GPS Recommendation for Remote Hiking/Fishing

BriGuy

Active Member
My son and his girlfriend hike into some very remote high country places around Washington and Oregon. They are good about telling us where they are hiking and letting us know when they are out of the hills and woods, but my wife and I still worry they'll get lost or injured and may need assistance.

So, we're thinking of getting them a reliable and simple GPS emergency beacon or communicator where they can signal for help. There seems to be a ton of options, so any recommendations from those of you with experience would really be appreciated.

Thanks.
 

Lance Magnuson

WFF Supporter
I’ve been hiking in mountains for over 45 years. We never had location beacons to transmit if we were in trouble. I’d suggest buying them a good compass and altimeter then telling them to learn how to use them. Along with USGS topographical maps they’ll be prepared. If they let you know where they’re hiking with date when they’ll be out, your role a parent is covered.
 

jaredoconnor

WFF Supporter
I used to have one, when I lived in Australia, and I'm considering buying another one. SPOT and Garmin devices seem to be the most popular. I will probably get a Garmin inReach Mini. I don't think anyone can really tell you what is best for you though, because everyone will want different features. If you're comparing SPOT and Garmin devices, I think the variables below are probably the most notable.
  • Budget
  • 2 way messaging vs. 1 way messaging
  • Navigation tools (maps, compass, weather, etc.)
  • Larger screen on the device (larger device) vs. pairing with phone (compact device)
I think once you figure those things out, the right product will become easy to choose.
 

Gyrfalcon21

Honoring Vets
I have 40+ years on trails and any safety device is a great thing, why not? BUT, as long as it is not a safety crutch and gives false confidence.

I think it is a good, caring idea, btw! Add a 2 ounce neon yellow and metallic reflector vest and Bic lighters to the emergency gift package.
 

cdnred

Active Member
I think that the best GPS device is the one that they'll use when the time comes when they'll need it. There are some GPS devices that have a lot of features but people need to be rather tech savvy in order to use it. Nothing is worse then to carry a GPS device that is too complicated to use. Best option for them would be to enroll in a class (like at REI) first before they even get one that will give them some insight in how to use it first and explain all the options that are available. After they've taken a decent class then they can determine what exactly they really need or want in the way of features.
 

NukeLDO

WFF Supporter
I do a fair amount of backcountry hiking and camping to get to fishing spots by myself. At age 55, I'm not as spry as I once was, and it only takes one emergency to change the tenor of those trips. I carry a Garmin In-Reach and pay a subscription fee for the months I want it activated. It works like a normal GPS, but also allows me to send text messages with my coordinates to my wife and family to let them know I'm ok when I'm gone for a week. It also has one touch SOS that connects you to a call center to get help 24/7. It pairs to a cell phone if you want to, records tracks and waypoints, etc.
Like others have said, it can't and should not be your primary means of navigation, but as a safety device and providing peace of mind, I think it's well worth it.
 

MGTom

Living at the place of many waters
WFF Supporter
I’ve been hiking in mountains for over 45 years. We never had location beacons to transmit if we were in trouble. I’d suggest buying them a good compass and altimeter then telling them to learn how to use them. Along with USGS topographical maps they’ll be prepared. If they let you know where they’re hiking with date when they’ll be out, your role a parent is covered.
I agree. I had a crew drive up the wrong mountain because they entered the longitude incorrectly. GPS is a good tool, and usually works fine, as long as you got batteries. I got a Trimble Unit that will put me anywhere on the face of the earth within 1cm, but I still use a paper map and compass direction to get close.
My dad used to say, "just don't do anything stupid" when we left. I always needed to have more info and more input before my son went off somewhere.
 

longputt

Active Member
You can rent a SPOT for a trip. It is very cost-effective.
a good compass
USGS topographical maps
I can't tell you number of times my handheld GPS compass is way off, they need to be calibrated frequently. Take 3 iPhones and look at the compass headings they rarely agree. A good compass is important.

Hiking without a map is crazy. I've tried a few of the cloth maps and they are really durable. Don't have to worry about keeping them dry or flat. https://www.ruggedmaps.com/home Also, why is it every time you need something accurate on your map it is on a crease?
 

jwg

Active Member
My son and his girlfriend hike into some very remote high country places around Washington and Oregon. They are good about telling us where they are hiking and letting us know when they are out of the hills and woods, but my wife and I still worry they'll get lost or injured and may need assistance.

So, we're thinking of getting them a reliable and simple GPS emergency beacon or communicator where they can signal for help. There seems to be a ton of options, so any recommendations from those of you with experience would really be appreciated.

Thanks.
I also have a Garmin Inreach Mini.

Agree w @NukeLDO

In addition to two way text messaging, and reporting location, you can set it on tracking so it automatically reports out your location to a mapshare web page at preset intervals. If you were knocked out and not messaging, you could be found.

The learning curve is a little steep if you are not already familiar w GPS tracking and so on, but there are good reviews and videos out there now.

Text input on the device is tedious but a. You can readily select some preset texts, and b. you can pair w your phone for text entry.

Communication is its purpose, it's not an optimal GPS navigation device, for safety you MUST be able to navigate on your own w maps and compass as others have said.

I was all prepared to give an introductory seminar at the local REI, but shutdown intervened.

