Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ode to my GPS Receiver

If you've been reading my blog for any period of time, then you already know this. Before we even start, for the benefit of any new readers, let me just state this right up front:

I am an electronic gadget nerd.

In response to a recent post of mine, David from Pearl Harbor asked how I like my GPS receiver. Short answer:


I use it almost anytime I leave the house for any activity.

Driving Across Arizona

- In the car, I use it for car navigation. I bought the Garmin North America database. It does route calculations and guides you to your destination. It doesn't talk like a lot of other fancy GPS receivers do that are specifically designed for car navigation, but that's okay. It gives me a warning beep when I'm coming up on a turn, and it gives me a "turn now" beep when I am at the turn. The North America database comes with business listings, so I can search for nearby restaurants or gas stations or whatever else, and then have the GPS guide me there.

Hiking Diamond Head

- On the trail, I use it to keep track of the mileage and altitude profile of our hike, and sometimes to help me find my way back to the car. Note the "S" in 60CSx means that it has a built in barometric altimeter and magnetic compass. The altimeter gives me nice altitude profiles of our hikes like this one:

Geocaching around Beaver Creek Dam Reservoir

- Geocaching, the compass helps guide us to geocaches when we're close to the hiding spot. Without that "S" in the model number, the GPS would just tell you bearing and range to the geocache, and you would need a separate compass to figure out which way to the geocache.

Plus, this GPS receiver was built with geocaching in mind. If you download all the geocaches within a certain radius of your home or along a route you plan to drive, they will show up as little treasure chest icons on the geographic display. After you have found the geocache, you click "FOUND" and it changes the symbol from a closed treasure chest to an open treasure chest. Looking at my GPS map, I can easily tell which geocaches I have found and which I have not. Alternatively, I can delete waypoints of a certain type. So if I don't care about the geocaches I've already found and want to clean up the screen, I can delete all found geocaches and all the open treasure chest symbols will go away.

- On my bike, it easily clicks into place on my handle-bar mount. It helps me keep track of where I am, how far I've gone, and what my average and max speeds were.

- On the water, I use it both out boating and kayaking for navigation, keeping track of where I am, where I've been, and statistics like mileage, elapsed time, and average speed. When we take the boat out to our favorite cove on Lake Winnipesaukee to go swimming, there is an unmarked rock in the middle of the cove. I swam over to it with my GPS and marked it as a waypoint with a stay-clear warning radius around it, so it will beep at me if we get too close to it. Likewise, after we set the anchor, I set another radius circle warning to tell us if we're dragging the anchor.
The 60CSx is waterproof and has gaskets around the battery compartment and external cable connections. I don't think I would ever intentionally submerge it, but I have had it out in some pretty torrential downpours hiking in Hawaii, and it's gotten plenty wet out kayaking lately with no problems.

Other features: This is the Xtreme version that came out in January 2006. When they added that little "x" to the model number, they added a couple of very important features: the SiRF III chip and expandable memory.

SiRF III: The SiRF III chip is a super-sensitive receiver that enables the 60CSx to pick up very weak GPS signals bouncing off of tall city buildings or trees. The result is that I can sit here inside my house in my comfy family room chair and get a GPS fix. Or, I can get a fix under a heavy tree canopy in the summertime. Or, I can get a fix in a busy downtown city environment surrounded by tall buildings.

Expandable Memory: The x version of the 60CSx also has a microSD card slot. I put a 2GB microSD card in there, and I was able to load ALL the road maps for everything from Norfolk, VA up to Lake Winnipesaukee, NH (along with the accompanying business database for restaurants, gas stations, etc). During our drive across country last summer, I loaded it with all the maps for the west coast from Oregon down to San Diego, then most of the maps for the drive across country. (I think the microSD card was full at about Ohio or so, and I had to empty the maps and reload it with the maps for the rest of the trip.)

In summary, the Garmin 60CSx is a rugged and reliable workhorse of a GPS receiver, and I use it for just about everything I do outside the house. I would highly recommend it for anyone who likes doing outdoor activities - whether it's running, hiking, biking, geocaching, kayaking, boating, or driving your car around town.

Aside about running: I did, in fact, use this GPS for running, too. It's a little bulky and I carried it in my hand as I ran. I mainly used it for running unknown paths like the first time I ran the trails in Eleanor Lawrence Park over in Chantilly, VA. Once I was familiar with the route and the mileage, then I wouldn't continue carrying it around with me.

Click here to visit the Garmin web page for the 60 CSx specifications.

Note: Garmin didn't pay me a dime to write this blog post. These are all my own opinions from owning and using my Garmin 60CSx.


Kat said...

David will be happy to hear that about your Garmin GPSMAP 60C Sx. He has been looking for another one. Thanks.

Sagey said...

He even uses it to take the trash out to track his route down the driveway and so he can find his way back!

Ha ha ha, just kidding! But that thing does go everywhere with us, we really should name it as it is part of the family. While driving to NH this summer I felt this odd sensation that something was just not right... the GPS receiver was missing from the dash board! :-)

The Cowgirl said...

'he even uses it to take the trash out...' - I am rolling on the floor!!!

Sagey said...

Glad I could make you laugh today! :-)

blunoz said...

Oh, but I DID use my GPS when I mowed the lawn yesterday. I was curious how far I walked back and forth across the lawn. It came out at just over 3/4 of a mile. :-) Yes, that IS your "dork" alarm going off in the background.