GPS device for DIY maps
August 13, 2009 7:31 AM   Subscribe

A good GPS for DIY cartography -- what do you think?

I asked a question a couple weeks ago about DIY cartography resources, but most of the options weren't really what I was looking for. I work as a language documentarian in some pretty remote regions in the Andes, often only accessible by foot, and would like to take note of where certain villages, plants, and resources are for work on toponyms and for future reference in my research.

I had an idea that a good approach may be to simply use a very simple GPS device to mark longitude and latitude of certain places and input it to Google Earth later when I get back. Does this seem like a good idea? It will ensure that my maps are easy to make and are to scale.

So, I'm looking for the right device to help me do this. I'd like to keep it around $100 or so (my budget is dwindling fast!)....
What do you think about this Garmin eTrex® H GPS and the Bushnell® Backtrack GPS? Is there any better product or approach to take?

Ideas much appreciated! Thanks a lot!
posted by mateuslee to Technology (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The folks at OpenStreetMap are using GPS units to map the world. It sounds like you would be a great contributor to this project. There is a lot of discussion on their wiki about the best units to use, etc.
posted by Gridlock Joe at 7:40 AM on August 13, 2009

If you just want to record GPS data but don't need to display it or use any of of the usual GPS functions at all until you get back to a computer to download it, you might try a GPS logger. I just got a Qstarz BT-Q1300S literally yesterday, so I can't comment yet on how well it works, but I'm carrying it around with me today to try it out, and will be using it on a trip in a few weeks. Battery life is supposed to be about 12 hours, rechargeable through USB, a car charger (comes with it), or a wall charger (sold separately), but there are other loggers out there (albeit somewhat larger than the Q1300S, though still smaller than traditional GPS receivers) with longer battery life if that's an issue. It can store 200000 datapoints, which is over 11 days if you leave it on 24 hours a day (more, obviously, if you turn it off when you're asleep, in one place for a long time, etc.), and at the default of logging a point every 5 seconds (customizable through a software interface). Pressing a button on it records a waypoint at that specific point. It's hard to believe how small this thing is—about 6x3.5x0.5 cm, and easily fits in my pocket on a keychain. Software is provided to easily export in either a standardized or a Google Earth format, to automatically geotag photos, and even to generate a web page using Google Maps and showing your tracks, recorded waypoints, and geotagged photos. I haven't tried any of the software myself yet, though.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:06 AM on August 13, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks guys... it seems that GPS loggers are roughly the same price as the Garmin eTrex® H GPS so I think I'll go with that one since it has a screen, compass, and the ability to mark way points (which the loggers lack). Thanks!
posted by mateuslee at 6:29 AM on August 15, 2009

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