There are a number of handheld GPS devices on the market, which makes it all the more difficult to choose one that meets our needs. Incidentally, the idea for GPS dates way back to Sputnik and the Cold War, when MIT scientists noticed that satellites could be tracked from the ground. Tests revealed that by measuring the frequency of radio signals that come from satellites, we could track the distance to locations of receivers on the ground from those satellites… the building blocks of GPS.
Compare Before You Buy
It’s certainly a good idea to investigate individual GPS devices and compare the pros and cons of the latest models on the market. However, there are some basic features that you should expect any decent handheld GPS device to have. Here are some of the essentials.
Waterproof, light and durable
You’ll want to make sure that your device is waterproof. Many people use their GPS to navigate their way around when walking, hiking or heading out on adventure trips. If you get caught in the rain or if your GPS falls into a body of water, you’ll want to make sure that it’s as safe as possible.
On a similar note, it should also be fairly durable. Some of the best GPS designs are shockproof so that you don’t have to worry about breaking your device if it falls out of your bag or pocket when hiking along a rocky path. Also, the smaller and lighter it is, the better. That way you’ll be able to carry it easily in your hand, stash it in your pocket, or stow it away in a small pocket in your rucksack for easy access en route. In a quaint feature written for The New York Times, it seems that compact GPS designs are also great for keeping your eye on family members.
Battery Life, Weather, and Screens
Long battery life is another definite must. If you use your GPS to go hiking, you might find yourself away from areas with access to plug sockets for days at a time. In general, lithium batteries tend to last the longest and you should definitely make sure that the battery is easily replaceable before you buy, otherwise you might end up having to replace the entire device just because you need a new battery and can’t get a hold of the right kind.
Your GPS screen should be easy-to-read whether you’re in direct sunlight, plagued by heavy clouds overhead or navigating at night. If you plan on using your device when traveling through extreme temperatures and weather conditions, you should also practice manipulating the device with gloves on before you buy.
On a final note, if you plan to use your GPS device for a specialist activity, it’s worth taking the time to investigate models with particular designs and specifications. There are some GPS devices on the market best suited to those who enjoy challenging walks. There are others that make excellent companions for cycling fanatics. Take your time in identifying what you need to use your unit for and then search for features that are most appropriate for your activity.