Sunday, 12 February 2012

Garmin GPSMAP 62s Review

After a visit to Bleaklow back in December which was a little scary to say the least, trying to navigate its maze of peat hags and bogs in low cloud, I found a map, and GPS enabled mobile phone quite useless due to a lack of discernible features and mobile reception. This was not the first time that this had happened. On Rye Loaf Hill in Malhamdale, the cloud closed in again making navigating back to the Pennine Bridleway near impossible. On my first ever visit to the flat topped Ingleborough it was low cloud, with high winds. So not only could I not find the route to the Trig Point, the wind made it impossible to read a map. I ended up more or less completely destroying that map folding it over and over to try and see a flat 'page' of it. Even back on those rambles, a GPS looked like the sensible option.

 I had recently started a new contract on my mobile phone, and so a free upgrade was given to me. The phone had a GPS built into it, and I had downloaded a UK OS Maps software application, that worked fine. But on top of Bleaklow where there is no mobile reception, the internet dependant mapping software was unable to function and I ended up in thick fog with an arrow pointing to where I was on a black screen, not good!
 So my decision was made there and then to buy a GPS device. I had read about various models available from different companies. But, the Garmin GPSMAP 62s was the one that took my interest.

 The majority of reviews are very positive for the device, which provided good guides to read through when I was choosing the Garmin 62s. But at £400 it's not cheap. However the device comes with full coverage of Great Britain 1:50K OS Maps included on a Micro SD Card, which is worth £199 on its own.
 The Worldwide Base map it comes with is pretty useless really, so the 1:50K OS Maps is a must-have.
The whole device looks a bit basic - like a mobile phone from the late nineteen nineties. But it is a rugged piece of kit. Here are a few of the GPS's basic details I liked:

* Its is IPX 7 Waterproofed.

*Rugged Quad helix antenna and high-sensitivity WAAS-enabled GPS receiver and HotFix satellite prediction.

*Heavy duty rubberised casing

*The device also has nice and big push buttons that are easily usable with thick mountain gloves.

 My phone for example is touch screen, and so great until wet, or wearing gloves. The screen is near unusable in those conditions. The Garmin 62s has none of these problems.

The device is quite easy to use, but like any piece of technology - needs to be given a bit of practice before being taken to the hills.
 The menu is quite easy to follow, and you can set the device to a number of different profiles which gives the GPS a different look and feel when using. I personally use the 'Geocaching' profile, which as you can probably imagine be then used for geocaching.
 You can turn on lots of different features, such as road names, places of interest etc, they then all appear within the map on screen.

Your location is marked by the Garmin trademark 'Blue Triangle' way pointer, and is extremely accurate. This is great as it's pointing where ever you point the device towards. For instance, if you want to know the name of an object like a hill or wooded area, just point the device towards it, scroll out and see on screen what you're looking at!

The electronic compass is a real gem too. Some hills I've been on have been high in iron content, and so this can throw a regular compass off, again this could be dangerous in any condition. The electronic compass on the GPSMAP 62s uses the satellite positioning system so is always accurate.

 The nicest feature for me is the 'Basecamp' software that Garmin gives with the device. Once loaded onto your PC this gives you the option to plan a route using the 1:50K Ordnance Survey Maps. You have to link the GPS device via a USB cable (supplied with the unit) to use the software, but this means that the route is easily uploaded onto the device.
 Below is a route I drew up for a trek around Pen-y-ghent, with the split map option enabled. On the right hand side it gives you a 3D terrain view which is great feature, giving you an idea of what the area is like before you go. Once you have drawn up your route, it is then possible to 'pre-walk', or fly your route.  And once you've done your walk, the route can then be either archived or deleted completely.

In the above picture, you can just about see line I have drawn prior to my visit. You can also make out on the right hand side of the device, the on button. This again is easily turned on or off with gloves on by holding it down for a few seconds.

It is also possible for you to create a route using just the device, which is straight forward and easy to use.

* The only negative things that I can say about the device, are the fact that it's always worth carrying a spare pack of batteries around with you. The battery life does seem to diminish faster than the stated 20 hours its supposed to be able to do, although you do have a power option depending on the type of battery you are using!

* The whole device is a little creaky, and is to be fair a little bulky, like an old mobile. But a carabiner clip is supplied with the device to clip onto your rucksack or hip belt, for ease of use.

5 out of 5 stars.
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