Best GPS for field use

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Antonsrkn
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Best GPS for field use

Post by Antonsrkn » April 6th, 2016, 8:23 am

Hello all, I know this has been covered before in other threads but as technology changes and new products come out, things change so I just figured I'd start a new thread to get some opinions. I know many of you use a handheld GPS for herping and other activities.

I'll soon be starting a field portion of a project and am in the market for a GPS, I have used many GPS units before but this is the first time I'm actually buying one. The following criteria are absolutely critical:
1. Doesn't lose signal under thick jungle canopy
2. Able to mark many different waypoints/trails and lead me back to them with a high degree of accuracy (within a few feet is best)
3. Water resistant or waterproof
4. Battery efficient, I can't have it constantly going out on me and sucking up endless batteries.
5. I'm guessing i'd be able to do this with all GPS units but i'll eventually need to put everything into ArcGIS, so it needs to be compatible with that. Again I'd assume thats all GPS units but just making sure.

If anyone has any recommendations please share! I'd greatly appreciate it. Thanks!

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Nshepard
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Re: Best GPS for field use

Post by Nshepard » April 7th, 2016, 11:54 am

Iphone. App = sightings (US $0.99). Easy to use and easy to migrate data into excel, shp, and GE.

OR a Garmin 60Cx (the older one, the new one sucks). This will give you a GPS with great signal but the garmin software sucks and is impossible to use long term.

daniel
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Re: Best GPS for field use

Post by daniel » April 7th, 2016, 12:03 pm

I really like the Garmin GPSMAP64st

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Re: Best GPS for field use

Post by stlouisdude » April 7th, 2016, 8:22 pm

My garmin handheld is years old now but I still find in invaluable. In CT, the habitat is simply not large enough to get lost in but in MO Iv've walked for hours to find a road, for the guys our West I suspect such an event could be fatal. My handheld GPS takes me within 1m of a particular rock and gets me back to my car.

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chrish
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Re: Best GPS for field use

Post by chrish » April 7th, 2016, 9:20 pm

Not losing signal under jungle canopy is an issue with the satellites, not the GPS but some GPS units are better than others at keeping signals here.

I don't trust a phone as a GPS in out of the way places. The problem is that many (most) gps apps on the phone don't report the accuracy of their location and they will run down their batteries searching for cell signals out in the field. Yes, you can turn that off, but if you forget or don't notice you are screwed. And you can't buy replacement batteries at the local convenience store like you can for a handheld GPS unit.

I have an old Garmin 60Cs and it has been very dependable all over the world. The front glass is cracked and yet it still appears to be waterproof (I haven't submerged it, but it is certainly "pouring rain proof". It is a very old model and I know there have been some upgrades and I wouldn't hesitate to buy the current equivalent.

Just make sure you don't pay for stupid features you wouldn't ever use. The basic 6x series from Garmin will do the job and get great reception.

The garmin software does suck, but I just download my data directly into Google Earth. I'm sure it is ArcGIS compatible as well.

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Stohlgren
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Re: Best GPS for field use

Post by Stohlgren » April 8th, 2016, 3:47 am

I have a Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx personally, and it is a great unit, but for work I was using one of the touch screen models (Garmin Oregon 550), which I did not think I would like but was converted so I feel the need to preach it a little. It is so much easier and quicker to do most every task, such as renaming a point or to move around the map, than it is with the other units where you have to use the little arrow pad to do everything. It also picked up the satellites quickly and was very field hardy. It was dropped, dragged through heavy brush, and rained on, and never had an issue. If I am ever in the market for a new handheld unit again, it will be one of these.

Also, as far as getting GPS points into ArcGIS, Garmin basecamp works pretty well to upload points which from there can be moved to ArcGIS. One of the best features of the Oregon series compared to my 60CSx, is that in basecamp you can delete selected points from the GPS unit. Surprisingly, this cannot be done on my 60CSx and a lot of other handheld units. On most units if your memory is getting full, you either have to delete points directly from the handheld one by one, or completely clear the memory. This is a huge hassle if you want to delete a bunch, but not all of you data. (The workaround for this is to upload all of the points to the computer, clear the GPS's memory, then reload the points you want to keep to the GPS. But this leaves room for error.)

