GPS and not getting lost
June 6, 2016 8:38 PM   Subscribe

What is your recommended GPS gadget that can notify authorities/or family for hiking/camping emergencies?

I am interested in getting out and doing more hiking/camping but my sense of direction is a work in progress. Looking to get a GPS gadget that helps with maps and finding my way but also something that can notify my loved ones of any issues. I think there was something known as Spot (can't remember the name). The goal is to get something information during the activity (not post activity like some apps which give details on routes taken, etc. after the activity is over)

Any recos would be greatly appreciated.
posted by metajim to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think there is a device that does both of the things you want.

It sounds like you'll need a GPS and a emergency beacon. Your beacon options are Spot or a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). PLBs are a little cheaper in the long run if you don't want tracking, as you don't need a monthly subscription to use a PLB (the signal is sent to the national SAR body instead of a call centre with the Spot). Spots are great if you want to be able to give your family the option to track you.

Carrying a paper map and compass is a good idea in addition to a GPS.
posted by ssg at 8:51 PM on June 6, 2016

They're mostly different devices, and neither is a substitute for map and compass. Apparently there's been a rise in people who are wholly unprepared for the terrain they'll be facing but who are overconfident from having a PLB and then get into serious trouble. Don't be that guy.

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posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 8:53 PM on June 6, 2016

You want the Delorme Explorer. It is a full featured GPS navigator and a personal locator beacon with two-way communication. My friends in the mountaineering community who've had to use it in rescue situations (more than once, actually) swear by the two way messaging feature and its reliability.
posted by halogen at 9:26 PM on June 6, 2016

I've got a Delorme inReach. It allows you to call for help in emergencies, but also just send someone a message if you're running late. You have to pair it with a smartphone for the mapping, but that works well enough for me.
posted by bajema at 9:31 PM on June 6, 2016

As far as a bit of finding your way around, Gaia GPS is a pretty handy smartphone app if you've thought to load the relevant topo maps on it. Not something I'd trust my life with, and you probably have already noticed that the sort of places you want a map for don't have cell coverage either. But it's a nice adjunct to those tools when you're just out for the day.
posted by wotsac at 9:59 PM on June 6, 2016

You can also look into satellite phones. You can rent them for a week at a time and they are more reliable than cell phones deep in the wilderness. I worked in outdoor education for years, and that is what we always carried.

If your sense of direction is still evolving, you should look up outdoor clubs in your area. Examples are: the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Colorado Mountain Club, and the Mountaineers in Washington state. Outdoor stores like REI also offer lots of classes. Don't assume that a GPS unit will get you out of every jam. For instance, if you get lost and get off your route and you can't read a topographical map, then your GPS unit can tell you where you are on the map, but it won't be able to tell you what the safest route back is.
posted by colfax at 2:41 AM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

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