BWCA Border Route GPS unit recommendations? Boundary Waters Group Forum: GPS
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      Border Route GPS unit recommendations?     

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scotttimm
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01/11/2021 08:51AM  
Hey folks,

For 15 years, I have tripped WITHOUT a GPS unit. The last couple of years, I used my phone in airplane mode and the Huntstand App, which came in handy navigating a few tricky spots with the fam after a long day, which was plenty for our needs up to now.

Next Fall, my son and I are planning on doing the Kruger/Waddell Challenge. We've talked, and as we will be putting 35-40 miles behind us per day... not wanting to waste any time/energy getting turned around or veering off course... seems like having a GPS along to check every once in awhile would be wise. Also handy in case we need to emergency exit for some reason and didn't have all the maps for whatever area we are in. It would be helpful, in our training and while on the challenge, to get a sense of our pace - how fast are we covering water to gauge where we will be able to reach each day.

If you are willing to weigh in I would appreciate it, here are our wishes:
$200-300 or less budget
Weight/size conscious
Battery life probably helpful, recharge a plus, will have power banks along
(Beginner) User-friendly
Works easily with a Mac (that's all we have at home)
(Right now I'm leaning towards Garmin etrex 22x?)

I assume it is possible to connect to a computer and mark a route and waypoints ahead of time. Looks like lots of folks have links to places where I can get maps to upload to the device, very much appreciated. I'll search through old posts and YouTube, I'm sure I can figure it out. Final question: I saw somewhere that one of the SUP border route guys last fall used a watch GPS. Is there anything in our price range that would be worth it, or are we better off with a hand-held unit that we could mount somehow to the thwart?

I appreciate your time and all that you have contributed thus far, thanks much.
 
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scotttimm
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01/11/2021 09:36AM  
Bonus points for any tips on how to set the GPS unit up for a trip such as this - setting up waypoints ahead of time that are easy to follow on the GPS, marking potential campsites, that sort of thing.
 
01/11/2021 09:59AM  
Check with the organizers, a satellite communication device may be required. If so a Garmin Inreach or 66i will do the comms and GPS routing.

Garmin is a field leader and has many very good reliable units. To save on budgeting used units are easily found at 25-50% less than new, factory refurbished and private used units, I have good results with either. I often by Ebay.
My current (bought used) GPS62st weighs under 6 ounces with batteries (Energizer Lithium). Run full time for tracking will last 2 days on 2 AA's. I figure 8 batteries is a more compact and lighter load than a 20000ma powerbank.
The 22x series is as capable as the full sized units but saves only 2-3 ounces. Adding waypoints routes and tracks is easy with Basecamp. If that program seems daunting preloaded chips with the needed components can be sourced, often from the member/posters here. I have done more than a few myself. I use Win based computers so the Mac question would be better answered by schweady who does use a Mac.
Like any new to you tech a learning curve is to be expected. For me the best learnig tool is doing. I carried my GPS around with me a lot just to get used to it's functions, another valuable learning tool is the Geocache hobby.
The watch GPS is something out of my usage, old eyes and small screen conflict.

butthead
 
scotttimm
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01/11/2021 10:28AM  
Thanks for the reply Butthead. I have a SpotX (non-bluetooth) which I planned to use for check in's and messaging. I have not looked much into the mapping functions of it, only used it for sending messages that show our location as well. I assume it to not be as good as a garmin gps, though maybe I should look into that...
 
01/11/2021 02:09PM  
For GPS mapping the Garmins are about the only unit to consider. Nobody else makes a unit as versatile, user friendly, with similar capabilities for the price. The 22x you list is a fine unit, that will handle mapping as well as the GPS 66, if you like touch screen the Montana/Oregon series. If you do look into used stay with GPS62 and higher for the improved operating systems, the touch screens I believe 600's and up, ETrex 20 and up.
I would wager any member who has done the "Border Route Challenge" could supply a route in .gpx/.kpx form to add to these units.

butthead
 
schweady
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01/12/2021 02:17PM  
Happy to answer any Mac-specific questions. My experience has been seamless with BaseCamp and my old 62st and current 64st units, as long as you don't try installing any g3 charts such as the Lake Vu series. They don't show up in BaseCamp Mac. Garmin just updated BC to v 4.8.11 which finally allows it to work with macOS Big Sur v 11.1.

And, yes, it is easy enough to create waypoints on an on-screen map in BC and then transfer them all to your handheld.

Like butthead, I would suggest Garmin's 62 and 64 and 66 series handhelds. Most bang for the buck, for sure. I see the going price today for a 64st unit is $249. I might be tempted to upgrade to the 66 if I got that price for mine. wink. wink.
 
scotttimm
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04/10/2021 07:43PM  
So if any of you are still on this thread - I ended up finding a Montana 680t that had only been used twice for $125. Now on to figuring out Basecamp and getting this up and going. On first glance, I pulled up Rose Lake (our first trip this summer) - looks like it already has campsites listed on it. I have a lot to learn about how to use this thing.
 
Prospector14
member (5)member
 
04/12/2021 10:33AM  
Hi Scott, Last year I did the Voyager Challenge using only maps. This year I am signed up for the Kruger and I added A GPS to my gear for the first time too, I went with a Garmin 78s. I just recently finished drawing the track out in Google Earth and as a GPX you can view in Basecamp. Glad to share if you send me your e-mail.
Josh
jtinnel@outlook.com
 
scotttimm
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04/12/2021 01:10PM  
Prospector14: "Hi Scott, Last year I did the Voyager Challenge using only maps. This year I am signed up for the Kruger and I added A GPS to my gear for the first time too, I went with a Garmin 78s. I just recently finished drawing the track out in Google Earth and as a GPX you can view in Basecamp. Glad to share if you send me your e-mail.
Josh
jtinnel@outlook.com "


Email sent, thanks!
 
