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  • GPS unit recommendations

    I'd be interested to hear recommendations on GPS units from people with practical experience with them. I'm gearing up to buy one next month, and this will be my first receiver.

    While I'm not buying it primarily for locating APs through warverbing (it's mainly going to be used for off-road and hiking trips), I do want a unit that's Netstumbler-compatible at a minimum.

    The current frontrunner is the Garmin eTrex Summit, mainly due to the barometric pressure feature. However, I'm open to any suggestions anyone more knowledgeable about GPS hardware may have.

  • #2
    The Garmin eTrex line is great. I personally only have the base model (eTrex yellow) since all I use it for is WarDriving.

    I would certainly recommend the eTrex line from a Netstumbler/Kismet point of view. Basically, if the Summit has the features you need for your other activities, it will work with most WD software.

    NetStumbler supports Garmin proprietary and NMEA formats.
    Kismet supports NMEA.
    The Summit will send data in both formats.

    Garmin proprietary sends coordinates to NetStumbler once every second, whereas NMEA sends coordinates once every two seconds, so you will have more accurate results with Garmin proprietary.
    perl -e 'print pack(c5, (41*2), sqrt(7056), (unpack(c,H)-2), oct(115), 10)'

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    • #3
      I have two different GPS Held Hand Systems: Cobra 500 GPS and Garmin eTrex Venture.

      I have used both a great deal when I go camping, snowmobiling, and rock climbing. However, I found that I like my Garmin more than the Cobra 500because of its accuracy, and it has survived my tendencies of dropping things more.

      The Garmin I have only has a 12 channel receiver and the Cobra has an 18 channel receiver (not sure if that makes a difference to you or not). Both are WAAS Compatible.
      There are many other features on both of these that I think are great, but that might just be me.

      Depending on what you’re willing to spend or what features are more important to you is really going to be your stepping stone on getting the right GPS. Per my experience I would not recommend any of the GPS products from Lowrance (There stuff SUCKS)
      "It is difficult not to wonder whether that combination of elements which produces a machine for labor does not create also a soul of sorts, a dull resentful metallic will, which can rebel at times". Pearl S. Buck

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      • #4
        Originally posted by lil_freak
        The Garmin I have only has a 12 channel receiver and the Cobra has an 18 channel receiver (not sure if that makes a difference to you or not). Both are WAAS Compatible.
        Out of curiosity, which model Garmin do you have? The eTrex Summit doesn't do WAAS, but I'm not concerned with accuracy to ten feet anyway. Mainly I just want to be able to chart and waypoint trails for future reference.

        There are many other features on both of these that I think are great, but that might just be me.
        The altimeter with rate of ascent/descent was a big attraction for me on the Summit. Being able to plot out how hard a hill is going to be to get back up in the future is nice.

        Depending on what you’re willing to spend or what features are more important to you is really going to be your stepping stone on getting the right GPS. Per my experience I would not recommend any of the GPS products from Lowrance (There stuff SUCKS)
        With two good recommendations on the Garmin units, I'm probably going to go for the eTrex Summit. It looks like the best all-around bet, and I can keep within my budget of $200.

        For locating APs, speed isn't a major issue - like I said, I don't need ten-foot accuracy, so NMEA-only is fine (yay, one unit for Kismet and Netstumbler). After all, we're dealing with radiated RF here, so 'close enough' is good enough for my needs.

        One thing I am curious about: how good are the eTrex' reception capabilities in a car, both through glass and metal? I know there's no provision for an external antenna on it, so this is a concern of mine.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by skroo
          Out of curiosity, which model Garmin do you have? The eTrex Summit doesn't do WAAS, but I'm not concerned with accuracy to ten feet anyway. Mainly I just want to be able to chart and waypoint trails for future reference.
          I have the eTrex Venture 22-4141

          These are the key specs for it:

          Dimensions: 4.4"H x 2"W x 1.2"D
          Weight: 5.5 oz.
          Display Size: 2.1"H x 1.1"W
          Number of Waypoints: 500
          Reversible Routes: 20
          Database or Basemap: Worldwide City Database
          Download Memory: 1 MB
          Pixels: 160 x 288
          Receiver: 12 Channel
          Backlit Display: Yes
          Accuracy: 3 meters (with WAAS)
          WAAS Compatible: Yes
          "It is difficult not to wonder whether that combination of elements which produces a machine for labor does not create also a soul of sorts, a dull resentful metallic will, which can rebel at times". Pearl S. Buck

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          • #6
            Originally posted by skroo
            One thing I am curious about: how good are the eTrex' reception capabilities in a car, both through glass and metal? I know there's no provision for an external antenna on it, so this is a concern of mine.

