroundings. It works fine and uses OS sourced data, but still doesn’t feel quite ‘right’. Still, it’s easy to zoom in and out, using the superb dial wheel.
This device is clearly designed for the US market and will appeal to people who do lots of stuff outdoors. And it’s great for walkers as it’s functional and easy to use. But as a dedicated hill GPS it doesn’t quite match the Satmap Active 10 (£300) for all-out functionality.
Receiver high sensitivity receiver
Size 6.0x13.9x3.5 cm
Display 3.8x6.3 cm
Power 2xAA batteries
Battery life up to 15 hours
Computer interface USB
Extra mapping Garmin MapSource Topo on SD cards (not included)
Number of stored waypoints 1,000
Number of routes 50
Weight 207g (with batteries)
Made in Taiwan
Stockists (023) 8052 4000; www.garmin.com
Very easy to use. This is a feature-packed device that performed well for us on and off the hill. But vector mapping feels a bit drab; some reviewers on www.lfto.com have had issues with its sensitivity. Overall, a great device for all-round outdoors people, but perhaps not the first choice for dedicated hill-walkers.
Review by Matt Swaine
First published in Trail magazine August 2008