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


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


Nokia 5800 Smartphone 2010

Viewranger mapping software can be added to any mobile phone with a built-in internal GPS receiver or that has a Bluetooth GPS receiver connected. The result is that the Viewranger software provides OS digital mapping on the screen of the phone with the addition of a fully featured navigation system. Here the Viewranger software is loaded to a Nokia 5800 phone.

Design
The mobile phone that you load the Viewranger software to is obviously important. The Nokia 5800 is a flagship option with a 7x4cm screen that provides touch-screen operation. A stylus is provided for easier operation and this is attached by a lanyard so it can’t get lost. The device is certainly the most stylish out of those featured and comes with three buttons at the base of the screen and three more along the sides. The Viewranger software is operated by on-screen touch-sensitive graphic icons. The device has a built-in 3.2 megapixel camera and is powered by a rechargeable internal battery.

On the hill
The first thing that struck me was the clarity of the screen on this device: it is astonishingly clear and crisp, and by far the best here. Operation of the functions via the touch-screen was equally impressive. A swipe of the thumb moved the map across the screen with rapid regeneration of detail. When the device is turned to the horizontal position, the OS map rotates so that north is always towards to the top. This sounds like a pointless gimmick, but  it’s actually really useful as it allows you to view the area of the map you really need. A finger can be used, but the stylus is ideal for creating routes on screen and switching between functions. You get all the usual functions such as route creation as well as 3D panorama maps that identify features around your location. Additional maps can be downloaded directly via a mobile internet connection or are available preloaded on SD memory cards that slot into the side of the phone. I did not find the interface quite as easy to navigate as some other units, but that may just be because I have used other units more. You do not get the road turn-by-turn functionality, which is slightly surprising considering that this type of device may appeal to a more general user. The Care and Maintenance section of its handbook makes it clear that this device is not rugged enough to handle rough mountain use.

Price Nokia 5800 phone £300 (may be less on contract). Viewranger mapping software £156-60 for whole of UK at 1:50k. Extensive range of mapping to cover smaller areas of UK for as little as £30 inc. most of Europe
Size 11x5.2x1.6cm
Display 7x4cm, colour touch-screen
Power built-in rechargeable battery
Memory MicroSD cards
Computer interface USB port
Weight 116g
Made in China
Stockist details – tel. (01223) 421355; www.viewranger.com

Verdict
The Nokia 5800 has an incredibly clear touch-screen; view flips between vertical and horizontal; Viewranger software can be used in many mobile phones. But it’s not as waterproof or durable as other devices. It’s ideal for tourists and fair-weather outdoor use.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine January 2010






Satmap Active 10 Plus 2010

The Satmap Active 10 was introduced in late 2007. It was the first GPS receiver that provided exactly what the hill-walker needed in an easy-to-use device. What set it apart was the large colour screen, which coupled clear OS mapping with a very intuitive user interface. It has just been upgraded to the Satmap Active 10 Plus, which boasts additional features.

Design
The Satmap Active 10 Plus retains the basic design of the original. So you get a larger-than-average housing that is waterproof and robust enough to take the knocks of a day on the hill. It is button-operated, rather than touch-screen, with six main buttons and a joystick. It’s powered by three AA batteries, or a rechargeable battery pack can be fitted. The ‘Plus’ version has improved software and postcode search capability, and comes with a voucher for 60km2 OS mapping and is preloaded with a world map plus UK road mapping. But the essential features are the same. Load your OS mapping via an SD card slot in the side. Switch on, your OS mapping appears on-screen and you can zoom into your location via the zoom buttons. The joystick allows you to move the on-screen mapping in all directions.

On the hill
The Satmap Active 10 has been used by Trail staff for a couple of years and it is has proven its worth in numerous locations including the Alps and Cairngorms and for general walking. The screen is bigger than others so you can see more of the map at a larger scale in one view, which makes navigation easier – particularly if the screen is smudged with mud, water and snow.  Zooming in and out or scrolling across the map with the joystick is fast and accurate. This ease of use is essential when fumbling around in the cold and wet or just wanting to get off the hill. Route creation is a breeze too, again thanks to that large screen and easy-to-use button operating system. At home, you can use the USB port, which allows you to plan and share routes on a PC via the Satmap online route planner. There are no more frills than that really. This is a purely functional device. It lacks a camera, MP3 player and touch-screen, and it is relatively big and heavy. But when choosing a device to help me navigate across the hills in any weather  the Satmap is the clear and only choice for me. This device actually does make you wonder if you really need to carry that map and compass for navigation after all.

