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Christmas 2018 - What is the best outdoor GPS unit?

Christmas 2018 - What is the best outdoor GPS unit?

Mon 3rd December 2018

As Christmas 2018 is fast approaching many people will be looking and researching for the best Outdoor GPS unit (Sat Nav for walkers and cyclists) so they can buy one for a friend or family member or alternatively so they can tell the family what they are wanting for Christmas.

Therefore it is time to look once again to look at the best outdoor GPS unit in the UK for Christmas 2018.

As GPS Training is the largest independent Outdoor GPS retailer in the UK, we speak to many customers on a daily basis, discuss their requirements and often speak to them post-purchase as they join us on the free GPS Training all our customers receive with any GPS purchase.

Taking all this in mind we can offer good honest, impartial advice. 

Also as we use and train people to use every GPS that we sell we can talk honestly about each and every outdoor GPS unit for walking, cycling, geocaching and exploring.

So without further ado, let's start by looking at the big shake-up of 2018, in the world of Outdoor GPS units, and then look at the best Outdoor GPS units currently on the market.

—The Garmin GPSMAP66s —

The talk of this year was the launch of the Garmin GPSMAP66s in November.

The previous model to this (The Garmin GPSMAP64s) was launched in early 2014 and with the GPSMAP series being a cornerstone of Garmin stable for many years the update from the Garmin GPSMAP62s to the Garmin GPSMAP64s was not the largest jump.

People upgraded from the GPSMAP62 to the 64 but many people did not see that much new in the GPSMAP64s to make the upgrade worthwhile.

Thankfully the GPSMAP66s was a different beast altogether and has been very well received by those upgrading or by those new users of outdoor GPS units, it has been interesting to see a number of loyal Garmin Oregon users move over to the GPSMAP66s and liking the change.

So which is the best Outdoor GPS unit for walking, cycling, geocaching and exploring?

There is never a simple answer, but depending on budget and some personal preferences there are four units I would choose from this Christmas.

All the units we are recommending are current GPS units with the 2018 map card included, if we are getting a new Outdoor GPS unit for yourself or a family member/ friend you really have to buy a current model with the latest maps, there are some great new features on these maps which have made some massive steps forward in Outdoor GPS navigation.

On a budget - Garmin eTrex Touch 25t with TOPO PRO maps at 1:50k - more here

As well as GPS Training our parent company (Shepherds Walks) also has a walking holiday business (Shepherds Walks Holidays). This business loans out GPS unit to customers to ease navigation whilst on their self-guided walking holidays with them. 

What units do they loan out? 

Garmin eTrex Touch 25t GPS units. Why? Because they offer the walker the best outdoor GPS navigation experience without costing a fortune. They have a bank of these units and with some basic instructions GPS Training put together for them, their customers use them easily to navigate on their walking holidays.

TOPO PRO 1:50k maps - You will see we recommended this unit with 1:50k TOPO PRO mapping. This is the new 2018 map card from Garmin and has made one of the largest leaps in outdoor GPS navigation than we have seen for a while, it is truly life changing in the world of outdoor GPS navigation, so what is it.

The Garmin TOPO PRO mapping (both 1:50k and 1:25k) gives you turn by turn routing when within a National Park. Confused, donít be.

What this means is if you are within a National Park the GPS will give you an off-road Ďcar sat naví experience i.e. you can just tap or mark the summit you want to climb and the GPS will route you via the footpaths and bridleways to that summit you have chosen, truly stunning - watch video showing this mapping here.

Then once you have reached the summit why not mark the far end of the ridge and the GPS routes you to that location, then from there get it to navigate you back to your car, itís that simple and compared to the old Ďdirectí routing method, it means you can now plan your walk whilst you are out and about, It makes your walking experience so much easier.

So if you are on a budget, but you still want a great outdoor GPS unit this is the one for you, the Garmin eTrex Touch 25t with TOPO PRO mapping at 1:50k - more here

2. Not on a budget - Oregon 700 or GPSMAP66s with TOPO PRO mapping at 1:25k or 1:50k

Well, that was not very decisive, was it!

