What GPS works best in a Pacific paradise?
October 18, 2010 1:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to be doing remote fieldwork in the Pacific. If you've done remote fieldwork, what GPS did you use and how did you obtain the right maps for it? I've been looking at Garmin and Trimble, but I'd be very interested to hear from mefites what they think would cut the mustard.
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace to Technology (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
ESRI is pretty much the Microsoft of GIS. Very expensive though.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:16 PM on October 18, 2010

Getting good maps is always hard. We've used ESRI at work to build custom apps, but they're based on Windows Mobile. Apparently they have an iPhone version out, but I've never seen it.
posted by bonehead at 1:21 PM on October 18, 2010

What kind of maps and waht kind of fieldwork? Are you in the ocean as in on a boat? If so want charting software and a PC or netbook hooked up to a GPS and/or a fishfinder/ depth finder. A cheap handheld Garmin and a cheap fishfinder will work fine.

If you're going to be on some of the islands I'd call around locally and see what is available for basemaps and if you can load them on a Garmin type GPS. There is an ENORMOUS price difference in using Garmin/ Map Source/ cheap laptop and going the Trimble/ ESRI route. If you're not hooked up to an institution that already has ESRI licenses you can probably forget it (if you're are it'll only run you a few hundred bucks but it's not super user friendly).
posted by fshgrl at 2:25 PM on October 18, 2010

For the purpose of this question imagine that cost is no object (obviously it is, but I have funding!). I'm looking into the option of borrowing a device from my institution, but I'm also wondering whether this is a useful long term investment. Basically I'm keen to know which devices are best for remote fieldwork.
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 2:52 PM on October 18, 2010

Basically I'm keen to know which devices are best for remote fieldwork.

The answer is "that depends." We use Trimbles, which cost a fortune but have lots of accessories and do really well at communicating with each other and with the surveying and GIS programs that we need. People I know use (and swear by) other brands, and get the same work done.

Honestly, I'd use (buy or borrow) whatever is the most standard in your field and with the people you work with. Even if that's not the "best" solution, keeping things standardized will make your life easier.

But everything can change depending on the specifics of your work -- do you need things waterproof? Survey-grade? Able to communicate with a weird file protocol?
posted by Forktine at 6:36 PM on October 18, 2010

It totally depends on the kind of fieldwork and without that information no one can answer your question. I've used everything mentioned in this thread many times and I can't answer it based on the info you've given.

There's also a steep learning curve associated with some of the above devices and software and that's a big deal if you're using technicians or volunteers or if you don't have access to tech support for when ESRI stops talking to your handheld (which it will, maddeningly often).
posted by fshgrl at 10:33 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm coming to the end of this expedition now and thought it would be good to update on what worked:

~ For opportunistic fieldwork/ day trips I used a Garmin: it is just your basic model (nothing fancy) but it got the job done.
~ For major expeditions (i.e. a six week stint in Tokelau) we used a Trimble: this was brilliant both for data recording, outreach and finding out where we were on our 2-4 day voyages to and from Samoa.
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 7:52 PM on September 5, 2011

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