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Basic GPS, Starter GPS, Beginner GPS

Using A Hiking Basic GPS

Basic GPS, Starter GPS, Beginner GPS For First Time GPS Users?

Is there such a thing as a basic GPS, starter GPS or beginner GPS for a first time GPS user? Are you a hiker and looking to start using a GPS for the first time?

I was recently asked the following question in relation to GPS units for first time users:

What type of GPS would you suggest for a first time user?

Firstly, as this is a hiking related website, I assume the question is related to hiking and walking in the outdoors. Also, I feel that this question is directed towards dedicated handheld devices specifically designed for hiking and walking in the outdoors. Multi-functional devices like personal digital assistants (PDAs), portable navigation devices (PNDs) and mobile smart phones with navigation apps will be ommitted from this scenario.

Also, I want you to be aware that I prefer to provide people with the information and tips they need about benefits, functions and available features regarding types of products so that individuals can make their own informed decision. I also highly recommend people read customer product reviews in order to get opinions from people who actually use the products if you can.

What Is A Basic GPS, Starter GPS Or Beginner GPS?

A basic GPS unit for hiking does exist and there are a range of products from basic GPS device to top of the range. However, I do not think that a basic GPS for hiking is necessarily the same thing as a starter GPS or beginner GPS. The terms starter and beginner to me imply that the person who is going to be using the GPS unit is a first time user (i.e. beginner or starter) and not the product.

A beginner or starter could easily learn how to use a basic hiking GPS unit and then find it is no longer suitable for their needs. If they have purchased a basic GPS then they may well regret having done so and feel they have wasted their money as they then need to buy another more suitable, possibly more advanced product for their needs. So, a starter GPS or beginner GPS to me are misleading terms. Also, a first time user does not necessarily need a basic GPS. It will depend on how the individual intends to use the hiking GPS, purchasing strategy and budget together with other technically related factors.

Hiking GPS, Dueling GPS

Hiking GPS, Dueling GPS—brewbooks (

Some Questions To Ask

Putting aside ant technical questions about GPS for hiking, I would not be able to answer the initial question regarding a suitable GPS unit for a first time user without asking questions in the following three main areas:

  • Hiking GPS Use – Firstly, what is your strategy for hiking and the use of a handheld GPS or what type of hiker are you? Do you want to use a GPS just as a backup for checking on your manual navigation skills and for emergency situations? Or, do you want to use it as your main method of navigation, using manual navigation as a backp in case the GPS fails?
  • Purchasing Strategy – Secondly, wat is your hiking GPS purchasing strategy? Do you just want a cheap or basic GPS handheld to get started and then pay for another more comprehensive and expensive GPS device when you are sure you want to continue using one? Or do you want to go straight into buying a more expensive and feature rich handheld GPS now that suits your needs longer term?
  • Purchasing Budget – Thirdly, do you have a limit to your budget? Budget will effectively decide how you answer the first two questions. However, considering the trend for technology to always be advancing, my own personal choice with most technological decisions would be to buy the best I can afford.

Different Hiking GPS Opinions

I recently read a question on a forum along a similar line to the question above regarding geocaching. Here are some extracts:

I’m new on this hobby, need a good gps simple and reliable.. looking for advise.

This question generated some answers as below, initially about budget:

How much are you looking to spend?

Then some specific models were recommended by one respondent based on ease of use, budget:

Garmin Venture HC.. good unit for a beginner and easy to use. About $129 retail. Garmin Etrex 20…. Allows for “paperless” caching, a bit more complex to get used to but then it is easy to use, holds more caches. About $189 retail.

Later, alternative opinion were offered with some technical issues thrown in:

In place of the Venture, I’d recommend an eXplorist GC, because of the paperless. But, if you have $200, I doubt you can beat the eTrex 20 if you’re buying new.

Look for a 3-axis compass AND the ability to input NEXT STAGE for multi caches. Some GPS units don’t have that. Spend a little more and you won’t be disappointed.

Further on the following respondent disagreed with a previous opinion:

That’s one view. Here’s another. I use my GPS for hiking and caching, never needed a 3 axis compass for either … why pay for something you don’t need even if you can afford it?

Near the end, after some debate between particitants, some final advise was given:

And again, it was a suggestion. I would hope anyone reading these responses will do their own research.

Basically, these respondents were offering suggestions based on limited knowledge of the potential GPS user. Only the individual user is really aware of his own needs.

Some Advise About Selecting A Handheld GPS

1. Hiking GPS Devices Tested Video

Here is a 6 minute 18 seconds video from the “Gadget Show” about tests on 3 handheld GPS devices. Using this knowledge you can undertake some further research:

Hiking GPS devices tested

This video describes tests on 3 handheld GPS devices with some tips and advise related to them. These tests should be a good starting point for first time users to decide the type of GPS unit functions and features they want to have. The actual effectiveness of each GPS unit tested may be affected by the individual users ability to use it but the information revealed is very useful. Plus it is fun to watch!

2. Garmin Handheld GPS Comparison & Review Video

As with the previous video, this 6 minute, 43 seconds video GPS description and comparison shouls form the basis of knowledge for further research:

Garmin Handheld GPS Comparison & Review

In this video is a description and comparison which should provide first time users with a valuable education about the functions and features available with handheld GPS units. The term they use to describe their basic GPS is “entry level GPS”.

My Advise On Selecting A Hiking GPS

My suggestion would be to take some advise by all means. However, at the end of the day you should do your own research to satisfy yourself that you have the best hiking GPS for your own individual circumstances, be that first time user or experienced user.

I have written a post all about Handheld GPS which should provide anyone with a good understanding of what is available regarding Handheld GPS units for hiking and walking. Pay particular attention to this section on “Tips On How To Select A GPS Unit” and this section on “GPS Unit Purchasing Strategies”. We also have a list of our resources on handheld GPS for hiking and walking that can be of great help to you in choosing a GPS unit.

In that post I outline some questions to ask yourself about your navigation strategy and the type of hiker you are to help decide of the type of hiking GPS to choose. It is then a matter of finding the right Handheld GPS for your hiking GPS usage needs and budget.

I hope you have found this post useful and are ok with my definitions of basic GPS, starter GPS and beginner GPS. By all means leave a comment in the comments section below if you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said here.

Regards and happy hiking!

Feel ready to shop for handheld GPS now? If you do, take a look in our Amazon stores to see if you can find what you want!

Further Reading

Here are a few articles worth reading to provide you with extra information when it comes to selecting a suitable hiking GPS for yourself:

1. Basic GPS – GPS for hikers:

When selecting a GPS for hiking, two key criteria come to mind. It’s likely that a hiker will want a unit that’s good for navigation and that will not encounter reception problems.

2. Basic GPS – The Best Handheld GPS Review:

Which handheld GPS is the best? We tested and reviewed seven of the latest and greatest handheld GPS units in a head-to-head competition that assessed satellite reception, ease of use, speed, display quality, and mapping software.

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