GPS units

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by pcdreams, Nov 26, 2006.

  1. pcdreams

    pcdreams Well-Known Member

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    I've been looking at gps units but don't know a whole lot about them.. I realize they're accuracy is within 3 meters (not great but good enough)..

    Anyway heres what I'm wanting to do.. Walk our property and shoot the corners in. then shoot in points where I'd eventually like everthing to be (distances,etc) and be able to hook it to the pc and download that to a printable map..

    Now the real kicker .. <$200

    Is this a reasonable goal in that price range or am I dreaming?
     
  2. hillsidedigger

    hillsidedigger Well-Known Member

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    In terms of approximate mapping of the relative position of visible features, even a $200 GPS unit might be appropriate, with sufficient understanding of what you are doing.
     

  3. pcdreams

    pcdreams Well-Known Member

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    another question.. Can you use one of these to find true south (to site solar)?
     
  4. hillsidedigger

    hillsidedigger Well-Known Member

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    Sure, a rough South is easy to determine with a GPS.

    Directions can be determined with GPS, but the cheaper units can only determine it more or less.

    If a really long line, like 2 miles is intervisible, a very close bearing could be determined by a GPS (even a cheap unit) reading at either end.
     
  5. big rockpile

    big rockpile If I need a Shelter

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    I'm thinking higher than $200.You should be able to do this with GPS.Mine you can get True North.

    big rockpile
     
  6. newatthis

    newatthis Well-Known Member

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    My first response: Please know how to use it before you are a nice person who calls 911 for someone because you "know where you are" since you have a GPS.
    I was in a car accident last year and totalled my car. It took the ambulance almost an hour to get to me because the nice guy who stopped to help had his GPS programmed BACKWARDS!!!!!!!!!!!\

    Now, My husband has one and his works wonderful. We find how to get to places by using it.(that is a womans answer :rolleyes: :cool: )
     
  7. DW

    DW plains of Colorado Supporter

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    We saw one at Sportsman Warehouse for $100. My husband thinks it would be a good toy.
     
  8. HillsideHouse

    HillsideHouse Well-Known Member

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    If you are going to invest here is something interesting to also do with your GPS:
    http://www.geocaching.com/
    Hubby & son are out right now doing a 7 miles one in our area...I think they are addicted.
    Kind regards;
    Hill
     
  9. pcdreams

    pcdreams Well-Known Member

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    What brand model do you have or do you folks recommend?
     
  10. Ed_Stanton

    Ed_Stanton Well-Known Member

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    From my looking, I found the Lowrance iFinder GPS units to have the best bang for the buck. Other than their least expensive GO units (fixed memory), the others have many of the advanced features that the more expensive units of Garmin or Magellan do, but even the GO units are not lacking sensitivity. The Lowrance accuracy is very good too, but they all have their pros and cons and frustrations and sometimes inaccuracies, and or inability to connect, but overall, my iFinder Pro has been very good. Accuracy may or may not be the fault of GPS units, vs. other reasons. The Lowrance hand held units do not have auto routing like the expensive Garmin or Magellans do, but that wasn't on your list either. The Lowrance topo maps are OK, they don't seem to be better or worse than the other brands and again, they all have their pros and cons and quircks. Something like Ozi Explorer mapping would make your map probably more accurate and serious GPS users opt for other maps or even Google Earth. Few of the units in your price range will have a PC connection, or if they do, then some other feature may be missing, such as large internal memory. The Lowrance units can take SD cards up to 1 GB for that much internal memory, which no other GPS units that I found do in this price range. Other brands in your price range may be fixed with 8-64 MB's, which may or may not be enough for you (it would be for your limited use mentioned) and to expand the memory you need to buy more expensive Map specific cards. So those initial other GPS brands might be cheap, but they can get pricey later with add ons. Again, I felt that the Lowrance iFinder series had the best compromises for price for my needs. They also seem to have good support from what I've read.

    Good place to find used GPS: http://forums.groundspeak.com/GC/index.php?showforum=13

    They also have good info and links on all units in their forum:

    http://forums.groundspeak.com/

    I opted for the iFinder Plus (not made anymore but still current), which came with their proprietary card reader and Topo maps CD's. This model is reviewed here:

    http://www.gpsnuts.com/Lowrance/iFinder.htm

    Purchased on eBay, it was very close to your budget. Without the topo maps, it would be less but I think that you MUST have the proprietary LEI card reader to download info from the SD card to use with any mapping software, like Ozi Explorer. Mine is the basic model above the GO models and has a black and white screen which for my use is fine and is easy to see in all conditions. It also has a back light. A colour screen would be nice but more expensive.

