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Hand held GPS users out there

Shakeandbake

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Joined
Jan 18, 2020
Messages
369
i've posted this a few other places in the past day or so, but highly reccomend everyone follow @rambotogo's advice and buy a compass. then practice with it and know the heading you need to walk out before you need to know it. my phone is failing, and saturday night after dark it dropped from 40 to 1% battery suddenly. i didn't panic because i had both a battery backup and two compasses on me ( i know.... overkill, but i'm home safe!). when the phone was giving up the ghost, i quickly pulled out my carabiner compass (attached to my keys so i always have it) and compared headings. when i moved my phone, the gps would swing, and "fix" on a new north that varied up to 20 degrees in either direction from true magnetic north. not sure if this was tree cover of gps failing with low battery or jsut the phone being a POS in general (come on pixel 6 launch...) i then put my phone in my pocket to charge with the battery, verified my first compass with my second one, and then walked out on the bearing that i knew would lead me back to the path to my car. i've done this a bunch and knew i had multiple backups but it was still not a comfortable situation, all it takes is one drop of the phone or misstep when climbing to crack it and then you may be stuck in the woods with nothing except waiting for the sun to come up to tell you which direction to walk, and then only if you know which direction your vehicle is.

i suppose i'm joining the safety police, @kyler1945 can i have a trainee badge or something?
I’ve always carried a compass but even if I know my truck in north I have to take other ways to get to the truck. If I followed a line north I could end up in some briers or thick crap and be stuck. Compass is great but looking for something more accurate than the phone.
 

thedutchtouch

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SH Member
Joined
Oct 22, 2020
Messages
684
Location
Maryland
I’ve always carried a compass but even if I know my truck in north I have to take other ways to get to the truck. If I followed a line north I could end up in some briers or thick crap and be stuck. Compass is great but looking for something more accurate than the phone.
that's what box walking is for! much harder to do at night than in the day, which is why i reccomended daytime practice first, but still doable. basically you turn 90 degrees, walk X distance, turn 90 degrees back to face north, walk past obstacle, turn 90 degrees (facing the opposite way of first turn to return to original line), walk back and then turn 90 degrees back to original path, so that you end up tracking 3 sides of a box around the obstacle. more for when end point accuracy is crucial, for me saturday night i knew i was aiming for a trail that i'd intersect at about a 45 degree if i headed ESE so varying a few hundred feet one direction or the other i'd still hit the trail, it would just be slightly more undergrowth if i veered off to the left
 

Shakeandbake

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Joined
Jan 18, 2020
Messages
369
that's what box walking is for! much harder to do at night than in the day, which is why i reccomended daytime practice first, but still doable. basically you turn 90 degrees, walk X distance, turn 90 degrees back to face north, walk past obstacle, turn 90 degrees (facing the opposite way of first turn to return to original line), walk back and then turn 90 degrees back to original path, so that you end up tracking 3 sides of a box around the obstacle. more for when end point accuracy is crucial, for me saturday night i knew i was aiming for a trail that i'd intersect at about a 45 degree if i headed ESE so varying a few hundred feet one direction or the other i'd still hit the trail, it would just be slightly more undergrowth if i veered off to the left
Holy crap dude
 

LoadedLimbs

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SH Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2020
Messages
638
Location
Connecticut
I’ve always carried a compass but even if I know my truck in north I have to take other ways to get to the truck. If I followed a line north I could end up in some briers or thick crap and be stuck. Compass is great but looking for something more accurate than the phone.
@Shakeandbake - Consider one of the newer Garmin handhelds. I’ve been using them for 25 years, and would never be without one in the deer woods. I always carry spare AA lithium batteries for my unit, but rarely have needed them. Even when I’m on familiar turf and know I won’t need it to navigate in & out, I still bring it to save waypoints when I find hot sign, fresh food sources, new tree stands, or anything else of interest. I also make frequent use of “tracks” to save access routes to my stand or back to my truck during daylight so that i can navigate via the track to guide me in or out when it’s dark. That helps me avoid briars, mud holes, overhangs, and other obstacles like you mentioned.

The software called “Basecamp” (that Garmin gives away free) is awesome for downloading all my waypoints and tracks of where I hike, scout, or hunt. And you can backup all your data and transfer it to a newer Garmin handheld if you upgrade in the future. A version of that software is available for both Windows-based PCs & Apple Macintosh computers.

High tech is great when it works but I still recommend that you carry a low tech system (compass and map) and know the bearings you need to get in & out, and it sounds like you do. I DID ONCE HAVE A GPS HANDHELD UNIT LOCK UP & FREEZE ON ME IN THE FIELD IN BIG UNFAMILIAR WOODS. (Murphy’s Law) It completely failed and refused to turn back on. Had I been without a map & compass, I would have had a very difficult time finding my way out.
 