Price £380 for GPS receiver, which includes voucher for 60km2 OS mapping; additional OS mapping includes 1:50k GB £200; Northern, Central or Southern GB  £120; Counties £25; plus international mapping and many more
Sizes 12.9x7.5x3.1cm
Display 7x5.2cm colour
Power 3xAA or rechargeable battery
Memory MicroSD cards
Computer interface USB port
Weight 222g (including batteries)
Made in China
Stockist details – tel. 0845 873 0101; www.satmap.com

Verdict
The Satmap Active 10 Plus has a large screen; very easy to use; waterproof; easy button operation. But it’s not touch-screen; bigger and heavier than others. We reckon it’s the most user-friendly GPS receiver currently available for walkers, which is why it won the ‘Best in Test’ accolade.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine January 2010





Garmin Oregon 300 2009

In-car satnav is now so common that the humble road atlas is more often than not stashed away alongside the spare tyre, the red triangle and the rusty jump leads just in case there’s an emergency. These days a rolling road display with a polite voice instructing the driver when to turn off is how many of us travel the length and breadth of the country as we head to the hills. Of course, once away from the tarmac the map and compass are still the tools of choice for serious mountain navigators. At least that is what I used to think before I tried the latest Garmin GPS receiver...
Unlike most GPS receivers the new Garmin Oregon 300 can be uploaded with OS-quality mapping, so you can see your location on screen in real time, in a similar way to ‘thumbing’ a paper map. The size of the screen compared to a large paper map is still a drawback though of course. The OS maps are stored on micro-SD cards, and have to be purchased separately and loaded behind the batteries at the heart of the unit. Route-planning is extremely easy as you just scroll the on-screen map to the location you want to head for, tap the screen to create a waypoint and then create a route by linking waypoints. You can of course create routes easily on your PC and import them to the GPS receiver or even share routes wirelessly with other Garmin Oregon units. There’s only one button on Garmin Oregon 300 as this unit has a touch-sensitive screen. This is surprisingly easy to use even while wearing thin gloves and I could just about get basic operation while wearing mountain gloves too. Some of the on-screen touch buttons are smaller than others, so a fingernail sometimes works better than a chunky fingertip.
Having planned your route you can select Automotive Mode to calculate a route via roads that displays ‘next turn’ information. Switch to Off Road and you are set up for cross-country routes. Like all GPS receivers there is no On Footpath method of calculating routes so you have to tap in waypoints along your planned footpath route and then link them all together. But this is still easier than typing in waypoint grid references as you need to do with most GPS receivers that lack on-screen mapping.
Having resisted the seduction of GPS receivers for many years, I am finally starting to believe that these electronic boxes are beginning to be very useful pieces of outdoor kit. I won’t be throwing away my map and compass just yet, as we all know that even in-car satnav is far from perfect and batteries can die – but the Garmin Oregon 300 certainly makes navigation in the outdoors easier than ever before.

Price £330 (standard unit); 1:25k OS maps of National Parks and selected trails are £130 each. Also bundled with 1:50k National Parks or selected trails for £360
Sizes 5.8x11.4x3.5cm
Display 3.8x6.3cm colour touch-screen
Batteries 2xAA Battery life 18 hours
Computer interface USB port
Number of stored map routes 50
Number of stored waypoints 1,000
Weight 202g (inc batteries)
Made in Taiwan
Stockist details – tel. (023) 8052 4000; www.garmin.co.uk
Verdict
The Garmin Oregon 300 features touch-screen operation; very easy to use; OS mapping; electronic magnetic compass; extremely sensitive GPS reception. But pricy; touch screen works best with fingernail operation rather than gloved hands; a large paper map is easier to read; a point of interest list of hill names would be useful.
In conclusion, it sets standards for GPS receiver navigation in the future, but doesn’t make a large paper map redundant.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine March 2009



Garmin Colorado 300*

Thanks to an easy PC interface, downloading routes and uploading tracklogs is a cinch. However, rather annoyingly the unit locks itself when connected to the PC (meaning you can’t carry out other tasks) and switches off when it’s disconnected. The new iPod-style scroll wheel takes getting used to but works well, even with gloves, making navigation through the pages easy. However, the screen is dark and difficult to see in full daylight, and adjusting it is fiddly. Lovely to hold and very functional with an electronic compass and barometric altimeter. Routes are fairly easy to follow via the map or compass pages, or the very graphic 3D page (only available with the optional Topo mapping).

