GPS unit – For Geology field trips / mapping etc – Recomendations.

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  • GPS unit – For Geology field trips / mapping etc – Recomendations.
  • The SO is talking about buying a GPS for use on Geology field trips etc and mapping projects etc and I’m not sure if the timing is a hint and this is a gentle suggestion that this is a suitable Commercialmas present. I don’t mind I’d rather buy her something useful than tat.

    Back in my day I had a map case and a compass and we were thankful for that, these young’uns don’t know they are born mutter mutter etc etc Anyhoo I use a not too old Garmin 60cx when Im out mapping in the bush and it has buttons and and a screen and it tells me where I am, where I’ve been and lets me waypoint locations of geological interest etc etc.

    I see Garmin still do them, however a lot are touch screen and they most seem to have cameras and such like. Now knowing what using my iphone is like with grubby finger or in gloves is a touch screen a good idea? Any experience on the fragility of the screens – it will get dropped on rocks / have rocks dropped on it or should I just go for buttons?

    I was looking at something like a Garmin 600 / 650 or with buttons a 62sc. Any experience / recommendations.

    Many thanks.


    The Garmin Etrex 20 or 30 are decent little gps units. I find them very accurate with options for both Russian GLONASS satellites as well as the usual USA ones to lock on to. No touchscreen just simple buttons and little joystick thingy, easy to use.

    The 30 has a few extra features over the 20 such as altimeter and ability to link to heart rate monitor but I found the cheaper 20 to be best value. The 10 is a good unit also but does not have facility to use maps.

    Maps can be purchased (OS) or downloaded free (many user created maps are available) depending on what use you have.

    Find the cheapest available then get Go Outdoors to price match plus extra 10%. Should bring the 20 down to around £120.

    Premier Icon matt_outandabout

    New, touch screens are ace. Still ‘techy’, unlike modern phone OS’s in my view, but ace all the same.
    Having said that, I struggle with having £300 of electronics, wet, mud and a dropped rucksack….So I have a good old £10 classifieds Garmin eTrex in yellow, with black and white screen and waterish ressitant. Works well for me.But I still use map and compass.

    Premier Icon footflaps

    But I still use map and compass.



    Premier Icon matt_outandabout

    Aye, but there is some deep satisfaction in getting an accurate position faster than the chap next to you running round a bit so his GPS can get a fix…. 😈

    +1 Etrex 20. Got mine a year ago in a pre-Xmas Amazon black friday/lightning deal for 90 quid.

    Ive got free opensource OS-like UK map on it, wasnt going to pay the £100 Garmin wanted!


    My nav kit is similar to Matt; map, compass and a basic yellow eTrex (used to be a GPS 12, bomb proof and uber reliable, but clunky menu system and heavier and more battery hungry than the eTrex, hence the change). Also not wanting to get £300 worth of fragile electronics wet, muddy and bashed I have an old HTC Wildfire running MMTracker with OS 25k and OS 50k mapping for when I’m feeling lazy about naving (most of the time if I’m honest). Accurate position in as long as it takes to unzip my pocket 🙂

    Sorry no real input on current GPS units not that familiar with whats current, just consider what is required. Basic position to translate to map? Real time moving map? if so what mapping format?

    Cheers for the comments I’ll have a look at the eTrex.

    Basically looking for something reliable and weatherproof, easy to use etc etc.

    I imagine she’ll use it for basic track marking and waypointing, however the ability to have zoom able base maps / real time mapping might be handy depending on the accuracy and if you can get appropriate topo maps for the areas you are mapping.

    My initial thought was just to buy a 60cx or 62cs as they are ppretty accurate and pretty rugged.

    Compassclinometer and box her ears for suggesting otherwise

    Premier Icon bigjim

    If work are paying for it and you are looking for a serious field GPS and mapping solution, these are the kinds of droid you are looking for

    She’s at uni so I’ll be paying for it (Commercialmas prezzie – id rather buy her something useful). I use a 60cx for work but only for basic nav and waypointing as maps where I am would just be large expanses of sand… I was just wondering if there was a better option.

    Waypointing locations on GPS makes importing info to GIS and digital map building so much easy than when I did my degree!

    Those ruggedised tablets are pretty good if you have a databasing or GIS program you are logging / mapping straight in to however at degree level everything is still (somewhat) old school and its Chartwell + Compass clino +/- GPS for way pointing.


    One thing to note with the touchscreens on the garmin gps units is that unlike smart phones that are capacitive the garmin touchscreen can be activated with anything like a pen tip (I keep a pen on a lanyard for such occasions). I’ve used a fair few garmin units now and never had a problem with them. Always appreciated the ones with larger screens however now I use it less cause of work I’ve gone to just using my smartphone and have bought os maps for it. It’s accurate enough for my use and I run the active s4 so it’s waterproof and dust proof.

    Premier Icon wwaswas

    If you’re looking at anything using OS mapping they’ve recently dropped their prices for digital by 90% so make sure you buy something that reflects that change.


    I used a Garmin eTrex10 for my geology field trips at uni, worked a treat and I had no need for anything more advanced.

    Just a quick resurrection from the dead. Just like to say thanks again for all the advice. Went for a nice simple Garmin eTrex 30 in the end as it had the three axis digital compass over the eTrex 20.

    Also you can pronounce eTrex like eeeeee! T-REX! 😆 😆

    Cheers STW Hive Mind!



    eTrex 20 with maps built myself using openstreetmap. Also got topo maps for it. I can probably get the maps onto a CD if you need them.

    I’m sure some topo maps would be of great help to her! Cheers!

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