Grandma L
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04/16/2021 02:21PM  
Hey Prospector, good to see you on the board! And, Looking forward to having you with the crew again this year.
This is a great thread for Challengers. I will send an other paddler who has similar questions to chime in.
I appreciate the advice you all can give to our folks. It is my understanding that Water Tribe's tracking can follow either SPOT or InReach. Tracking is my primary concern. It is best to have whatever tracker set to send about every 20 minutes and then send the OK messages at the virtual checkpoints. I am sure you paddlers have other issues of communication and navigation. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!
 
skier
member (25)member
 
04/16/2021 02:45PM  


Hello,

I am going to need to purchase something to satisfy the requirements for the tracking equipment.

Butthead, do you mean a Garmin InReach Mini will be the only device I need?

I have paper maps.

Thanks
 
skier
member (25)member
 
04/16/2021 04:41PM  
Or could it be done with only a Spot?
 
04/16/2021 05:47PM  
skier: "
Butthead, do you mean a Garmin InReach Mini will be the only device I need?
I have paper maps.
Thanks
"


I do not know what equipment is specified. The Inreach Mini is a small sat-comuntcation device and not a mapping GPS, it may work with a smartphone but I have never used such a combo. I assume a GPS that can record and save tracks in needed as well as an emergency beacon.

butthead
 
Grandma L
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04/16/2021 08:08PM  
Well, here is what I know - or think I might know about the Challenge and the SPOT or InReach you will need. The full information is available at WaterTribe.com.
1. Each paddler or team will need a satellite tracking device (SPOT or InReach) that sends out a tracking signal preferably every 20 minutes as they are paddling across the border trail.
2. The device must be capable of "Ok" messages at the virtual checkpoints. The paddler will press that "OK" button when they pass the designated point.
3. Communication options (text and phone) are just that, options. If the paddler wants to be able to send text messages or use a Sat. phone to call, it is their option.

From the Water Tribe site:
"The Group Leader must have a working SPOT and must have a PLB attached to his or her lifejacket. A VHF radio is optional. Cell phone coverage is mostly non-existent, but it is recommended to carry one just incase.
Other members of the group are not required to have a PLB or SPOT. However, WaterTribe strongly suggests a PLB or SPOT be attached to the lifejacket of each group member.
Oh, and don't forget this Challenge is "un-supported".
Per W.T. site"Family and friends can watch your progress
online and can meet you at checkpoints. Of course, meeting you at the end of the
race is a great idea. Even at checkpoints, participants may not receive material
support from family, friends, shore contacts, shore crews, bank runners, or so-called team captains. Hugs and kisses and moral support are OK at checkpoints.
Other than that, you are on your own.
 
skier
member (25)member
 
04/19/2021 10:19PM  
Ok, I made contact with Chief on the water tribe site. He said challengers need to have a PLB, which is not an inreach or a Spot.

Then, you also need to have a tracker that can send OK messages, which can be an inreach or a spot.

Two separate units are required.
 
scotttimm
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04/20/2021 12:06PM  
skier: "Ok, I made contact with Chief on the water tribe site. He said challengers need to have a PLB, which is not an inreach or a Spot.


Then, you also need to have a tracker that can send OK messages, which can be an inreach or a spot.


Two separate units are required."


Maybe Grandma L or others can weigh in. Inreach or SPOT units have an SOS button that alerts their rescue network and sends location - but also allows you to communicate with the emergency network. Slightly different than PLB but not much, with the added bonus that you can send messages. I didn't think prior participants actually carried a separate PLB, as that is pretty redundant. I'm just planning on using my spotx. If I am absolutely required to, I may try to rent something.
 
Voyager
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04/20/2021 05:09PM  
Chief has responded to Skier's questions on the Watertribe's forum. I carry an ACR Rescue Link. They're pricey, about $310. It's in my PFD pocket on a short leash. My Inreach stays on the canoe, except when sleeping.
 
scotttimm
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04/21/2021 09:37AM  
Voyager: "Chief has responded to Skier's questions on the Watertribe's forum. I carry an ACR Rescue Link. They're pricey, about $310. It's in my PFD pocket on a short leash. My Inreach stays on the canoe, except when sleeping."

Hmm. Well it seems there are multiple companies you can rent one from, and that is the way I will likely go if I am required to bring a PLB. I don't know much about this company, but they rent InReach devices also:
Outdoor Equipment Rentals
 
Voyager
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04/21/2021 08:05PM  
Yes, I considered renting equipment on my first WT event. I ended up buying a new Gen.2 SPOT ( the Gen 3s were out) from ebay, cheap. Then I added an Inreach and an ACR Rescue Link. This will be my 5th Challenge so I no longer feel so bad about the initial cost. I also take 1 of them with me when I'm bow hunting in case I have an emergency, where there's no cell service. Also when I'm cross country skiing alone. I plan on using the SPOT for tracking this year and the Inreach for navigation, messaging, and weather reports.
 
04/22/2021 07:20AM  
" I also take 1 of them with me when I'm bow hunting in case I have an emergency, where there's no cell service. Also when I'm cross country skiing alone."

I do similar particularly since Cathy retired and we started regular driving trips across the USA. I'd sear we are out of cell coverage 50% of the time in Arizona/New Mexico/Utah/ Wyoming/Montana/North Dakota. Big swaths of the Appalachians also.

butthead
 
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