Last edited:

131north

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Joined
Mar 11, 2020
Messages
301
Location
Grand Rapids, MI
In my experience, GPS units take longer to get a satellite lock, but when they do are more accurate. Has anyone tried reorienting their cell phone compass by moving their phone in a figure 8? That's what my Android says to do when it gets a weak signal. IMO a compass is a must-have in the woods.1633969220465.png
 

Vtbow

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SH Member
Joined
Mar 21, 2018
Messages
4,986
Get a GPS, you'll be very happy. Don;t skimp on the maps. The finer scale ones are worth it. I also belive with a little bit of trial and error, you may be able to get the Onyx maps onto your gps as a map layer(assuming they let you download them for offline use). If you're worried about speed oc aquisition, when you get to your parking spot, turn it on and get dressed. IT should have aquired by the tme your ready. After that it should be pretty quick. If you sit for 20 minutes in the woods, throw it on again and let it reaquire. the more times you do that in an area, the better when you really need it thatday. I keep mine in a cargo pocket when rifle hunting and moving around A LOT.
 

LoadedLimbs

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Joined
Jan 22, 2020
Messages
638
Location
Connecticut
In my experience, GPS units take longer to get a satellite lock, but when they do are more accurate. Has anyone tried reorienting their cell phone compass by moving their phone in a figure 8? That's what my Android says to do when it gets a weak signal. IMO a compass is a must-have in the woods.View attachment 54671
It really depends on a lot of factors. If you’re close to where you last had a satellite lock when you turn it on, it doesn’t take nearly as long to lock your position again. If you buy a newer unit that can pick up the Russian GLONASS GPS satellite constellation as well as the USA GPS satellite constellation, it will get a fix on your current position quicker - oftentimes much quicker. Once you have a fix on your position it’s really difficult to lose lock on your position even when you’re on the move underneath a heavily forested canopy.

On your point about moving your device in a figure 8, I have used that to recalibrate the electronic compass in my GPS and in my cell phone. It usually works well as long as you have enough battery strength remaining. But without a compass to give you an independent verification under cloud cover or in the dark, you never really know if the recalibration was successful.
 

Nutterbuster

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Oct 12, 2017
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8,293
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Where the skys are so blue!
So I got lost pretty good today in one of my public spots and I’m considering a hand held GPS like a garmin. I was using OnX today but it was so off and it was having trouble figuring out what way I was facing probably due to poor cell service. So my question is, how accurate are these hand held GPS unit? is it something that can replace the phone app or are they pretty comparable to OnX or base maps…more concerned about accuracy as to where I stand, some spots I go to can have you turned around pretty quick.
The Garmin I had was definitely more accurate than my phone's GPS which is what every app (huntstand, onX, gaia, etc.) utilizes. I learned to use it geocaching and it would put me so close to a good set of coordinates that I knew a cache was hidden within arms reach. My phone is generally accurate to within 20ft. Sometimes better, but usually I know that if it says I'm "there" I should be able to look around and see whatever I dropped a pin on. I routinely park a boat on a thick riverbank, drop a pin on it, walk a couple of miles away, and am able to walk right back to where the boat is.

Something to keep in mind before you spring for a GPS looking for more accuracy. They're more accurate for sure. But for practical use, you probably don't need that extra level of accuracy. If you're looking for service reliability, you may or may not get that. I routinely lose phone signal where I hunt. I rarely lose GPS lock-on with my phone. But where I lose it, my buddy with a designated handheld usually does too.
 

phatkaw

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Joined
Feb 23, 2021
Messages
1,477
Location
Western Pa
What namebrand maps are you guys liking for GPSs?
I just got a 64S and I wanna get a mini SD card map for it that is a good one.
Topo lines and in color for sure...
 

Vtbow

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Joined
Mar 21, 2018
Messages
4,986
The Garmin I had was definitely more accurate than my phone's GPS which is what every app (huntstand, onX, gaia, etc.) utilizes. I learned to use it geocaching and it would put me so close to a good set of coordinates that I knew a cache was hidden within arms reach. My phone is generally accurate to within 20ft. Sometimes better, but usually I know that if it says I'm "there" I should be able to look around and see whatever I dropped a pin on. I routinely park a boat on a thick riverbank, drop a pin on it, walk a couple of miles away, and am able to walk right back to where the boat is.

Something to keep in mind before you spring for a GPS looking for more accuracy. They're more accurate for sure. But for practical use, you probably don't need that extra level of accuracy. If you're looking for service reliability, you may or may not get that. I routinely lose phone signal where I hunt. I rarely lose GPS lock-on with my phone. But where I lose it, my buddy with a designated handheld usually does too.
This is really only sometimes true and depends on the unit. There are a few things that come into play. Antenna size/type, and gps satellite system, and battery strength.

