From turn-by-turn directions in a vehicle, to detailed topographical mapping, GPS can really help in personal navigation. Nowhere can the GPS's influence be felt more than in outdoor sports. GPS has really revolutionized how outdoors enthusiasts are able to navigate through the wilderness. Though GPS should never be considered a replacement for compass, map and orienteering skills, GPS units can provide an easy to use means of wilderness navigation.
Basic Tracking Models
The most basic, inexpensive GPS units allow you to track your coordinates and record a series of waypoints. Waypoints are places that you've been that can serve as markers to get back to, such as a parking lot or trailhead. These units allow you to keep track of where you've been and navigate back there in the future. These models are excellent for those looking for a simple means of tracking their movement and getting back to where they've been.
More advanced outdoor GPS models work in conjunction with digital topographic maps. They allow you to overlay your location via GPS coordinates onto a map of the area that you're traversing so you can see exactly where you are and track your course and progress. An example is the Garmin Colorado series. Maps may come preinstalled or may require separate purchase and loading onto a memory card. These models vary widely in price and detail, with inexpensive models offering a basic black and white screen and more expensive models offering color screens, more features and better detail and resolution. Prices range roughly from $150 to $600.
Sport and Fitness GPS
There are many GPS units and watches that use GPS toward specific performance parameters of individual sports. Models designed for running, cycling and skiing are able to track your performance and calculate statistics using GPS-based technology. For instance, the Garmin Edge 305 HR is a cycle computer that calculates statistics such as speed, distance, time and climb and descent. Prices vary by specific sport/model, but these units generally range between $100 and $400.
While the aforementioned devices are fine-tuned to navigate through the wilderness, you'll still need to get there. A good car GPS unit with spoken turn-by-turn directions is an excellent solution for getting to your nearest trail (or convenience store).
Article Written By Joe Fletcher
Joe Fletcher has been a writer since 2002, starting his career in politics and legislation. He has written travel and outdoor recreation articles for a variety of print and online publications, including "Rocky Mountain Magazine" and "Bomb Snow." He received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Rutgers College.