You don’t need a GPS unit to take a hike through the woods unless you are planning on going off trail. But, one of the most popular questions I get is about what kind of GPS unit I use in the field. I use a Garmin GPS 60CSx Handheld GPS Navigator to map the trails.
There are other units out on the market but one with an extended antenna works the best. I know this from experience. One day at the very beginning of working on the book, I was hiking through a wetland in August. Mosquitoes and deer flies were circling around me, it was unbelievably hot and humid, and then it started to rain! Which only made things hotter and sticker and buggier. I was trapped becasue my rinky dink little GPS unit couldn’t find a satellite signal–no signal = no hiking. From the field, I called my husband to tell him of my experience and that I was stopping by the store to return the unit. By the time I got home (muddy, stinking of bug spray, soaking wet, and sweaty) my sweet husband had already ordered my new Garmin GPS unit with an extended antenna.
When I got the Garmin GPS unit in, I went took it out in the field and was amazed at how much better it worked than the unit I had been using. The little extra bit of antenna does wonders for picking up the satellite signals. Which is good because the more satellite signals the better and more accurate your tracks and waypoints will be.
The track is the file that is basically a digital breadcrumb trail of where you have been and waypoints are digital flags of things you want to mark along the trail. Once you have the trail marked, you can use a free program like Garmin’s Basecamp to go in and make changes to the trail and waypoints. For the book, I used DeLorme maps. Here are two pictures of what those files look like before they are beautified by the cartographer and art gurus.
The spiky looking image is the elevation profile. The elevation profile is the uphill downhill map. This is good to know if you have little kids with you or a physical condition like bad knees or hip joints.
The image that looks like a drawing of a tree is the tracks and waypoints on a map. If you click on this map you can see all the notes I put on the map. This one is the cleaned one which just has the top level information. I take a bajillion field notes so my waypoints for a 10 miles hike will usually be around 200-250! I then head back to my office and distill it down to the really important or interesting points along the trail and not every single little foot bridge you may cross or bench you might sit on.