Do your homework before buying a GPS unit

I haven’t tested out any new GPS receivers in a long time, but it’s about time to start seeing what’s out there again. Whether you’re looking for one for yourself or as a gift for someone else, do some homework before you buy one.

There are a ton of new GPS receivers on the market right now. Well, new in relation to the ones I have. Many years ago, I tested 10 or 12 of the ones that were new then, and I ended up buying a Garmin eTrex and a Garmin eTrex Vista. Both of those receivers still work, but the new ones have a lot more features my old units don’t have.

In the years since I tested all those receivers, the GPS on your smartphone has evolved. There are apps that let your phone do all the things just about any of those GPS receivers will do, but I’d rather have a dedicated GPS unit for hiking and hunting. For one thing, I’m pretty sure the GPS unit’s batteries would last a heck of a lot longer than my phone’s battery.

Garmin has emerged as the leader in GPS technology, as other companies have fallen to the competition from cell phones. But Garmin’s not the only one out there. Magellan and DeLorme are still producing good units, too.

I’d like to upgrade my own GPS receiver. The Vista is my favorite of the ones I own, but it has a small display, and that display is black and white. It also lacks the ability to upload full-scale topographic maps.

The new version of the Garmin eTrex, the eTrex 30x, has a color display, and you can load maps into it. It runs about $200, which is about what I paid for the Vista many years ago. Higher up the scale is the Oregon, also by Garmin, for about $400.

I’ll try to test them all, and let you know what I find out. Until then, if you’re shopping for one, do a little online research. Pick wisely. As my own units have shown, if you get a good one, it should outlast the truck you’re driving right now, and probably even the next one.