NFR Need help with GPS purchase.

I am seriously considering buying a GPS for my out door activities.
I am hiking more into unfamiliar territory now that we have relocated to Eastern Arizona. I also am a bicyclist and fisherman. I haven't considered a GPS in the past because I was familiar with most of the areas I ventured to in the PNW.
One of the things that happens here is that I want to find a particular set of ruins, a canyon or rock formation and the landscape and the trails are not marked or easily visible. One of the cool "wave rock" formations I want to visit highly recommends a guide or GPS to find it and get back safely.
I would like to use it as an altimeter if possible and for miles ridden or hiked.
I have always appreciated the knowledge and opinions from this board and would like to know what you recommend?


New Member
Garmin 62s is what I use on my mtb, fishing and hiking. It's only fault is reading the screen (color) in bright sunlight is not the easiest. I also liked the 60csx when I had one.

Rick Sharp

Active Member
Garmin Oregon 450 is pretty easily found on sale now a days and does everything your looking to do

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I have had a Garmin E-Trex for a number of years. They work very well though I'm sure there is better technology now. They were good enough that our son-in-law used one when he was deployed in Iraq. His was beat to death by the time he came back but said it worked better than the ones issued by the Army. That was a pretty good endorsement.
I checked out the Garmin Oregon 450t which has preloaded topo maps. Is this the best way to do the maps? Arizona State University has developed maps of all the trails in Arizona is that something that I can also add to the unit after I get it?
Thanks for the replies
What a pleasure to be able to help a guy who's done so much for me and so many others.

Jess, a Garmin unit is pretty perfect for you. Make sure you're comfortable with the size of the screen, and that the buttons and things work for your hands and fingers. They come loaded with features, many of which you may or may not need. You will need tracking, and the ability to enter waypoints. That way you can track your path along the map on the screen as you go, and you can load waypoints, or places you'd like to come back to, as you go. Those places for me include where I parked, because in terrain its easy to get turned around in, being able to ask the unit to take you back to your truck with bearing and distance is why you want the darn thing anyway. Most Garmin units have these features. If it's loaded with Topo maps, make sure they're of a scale that works for you. You may want to just buy from the vendor a unit,and the topographic coverage for the areas you're most interested in, that way you get the best most recent coverage. The University has a coverage with trails on it, that'd overlay your base maps. You may find as you go along you'd enjoy geocache-ing, I recommend you go to and see what it's about...sort of a worldwide scavenger hunt in some very interesting places, it entertains my wife and I as I go on my wandering vacations with Behnke's book. That page also used to review the current batch of GPS may find those useful.

Some come loaded with other features, the ability to map things, air photos, super precision, road and highway stuff, etc. Mapping tools in particular often add some expense which may be unnecessary. Beware false precision, most units these days can locate you within a few 10's of feet, you shouldn't need better than that. Some recommend your phone. Unless you can carry a fully charged battery as backup, I'd get a dedicated unit and keep your phone as your phone. They work OK on roads and such, but often in the backcountry you'll need to plug them into a current bush after an hour or two.

A GPS does not replace a paper map. especially in backcountry, as you know, always print or carry a paper map, and always, always, always take extra batteries. You'll get in the practice of setting a waypoint when you park, setting a direction, and using the GPS to add to your map and outdoor experience, with the added bonus it can help you reorient yourself if you get turned around. There's various prices, but once you use it a couple of times, the money you spent will be forgotten, especially if it guides you back to your rig in foggy conditions or something.

Best wishes..
checkout youtube for vids showing the use. here is some tutorials.

you start the hike or ride the receiver starts dropping electronic breadcrumbs,you see a place you like and want to come back to you mark it as a waypoint (breadcrumb) want to follow a trail that someone else has done you just follow their waypoints.
2.favorite fishing hole drop a waypoint(please post all waypoints here on the board so we all know your favorite fishing spots he he.)
3.hike a trail, it starts marking waypoints every so often, when you are done turn around and follow them back the start.

altimeter yes/ mph yes/ miles traveled yes

carry map compass and the ten essentials.have fun:cool:
Thanks Guy this is great information. I would like to try Geocaching, that would be a bonus with a GPS.
I have been doing a lot of hiking since the relocation and my lovely supports me buying a GPS unit because I do spend a lot of time out biking and hiking alone. And frankly I am "directionally challenged" she will be more comfortable if I have a way to get home. I do carry a compass and maps when I am out.
I think at this point it looks like my decision will be whether to buy with or without the preloaded maps. My travels will be in the 10-12 Western States. Perhaps I need to do some research on after market maps.