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Gifford Pinchot NF logging roads?

Telkwa 0 Points
edited November -1 in GPS Discussions
This is probably a lame question -

I get lost, or at least waste a lot of time stopping to stare at the maps, every time we drive the noodle factory of logging roads in Gifford Pinchot NF in WA State.

Do modern dashboard type GPS receivers have the smarts to display where you are when you're way off public roads?

If so, are some models better than others?



  • Boyd 2027 Points
    Any GPS is "smart" enough to show your position wherever you are. However, the trick will be finding a MAP that has the roads you want on it. Garmin makes a wide range of maps for all purposes - you will probably want a topo map to see little roads like this. The other major brands (Magellan, TomTom) don't have any kind of topo maps available.

    There are also many free, user-contributed maps for Garmin devices. You might start here:

    See if you can find a free map that includes the roads you want. You can then download and install it on your computer and see what you think. The maps at GPSFileDepot are generally compatible with any Garmin unit, such as the Nuvi series of automotive devices:

    However their appearance may not be optimal on an automovtive model. Garmin's handheld models will show the map in a better style and also offer advanced menus and other features. The Montana 600 would give you the best of both worlds, but it is expensive. It would also be compatible with satellite imagery and scans of the paper USGS topo maps (these cannot be used on the Nuvi series of automotive devices).

    Here's more information about Garmin's topo and satellite imagery products:
  • Telkwa 0 Points
    OK, thanks -
    I googled search terms like "gps dirt roads" and learned a bit about it. As you say, it looks like getting the right data downloaded into the unit is the key.

    We have an ancient Magellan SportTrak that we use when hiking and kayaking. Monochrome screen, slow to acquire, I don't think it has any mapping capabilities. Even so, it's been incredibly useful on some of our off-trail mis-adventures. We just had to use it the old-fashioned way - sit down and calculate the SportTrak's UTM coordinates onto a paper map.

    You're absolutely right - it makes much more sense for us to buy a hand-held. Something that would be vastly superior to the SportTrak on hikes and go in the car for the logging roads.

    Do you have any suggestions for something a little lighter, smaller, and less expensive than the Montana?
  • Seldom 0 Points
    Gifford Pinchot is near Mt. St. Helens isn't it? I just checked my City Navigator 2013.1 (latest) and I see lots of NF-* unpaved roads just south of the National Monument. Since that's the map you should be getting in the USA with any Garmin automotive GPSr, I suspect that map should cover your area of interest.

    If you are interested in a handheld, you should probably visit a store and compare units. Any mapping handheld will take Garmin maps, but the form factors and interface vary.

    One way to get a routable topo is to buy one of Garmin's 24k series. The other way is to buy a copy of City Navigator (it's not included with handhelds) and get a "transparent" topo to overlay it. Transparent topos are available at .
  • Telkwa 0 Points
    Yes, Gifford Pinchot bumps up against Mt. Rainier to the north, Mt. St. Helens to the west, Adams in the southeast and the Goat Rock Wilderness to the northeast. Most of the Gifford does not stick out above treeline. So the volcanoes leap out above the lesser ridges, which look pretty bedraggled after several decades of logging.

    A coupla minutes ago I was looking at the Garmin Oregon 450 on Amazon. Would you pay extra for the pre-loaded map version, or just buy the base version and get maps on your own?
  • Boyd 2027 Points
    I had the previous generation of Oregon with the pre-loaded topo maps (Oregon 400t) which I got about 4 years ago. Today, I don't think it makes a lot of sense unless you find one on sale at a really great price. Those preloaded maps are not very accurate and they don't support routing (they can't provide you with turn by turn directions).

    I think the Oregon 450 is a very nice unit and it is quite popular, mainly because it has been heavily discounted by vendors like REI during their annual sales. It would be a poor choice to use in a car however, screen is kind of small and dim, no speaker for audible directions.
  • Telkwa 0 Points
    edited July 2012
    What's the main difference(s) between the eTrex and Oregon models? The prices overlap. I don't get it. I'm looking at the REI site for comparing.

    Thanks Boyd for mentioning the speaker capabilities. Sheez, there are a lot of things to consider...

    I'd have to say that for us, lightweight and long battery life (hiking priorities) would outweigh in-the-car convenience. Any advice for a unit that does well in both worlds?
  • Seldom 0 Points
    I agree with Boyd. 100k maps look like the mountains have been through a sandblaster.

    Besides learning to make your own 24k maps can be an excellent way to pass the time on those rainy days in the Pacific Northwest. :lol:
  • Telkwa 0 Points
    You can make your own maps and transfer them to the machine? Wow. I need to do some more self-edgicatin' on the current sitchiation
  • Boyd 2027 Points
    What's the main difference(s) between the eTrex and Oregon models?
    The most obvious difference is that the Oregon is a touchscreen device and the eTrex has a pushbutton interface. Each has an advantage: buttons may be easier to use while wearing gloves or while riding a bicycle. Touchscreens are more user-friendy and better for entering text for searches and waypoint creation.

    The Oregon screen is larger and has almost 3x the number of pixels as the eTrex, but is harder to see under certain lighting conditons (bright cloudy days are the worst case).

    The new eTrex models can see more satellites due to GLONASS compatibility.

    Seldom's advice is excellent - find a store that carries a wide range of models and play around with them. You will immediately notice that the eTrex is very tiny and the Oregon is larger. You will also see whether you prefer a touchscreen to a push button interface.
  • Telkwa 0 Points
    OK, REI store in Olympia's not too far away. Thanks for the help!
  • Seldom 0 Points
    You can make your own maps and transfer them to the machine? Wow. I need to do some more self-edgicatin' on the current sitchiation
    Good tutorials to make non-routable maps here:
    and here:

    To make a routable map, use GPSmapedit Tools>generate routing graph followed by Tools>verify map.

    Start with a small area, like a park, because the error list generated by "verify map" can get pretty long.
  • Boyd 2027 Points
    If you have a paper map that you like, you can make a Garmin Custom Map very easily. There are specialized tools that can help with larger maps, but Garmin has a simple tutorial that should work well for small projects here:

    Now these are different from the kind of maps that Seldom has described. He is talking about vector based maps, which consist of a database of coordinates along with instructions on how to "connect the dots". The Garmin custom maps are raster imagery - pictures that are scaled and aligned to their geographic location.
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