Handheld GPS vs wrist GPS

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Handheld GPS vs wrist GPS

Postby hastronauta » Sat 27 Apr, 2019 9:27 pm

Hello,

I want to buy a GPS device since I started going for hikes over 15km and I would like to know what would be better: a handheld or wrist GPS?
I was looking int Garmin devices and the battery for wrist version seems to last for up to 20 hours if using GPS and at the same time the battery for handheld version seems to last for 25 hours. So regarding the battery I don't know if having more 5 hours would be something so important. 20 hours seems to be enough for tracks that could take at least 3 days if not using the GPS when resting.

At the same time, the handheld seems to have a better maps resolution but I don't know how better they can be.

Could someone help to with more details around this?

Thank you.
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Re: Handheld GPS vs wrist GPS

Postby peregrinator » Sun 28 Apr, 2019 10:23 am

hastronauta wrote:
. . . [edit] . . .

the handheld seems to have a better maps resolution but I don't know how better they can be.


Maybe it depends on where you're coming from. I've gone from two decades of map/compass use to combining map and handheld GPS. I still much prefer the map for useful resolution. Therefore I cannot imagine trying to get much information from a watch, unless the clock face is of Big Ben proportions.
Last edited by peregrinator on Sun 28 Apr, 2019 2:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Handheld GPS vs wrist GPS

Postby wildwanderer » Sun 28 Apr, 2019 10:52 am

I own a sunnto gps watch and also use orux maps app with my phone gps as my dedicated gps unit.

For navigation the dedicated gps (in my case a phone) wins hands down. (Personally I think a phone with nav app is superior to a dedicated gps unit.)

The watch is good for calculating distance walked, average walk speed, time/direction to waypoints and you can follow a pre programed route using it. However any deviation from the planned route is difficult to achieve with the watch alone. A dedicated gps phone/unit is alot more flexible and superior. With a dedicated unit you have a large enough screen to look at the map and make informed decisions on potenial route/terrain. Even if the watch displays maps (not many do) its going to be very small and basic in detail. A dedicated unit you can use to plan and change your route mid walk, its really difficult (and on most models virtually impossible) to do that with a watch.

I always carry both watch and phone.

Don’t know if you are planning to do multiday trips but I would consider getting a watch with 50 hours+ (with nav on) battery duration at a minimum. You can charge them during the trip but it means carrying more cords/weight as they often require a specialist and heavy cord.

Note if your choosing between gps watches, go with Garmin not Suunto. Suunto have changed their product lifecycle policy and are removing support for watches older than a few years. Meaning that the watches will be useless as they will no longer be able to interface with the online service to upload routes/waypoints to the watch. Meaning your 100s dollar watch investment is next to useless. Yes I’m angry about it. $500+ watch only 4 years old will have its nav functionality removed next year. :evil: :x
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Handheld GPS vs wrist GPS

Postby GPSGuided » Sun 28 Apr, 2019 1:30 pm

In the year 2019, you really need to add a third consideration ie. Smartphone with related mapping app.

If you have any desire to want to have some level of mapping representation on the device, then the watch can be eliminated immediately for the size of the screen. A dedicated handheld GPSr is good but nowadays, it is bulkier than a smartphone and typically no better in terms of sensitivity and response speed. The only advantage is their ruggedness and the ability to swap AA batteries. With the current generation of smartphone with high level water and dust proofing, the only weaknesses are the vulnerable large screen and finite battery capacity (unless one brings an external battery pack). Pair with a good protective case, the larger screen and the variety of apps on offer make a smartphone the top choice for more and more walkers.

If you just need coordinates, then a GPS watch may be ideal for compactness, but then for those occasional readings, why not just pull out your smartphone?
Just move it!
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Re: Handheld GPS vs wrist GPS

Postby ChrisJHC » Sun 28 Apr, 2019 5:04 pm

I agree with all of the above: I use an iPhone as my GPS and also use a Garmin Fenix 5 as my tracker. There are heaps of sites to get GPX routes of popular hikes.

When going into new areas I also carry a map as I find it much better for route planning (as that’s what I learnt on).

The phone is also my camera, music (with earbuds) for night and my e-book reader.

Make sure you put it into aeroplane mode except when you actually want to make a call/text and the battery will last a lot longer. All of the above functions work in aeroplane mode.
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Re: Handheld GPS vs wrist GPS

Postby crollsurf » Sun 28 Apr, 2019 7:15 pm

I noticed that when lo-fi was on his adventure in Tas, he used a GPS. Can these GPS's communicate with sat to provide location updates outside of phone range?

If so aren't these GPS gadgets relegated to extreme adventures or for reassuring timid partners.

I'm also curious about battery life. Can they provide a weight saving for those exploring off-route. Definitely mapping your route on a phone is a battery killer.

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Re: Handheld GPS vs wrist GPS

Postby wildwanderer » Sun 28 Apr, 2019 8:18 pm

crollsurf wrote:I noticed that when lo-fi was on his adventure in Tas, he used a GPS. Can these GPS's communicate with sat to provide location updates outside of phone range?