On all units (that I have used) it is easy to load points from ArcGIS using basecamp. You just have to convert a point layer to GPX format to send to basecamp, from there you can drag the points you want onto the GPS.

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Antonsrkn
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Re: Best GPS for field use

Post by Antonsrkn » April 11th, 2016, 10:05 am

Thank you all for your suggestions and information, I very much appreciate you all taking the time to help out. Haven't made a decision yet but hopefully sometime in the upcoming days!

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: Best GPS for field use

Post by Bryan Hamilton » April 11th, 2016, 10:09 am

I've noticed the newer models with color and touch screens, do not have the battery life of the older, cheaper models. I used to get 2-3 days of use from my garmin now I can't get a full day of batter life.

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Nshepard
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Re: Best GPS for field use

Post by Nshepard » April 11th, 2016, 12:41 pm

I get 5m-10m reliably on my phone. That is good enough for me. My Garmin would rarely get much below 5m (sometimes 9 feet or so) unless you averaged the points. I used the Sightings app on my iphone 4s all around Arizona this year in some really remote areas with zero problems. I also hike with a back up power supply (a goal zero 4 AA converter to USB power for recharging the phone).

I personally have nothing against Garmin, used one for years with great success in the field. I just do not feel the need to carry and separate unit around and have to deal with the trouble of downloading points. The newer version of the 60Cx (don't remember its name) is supposed to work better with arc gis as Kevin said, I just haven't worked with the newer version (I didn't like it overall nearly as much).

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Stohlgren
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Re: Best GPS for field use

Post by Stohlgren » April 12th, 2016, 3:34 am

5-10 meters is ok for most navigational purposes, but for some research purposes you would likely want better. Such as if you needed to record telemetry locations or if you are trying to delineate a habitat like a wetland. I've never had a problem getting down to 3 m with my 60CSx or with the Oregon. You are not likely to get any better accuracy than that without one of the high dollar Trimble units, or something similar, though.

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Re: Best GPS for field use

Post by MonarchzMan » April 14th, 2016, 4:36 am

I have the Garmin 62s which I would recommend. I have used it extensively for research in Panama, French Guiana, and Australia under rainforest or thick canopy conditions, and I have been quite pleased with it. Generally, in thick canopy, I can get < 3m accuracy. And it is quite hardy. Just used it yesterday, left it on top of my car, started driving away, and it fell off the back, still on and tracking!

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umop apisdn
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Re: Best GPS for field use

Post by umop apisdn » April 14th, 2016, 9:48 pm

As someone who has had the 60CSx since around 2009, I can say it is generally a good GPS, but it has flaws. Regardless, buy a screen protector. They make these GPSes with what seems like the softest of plastics. It will scratch your first time out if you don't protect it. Also, the directional pad sucks. I don't know how many times I hit one direction and get something different. The space for notes is waaaaaay too limited. The navigation to type in just about anything is painful. The fact they limit the functionality of memory cards to a few gigs, which in turn limits the amount of map data you can have stored, all I can think of is my frustration with iPhones.

I think Kevin's suggestion is intriguing. I've seen a newer GPS that seemed to work well and had tons of note space.

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Stohlgren
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Re: Best GPS for field use

Post by Stohlgren » April 16th, 2016, 10:40 am

umop apisdn wrote:Also, the directional pad sucks. I don't know how many times I hit one direction and get something different.
I don't tend to take notes in the GPS, but if you are someone who does, a touch screen is a must, rather than dealing with the arrow pad.

The arrow pad and having to delete points individually or completely wipe the memory (rather than being able to use basecamp to remove batches of points) are the main reasons I prefer the Oregon series. Though the latter may have been fixed in newer versions of the GPSmap units.

