GPS and Other Emergency Contact Devices
What is the best kind of GPS system for you personally? This depends on anything you intend to use it for.
Garmin 12 GPS is very good. There are various models of the 12, 12XL etc. They may be found for under $150. The altimeter is normally off but once you get your position, most of the time the map informs me what my altitude is. These people have a pretty decent battery since you rarely ever takes place GPS for 12 hours straight.
The vendors selling GPS units are Garmin and Magellan, those are wonderful brands and can meet your requirements quite well. There is a third player, Brunton (compass makers gone hi-tech). They cook very reasonably priced GPS units with a lot of bells and whistles. Garmin GPS records the gap travelled, speed, average speed, etc. Try and get good battery life and enough memory to generally be useful.
Mitac Mio 168 comes out well for my requirements but is more epensive, especially if you go for the tom tom mapping software too (voice directions when I'm out on my motorbike!)
Most of your functions on GPS on this sort you can get from your map. Maps on pure GPS aren't as good as on a GPS/PDA but good maps of those are usually expensive. Some mountain rescue staff use PDAs with 1:25000 OS mapping data for recording search patterns etc.
You should certainly look at your own plans - as an example, most backpackers use GPS to "confirm" their position, they usually don't use it to set waypoints, determine compass direction, navigate, etc. Many backpackers work with it as an emergency navigation tool in Utah's deep, narrow canyons, when a map and compass could be almost useless.
One word of warning, take very seriously the statement to the front of all GPS units "Do not make use of this unit because primary source of your navigation." It certainly is a good idea to have a map and compass on hand when engaging in wilderness travel and utilize them right combined with the GPS. It can sometimes be kind of fun to see how accurate you might be with a compass and compare map routes with GPS routes to see why you ended up going the method that you did.
What are the numbers on a compass for and how will you use a compass? The numbers to the compass are for degrees or headings. They will tell you what direction to proceed on. The very first thing you need to do is figure out what kind of compass you have, a floating dial or a floating needle.
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As to emergency contact, you could buy an expensive Iridium/satellite phone - they might get a signal as being a GPS does. They stepped on $1,000. It may also be possible to rent one. For certain emergencies, not simply a car or truck breakdown, there is a GPS signaling device, much like ONStar (GM trademark), that could send an emergency signal. The final thing to do is to check in at the local ranger station, BLM office, forest service visitor center, etc., and discover about leaving your itinerary with them, as well as a promise to check-out with them when leaving. If you don't check in, they would send someone seem to check on you.