If so aren't these GPS gadgets relegated to extreme adventures or for reassuring timid partners.

I'm also curious about battery life. Can they provide a weight saving for those exploring off-route. Definitely mapping your route on a phone is a battery killer.

Sent from my SM-G965F using Tapatalk


I’m assuming you when say 'these gps' your referring GPS watches.

- they cant send location or a msg to email/web/phone like a inreach mini can. (lou-phi also used a inreach mini)

- battery life on gps watches used to be fairly decent depending on what model you went for. Now the trend is for the GPS watches to have colour and higher res screens which has taken a toll on battery life. My Suunto ambit 2 gets 50 hours with a gps fix every 60seconds. The ambit 3 gets 200 hours at 60 secs. Later models had a lot less eg 20 hours, though Ive read the latest top suunto is now back up to 120 hours.. although you need to pay a ridiculous $1000 for the privilege of buying the top of range models. They used to cost $400-500 a few years ago.

- They key advantage of using a watch IMHO is using it in tandem with phone nav app. Used this way it saves a ton of battery life on your phone as you dont need to use the gps on your phone to monitor your distance travelled or location as the watch is doing it instead. Now I mainly use the phone as a electronic map and rarely turn on the gps.

Key features I use on the watch are

- distance walked. Great for easily determining when that spur is coming up that you need to descend.

- km/h averaged over the length of your walk. This is great for estimating how long it will take until you reach a destination. And if you need to slow down or speed up to reach your destination at the time you planned.

- emergency waypoints. I always have huts/cars etc programmed in. So even in whiteout/fog/darkness I can still navigate to a safe zone. In cold alpine regions trying to use a phone to navigate in such conditions sucks up battery life like crazy.. The watches dont have this problem as they on your warm wrist and in the case of Suunto the battery appears not to be that bothered by freezing conditions anyway.

- electronic compass. As long as you calibrate it at the start its quite accurate.

- navigating without stopping. That’s the key advantage. I don’t have to stop and get out the phone. I can look at my watch and see right I’ve done 2km since I started walking along this ridge. I know that I have 100m to go before I need to turn and descend the spur.

- altimeter. Useful for working out when that hill is about to end :P (and position fixing without turning on the gps)

- barometer. for incoming weather etc
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Re: Handheld GPS vs wrist GPS

Postby ChrisJHC » Mon 29 Apr, 2019 8:45 am

I also find the heart rate monitor useful when climbing steep hills.
My usual approach is “bull at a gate” but when my heart rate gets to extreme levels I’m more likely to stop and get it under control.

I find the altimeter interesting rather than useful. Garmin claims that with auto-calibration (against GPS-determined elevation) the accuracy is +/- 400 feet (120m) while manual calibration (against a known elevation) is +/- 50 feet (15m).
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Re: Handheld GPS vs wrist GPS

Postby wildwanderer » Mon 29 Apr, 2019 12:36 pm

ChrisJHC wrote:
I find the altimeter interesting rather than useful. Garmin claims that with auto-calibration (against GPS-determined elevation) the accuracy is +/- 400 feet (120m) while manual calibration (against a known elevation) is +/- 50 feet (15m).


Ive found the Suunto very accurate, however I do need to set the altitude when I get off a plane. Air travel seems to muck it up.

Agree the GPS only altitude reading is not accurate which is why I assume the reset after plane travel is needed. It needs a manual base altitude.
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Re: Handheld GPS vs wrist GPS

Postby ChrisJHC » Mon 29 Apr, 2019 1:20 pm

wildwanderer wrote:
Ive found the Suunto very accurate, however I do need to set the altitude when I get off a plane. Air travel seems to muck it up.

Agree the GPS only altitude reading is not accurate which is why I assume the reset after plane travel is needed. It needs a manual base altitude.


Hmm, I’ll have to try that as I’m flying every week or so.
Thanks!
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Re: Handheld GPS vs wrist GPS

Postby onward » Wed 01 May, 2019 1:45 pm

Have a Suunto Traverse (watch), a Garmin Etrex 30 and 64S and my phone Samsung 6. The Garmins win for accuracy, battery life and bulletproofness (is that a word), the Suunto is good on the highest quality setting but chews through the battery, and as others have said good for quick stats, but struggles more with dense canopy and paths where you change direction and frequently I find it gives distances 5-10% shorter than the Garmins (and I have tried both Garmins at the same time). The Suunto altitude is a pain when it's not in GPS mode (my much older and basic Casio Protrek was so much better!). I use the Suunto on it's longest lasting battery setting for info during the day, the Garmins for actual data. The phone is good with Avenza because I use the same maps as my paper ones, but currently uses too much battery and is not robust enough to replace the Garmins (but that is only a matter of time). I do like the Garmins because I can just had all the various path/track and waypoint options as a map over the top of other base maps.
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