What Do We Mean By “A GPS Device”?
• Most Mobile Phones (and Tablets) are equipped with a GPS receiving capability
- this functions independently of the telephone service
- once maps are downloaded to the phone this functionality does not require phone service and does not use data
• Google Maps uses this GPS capability to display the familiar “Blue Ball” which locates your current position on the map, whether you are online or offline.
• Many Smart Watches have GPS capability
- used by many participating in various running based sports
- such units are most suitable for data recording and display given the small screens
• Few units utilise topographical maps and, in reality, screens are too small to afford useful mapping functionality
• Handheld GPS units are also available - very useful for all types of hiking with topographical maps pre-loaded.
• Some units are “button operated” whilst others utilise touchscreens. This is an important consideration when selecting a unit.
What Type Of GPS Device To Use?
• In Ireland two systems are dominant in the market
- Outdooractive (previously ViewRanger) app for use on a Smartphone
- Garmin Handheld Unit; we will discuss a button operated model such as Garmin 66s rather than Garmin touchscreen units
• Both systems will allow you to plan, follow, record, save and share walks
• Some issues to consider when deciding between these systems are listed below. They largely relate to reliability / operability
So Should I Discard My Map And Compass; No!
• Paper maps and compasses long pre-date GPS and continue to be recognised as fundamental basic skills for safe navigation in the outdoors.
• It is important to have map and compass skills in order to utilise GPS based systems beneficially.
• Utilisation of GPS systems does not dispense with these fundamental skills, rather GPS can add to the enjoyment of outdoor activities.
What Benefits Can A GPS Device Bring To Hillwalking?
• An appropriate topographical map is a prerequisite for safe hillwalking. This could be a printed map (with compass), and / or GPS Device with appropriate topographical map downloaded onto it.
• Many of the topographical maps used on GPS Devices display the many “established paths” that, while often rudimentary, we often use when crossing mountain ground. Many such paths are not shown on paper maps but are very clear on the GPS maps.
• One can make use of the GPS topographical map;
- when planning your walk (creating a “Planned Track”), and / or
- when actually out walking (the GPS will locate you on the topographical map; you can always know exactly where you are, correct your direction, and / or for future re-use, or sharing, of the detailed walk.