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Sync Vehicle and Handheld GPSs?

I travel and hunt a lot. A Lot!

For years my GPSs have been a TomTom GO 300 in the vehicle and a Lowrance iFINDER Hunt in the field. I use the TomTom to navigate to favorite places (as close as I can drive or care to drive) and then the iFINDER Hunt to walk to the specific area.

As an example I sometimes park on a trail (absolutely no maintenance) that is the north border of an area I frequently hunt. When I walk south I will walk seven miles before I come to a fence. The east and west borders are about 12 miles apart (as near as I can tell). All of the area in between looks pretty much the same. But within that area there are locations frequented by the game I’m seeking; water, feed, rest areas and such. Each of these high potential areas is marked on the iFINDER Hunt and I use it to walk to them. I also record a temporary location for the vehicle to facilitate my return.

I give the favorite places a unique alphanumeric name and maintain a database of details in Microsoft Access on a notebook computer. A few months ago I transferred the database to a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 (SP2) for portability. I soon began to wish for GPS capability for my SP2 (Microsoft does not include GPS) and before long I was also wishing for a new handheld GPS.

So—ideally I’d like to:
1. Map the Northern U.S. and Southern Canada from about the middle of the continent West.
2. Store about 300 favorite places with name flexibility.
3. Store temporary locations (or erase individual favorite places).
4. Share the maps and sync favorite places.
5. Add favorites to the new equipment without actually being on site. This will make it possible to manually transfer the favorites from the old equipment to the new.
6. Trace a temporary trail as I walk.
7. Obtain sunrise and sunset times of day on the handheld.
8. Have an elapsed time counter so I know when it’s advisable to return to the vehicle.

Other considerations:
1. I’m not particularly interested in satellite view. Topographic view would be nice but not a must-have.
2. I’m probably going to have to manually copy the existing favorites to the new equipment but an automated method would be welcome.
3. My Nokia 920 Windows 8 cellphone has GPS capability and there are several navigation apps available for it. If there’s one that provides some of the more important “Like To” items above it may be possible to link the Nokia to the SP2 via Bluetooth (but not likely–Microsoft doesn’t exhibit forethought to that extent).
4. I’m not interested in a camera capability in the handheld.

I wrote this in just a few minutes so I may not have incorporated everything. Hopefully you’ll have enough to go on to generate your recommendation.


  • Boyd 1999 Points
    edited September 2014
    Seems like the Garmin Montana 600 would do everything you need with only one device. If you add the City Navigator map and vehicle mount, it can handle your automotive needs. Then just pop it out of the mount and head off into the woods.

    Just about every kind of map is available, including many very good free user-contributed maps. Unlimited downloads of scanned USGS 24k topo maps are available via BirdsEye Topo for $30. BirdsEye satellite available for $30 as well.

    You could sync it with Garmin's free Basecamp software on your Surface Pro, and Garmin even offers free cloud storage for you tracks and waypoints.

    There are several software packages that should be able to convert your old data to Garmin's format.

  • Thank you for your prompt reply. Interestingly, I have spent a lot of time on the Garmin web site. Their equipment appeals to me and, all things being equal, I would buy their product because they sponsor a bicycle racing team.

    You mention 24K topo maps. I often read that term but I don't know what it means. Does it refer to map scale, 1:24,000? Or is it some other jargon?

    Using the handheld as road navigation has merit but it also has a downside for me in that I'm reluctant to move to a navigation screen that's smaller than the TomTom GO 300. I'm reluctant but it's not a deal breaker.

    If I had Basecamp on the SP2 could I use it for road navigation if I mounted a third party GPS dongle? I'm thinking third party because the Garmin GPS 18 USB is $85. Or—could the handheld Garmin connect to the SP2 rather than a dongle?

    I am having trouble finding the information I need by reading the Garmin web site. So you are a valuable resource. You probably don't realize it but you have already enriched my life. Thank you.

  • Boyd 1999 Points
    edited September 2014
    24k does indeed mean 1:24000. It is the map scale; in other words, one inch on the map equals 24,000 inches in real life (2,000 feet). The USGS has produced these on paper for over 100 years. The product I mentioned is called BIrdseye Topo and consists of scans of these paper maps. It is only compatible with Garmin's outdoor/handheld units:

    These are known as "raster maps" because they are images. Traditional Garmin maps are called "vector maps" because they consist of geometric objects (lines, points and polygons) that the GPS draws from a database of coordinates. Each type of map has its own advantages and drawbacks.