VITAL STATS
Size: 13.9 x 6 x 3.5cm
Weight: 207g (including batteries)
Screen: Transflective colour TFT, 240 x 400 pixels
Battery life: Up to 15 hours (recommended for use with NiMH batteries)
Routes/waypoints: 50 routes/1,000 waypoints
Works with: Most mapping software; WAAS/EGNOS-enabled
Contact: 02380 524000, www.garmin.co.uk
Verdict: Bristles with features and works well enough on the hill. A ready winner in this category.

Satmap Active 10

As the only dedicated hand-held GPS using full Ordnance Survey mapping, the Active 10 looks familiar and is therefore easy to get used to. Free download software (SatSYNC) is needed to move route data between GPS and PC, but once that’s done you have your route showing on the map – simplicity itself! Logical menus are easy to access via joystick/buttons, the “Mark” and “Go To” functions are simple. It’s not WAAS-enabled but accuracy was very good. The detailed 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey Explorer-style mapping means you can always see your exact location – reassuring for navigation newbies. However, the maps aren’t included in the purchase price, so expect to spend around £400 by the time you’ve covered your local area.

VITAL STATS

Size: 13 x 7.5 x 3cm

Weight: 175g (excluding batteries)

Screen: 3.5in LCD TFT backlit colour

Battery life: 9-10 hours on two AA lithium    

Routes/waypoints: Routes totalling 12,000 waypoints

Works with: All mapping software that’s compatible with Satmap’s SatSYNC content manager, including Memory-Map

Contact: 0845 873 0101, www.satmap.com

Verdict: So nearly the perfect GPS, but quite expensive by the time you’ve bought your maps. Best for inexperienced navigators and shorter walks.

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Satmap Active 10

If you like design you’ll love this GPS receiver. Even the box oozes quality, with a clever retractable housing that instantly sets a new standard of packaging. Grab the Active 10, insert the supplied batteries and in minutes the screen illuminates with an impressive colour map with your location clearly marked. I dabbled with the six buttons and toggle before bothering to open the manual. This is an incredibly easy device to use.

The Satmap comes with a standard base map installed, similar to a conventional road map. I added Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 digital maps of the Lake District. The maps are loaded via a small map card that slots into the side of the unit. Having dabbled, the Quick Start User Guide comes in handy to get to grips with the real power of the device.

All the standard GPS functionality is there, but I liked how the buttons provided logical access to all the essential functions. But the real advantage here is the mapping: other units that currently display OS-quality mapping are hand-held computers requiring a stylus for operation, which just isn’t practical in the hills.

To plan a route, a joystick controls movement across screen. You then just click the joystick, or press the Add button, to create a waypoint, press another button to end the planning phase and you have a route saved that you can follow by GPS.

You get a USB port too (although the rubber cover for this is all too easily dislodged and lost), and this allows you to link the Active 10 to a computer so you can share routes with other users and mapping software.

The unit has an electronic magnetic compass to point you in the direction of the next waypoint on your route. This has to be calibrated before use, and the Quick User Guide makes this easy to do.   

I was pleased to see that the unit comes set to OSGB and metric units, but more importantly the Quick User Guide tells you how to change these if you need to.

Like all GPS receivers, the Active 10’s screen is nowhere near as big as an A4 folded paper map, so when planning a trip, the tried and trusted method of lying on the floor with maps everywhere will still be the start point for many adventures. However, when you are on your walk, the Satmap Active 10 looks set to become the benchmark navigational device that others will be compared to.

It’s incredibly hard to fault the Satmap Active 10, and certainly this is what most hill-walkers have been looking for from a navigational device. All we want now is a screen that rolls out to A4 or bigger and we’ll never need paper maps again … or will we?

Receiver 12 channel
Sizes 12.9x7.5x3.1cm
Display 7x5.2cm colour
Power 3xAA
Battery life 30 hours
Maps available OS 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 from £30 to £100
Computer interface USB port
Number of stored map routes infinite
Number of stored waypoints infinite
Number of map datums infinite via website
Weight 222g (including batteries)
Made in China

Stockist details – tel. 0845 873 0101; www.satmap.com 

Verdict: This GPS has OS-quality mapping; it’s very easy to use; it has a long battery life and it’s waterproof. But the USB port protector may get lost. Overall, it’s the best and the most user-friendly GPS receiver currently available for hill-walkers.





