Garmin Montana 650t 2011

The Garmin Montana 650t is designed to be rugged, portable and versatile so it can be used in the hand, on a bike and in a car as a conventional satnav system. But for hillwalkers the main appeal is the huge 4-inch colour screen as it allows the user to clearly see around 6 square kilometres of OS 1:50k mapping without the need to scroll.
It’s a touch-screen device, which does work well on a decent day; but with gloves, even just to zoom in closer to the map is a hit-and-miss process that I soon became annoyed with. The operating system and functionality are good and intuitive, although the in-car performance is not as impressive as a dedicated vehicle satnav such as those in the Garmin Nuvi range.
At £550, the price is pretty steep, especially when you add on OS mapping at around £200 for the whole of Britain at 1:50k.
There’s an option to save some cash by choosing the Montana 600 instead at £430, which has no camera and lacks a world base map, but it’s still very expensive.
Overall, the Garmin Montana 650t puts in a top performance with bare hands, but this is compromised when you need your gloves on.

Software OS 1:50k GB mapping £200
Weight 310g
Size 14.5x7.5x3.5cm
Display 9x4cm colour touch-screen
Power 3 x AA batteries / lithium rechargeable
Battery life 16 hours (lithium); 22 hours (AA)
Electronic compass yes
Camera 5Mp
Website www.garmin.com/uk

The Garmin Montana 650t offers great performance generally, although the touch-screen isn’t ideal with gloves and the price is definitely chilling.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine October 2011

Satmap Active 10 Plus

The Active 10 Plus seems to get better and better and the latest version, which is now WAAS/EGNOS enabled, features a hefty lithium rechargeable battery, and also comes with a 33% discount off mapping (Britain divided into three at 1:50000 £120 each; national parks at 1:25000 at £100 each; plus many other options). The latest version seems to pick up a satellite fix much quicker than previous models and the battery life is more than adequate for even the longest day-walk. The huge screen is a delight to use, enabling you to see a fair bit of the surrounding terrain at a reasonable zoom level without having to scroll. For most walks, the map screen is all you’ll need, but if visibility is poor, the compass page features a good direction pointer too. SatMap offers use of its own web-based planning tool, which is wonderful and negates the need to buy digital-mapping, but the actual transfer of data is significantly more complicated than some units. Also on the downside, the rubber USB cover is starting to fall off. It is big, and it’s heavy, but if you want a GPS that displays Ordnance Survey mapping, it’s definitely the best.

VITAL STATS
Size
: 12.9x7.5x3.1cm
Weight: 230g
Routes/waypoints: Varies
WAAS/EGNOS-enabled: Yes
PC/Mac-compatible: PC only
Works with: Most software but best paired with SatMap online planning tool
Features: OS mapping (optional extra)
Battery type/claimed life: Rechargeable lithium battery pack/15-18hrs
Contact: 0845 873 0101; www.satmap.com


Garmin Vista HCX

Without a doubt the best of the GPS units that can’t display Ordnance Survey maps on their screens. The Vista is compact and light, and offers just about all the features a walker could want with the exception of OS mapping. It picks up a fix in seconds and is robust enough and sufficiently waterproof to use anywhere at any time. It’s simple to set up, and if you’re planning your walk on a PC then data transfer could not be easier. Manual waypoint input isn’t too painful either. In the hills, the compass page points the way with a clear Direction of Travel arrow, and if your walk is particularly complex, you may even want to try the Highway page – a basic 3D representation of your route which shows all the twists and turns as you go. Battery life is absolutely superb, over three days out of a single set of lithium batteries. And it has an electronic compass and a barometric altimeter – really useful in the mountains. The buttons are easy to operate, with a simple, single button press to input a waypoint that can then be used as a Go-To or to mark the spot where you are stood.

VITAL STATS
Size
: 5.6x10.7x3cm
Weight: 156g
Routes/waypoints: 50 routes; 1,000 waypoints
WAAS/EGNOS-enabled: Yes
PC/Mac-compatible: Both
Works with: Most software including Memory-Map
Features: Electronic compass, barometric altimeter
Battery type/claimed life: 2xAA/14hrs
Contact: 0808 238 0000; www.garmin.co.uk


Garmin Oregon 450T

A sleek and lightweight receiver that comes with the benefit of optional Ordnance Survey mapping (£130 for a national park at 1:25000 or £80 for all national parks at 1:50000). All the functions are operated by the touch-screen, which keeps it simple and works well, even with gloves, and as usual for Garmin, the transfer of data is incredibly simple. The screen is large and easy to read, even in sunlight, and finding and then following a route is a cinch: the route is shown as a pink line superimposed over the OS mapping, with a Direction of Travel arrow showing your position relative to the next waypoint. Battery life proved exceptional – well over 12 hours of constant use in the battery-saving mode. Overall a superb bit of kit, but expensive, especially when you add mapping.

VITAL STATS
Size: 5.8x11.4x3.5cm
Weight: 192g
Routes/waypoints: 200 routes; 2,000 waypoints
WAAS/EGNOS-enabled: Yes
PC/Mac-compatible: Both
Works with: Most software including Memory-Map
Features: Barometric altimeter, OS mapping (optional extra)
Battery type/claimed life: 2xAA/16hrs
Contact: 0808 238 0000; www.garmin.co.uk


Garmin Dakota 20

Billed by Garmin as an entry-level GPS, the Dakota is actually incredibly functional; and it’s also very small and very light. But the £290 price tag might put a lot of first-time buyers off, especially as they may need to spend another £100+ on mapping. It’s small, but has the benefit of displaying optional Ordnance Survey mapping on its screen (£130 for a national park at 1:25000 or £80 for all national parks at 1:50000). It relies on touch-screen for all functions, and again this works well even in gloves. And the data transfer is even easier. Following a route proved simple and the battery life was excellent – helped no doubt by the excellent battery-saving mode that switches the screen off after a preset time. A great device but a lot of money, especially when compared to some.

VITAL STATS
Size: 5.5x10x3.3cm
Weight: 150g
Routes/waypoints: 50 routes; 1,000 waypoints
WAAS/EGNOS-enabled: Yes
PC/Mac-compatible: Both
Works with: Most software including Memory-Map
Features: Electronic compass, barometric altimeter, OS mapping (optional extra)
Battery type/claimed life: 2xAA/20hrs
Contact: 0808 238 0000; www.garmin.co.uk


Lowrance Endura Sierra

The Sierra is the award-winning, top-of-the-range member of the Endura family and as such is an all-singing, all-dancing GPS device which not only offers optional Ordnance Survey mapping (UK 1:50000 in three regions at £100 per section) but also an MP3 player, video player and microphone. Whether the latter features add anything to a walking GPS is another matter. In use it’s much like the less expensive Out & Back, with an excellent Direction of Travel arrow to guide the user between waypoints; but the screen resolution here is far better, so following the map is much easier on the eyes. Data transfer is equally as clunky as its stablemate but in its favour, it boasts an electronic compass and a barometric altimeter. It also features the same excellent touch-screen and button operations.

VITAL STATS
Size
: 13x6x3.1cm
Weight: 230g
Routes/waypoints: 500 routes; 4,000 waypoints
WAAS/EGNOS-enabled: Yes
PC/Mac-compatible: PC only
Works with: Most software including Memory-Map
Features: Electronic compass; barometric altimeter
Battery type/claimed life: 2xAA/10-15hrs
Contact: www.lowrance.co.uk