    I'd recommend: iFinder (Plus), or iFinder H2O (Plus), which I now think is their basic advanced model. But even their really inexpensive but accurate GO unit is a very good GPS, but with no downloading availible, vs. using pen and paper to transfer waypoins. The Plus versions just means that they come with the card reader and maps, regular maps or Topo. I often just opt for using pen & paper to get my waypoints vs. downloading and using the mapping software as I also use Google Earth and MS Streets and Trips which can't take downloaded waypoints.

    www.lowrance.com

    http://www.lowrance.com/Outdoor/Products/iFINDERH2OC.asp
     
  11. pcdreams

    pcdreams Well-Known Member

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    thanks for all the good info guys..keep it comming.

    I don't mind spending a bit more to get the features I need (don't care about driving directions stuff.. just the maping/survey aspect of it..).

    I'd say pc interface would be a big have to have.. I want to be able to import data to autocad..

    I would assume depending on what type of unit you get you could use this much as a data collector?
     
  12. LagoVistaFarm

    LagoVistaFarm Well-Known Member

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    We were considering the prospect of mapping our property also. I've used GPS for many years on boats. A friend suggested that we look into renting a high end unit for a weekend. They rent the complete set-up for under $200 its a multi thousand dollar package. My biggest concern was how to train to use the unit prior to the rental.

    We started with this link: http://www.geoplane.com/
     
  13. Ed_Stanton

    Ed_Stanton Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure that what you want to do is as easy as you'd like it to be. I believe that each of the consumer type GPS systems use their own proprietary formats and file extensions, which might not be read by other software, such as AutoCad. You'd better check out some GPS forums such as GroundSpeak and ask there. My understanding is that Magellan, Garmin, Lowrance want you to use/buy their mapping software. So, then I think that you'll need an intermediate program like Ozi Explorer and there are one or two others, that can interpret the various formats and output it to something else such as what Ozi Explorer uses. I've seen Ozi Explorer included with maps of areas for not a bad price, but it still might be another $100.

    You don't need many features for basic mapping and even the low end units can be as accurate as those with with many features as far as consumer GPS goes. And saving GPS info to download to a map, unless you want to plot out a semi accurate long route, isn't that hard to do by writing down what you saved in the unit. So to roughly survey your property (and it will likely be only a "rough" survey, as terrain and satellites will dictate how accurate the readings are), you won't need that many points saved.

    I've done the same thing with trying to map out my property, some points were in trees and some in the open, and with good GPS WAAS locks and not, and RARELY does it report that am I within 3 meters accuracy, more like 10-15 meters, even though I'm exactly on a known point. So basically, all I've got from a GPS is a rough guide. As my property maps don't give me Lat and Long for the known pins, and the other points are just guesses, my GPS produces only a rough guide. One border with a neighbour is a guess and we put up a fence knowing that it could be changed if ever properly surveyed, as even out in the open, with WAAS enabled, I could only get 15 meter accuracy reported. That means that we could be right on the target, or out by 15 meters more or less, there is no way of knowing which is which. That's considerable inaccuracy for a fence/property line.

    In fact, the units give you a visual warning each time you start them up that you can't turn off, stating that GPS's are only rough guides and are not replacements for a map and compass, etc.. So you may want to borrow one first or buy one from Costco say, where you can easily return it, as you may, as I was, be VERY disappointed or at least surprised, by their lack of accuracy ... even day to day. I got mine for a very good price and it's REALLY FUN to have sometimes, but IMO, it's more of a guide and even almost a toy, especially for something like a survey. Renting one from geoplane.com may be your most accurate, depending on how accurate you want.

    Again, you don't really need an expensive unit or lots of bells and whistles, as these extra features don't make the units any more accurate, just sometimes more convenient and also more complex to learn and use. I'd personally get the Lowrance GO, for $89 or so new from Cabelas.com or even try Wal-mart and then it's not a big investment or risk. Then play with it and it will be as accurate as the really expensive consumer units. Then just copy the Lat/Long points saved in the GPS onto paper when you're back at home, and then you can plot those out in any way that you want. Believe me, downloading the points is NOT that much more convenient, well, not unless you had many many points.

    But researching on the GPS forums will for sure tell you more as some of those users know this stuff really well, but even they admit to the innaccuracy of GPS. If only they were ALWAYS within 3 meters.