Mio A201 (+ 512MB Memory Card + Anquet 1:25,000 scale National Park mapping)

This is the type of GPS system that walkers have been waiting for. In one unit, you get a GPS receiver coupled with a large colour screen and digital mapping that is identical to the paper maps that we are all used to using. Switch it on, and the GPS receiver places a small circle over your location on the map. This unit came fitted with a 1:25,000 scale OS map of the Lake District but you can also get other UK National Parks and Harvey Mapping. Planning routes can be achieved just by using the stylus pointer to tap out a route on the screen. Save your routes, retrieve your routes and follow routes by setting the unit to Virtual GPS so that a compass and arrow point you in the right direction. You also get OS road mapping for your city travels. The huge screen is far easier to read than any other GPS receiver we looked at. If you already have a pocket PC then you could buy the Anquet software on its own of course too. But this unit is far more delicate than the standard GPS receiver options and you may lose the stylus easily. However the real drawback is that you only get 3 to 4 hours of operation before you need to recharge the battery, so this is best used to check and find a location, rather than all-day use in a blizzard. Anquet is not making software for maps outside of the UK, so this option has limited use if you are a traveller. You cannot zoom in as close as some other units, and when you do get in close the OS mapping is not as clear as others at street level.

Verdict Buy it if you want a UK-based GPS system that allows clear OS digital mapping for short periods of outdoor use.

Receiver 12 channel

Size 70x120x20mm

Weight with batteries 176g

Display 55x70mm; 320x240 pixels colour

Power rechargeable; 3-4 hours

Memory 64MB built in+ 512 MB (2GB memory card at additional cost)

Computer interface yes

No of map datums OSGB only

No of waypoints effectively limitless

No of routes effectively limitless

Stores in UK via website only as full package


Garmin GPS Map 60Cx

This GPS unit from Garmin is great to use from the off. The actual GPS receiver can be turned off for indoor tasks, such as linking it to a PC. The big colourful screen is very easy to read, the menus intuitive and the pages easy to follow and customise. PC interface is also really simple. It’s superb, whether you’re just checking where you are, or navigating in poor visibility. Optional “Highway” page makes it even easier to follow your route. The magnetic compass and barometric altimeter are spot-on and can be easily disabled to save batteries etc. A little heavy, perhaps.

Verdict: A near-perfect GPS receiver that won’t let you down no matter how you use it. Its easy PC compatibility, excellent choice of pages and simple menus put it in a different league.

Size: 2.4x6.1x1.3in

Weight: 215g

Screen: 3.81x5.6cm full colour high-contrast backlit; 160x240 pixels

Battery life: 18 hours (30 with battery saving) on two AAs

Works with: Most software. WAAS/EGNOS-enabled

Routes/waypoints: 50 routes, 1,000 waypoints

Contact: 0870 850 1241; www.garmin.com


Magellan eXplorist 500

This GPS unit from Magellan is very user-friendly, with a decent-sized screen and clear colour display. Simple “Mark and Find” buttons make basic functions easy, although buttons are very small and close together. Downloading routes from a PC is trickier than on some other units. It’s small, neat, light, robust and very comfy in the hand. Following routes on its bright, colourful display is very easy, but the information given by the “Tracklog” page is limited. Battery life is good, but it doesn’t use AAs, so you need to carry a spare or have access to a regular power supply. A magnetic compass and barometric pressure altimeter would be good for this price, too.

Verdict: Lovely to use and small and light enough to carry anywhere. Let down by its slightly clunky PC compatibility and lack of a magnetic compass and barometric pressure altimeter.

Size: 11.9x5.3x3.3cm

Weight: 165g

Screen: 2.25in diagonal full colour backlit

Battery life: 17 hours rechargeable Li-ion 1300MAH

Works with: Memory-Map and Anquet. WAAS/EGNOS-enabled

Routes/waypoints: Unlimited

Contact: 01539 733842; www.magellangps.com


Road Angel Adventurer 7000

This in-car satellite navigation unit from Road Angel can also be used for recreational activities, such as walking. On the hill it can be used with Memory-Map software to show full OS mapping. Its functionality on the big and very clear screen is excellent. It’s waterproof too. However, using a stylus is fiddly and, away from the car’s power supply, battery life is short (less than six hours on one occasion), so don’t rely on it for anything but short walks.

Verdict: Buy it if you’re after a Sat Nav for your car and would also like to use it for shorter/easier walks.

Size: 9.5x7.5x2.5cm

Weight: 188g

Contact: 0870 740 9040;www.memory-map.co.uk

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