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 GPSmap 62st 2010

Garmin has been at the forefront of GPS (Global Positioning System) technology since the early Nineties. However, the company’s recent touchscreen Oregon series was perhaps a low point compared to some more dedicated outdoor GPS receivers. But Garmin could be back on course with the latest GPSmap 62st, which promises much greater performance while displaying the now obligatory OS mapping in full colour on-screen.
The Garmin GPSmap 62st is clearly a development of the GPSmap 60 that won Trail’s ‘Best in Test’ back in June 2006, which was just before OS mapping made its appearance on the screens of GPS receivers. So you get a waterproof and rubberised housing with good-sized buttons and an antenna projecting from the top. The screen is similar to most GPS receivers in terms of size, but it is not a touchscreen unit like the Oregon series and the result is clearer detail. The main difficulty I had with the Oregon was the slow on-screen map regeneration, but that problem has been swept aside on the GPSmap 62st as the OS maps rebuild very quickly when scrolling.
Garmin has always had the best GPS receiver operating systems in my view, but they have notched the standard up another level with this receiver, which just makes it easier and quicker to get to the functions you need. On-screen route creation is very easy too.
There are a host of other features that make this attractive to a wide variety of users. However the one drawback is that compared to a Satmap Active 10 the screen is smaller. It is perfectly useable of course and it is actually big enough most of the time in my view. But perhaps you can never have a big enough screen when you are planning routes or when you are trying to navigate in the wind and rain?

Price £400 for GPSmap 62st including worldwide base map and European recreational mapping with street-level detail (excluding OS mapping); £200 Garmin GB Discoverer 1:50,000 Ordnance Survey Mapping All of Great Britain (smaller areas available for less); coming soon: £400 Garmin GPSmap 62s (does not have European recreational mapping) bundled with Garmin GB Discoverer 1:50,000 Ordnance Survey Mapping
Size 15.5x6.8x3.5cm
Display 3.6x5.4cm colour
Power 2 x AA batteries
Memory MicroSD cards
Computer interface USB port
Weight 218g (inc batteries)
Made in Taiwan
Stockist details – tel. 0808 238 0000; www.garmin.com

The clear OS on-screen mapping coupled with a great operating system and navigational performance make the Garmin GPSmap 62st an excellent choice for hill-walkers.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine September 2010






Garmin Oregon 550t 2010

During 2009 Garmin introduced a range of GPS receivers that feature OS mapping and touch-screen operation. The Garmin 550t boasts a 3.2 megapixel camera with geo-tagging so you can easily locate exactly where a photo was taken. The unit can be loaded with OS mapping via an SD card.

Design
The smooth, curvy housing sits easily in the hand with just one button on the side that turns the device on and off. The back can be removed to fit the batteries as well as the SD memory card that contains the OS mapping, which has to be purchased at extra expense. The camera lens is also in the back of the camera. Slots in the back allow the unit to be fitted to a karabiner clip, so it can be attached to a rucksack for example. Like all Garmin GPS receivers the operation system is very intuitive and is driven by clear icons on a touch-sensitive screen.

On the hill
The unit located itself in the Peak District extremely quickly and soon pinpointed my position on screen. The operating system is extremely easy to navigate thanks to the large graphic buttons, which allow the user to effortlessly flick between functions by tapping the screen. The +/- on-screen buttons allowed me to easily zoom in and out of the map. However the screen does not regenerate the area of mapping as rapidly as some other units, which was frustrating. The maps can also be moved by pressing and moving your finger across the screen. Again, it was slow to regenerate the mapping compared to other units. Like the other touch-screen designs, a stylus would be useful to allow accurate route creation for example, but the way routes are created is extremely user-friendly and intuitive. The slow regeneration of maps on screen is frustrating when creating a route though. But the screen gives a clear view of the maps, although as the on-screen graphic buttons are quite large a bigger screen would be of benefit for this choice of interface.
The unit comes with a UK base map but you have to fit SD cards behind the batteries to load more detailed OS maps –not a problem, but a little more fiddly than other designs. There are lots of extras like a 3D view, elevation plots and an automotive mode that gives next-turn on-screen info.

Price £480 for GPS receiver plus OS mapping £120; titles include 1:50k National Parks of UK,1:25k National Parks and Trails, 1:5k GB in four regions, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Midlands, Southern England and Wales; Garmin Topo mapping is available for Europe and many other countries worldwide
Size 11x5.8x3cm
Display 7x4cm, colour touch-screen
Power 2xAA batteries
Memory MicroSD cards
Computer interface USB port
Weight 198g (including batteries)
Made in China
Stockist details – tel. 0808 238 0000; www.garmin.co.uk

Verdict
The Garmin Oregon 550t is waterproof; touch-screen; superb intuitive interface.
But the touch-screen is not as easy to use as buttons; relatively small screen; slow map regeneration. It’s a superb user interface but map regeneration is irritatingly slow.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine January 2010





Magellan Triton 2000

Like its smallerc cousin, the Triton 2000 uses free download proprietary VantagePoint software to transfer route data from PC to GPS. You can use a scroll wheel or tiny stylus (spares supplied) to navigate through menus and, while both work well, we’re not sure about the stylus in a gale or pouring rain. Full marks for the ‘one press’ buttons for “Go To” and “Mark”, though. Has a stack of features, including a camera, image viewer and voice recorder, as well as an electronic compass. As a navigation aid it worked well, picking up a fix quickly and showing the way ahead on a large clear screen via a number of different pages. Topo mapping can be installed using an SD card and will shortly be available for the UK. It’s big and very heavy, though, and also pricey. 

