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Handhelp GPS for SAR operations.

 
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flyingAMT
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Joined: Jun 21, 2010
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Mon Jun 21, 2010 2:33 pm    Post subject: Handhelp GPS for SAR operations. Reply with quote

Greetings all,

I'm new to this forum and handheld GPS in general. I'm looking for a basic/affordable handheld GPS which would allow me to navigate to a specific Lat/Long location. I work in remote areas and I am part of a SAR (Search and Rescue) Team.
I bought a Garmin etrex on sale only to find out that it can't really take me anywhere I haven't already been. I mean, besides the Electronic compass, it tells me my current lat/long but this really isn't much help for what I'm trying to do.

While on SAR ops I would usually have Lat/Long of the place we are searching for, but I may not have decent map. However, I may use it in areas where maps are available, so a unit with memory for maps would also be desirable.

I work in a part of the world where quality maps are not available yet, so being able to navigate to specific Lat/Long is a must. I would like to be able to enter coordinates and have the GPS take me there, allowing for terrain of course. Similar to how a Aviation handheld navigates to a specific point making continuous adjustments as necessary.

I prefer Garmin, but would consider any other brand. Any advice?

Thanks
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dales
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Joined: May 04, 2008
Posts: 737
Location: Knaresborough, North Yorkshire.

PostPosted: Mon Jun 21, 2010 3:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What you describe can be done on my own etrex Vista.

I just drop a Mark at my present location, then alter its grid reference to my new destination and press Goto.

Dales.
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nuvi 2599LMT-D, oregon 700, basecamp, memory-map.
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AllyCat
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Joined: Feb 23, 2005
Posts: 376
Location: Catford, London, UK

PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2010 2:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi,

Yes, almost any handheld GPS will allow you to setup a "GoTo" as dales describes. It's basically what many thousands of "Geocachers" do every day. However, if you have a number of "targets" to enter, or a complete pre-planned route, then it can take a considerable time to enter the coordinates directly with the limited number of buttons on a handheld. That's when connecting the GPS to a PC is worthwhile. With suitable software you can quickly enter and upload GRs from a "real" keyboard, or graphically plan and enter complete routes if mapping is available.

Even if formal mapping isn't available, you may well be able to download (free) aerial photography (and/or terrain elevation data from the SRTM mission) from the NASA or related websites (and of course Google Maps).

However putting "non-off-the-shelf" mapping onto a handheld is a much harder task which may require considrable preparation and planning. And IMHO the small screen often restricts the ability to plan an optimum overall route.

Cheers, Alan.
_________________
Garmin GPS72H/76/60/45, Etrex H, Mapsource v6.5.
Acer N50,HP114,Loox N560,Dell x50,CF/SD cards to 4/32GB.
RoyalTek,Holux236,Navman B10 & Copilot(Globalsat) BT GPS,TomTom5/6.
Memory Map (v5.4.2 & v5.1.3 OS & Euro), GPS gate,OSGPSconverter.
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flyingAMT
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Joined: Jun 21, 2010
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Mon Jun 28, 2010 3:27 pm    Post subject: Thanks guys. Reply with quote

So maybe an eTrex Vista is more what I'm looking for? Or can I buy a USB cable and use the basic eTrex I already have? It has a port (of sorts) on the back, under a rubber flap, but it did not come with a USB cable to connect to a PC.

I live in a "developing" country so I can't just run down to the electronics store and pick up a interface cable or eTrex Vista, that's why I wanted to ask before I try to order and ship something else.

I would just like to navigate to an exact spot, one that I have yet to go to. Like AllyCat mentioned, that is what "geocachers" do all the time. Surely it can be done without too much hassle. I'm trying to keep this simple. I don't have time or desire to fool around with importing google maps, I just need to find my way to where the airplane crashed, ASAP.

BTW: is there a handheld that can track to a spot without a using a PC? Search and Rescue environments are not electronics friendly.
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flyingAMT
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Joined: Jun 21, 2010
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Mon Jun 28, 2010 3:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dales wrote:
What you describe can be done on my own etrex Vista.

I just drop a Mark at my present location, then alter its grid reference to my new destination and press Goto.

Dales.


Dales,

How do you alter its grid location? Can that be done with any etrex? Mine only has 5 buttons (power/light is 1 of those!) I would be happy with close (withing 2 or 3 miles) if I was able to readjust easy enough as I got closer.

Thanks,
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AllyCat
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Joined: Feb 23, 2005
Posts: 376
Location: Catford, London, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jun 28, 2010 5:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi,

The reason that I mentioned the use of a PC is that (particularly in your location) it's unlikely that you will get any mapping onto a GPS except by using a PC. So IMHO you don't need a mapping GPS and any money you spend might be better saved or directed into another direction.

Yes, you should be able to enter a "Goto" location even on the humblest etrex without using a PC and potentially to an accuracy of a few metres. The limit on accuracy is really only the source of the data (Grid Reference) and ensuring that you are both using the same Map Datum.

Personally, I don't use an etrex, preferring a non-mapping handheld with a better user-interface, having a few more (clearly labelled) buttons on the front. The slightly more elaborate devices have a "joystick" or rocker pad (which can assist data entry) and maybe zoom in/out buttons, but all Garmin handhelds work in a similar manner. Basically you just use the Page, Up, Down and Enter buttons:

Create a mark at the current location (probably by holding in the Enter button) and then Up/Down to "highlight" the name or lat/long field and press Enter. Then Up/Down to change each character and Enter to select it. At the end select OK and then view the various "navigation" pages by using the Page button.

If you want to connect to a computer, the basic etrex that you probably have uses a serial interface (not USB) on their own proprietary connector, which is not ideal (as it can be expensive and may need a USB-serial adapter for the PC). Most modern Garmins now use a "mini-B" USB connector (probably included in the box) which is becoming almost universal on phones, MP3 players, cameras, etc...

In conclusion, I think you should be able to do what you want with your present etrex, but when you're familiar with that, decide if you want any particular features (like a built-in magnetic compass, barometric altimeter, memory card slot, etc.) and look at the reviews and user manuals (on the web) of various Garmins such as the etrex H, etrex C series, GPS60 series or my personal choice the GPS 72H or GPS 76 series.

Cheers, Alan.
_________________
Garmin GPS72H/76/60/45, Etrex H, Mapsource v6.5.
Acer N50,HP114,Loox N560,Dell x50,CF/SD cards to 4/32GB.
RoyalTek,Holux236,Navman B10 & Copilot(Globalsat) BT GPS,TomTom5/6.
Memory Map (v5.4.2 & v5.1.3 OS & Euro), GPS gate,OSGPSconverter.
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flyingAMT
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Joined: Jun 21, 2010
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Sun Jul 04, 2010 1:56 pm    Post subject: Problem Solved Reply with quote

Thanks Alan,

Hold ENTER on the Map Page until "Mark Waypoint" is displayed. I can then edit the information, such as Icon, title, altitude and Lat/Lon. After the Lat/Lon is entered I can select "Go To" that waypoint and I'm on my way.

Haven't tried it in the field yet, but it seems like that is what I was looking for. Kind of a backwards way to go about it, but for $75 I wont complain too much.

Thanks for the tip.
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