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 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






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





Memory-Map Adventurer 2800 2010

In 2000 Memory-Map changed the way hill-walkers plan their routes. Now they are about to change the way walkers navigate in the hills, if this GPS receiver performs as well as their PC software. Already dominating the PC mapping software market, Memory-Map has released the Adventurer 2800, yours for just £250.

Design
The Adventurer 2800 is a small, neat, quietly understated GPS receiver. It is powered by an internal rechargeable lithium polymer battery, which allows the unit to be smaller and lighter in weight at 135g than comparable units that run off AA batteries. Lots of mobile chargers and even solar panels can also be used to charge the unit. You get a touch-screen operating system with a full colour screen. Most importantly the OS maps are preloaded for the £250 asking price.

On the hill
Once charged, this unit is designed to be used straight from the box, so that is what I did with it. The onboard OS 1:50,000 mapping appeared at a touch of the screen. The receiver picked up the satellites quickly and soon my position was clearly identified (the car park at the foot of Stanage Edge in the Peak District). A thumb slide across the screen moved the OS mapping, and pressing the on-screen +/- icons speedily zoomed in on the detail. This was the best on-screen speed of mapping I had seen. My fingers were a bit too big and clumsy to use the drop-down menus, which are much smaller. But I had an early pre-production model, and in production the unit will, I am told, come with a stylus attached to a lanyard to improve this aspect of the performance.
Anyone who has used Memory-Map’s PC route-creating mapping software will find the interface very familiar, but even new users should find that on-screen route creation is incredibly easy. The PC-style drop-down menus are very intuitive but they definitely require a stylus for easy operation due to their small size.
One big advantage of the unit is that you can buy additional Memory-Map Digital Map Shop mapping products for your PC and then download them directly into the Adventurer 2800. This makes this unit incredibly good value for money and a real benefit when travelling abroad or for those who like to plan routes on Memory-Map’s PC software in the comfort of their home.

Price £250 for GPS receiver inc. OS Landranger 1:50k mapping for National Parks plus credit to download 10,000 km2 of Memory-Map UK maps. Extra mapping from OS, marine and aviation for UK + worldwide topos
Size 11x5.8x2cm
Display 6.2x4.0cm, 400x240 pixel colour touch-screen
Power rechargeable lithium polymer
Memory MicroSD cards
Computer interface USB port
Weight 135g (including batteries)
Made in China
Stockist details – tel. 0844 811 0950; www.memory-map.co.uk

Verdict
The Memory-Map Adventurer 2800 is waterproof; touch-screen; very fast operation; easy to use; can use Memory-Map PC mapping; price. But touch-screen is not as easy to use as buttons; relatively small screen. In summary it has superb on-screen performance but would be even better with button operation and a larger screen. It won the ‘Best value’

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 Etrex Vista HCx

A joy to use. PC connectivity is simple and it will readily share data with Memory-Map with no need to use any other software for file conversions. Menus are intuitive and can be easily customised, while swapping between main functions is amazingly easy. The single button press for “Find” and “Mark”, means little time need be wasted on the hill. The new, highly sensitive antenna is lightning-fast to pick up a fix and holds on to it well in cover. Light, compact and comfy, yet rugged, in the hand. An SD card slot makes it easy to run Garmin Topo maps, although at £70 each (with three covering the whole country) this isn’t a cheap option. The “Highway” page – a 3D representation of the route – makes complex navigation simple, while the direction arrow on the compass page works brilliantly for easier route-finding.

VITAL STATS
Size: 10.7 x 5.6 x 3cm
Weight: 156g (including batteries)
Screen: 256 level colour TFT, 176 x 220 pixels
Battery life: 25 hours on two AAs
Routes/waypoints: 50 routes/1,000 waypoints
Works with: Most mapping software; WAAS/EGNOS-enabled
Contact: 02380 524000, www.garmin.co.uk
Verdict: Lacking some of the super hi-tech features of newer top-end units but, at this price, we can’t fault it.

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.





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


Garmin Etrex Vista CX

This GPS unit from Garmin beats the competition hands down for PC compatibility – it really is simple. Memory-Map routes can be downloaded from your computer straight to the unit with one mouse-click, and tracklogs can be uploaded back to the mapping software in exactly the same way. The menus are extremely intuitive with plenty of customisable settings, and the small joystick makes navigating around them very quick and easy. Light, small, comfy in the hand and exceptionally easy to navigate with. For complex walks, the ‘Highway’ page gives a good 3D representation of the route and is easy to follow. On simpler journeys, the large screen and easy-to-follow direction arrow are spot-on. It has an electronic compass and barometric altimeter and a removable memory card that can be loaded with more detailed mapping, such as Garmin Mapsource Topo.

Verdict: A perfect walker’s GPS – small and light and incredibly functional. It bristles with features, yet is easy to understand and use at even the most basic level. Its PC compatibility is unrivalled.

Size: 10.7x5.6x3cm

Weight: 156g

Screen: 3.3x4.3cm colour, 176x220 pixels

Battery life: 32 hours on two AAs

Works with: Most software, including Memory-Map and Anquet WAAS/EGNOS-enabled

Routes/waypoints: 50 reversible routes/500 waypoints

Contact: 0808 238 0000; www.garmin.co.uk