I would consider alternatives only if they, worked more intuitively, or offered much higher functionality.

In the In reach line I would either go with the Mini, or to the top of the inreach line w mapping display.

I am not up to date about anything new that might be on the market.

J
 

dustinchromers

Active Member
My son and his girlfriend hike into some very remote high country places around Washington and Oregon. They are good about telling us where they are hiking and letting us know when they are out of the hills and woods, but my wife and I still worry they'll get lost or injured and may need assistance.

So, we're thinking of getting them a reliable and simple GPS emergency beacon or communicator where they can signal for help. There seems to be a ton of options, so any recommendations from those of you with experience would really be appreciated.

Thanks.

Garmin 66st is all of this in one unit.
 

cmann886

Active Member
I used to have one, when I lived in Australia, and I'm considering buying another one. SPOT and Garmin devices seem to be the most popular. I will probably get a Garmin inReach Mini. I don't think anyone can really tell you what is best for you though, because everyone will want different features. If you're comparing SPOT and Garmin devices, I think the variables below are probably the most notable.
  • Budget
  • 2 way messaging vs. 1 way messaging
  • Navigation tools (maps, compass, weather, etc.)
  • Larger screen on the device (larger device) vs. pairing with phone (compact device)
I think once you figure those things out, the right product will become easy to choose.
My brother who is an avid hunter and is generally in extremely remote locations and frequently hunts internationally, uses SPOT. On occasion he also ports a satellite phone. He certainly is capable with a map, compass and altimeter and is an ER Physician. Regardless of his preparations and skill set, for some emergencies something like SPOT is priceless.
 

Riffling Hitch

Active Member
Your phone already has the gps.

onX hunting app is far nicer than any gps I’ve used. Shows the roads trails property lines etc and you can have it track your trail.
you don’t need good cell service or any cell service to use it. You just need to download the maps of where you are going ahead of time. Try the free trial out
Also can be downloaded with subsriptions to multiple phones so more than one phone in party can have it available.
 
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Brian Miller

Be vewy vewy qwiet, I'm hunting Cutthwoat Twout
WFF Supporter
I’ve been hiking in mountains for over 45 years. We never had location beacons to transmit if we were in trouble. I’d suggest buying them a good compass and altimeter then telling them to learn how to use them. Along with USGS topographical maps they’ll be prepared. If they let you know where they’re hiking with date when they’ll be out, your role a parent is covered.
^^
It's not a good idea to rely on an electronic device as the only navigation tool when in very remote areas. A USGS map and baseplate compass with declination adjustment are lightweight and compact. Be sure to read the reviews as some of the cheaper compasses are apparently not very durable. REI only sells electronic altimeters now :(. I have a lightweight compact analog altimeter but I consider it secondary to a map and compass in importance and have been using a rugged very reliable Casio Pro Trek solar watch with an altimeter for years on popular short-medium length popular trails. However since I'm going to wear a watch anyway I've still carried the analog on long multi-day hikes in remote areas where I don't expect to see other people.

I think that the best GPS device is the one that they'll use when the time comes when they'll need it. There are some GPS devices that have a lot of features but people need to be rather tech savvy in order to use it. Nothing is worse then to carry a GPS device that is too complicated to use. Best option for them would be to enroll in a class (like at REI) first before they even get one that will give them some insight in how to use it first and explain all the options that are available. After they've taken a decent class then they can determine what exactly they really need or want in the way of features.
^^
Lots of GPS options. I have a Garmin Oregon 600 containing Washington and Idaho maps but have been using my cell phone that has better battery life in airplane mode than the Garmin for several years. I've used various low cost perpetual licensed GPS apps that contain offline maps. I'm rather cheap but after comparing subscription apps I decided to buy an annual subscription for Gaia GPS. It is very feature rich and has great tech support.
I also have a Garmin Inreach Mini.

Agree w @NukeLDO
^^
The GiR is very popular among through hikers and section hikers as a signaling device.

I'm a big step below a locator-signaling device-satphone but this is still useful. I'm a licensed amateur radio operator and have a mobile VHF radio in my SUV with the global Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) used by ECOM and SAR organizations. A digital APRS transmission includes the operator's amateur callsign, the GPS coordinates of each transmission, and a short status message. There is also a messaging function for sending longer messages to other APRS base, mobile, and portable stations that receive the signal via LoS and reflected off canyon walls or though a worldwide network of "digipeaters" that increase the range. There is an internet website for a worldwide APRS map that shows the location of all APRS transmissions where you can filter by a callsign to zoom in on that station's location and status messages. The location is identified by an icon (a jeep for my SUV) and the station callsign.

I have the radio "beacon" every 5 minutes while driving to and from destinations. If the APRS website map URL with the callsign filter is saved as a favorite-bookmark, it can be referred to at any time and will show the route I travelled up to my last transmission.

When I get to my (fishing hiking) destination I use the messaging function to send an email (it's like texting on a cell phone) through a worldwide network of iGates (internet gateways) to the Verizon text email address for Mrs Brian's cell phone. When I get back to the car I send another message with my ETA home. The text messages include the link to the APRS map with my location. There is no cost or other requirements besides the license and the radio that I have anyway.
 
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