Garmin, for instance, makes a really fine basic device called the eTrex, a very well-designed unit, with a big, legible screen and buttons that allow one-handed operation. Also included are a weather-resistant case and the usual bells and whistles, such as the ability to store up to 50 waypoints on a single route. The eTrex is very reasonably priced at $119 (www.garmin.com). At the high end, Magellan's Meridian ($500; www.magellangps.com) has a color screen, a huge memory that allows storage of detailed road and city maps, plus the ability to track scores of waypoints on up to 20 routes. It's waterproof and even floats.
My own take is that something like the eTrex is fine. It's no less accurate than more expensive models and picks up GPS satellite signals readily. You simply sacrifice a little storage for maps and waypoints. I'd go into a store and try several models, though, to see what "feels" the best and has an interface that seems most intuitive to you.
However, my broad question is, Does anyone really use these things for backcountry navigation? In all the years I've hiked and climbed, I've rarely so much as hauled out a compass. Maps, trails, guidebooks, local knowledge, and common sense are pretty good navigational aids in themselves. GPS units make a lot of sense for boaters, to mark reefs and crab pots (and I know "treasure-hunting" with them is a growing sport), but I truly wonder if many people in the woods whip them out for anything other than amusement. Just a thought.
Support Outside Online
Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.