You will see in past articles we have written the Oregon 700 has always been recommended as the best GPS unit currently on the market but with the arrival of the Garmin GPSMAP66s I think that has changed, depending on what you are going to use it for.

- If you walk around the year, whatever the weather I would go for the Garmin GPSMAP66s with TOPO PRO mapping at 1:50 - more here - or 1:25k - more here

- If you donít do very much winter walking or you also want to use your Outdoor GPS on a bicycle I would go for the Garmin Oregon 700 with TOPO PRO mapping at 1:50 - more here - or 1:25k - more here

Let me explain why.

As I said earlier on the GPSMAP66s has taken the world of Outdoor GPS navigation by storm last month and the feedback we have received and our own experiences have been second to none, but saying that on my mountain bike or on those warm summer walks I still would prefer a Garmin Oregon 700 GPS units, I think it looks better on a bike and also with it being touchscreen it is slightly quicker to input data (not that we do that much on a modern outdoor GPS unit).

But I have to be honest since the launch of the GPSMAP66s which one do I take home at weekends? Yes, you have guessed it, the Garmin GPSMAP66s. The first Garmin handheld GPS unit to use the European Galileo satellite system and it is so intuitive to use.

Mapping options - 1:25k or 1:50k - the big debate in the world of Outdoor GPS navigation.

I think this choice is entirely down to budget, as the 1:25 maps increases the price considerable for Garmin users. If you can afford it, why not, if you canít the 1:50k Ordnance Survey maps are great.

So what are the main differences between the 1:25k and 1:50k Ordnance Survey maps?

The 1:25k Ordnance Survey maps show the following that you will not find on a 1:50k scale map - Open access areas, field boundaries, and permissive paths. All the other information is on both map sets.

As you navigate in a different way with an outdoor GPS unit than you do with a paper map you donít really need the extra information that you get on the 1:25k maps. Donít get me wrong if I was buying a paper map I would always buy a 1:25k map but when walking with a GPS unit the map, for me anyway, is just an image in the background as if you are using your GPS correctly it is actually navigating you around your walk or cycle ride, telling you when to turn and how far this is away. 

It is also showing you moving across the map, therefore you are either Ďon the pathí of Ďoff the pathí. 

Do you need to know there is a field boundary on your right or that you are heading towards the corner of a field? No, you are either on the path or off it, if you are off track a few yards towards it and hey presto you are now on it.

3. Larger screen GPS unit - SatMap Active 20 with 1:25k maps

As you will have read so far the article has been very Garmin oriented, why is this? 

This is because 95% of units we sell are Garmin GPS units and with our ethos of selling the right GPS unit to everybody we sell so I think this is the correct proportion.

So, when would you buy a non-Garmin GPS unit?

If you want a large screen unit I would always recommend a SatMap Active 20. 

This long-awaited upgrade from SatMap is overall a larger unit (due to its massive battery which is one of its strong points) but they key thing is the large HD screen.

The screen is truly epic and as you zoom in on the map the resolution is second to none. With is also being the only touchscreen and button GPS unit (you can switch the touch screen off if you wish to) you get the best of both worlds.

With the large screen and large battery, it is that larger unit. Of course, it has to be, but it does feel that bit heavier in your hand.

Would I go for a SatMap Active 20 over the equivalent Garmin large screen GPS unit (Montana 610/ 680), yes I would and therefore this is why I have listed it here.

If your eyes are not as good as they are and you want that larger screen I would look no further than the SatMap Active 20 GPS unit, also the positive thing is that the 1:25k mapping option from SatMap is competitive prices compared to the equivalent Garmin.

SatMap Active 20 GPS units - more here

—- Summary ——

If you are looking to buy a GPS unit as we approach Christmas 2018 I very much hope this has been useful.

Please do give us a call at GPS Training and we can talk you through all the options so you end up with the GPS unit that most suits your requirements and is within your budget and donít forget we are not just going to sell you a box with a GPS unit in, we will teach you to use it in with the price. Thatís what makes GPS Training so unique.

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