    Garmin no longer makes any computer-based software for navigation, Basecamp cannot do this, it is just for managing maps and user data. They used to make program called MobilePC that I liked (still have a copy) but it is long discontinued. You can still download their even older navigation program, nRoute, but it is antique software.

    There are very few programs for navigating on a computer anymore, Microsoft just discontinued Streets and Trips, which was one of the last. I think the only remaining program is called ALK Co-Pilot. Garmin's better handheld devices can provide realtime position data over USB. Frankly, this doesn't make a lot of sense as they are big and awkward and use up batteries. You can get a dedicated USB GPS dongle for $40 or less that will be a better choice. Garmin makes a device called the "GLO" that connects to a computer wirelessly via Bluetooth. I wrote a detailed review over at GPSTracklog. If you want to use a computer for navigation, you might visit

    I think it would be a pain (although certainly possible) to constantly exchange data between a TomTom and Garmin device. They use completely different file formats and the maps are not compatible. Garmin stands out for the huge variety of maps that work on both automotive and handheld unit, and there are tools for making your own maps (which I do).
  • The Montana heads my short list. It will possibly be augmented with a 7-inch nuvi if I continue to want a larger screen in the vehicle.

    A 650t user review at reads, "[U]sed it last weekend with another application which gave us the land owner name and thier (sic) property lines. When i (sic) showed this to the owner of the property he was amazed and was going out to buy one." Are you familiar with this application?
  • Boyd 1999 Points
    You cannot add "applications" to the Montana. Garmin is a proprietary closed operating system. It sounds like he was just talking about a map that included property ownership. There are many of these, a couple companies sell them for use by hunters and there are also some free user-contributed maps like this. For starters you could have a look at and see if anything is available for your area.
  • Again, thanks for the prompt reply.

    You wrote, "It sounds like he was just talking about a map that included property ownership." Do you mean a map loaded into the Garmin or a paper map (what I currently use)? The Garmin property map would be a godsend. I'm off on another Internet search.

    I'm growing more and more enthusiastic about the Montana even though it may be a bit large for a pocket and doesn't appear to have a lanyard anchor point.
  • sussamb 829 Points
    There is a lanyard anchor point ... but you need a thin lanyard.
  • As I looked at the web site you suggested I began to think, "Boyd says I can make my own maps." I may attempt making a property ownership map from the paper ones I have. If I did that—
    1. Would my favorite places markers appear on the ownership map I created?
    2. Is it possible to overlay the ownership map over the standard Garmin map?

    This could become an interesting hunting off-season activity.

    Boyd, I'm astounded at how altruistically helpful you are. Thank you for your guidance.
  • I've been searching the Internet for property ownership GPS maps. There are several to choose from so I'm not going to create my own.

    Many appear to overlay the Garmin-produced maps.

    Therefore, I suspect that my favorite places markers will not be lost.

    I think I have the information I need. I'll be shopping tomorrow (Monday).

    Thanks again for you help.
  • Boyd 1999 Points
    edited September 2014
    Mapmaking is a complex topic that I can't really tackle here. It can range from a simple task that anyone can do in a few minutes to highly technical procedures that would take years to master. At the most basic level, you can make "custom maps" that will work on the Montana and other newer handhelds, but not older devices or any of the Nuvi series. This should get you started with your paper maps.

    Here are a couple other tools to help you make bigger maps of this type.

    These are raster based maps - just images. There are no waypoints or other kinds of data included the the map, it's only a picture. This kind of map will not "overlay" on a Garmin vector map; it's the opposite - Garmin maps will overlay your raster based map.

    Any waypoints or tracks stored on the Montana will be shown on top of any map you choose. So as long as you can convert your existing data to Garmin's format, you should be fine.

    Making vector based maps is very complicated. One of the simplest tools for this is Mapwel, but it is still rather involved.

    Have fun shopping. With the Montana, just be aware that you will need to spend some time to understand everything it is capable of doing. It's a very powerful device and almost every aspect be customized to fit your personal style. This is a little old, but still has a lot of info about the Montana:
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