-A flat omni directional antenna does note work nearly as well(Garmin etrex series is an example) as something like a Garmin GPS64 or 66 with an external vertical antennae. Quadrifilar Helix antennas should be held vertical. Patch antennas should be held horizontal.

-Satellite systems. There are options are higher end units, and more options is better. I run GPS + GLONASS the majority of the time. GLONASS is the russian satellite system....ITs pretty fresking good. Other Options are GPS +GALILEO which are European Union Satellite system. Last option which in my opinion there is no reason to ever run is GPS only. More satellite options means more better reception and options always.

-Other thing to think about is phones SUCK batteries when running GPS only... a hand held will last a lot longer, and there is a reason I prefer those I can pull the back off and throw some new batteries in if needed when in the woods.. Stronger battery has generally acquired better signals and faster for me....
 

Nutterbuster

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Oct 12, 2017
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8,293
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Where the skys are so blue!
-Other thing to think about is phones SUCK batteries when running GPS only... a hand held will last a lot longer, and there is a reason I prefer those I can pull the back off and throw some new batteries in if needed when in the woods.. Stronger battery has generally acquired better signals and faster for me....
This is very true. My Garmin would last almost all of hunting season on a single set of AAs. My phone can't handle more than a couple of hours of steady use. I use it as little as possible and am probably 90% relying on a ball compass pinned to my shirt. Just turn it on to drop pins and glance at the map when necessary.
 

LoadedLimbs

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SH Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2020
Messages
638
Location
Connecticut
What namebrand maps are you guys liking for GPSs?
I just got a 64S and I wanna get a mini SD card map for it that is a good one.
Topo lines and in color for sure...
i went with the Garmin 24K U.S. Topos for my region. Bought the DVD so I could load it on my home computer AND copy it to a MicroSD card that I keep in my GPS Unit.

Works great, it’s in color, it includes routable roads & trails, searchable points of interest, and is same resolution as USGS topo maps.
 

Vtbow

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Mar 21, 2018
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i went with the Garmin 24K U.S. Topos for my region. Bought the DVD so I could load it on my home computer AND copy it to a MicroSD card that I keep in my GPS Unit.

Works great, it’s in color, it includes routable roads & trails, searchable points of interest, and is same resolution as USGS topo maps.
This is what I run as well, but also have a layer loaded up with their Blue marine charts, I switch between the overlays/layers depending on what I'm doing.
 

BTaylor

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Joined
Oct 23, 2019
Messages
1,050
Location
Central Arkansas
Onx in airplane mode doesnt draw much power at all while using offline maps. That and a compass app on my phone is all I have used for the last several years with zero issues. I have an actual compass in my pack but it is only for if I have a catastrophic failure with the phone. Also have a 10k mah anker power core in the pack so I can charge the phone, headlight, camera, etc as or if needed.
 

Homebrew454

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Joined
Oct 17, 2017
Messages
1,354
Location
Wisconsin
I had some issues with Onx the other day. I was going through their troubleshooting and the recommended a GPS test app. I downloaded it and that wasn't the problem (it was a setting I turned on). But the app showed my phone GPS was accurate to 3 meters, that's the best my handheld GPS (Garmin Dakota) gets as well.

I don't trust the compass on my phone and carry a compass. Sometimes the compass I carry gets off too due to mineral deposits where I hunt, this is when real woodsmanship comes in.

I agree with everything others have posted. A lot of helpful suggestions here.

Sent from my SM-G781U using Tapatalk
 

Shakeandbake

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Joined
Jan 18, 2020
Messages
369
I had some issues with Onx the other day. I was going through their troubleshooting and the recommended a GPS test app. I downloaded it and that wasn't the problem (it was a setting I turned on). But the app showed my phone GPS was accurate to 3 meters, that's the best my handheld GPS (Garmin Dakota) gets as well.

I don't trust the compass on my phone and carry a compass. Sometimes the compass I carry gets off too due to mineral deposits where I hunt, this is when real woodsmanship comes in.

I agree with everything others have posted. A lot of helpful suggestions here.

Sent from my SM-G781U using Tapatalk
Yea I agree, I think this conversation made some people aware to how important a compass is. I think I may be upgrading to a better quality compass.
 

michigandrake

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Joined
Jun 4, 2019
Messages
221
Location
Whitehall, Michigan
Back in the day I used to sell Suunto gear to the surveying community. They were always top of the line and I don't recall a single complaint on any of there stuff. Never had to send anything back or deal with any drama ..... just good gear that reliably did what it was supposed to do. My MC-1 is going on 40 years old and it has taken everything thrown at it like a champ .... outlasted half dozen GPS units and probably twice as many phones. You won't regret buying a Suunto compass.
 
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