What are the Best Tips for Trekking with GPS?

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  • Written By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) units are not just for drivers; they're quickly becoming the best friend of hikers and tourists the world over. Trekking with GPS can be a fun adventure, but these units must also be used properly and efficiently in order to be beneficial. Before trekking with GPS, a hiker should make sure he or she chooses the best unit for the trip, understands how to use the features of the unit, and is prepared for situations in which the unit doesn't work as expected.

Trekking with GPS devices can eliminate the need for physical maps, compasses, and time spent recovering from a wrong turn. It's important to realize that GPS devices come in many forms, however. Some resemble watches and can be worn unobtrusively and securely, which can be ideal for adventurous activities such as mountain biking or fishing. Some are lightweight portable hand-held devices, while others include a walkie-talkie feature, allowing for communication within a group. Trekkers should consider the type of activity when choosing a GPS to bring along on a trip, keeping in mind that a waterproof, weatherproof, or shock-proof GPS may be necessary.


One of the more useful features of a GPS is its capability of recording waypoints. Waypoints are landmarks such as springs and rock formations on a hiking trail, or buoys and anchorages in the open water. Trekkers can enter these markers in the GPS according to their coordinates, making the return trip easier. Some advanced GPS devices offer a recording feature that, when turned on, automatically marks the path taken to a destination. This feature is particularly useful for fast-paced off-roading adventures.

While it is nice that a GPS can tell trekkers where they are and how to proceed step by step, there is the possibility when trekking with GPS that the unit occasionally won't be able to pick up a satellite signal. In these moments, it is helpful if the GPS contains preloaded maps which can be used to allow the trekker to get his or her bearings and locate the nearest road. Some people panic when they lose the satellite signal and forget that they still probably have access to preloaded maps.

Whenever a GPS is being used on a long hike, it's important for the user to always be aware of its battery life. He or she should keep in mind the return trip, particularly if there won't be an opportunity to recharge before turning around. Some GPS models can travel for longer distances than others before the battery runs out, so this may be a feature to look out for when shopping for a device.


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