Thread: Garmin eTrex 10
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Old 04-15-2017, 08:06 PM   #4
Trail Boss
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 905
Where did you read about "high sensitivity receiver"? It sounds like a dated marketing term because most GPS hardware nowadays is impressively "sensitive".

In real-world testing, my phone's GPS receiver performs at least as well as my old Garmin 530 HCx and often better. A friend did extensive comparison tests, between his iPhone 5s and his old Garmin GPSMAP 76cx, and concluded the 5s performs as well as and often better than the 76cx.

My phone gets a GPS fix inside my house. It also had no trouble in a maple forest with a 40' canopy. I'm not sure how much more "sensitivity" you need for trail hiking. If you plan to do a lot of bushwhacking in dense conifers, you might consider Garmin's GPSMAP 64 with a protruding antenna (brace yourself for sticker shock).

FWIW, I used my phone in these conditions:

A smartphone can be just as capable as a purpose-built backcountry GPS with the added advantage of having a far superior screen, better software, more maps (and free maps), ease of transferring/sharing information, etc.

Its principal disadvantage is it is not as rugged as a purpose-built GPS ... but there are many phone cases available to fix that drawback (even waterproof cases). The other disadvantage is that a touch-screen is not the most convenient user-interface in cold, foul weather (buttons are better) and the screen or the entire phone may cease functioning at sub-zero temperatures. For most trail-hikers, who don't go out in those conditions, they'll never experience those problems.

Yes, you can use a purpose-built GPS as a satnav for your car. My 530 HCx has the ability but I have never used it. Imagine trying to navigate by peering at a very small transflective screen. It can be done but my phone does a far better job (and it speaks). BTW, according to the etrex's manual, only the model 20 and 30 can do road navigation.

Anyway, all I wanted to do is highlight the fact that an inexpensive phone can do an equivalent if not better job than an inexpensive purpose-built GPS device. The fact that many hikers already own a phone, all they need to do is install a good GPS app to reap the benefits.
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