            I don't have the Summit but think it is safe to assume that it is the same or better than my cheapie model in this respect. The Base model does great.

            I usually plop it on the dashboard and it holds signal with no problem. Usually gets somewhere in the accurate to 14-50 range depending on weather. I haven't noticed a measurable difference when I am standing outside with it.
            perl -e 'print pack(c5, (41*2), sqrt(7056), (unpack(c,H)-2), oct(115), 10)'

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            • #7
              Originally posted by skroo
              The altimeter with rate of ascent/descent was a big attraction for me on the Summit. Being able to plot out how hard a hill is going to be to get back up in the future is nice.

              GPS vertical readings suck to put it mildly. On the horizontal plane your accuracy is about 10-15 meters, on the vertical it can be as bad as a 100 meters. If you really want that function, I recommend getting a Brunton or Suunto digital altimeter. Call me old school, but I've had my Thommen analog altimeter for over 17 years and the damn thing is still accurate. Silva also makes good entry level analog altimeters.

              <edit> I just looked at the Summit specs and it uses barometric pressure, not GPS signals. So you can disregard my rant on vertical precision. However, I still like analog (altimeter,compass, map) for outdoor equipment - no batteries no boot time.
              </edit>

              You might also want to consider the Garmin Rhino models with FRS/GRS radios built in. You can send you coordinates to another person with a Rhino.

              I have a basic Etrex that I use when traveling/wardriving. No map, but I use the compass, way points, and track log.
              Last edited by murakami; March 11, 2004, 14:22.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by murakami
                <edit> I just looked at the Summit specs and it uses barometric pressure, not GPS signals. So you can disregard my rant on vertical precision. However, I still like analog (altimeter,compass, map) for outdoor equipment - no batteries no boot time.
                </edit>
                Agreed on both counts - if it weren't barometric I wouldn't be considering it. The problem with analogue components is solely that each one is just one more thing to have to carry; I really like to travel as light as possible.

                You might also want to consider the Garmin Rhino models with FRS/GRS radios built in. You can send you coordinates to another person with a Rhino.
                I saw those. They look interesting, but for what they cost I'd rather spend the money on the Summit. Besides, I tend to carry my Yaesu VX-5R anyway, which works fine with FRS and also does 6m/2m/70cm duty.

                What is annoying, though, is that looking at the eTrex range, Garmin has positioned their models so that if you want two key features (altimeter and lots of memory), you either have to buy the top-of-the-line model, or buy a lower one and sacrifice one feature. I'd like a Summit with 8MB or so of RAM, but not for the Vista's $320 price tag.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by skroo
                  I really like to travel as light as possible.
                  Hike nekkid. :D

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by murakami
                    Hike nekkid. :D
                    Post whore.

                    I use the Garmin Legend, it seems to have the most software updates and stays the most recent on their software and config information online. I wish the batteries lasted longer and the external power let you set certain defaults, but oh well.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by astcell
                      Post whore.
                      Following in your illustrious foot steps.

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                      • #12
                        Nice to know my posts are good for something.

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                        • #13
                          One additional thing you might want to aquire is the mapsource software from Garmin. I've added maps to my Etrex Legend and the amount of detail is frightening.

                          The base maps built into the unit are OK, and will get you point A - > B or providing co-ordinates for WD'ing, but the supplemental maps contain alot more detail (creeks, side roads, almost down to residential roads), much more useful if you plan on navigating by the units maps

                          Just my $0.02
                          Never drink anything larger than your head!





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                          • #14
                            I thought about getting that map CD but the screen is so tough to read now, I'm sure it won't get better.

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