Sometimes, we refuse to acknowledge the importance of one tool until we find ourselves in a tight situation where we actually need it. Take GPS receivers, for example. At first, some people would think they don’t really need it when they already have a compass and a map. And then, on a camping trip, they get lost and their compass and map just aren’t enough to get them out of the bind they’re in; they start wishing that they agreed to get a GPS receiver when they’d had the chance. What good would a GPS receiver do, anyway, and how do you know when you are getting the right one?


Key Functions of a GPS Receiver

We can narrow down the functions of a GPS receiver into the following:

  • Position Indicator – The current position of the user would be displayed by a GPS receiver by indicating his or her present coordinates.
  • Track-Log Record-Keeper – Keep track of your hike, ride, or run. This is a very useful tool when you want to know your progress and make a post-evaluation of your activity later on.
  • Point-to-Point Navigator  If you do not know exactly how to get to one specific location, you can rely on the GPS unit to guide you directly to that spot.
  • Route Navigator  Plot your route by using the GPS unit. This will considerably cut down travel time and will also help the activity be more interesting when you are stringing together waypoints.

Key Advantages and Features of a Handheld GPS Receiver

GPS receivers come in various forms. Some are integrated into PDAs, while some come in the form of a laptop sensor. There are also receivers that are integrated into wristwatch form, and others are designed to be mounted permanently on boats or vehicles. This time around, however, we will be focusing on the stand-alone handheld units, why they are a better option than the others.

Portability: Ultra-compact and light, you can carry a handheld GPS receiver at any time without it weighing you down or adding weight to your already heavy outdoor gear.

Durability: Since handheld GPS receivers are designed for use when you’re roughing it out on your adventures, they are made to be waterproof and strong enough to withstand impact and rough handling.

Battery Life: Handheld units are most likely to make use of AA batteries, some even the rechargeable Lithium ones, which are known to have a longer run time per charge. Receivers that are integrated on other devices rely on the battery life of said devices, and they would often require the use of a wall or a car charger.

Features in a Small Unit: For its diminutive size, these handheld units are jampacked with features that will make them worth your while. Most of them include a barometer for weather tracking, an altimeter, and an electronic compass.

Choosing Your Handheld GPS Unit

Now that you’ve decided to pass on the other forms of GPS units and opt for a handheld unit instead, it is time to choose one that will suit your purposes the most. Depending on what you will be using it for – whether you are a hiker, a skier, a cyclist, a runner, or a simple motorist – you should be mindful about the unit you will get for yourself.

  • Display: To make map readings easier, choose a unit with a color screen or color display. Granted, they are more expensive than the ones with black-and-white display, but they will make your life easier.
  • Intuitive Interface: Choose which interface you are more comfortable with: a touchscreen unit or a push-button unit. This will boil down to your comfort factor.
  • Memory Size: Consider what kind of activity you will be using. If you expect to be away on hikes that takes up to several days, you should probably go for a GPS unit with a larger memory size so it can store more information.
  • Integrated Features: As mentioned earlier, a GPS unit can also be multi-function. As much as possible, look for a GPS unit that also acts as a barometer/altimeter and an electronic compass. Some GPS receivers also have an integrated digital camera, which can take still pictures and videos.
  • Connectivity: A GPS receiver that is capable of wireless data transfer would be more convenient when it comes to sharing data to others.
  • Battery Life: Indeed, a GPS unit will be useless if the battery dies constantly. Look for one that does not drain easily. Consider which batteries would be the most suitable and long-lasting for your unit.

A Useful Tool In A Compact Unit

There are many other benefits and advantages that you can get from a handheld GPS receiver other than the ones mentioned above. If you know what you want and what you need, you will have an easier time weighing your options until such time that you finally choose which one you should purchase.

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