And yes, the screens on the 60CSx are butter soft. Interestingly, the touch screen on the Oregon is very durable and a screen protector isn't necessary.

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Antonsrkn
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Re: Best GPS for field use

Post by Antonsrkn » April 16th, 2016, 1:47 pm

Thanks for all the additional info! I do need something that is a bit more accurate than 5m as I will be using it for tracking movement patterns of frogs within their relatively small range, as well as helping me remember where individual deposition sites are, and there will certainly be multiple ones within a 5m range.

I have had issues with touch screens on GPS before when working in areas with high humidity or in rain, they don't always seem to register the touch which can be incredibly frustrating, whether this is issues with the actual screen or the unit crapping around due to moisture problems im not sure. I haven't had this issue with ones that have arrow pads but it could be because I was working in slightly drier conditions then. I don't know if I will be taking notes on the GPS as of yet, I haven't really done that before always choosing to mark a point and then take notes on it in a notebook, but perhaps if it is convenient I would start using the GPS for notes as well.

Lots to think about, again thanks all for the info. Still haven't quite decided.

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Re: Best GPS for field use

Post by MonarchzMan » April 16th, 2016, 2:34 pm

Antonsrkn wrote:Thanks for all the additional info! I do need something that is a bit more accurate than 5m as I will be using it for tracking movement patterns of frogs within their relatively small range, as well as helping me remember where individual deposition sites are, and there will certainly be multiple ones within a 5m range.

I have had issues with touch screens on GPS before when working in areas with high humidity or in rain, they don't always seem to register the touch which can be incredibly frustrating, whether this is issues with the actual screen or the unit crapping around due to moisture problems im not sure. I haven't had this issue with ones that have arrow pads but it could be because I was working in slightly drier conditions then. I don't know if I will be taking notes on the GPS as of yet, I haven't really done that before always choosing to mark a point and then take notes on it in a notebook, but perhaps if it is convenient I would start using the GPS for notes as well.

Lots to think about, again thanks all for the info. Still haven't quite decided.
As was said before, if you need sub-meter accuracy, which it sounds like it would be nice, you ought to look into the Trimble units. They are quite nice, but also quite expensive. Probably going to spend $1000-2000 on one (last I checked - but that was several years ago - not sure what's available now), depending on the model. I have a friend who uses one for his herp survey work, and he can get sub-meter accuracy. Not sure how reliable they are in heavy canopy conditions, however.

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: Best GPS for field use

Post by Bryan Hamilton » April 16th, 2016, 3:50 pm

Another big advantage with the trimble units are their data dictionaries. They can really help organize and manage your data which is critical when you have a lot of GPS points. Especially critical when you have technicians or volunteers collecting data.

For example you can have a drop down menu for "egg mass", "breeding", another for number of individuals, time, date, species, ect.

I can't believe that there are no other GPS units with this simple feature but that seems to be the case....

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Antonsrkn
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Re: Best GPS for field use

Post by Antonsrkn » April 17th, 2016, 8:22 am

Probably going to spend $1000-2000 on one (last I checked - but that was several years ago - not sure what's available now)
Oh my, I just checked as well and thats about the prices I saw. Unfortunately thats more than I can afford to spend on a gps. I will be using it for my project but I'm purchasing it using personal funds so that I can keep it after the project ends.
Another big advantage with the trimble units are their data dictionaries. They can really help organize and manage your data which is critical when you have a lot of GPS points. Especially critical when you have technicians or volunteers collecting data.

For example you can have a drop down menu for "egg mass", "breeding", another for number of individuals, time, date, species, ect.

I can't believe that there are no other GPS units with this simple feature but that seems to be the case....
That does sound really nice and would certainly have been extremely useful on some other projects in which I have participated in the past. This time around its gonna be mostly just me using it and perhaps 1 part time tech, the data dictionary would be useful but hopefully I'll be able to manage without it. I agree it does seem odd that no other companies have adopted that approach as well.

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