VITAL STATS
Size: 14.6 x 6.4 x 2.9cm
Weight: 224g (including batteries)
Screen: 6.86cm colour, 320 x 240 pixels
Battery life: 10 hours on two AAs
Routes/waypoints: 40 routes/2,000 waypoints
Works with: All mapping software that’s compatible with Magellan’s VantagePoint content manager, including Memory-Map; WAAS/EGNOS-enabled
Contact: 00800 62435526, www.magellangps.com
Verdict: At a whopping £450 this has a lot to live up to and as a GPS specifically for walking it has a little way to go. A lovely gadget nonetheless.

Magellan Triton 2000 2008

The Magellan Triton 2000 is the first GPS receiver that allows you to take photos, and record and play audio files that can be attached to waypoints, which is a great way to ‘diarise’ your walk.
Triton is also the first hand-held GPS to offer compatibility with National Geographic TOPO US State series and US Weekend Explorer 3D maps series. These highly detailed nationwide topographic maps, based on the USGS 1:24,000 series, are superb quality. This sounds great – until you realise you are stuck with rather dull, grey spaces when you head to the mountains because there are no contour-quality maps of the UK available for the Triton.
I took the Magellan Triton 2000out in the Lakes and found it reasonably easy to use. Most importantly of all I could turn it on and get basic operation rapidly. The bright screen flashed into life and proudly displayed my location as a small triangle on a grey screen with a road a few kilometres to the north, plus a grid reference of course.
Like most GPS receivers, reading the screen in the sun is not easy, but at least the navigation screens use large type to make it as simple as possible. I also particularly liked the ESC (escape) key at the bottom
as it allowed me to easily backtrack through the function screens when I got lost within the software.
More in-depth operation requires the use of a plastic stylus that is located in the plastic casing. I could tap the screen and zoom through features at pace, but it would be easily lost – and if such an accessory is going to be needed in a blizzard I’d want something far larger and perhaps attached by cord to the GPS housing.
There is an electronic magnetic compass, which means magnetic north is clearly indicated – important for pointing you in the right direction from the summit.
The big plastic loop on the top looks useful for hooking the unit to a rucksack, but it was too small to fit onto my standard climbing karabiners. However, to be fair I could fit a smaller accessory ‘not for climbing’ karabiner through this loop.
The basic functions work well, and you have the added benefit of a camera, a voice recorder and an integrated flashlight. However, what Trail readers really need is OS-quality mapping on screen, which is available for the US market and on other GPS receivers like SatMap and Garmin Topo in the UK. Magellan say that UK OS-style mapping will be launched in a couple of months so keep your eyes on Trail. But, until OS-quality mapping appears on screen, brands can include as many gimmicks as they like, but UK hill-walkers will still be better off with a more functional GPS receiver. 

Price £450
Sizes 14.6x6.4x2.9cm
Display 6x4.3cm, colour, 320x240 pixels
Power 2 x AA batteries4504
Battery life 10 hours
Computer interface USB port
Number of stored map routes 40
Number of stored waypoints 2,000
Weight 224g (including batteries)
Made in Philippines
Stockist details – tel. 00800 6243 5526; www.magellangps.com
Verdict
The Magellan Triton 2000 is easy to use; built-in 2 megapixel camera; built-in torch; colour screen; voice recorder; waterproof; electronic magnetic compass. But drawbacks are price; size; lack of OS-quality mapping; stylus required for operation of screen menus. Overall, it’s bursting with extra features, but lacking more useful basic functionality like OS-quality mapping and a stylus that you cannot lose.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine November 2008




Garmin Colorado 300 GPS (2008)

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.

Price £400
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
Verdict
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



Mio A701 Smart Phone

This cross between a mobile phone and PDA from Mio has a built-in GPS antenna to boot. Like the MIO P350, when loaded with digital mapping software it can be used as a walking GPS that also shows full detail OS mapping. If you’re going to take your phone on a walk, why not use it as a GPS too? And it shows your current position on full OS mapping – brilliant! Against it though, it’s small and so awkward to use, you need to use a stylus, and it has limited battery life.

Verdict: Buy it if you usually take a mobile phone on walks and you’d perhaps struggle to justify the expense of a full-blown GPS purely for walking.

Size: 10.7x5.7x1.88cm

Weight: 150g

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

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