Keep track of where you are—and where you’re going—on land, sea and air
Whether you are on a crowded street in a major metropolitan area or
backpacking in the remote wilderness, a GPS receiver is bound to come in
handy. Utilizing a collection of satellites to pinpoint your position, these
compact systems can help you find your way to a variety of locations. GPS
receivers can be used for a wide range of navigational activities, including
aerial or marine applications, finding the best route for a road trip or
marking a favorite fishing spot when you’re hiking through the woods. You can
choose from different design configurations, including handheld and
dash-mounted models, and you can select features, such as Bluetooth
compatibility, MP3 playback and water resistance. With so many options, you’re
sure to find one that best suits the activities you plan to use it for.
Consider the following questions to learn more about how a GPS receiver can
make your life easier:
Types, Navigation, Operation and Usage Tips
Global Positioning Systems, or GPS, utilize satellites that are in constant orbit around the earth to pinpoint locations. Originally designed and placed into orbit by the Department of Defense as a means for improving tactical positioning and navigation, the government ultimately allowed the public to utilize the satellite technology in the 1980s. From that point on, GPS devices have been used for a wide range of applications. By linking themselves with three or sometimes four different satellites, receivers use triangulation to verify locations and provide directions with impressive accuracy. While there are around two dozen satellites in orbit, most GPS devices track twelve of them. In order to function properly, receivers must have a clear path to the satellite, meaning that dense foliage and tall buildings can cause interference. Once you’ve purchased a GPS receiver, you’ll have free and unfettered access to the satellites — there are no subscription fees or costs associated with use.
Types: There are several different types of GPS devices available. Basic systems can store the locations of waypoints, or locations, guide you to them and record the path you take to get there. These devices are well suited for helping you find your way on woodland hikes or marking the location of a favorite camping spot. Mapping devices offer a little more functionality by allowing you to utilize software to download detailed maps of different cities and regions. More advanced mapping units provide 3D maps that make it easy to see where you are, where you’re going and how to get there. The more advanced the device and the more features it contains, the more you’ll end up paying. Basic units can be found for around $100 while sophisticated systems can cost in excess of $1,000.
Navigation: When it comes to getting you where you need to go or
helping you find your way back home, GPS devices offer a number of helpful
features. One of the best ways to ensure even greater accuracy is by
purchasing a device that’s WAAS-enabled. WAAS, or Wide Area Augmentation
System, is a means by which a GPS device can utilize a system of satellites
and ground stations to enhance precision, generally making the system accurate
to within 3 to 7 meters. When utilizing your GPS device in the car, voice
prompts, which verbally instruct you when to turn, and turn-by-turn directions
allow you to keep your eyes on the road as you drive and find your destination
with ease. Like a computer, the amount of information a GPS device can store
depends on how much memory is available, so make sure you purchase a unit with
plenty of memory if you plan to store a lot of maps and other information.
Operation and Usage Tips: There are a few ways in which you can
maximize the effectiveness of your GPS device. Making sure you have backup
batteries when you know you’ll be away from a power source for an extended
period of time is one of them. Though all GPS units have LCD screens, some
display images in color, which can make reading topographical features or
navigating 3D maps easier. Antiglare screens allow you to read directions on
bright, sunny days. Bear in mind that color screens require more power, so
your battery may run down a little more quickly.
Applications: The activities you plan to use your GPS for will
determine exactly which type you should purchase. Outdoor activities, such as
hiking, fishing and hunting, require different information and features than
flying a plane or geocaching (a type of high-tech scavenger hunt that involves
searching for a waterproof container filled with “treasures”). The chart below
lists some of the applications GPS devices are most commonly used for as well
as features that will come in handy and a few points of consideration for each.
|Application||Recommended Features||Points to Consider|
Bluetooth Compatibility: For maximum convenience, look for a GPS that’s compatible with Bluetooth technology, which allows you to interact with your cell phone through your GPS receiver. This link enables safe, hands-free dialing of POIs while you’re driving as well as address syncing.
MP3 Playback: GPS devices with MP3 playback capability enable you to listen to your favorite songs while you hunt, hike or drive.
Satellite Radio Ready: Satellite radio provides a wide range of uninterrupted broadcasts of sports, music, news and more. GPS devices that are satellite-radio ready give you the option to subscribe to one of the satellite services to enjoy this programming when you’re on the go.
Accessories: There are a number of accessories that can enhance your GPS device’s effectiveness or make it easier to use. A car adapter allows you to recharge on the road to keep power levels high. A mounting device allows for hands-free use in a car, boat or plane, and look for a remote antenna to improve signal strength for car-mounted devices.
Water-Resistant or Waterproof: If you plan to use your GPS unit on a boat or somewhere else it’s likely to get wet, make sure it has an IPX7 rating, which allows it to be safely immersed in as much as 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes without incurring damage.
Multilingual Support: This feature is helpful for people who speak multiple languages, as it allows them to utilize the one with which they have the greatest comfort level.
Traffic Rerouting: For the ultimate in high-tech road-trip assistance, look for GPS units that continually adjust routes based on traffic conditions to find the fastest path.
Extra batteries will come in handy when you’re traveling for long periods of time without access to a power source.
A car charger will keep your GPS system powered up during long road trips.