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Gear Matters: GPS in Your System

Gear Matters-active European travel advice on walking gearEvery month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view.  This month we have a look at global positioning systems (GPS) which are becoming increasingly popular with walkers and cyclists for following existing routes or creating new tracks. They can normally locate your global position to 100 metres or less and are a system in use by many walkers and cyclists. 






Gear matters: GPS in Your System

GPS originated as a military system controlled by the US, although other countries such as China have their own military versions, it has now been in the consumer domain since the early 1990s. The units have  decreased in price and become much more efficient over that time. The devices track satellites and normally four of those are needed to provide a global location. It usually takes a unit less than 5 minutes to locate itself assuming there are only minor obstructions to the sky.

As well as the traditional GPS handhelds such as Magellan, Garmin and Satnav, which are walker and cyclist friendly, you can also get software for your Android, Windows or iPhones. These do pretty much the same job. Both are different to the car navigation versions though, they don't shout at you in a voice of your choosing from a list including Darth Vader!

 

United Kingdom Walking Guide with GPS device - Sherpa Expeditions

The walking or cycling GPS models change every couple of years, and the best way to get a feel of the differences is to read online reviews on the devices or in walking or cycling magazines, such as Walk. We would recommend GPS devices with larger screens in terms of using them with maps. The budget models may only give you a Grid Reference and show you a route line or gradient graph without showing you where you are. In those cases you may want to transcribe this information to a map. Do make sure that you have your GPS device set up for the relevant map, e.g. 'OS British Grid' or 'IGN France'. 

More expensive units generally have water resistant casings, SD card slots for expanded route memory and pre manipulated maps on memory cards available detailing popular routes such as the Coast to Coast or Tour du Mont Blanc. With these you can walk more or less exactly along the route. The map systems are also very detailed, at least in countries where the mapping is already good, in others you may be presented with a very generalised representation.

You can also download GPS coordinates from different sites such as the LDWA Long Distance Walkers Association website in the UK or from the various long distance path sites. You can also laboriously preload a route by working out the grid references manually by using a map and typing them in to your GPS handheld. Once you have walked your route, recording it on the GPS, you can download the results on programmes such as 'Memory Map' to generate statistics and route graphs. It's amazing to see your trip represented like this!

Interested in more? Read our 5 points to Keep in Mind When Using GPS article, or for more information on using GPS devices on your walking on cylcing holiday with Sherpa Expeditions, please contact our team of experts in our London office

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