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5 Points of Advice When Using GPS

Global positioning systems (GPS) are becoming increasingly popular with walkers and cyclists alike. They can be real life savers because they can normally locate your global position up to 100 metres or less! We advise to combine using your GPS device while walking or cycling with our route notes. Here are some five reasons why!


How to use a GPS device on your walking holiday?



Referencing to your GPS system and its maps can, especially in cold weather, drain power from your GPS device. The life of lithium batteries has improved to around 10 hours of use; nevertheless it is essential to make sure your unit is powered up each night. Perhaps a device such as a Power-monkey, which is a larger lithium reserve battery that can be used on the go in an emergency, is also worth carrying.



The base maps available on memory cards vary in quality. With OS in the United Kingdom or IGN in France, the GPS versions are excellent. Unlike big traditional maps that you can fold out, the electronic maps are shown on a relatively small LCD panel. For an overview of your route including details, a combination with a traditional paper map can be convenient. Here you can easily follow or plot routes from point A to B.


Signal Strength

Luckily with the advanced, modern GPS devices, signal loss is usually temporary. The handhelds have become more powerful and trees don't provide the problems they used to! However cliffs, gorges and proximity to mountainsides can affect reception, or bounce signals giving spurious readings.


Using a GPS device on a walking holiday


Blind Following

Following your GPS device usually gets you where you want to go, but not always by the best route. There are often many nuances to any walking trail, and these can best be appreciated by looking at the larger printed maps. In low visibility your signal might be 100 metres out and you will have to be careful on the ground making micro navigational decisions in areas of steep ground or cliffs. Last year, Coniston Mountain Rescue in the English Lake District reported a surge of assistance that had to be given to people who just carried a GPS into the mountains without a map.


Oops, Wrong Turn

Using GPS systems solely, can restrict a user’s relationship and understanding of the landscape. Using a good map makes you mentally interpret features, appreciate distances and look and wonder at place names. Sometimes the path on the ground may not exactly match the preloaded GPS route and there maybe variations to the original route set up. Carrying a route map will quickly help you solve these issues.



At Sherpa Expeditions we suggest using GPS devices in combination with the maps and route notes we provide make for your most enjoyable walking or cycling experience. For information on the GPS systems available around Europe and using GPS on your Sherpa Expeditions holiday, please get in touch with our team of active holiday experts


Images courtesy of ©Richard Dorrell

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