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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Curious as to the usage, pros/cons of GPS (eTrex 30, etc) vs GPS computer (1030, etc) vs app (GAIA, etc) vs paper maps for singletrack bikepacking.

Compare & contrast!
 

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I've mainly used a Garmin Etrex 30 for bikepacking. They are rugged, cheap, reliable, low power use and easy to mount on my bars.

I have carried paper maps occasionally to supplement the GPS. In the backcountry I don't carry a smartphone. If I am touring in built up areas I'll carry my phone to stay in touch with my GF and sometimes work.
 

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Tools depend on the outing. Some routes have excellent paper maps available.

I've used iPhone GPS apps like Gaia and Motion-X, also specific route apps like the AZT app. Good performance from the GPS apps, but power hungry. AZT app, not so much. (Note: Smartphones' GPS function still works when in airplane mode.) Since a smartphone (and PLB, usually paper maps too) are BP staples for me, I've been working on eliminating the dedicated GPS altogether. Too much overlap. I don't carry a music player or camera for the same reason.

I dislike mounting devices on my bars, but admit that the cheap iPhone mount I got worked great even on rowdy ST.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the replies!

I tried my iPhone on a very tough bar mount. The battery didn’t last, and it was unreadable in bright sunshine. I’m liking the eTrex with phone app and paper map backup.

So... which eTrex?
 

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saddlemeat
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I downloaded the map tiles for my whole region to a micro SD card, so I can run BW Nav Pro in airplane mode. The Etrex 30 is great too, easier to use while riding.
 

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eTrex 30
Pros: simple; long battery life, swap out AAs during longer rides as needed.
OSM topo maps for your region may have details on specific trails; overlaying TrailForks maps can fill in the missing details.

Cons: the base map provided by Garmin sucks and is largely non-routable, so if you need to improvise (e.g. bail out) in the middle of a ride and take streets/highways, you may struggle to create a route on the fly and instead be stuck with using the base map simply as a map (which sucks from nav point of view, but is better than nothing). Spend some time researching which map(s) is best for your area/needs and load those well ahead of time.
 

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I've used Mountain Bike Project on the iPhone 5s on a couple of confusing routes and had pretty good luck with it telling me when I made a wrong turn. The routes need to be on the site tho'. Doesn't seem to burn too much juice and works in airplane mode.

Ride GPS offers what they call voice turn-by-turn navigation which I may try out this weekend on a wet Trans-Virginia Gravel Trail segment ride. Gaia has the benefit og being able to plot routes on the NatGeo maps (if you can get it to work) and then you can ride off that map. This is super handy when doing routes no one has plotted before.

I carry an external battery that was advertised as 4 full recharges but has never gone below 75% even on 4 day trips.
 

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ETrex 30x

Bulletproof, easy to use. It has a "joystick" and buttons instead of a touch screen. Touch screens are hard to use in bad weather.

Plus it uses AA batteries which are cheap and available everywhere. I can get at least 20 hours on a set of batteries if I don't use the backlight...you do not need the backlight in regular daylight conditions, just tilt the unit a little now and then s the sun hits it correctly.

As with most GPS units, it has a lot of features I will never use and have no intention of using. I generally just load a track and follow this at the appropriate zoom level with other map layers turned off so all I see is the track. Plus I toggle through a few screens that I have set up with standard bike computer stuff as well as one with the elevation profile of the route.

The Altimeter on the Etrex 30 is very useful.

Garmin makes a bunch of really nice units that are more advanced but at this point, the Etrex does what I want it to do and I don't feel like learning a new system. Plus it's inexpensive. I got a refurbished (like new) one for $140.

I also carry a spare Etrex20 on longer rides for backup.
 

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I invested in a garmin 520 plus this year and have the mt bike bundle. I've not tried it out on the trail yet, but using for road rides it's awesome. Trailforks makes downloading and loading trail maps very easy. Also has turn by turn nav. Pretty psyched. Def has me wanting to go out to trails that I don't already know so I can test it out :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·

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Yes, they are more expensive, and yes, they do require a subscription, but what about devices like the Garmin GPSMAP 66i https://www.rei.com/product/163568/garmin-gpsmap-66i-gps-and-satellite-communicator ? In some faraway locations (like parts of Arizona) where there's limited or no cell coverage, this looks like a good all-round navigation and emergency device.
Nice! I use an InReach Mini for bikepacking/ultra races, and generally any local ride (just for the peace-of-mind knowing that my wife can locate my dead body). Since my rides often include the eTrex 30x and the InReach Mini, I would be a proponent of the 66i and probably would have considered buying one if it came out last year...

...*except* a bar-mounted GPS is prone to being damaged in a crash. In March I had a mishap on a Pisgah waterfall which led to my bike taking a dunk into the stream, hitting a boulder and damaging the screen on my eTrex. I suppose had this been the 66i, the SOS function would still work, and I may have been able to communicate (with my contacts or with S&R when they respond back to verify an SOS) if the device was tethered to my cell phone (but I don't tether my InReach, so the phone wouldn't have been able to COM out through the InReach). And, of course, had the device been rendered dead altogether, no COM whatsoever.

That experience has shaped my preference to keep the cell phone and InReach in (separate) locations that are reasonably protected, and treat bar-mounted devices as expendable.

YMMV. I'm glad to see Garmin update the limited navigation-functionality of their InReach sat-coms.
 

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That experience has shaped my preference to keep the cell phone and InReach in (separate) locations that are reasonably protected, and treat bar-mounted devices as expendable.
Agreed. I keep my InReach in a pack or bag where it's safer and I keep it turned off so I always have a ton of power if and when I need it for emergencies. My bar mounted Garmin Etrex 20 has taken numerous hit and tumbles. I'm amazed it's still going strong.
 
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