Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

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Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby seamus20 » Fri 07 May, 2021 3:04 pm

Hi all,

I have never much used GPS and have always been comfortable navigating with map and compass, including some off track walking.

Being a bit older and more cautious now, I can see that in some unfortunate circumstances a GPS could save lives.

I am also impressed by the idea of satellite phones that allow you to send texts to a friend who could coordinate a rescue in an emergency.

Accordingly, I am interested in the Garmin 66i - https://buy.garmin.com/en-AU/AU/p/62397 ... 0-02088-03

It has the Sat Phone functionality of the Garmin InReach, and is also a map GPS. I have heard mixed things, though, regarding its functionality as a map GPS for hiking. I am going to be doing some hikes with navigational challenges in the next year, so ideally would like a GPS that is fairly functional for navigating if needed.

The other option would be to get something like the Garmin InReach mini, along with a dedicated map GPS, which would of course involve more weight, cost etc

Can anyone recommend for or against these options?

Many thanks
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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby wildwanderer » Fri 07 May, 2021 9:29 pm

For me a modern android smartphone loaded with oruxmaps and a inreach mini is the best combination.

I don't see the need to carry a dedicated GPS when my smartphone has the same capabilities and likely a bigger screen.

Inreach mini is reliable, compact and lightweight.
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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby peregrinator » Fri 07 May, 2021 10:07 pm

wildwanderer wrote:For me a modern android smartphone loaded with oruxmaps and a inreach mini is the best combination.

I don't see the need to carry a dedicated GPS when my smartphone has the same capabilities and likely a bigger screen.

Inreach mini is reliable, compact and lightweight.


Is there any data comparing battery longevity between a dedicated GPS device and a mobile phone?

I'm not trying to be smart. I honestly don't know. And there are many variables of course, depending on how one employs these things.
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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby crollsurf » Fri 07 May, 2021 11:03 pm

I run with gaiaGPS on my phone and a compass.

You can be 20m off track but your phone will get you back ontrack. That's how accurate they are these days.

I don't ever rely on my phone in case it fails. I rely on observeration. Every time you hit a junction, walk 10m and look behind you, remember what you see.

Worst case, I've got the compass and my memory. Train your memory.

If you're convinced your memory is crap, get an Inreach Mini, pay money and get a battery pack to keep it charged.

Use your phone unless a loved one is freaking out and you need to message them that it's OK




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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby wildwanderer » Sat 08 May, 2021 7:06 pm

peregrinator wrote:
wildwanderer wrote:For me a modern android smartphone loaded with oruxmaps and a inreach mini is the best combination.

I don't see the need to carry a dedicated GPS when my smartphone has the same capabilities and likely a bigger screen.

Inreach mini is reliable, compact and lightweight.


Is there any data comparing battery longevity between a dedicated GPS device and a mobile phone?

I'm not trying to be smart. I honestly don't know. And there are many variables of course, depending on how one employs these things.


Im not sure. I've not seen a detailed comparison.

Same as you, I think it would come down to a lot of variables.

Both the phone and the GPS are devices that have a screen, various chips, battery etc.

I've read that screens use up a lot of battery, so the bigger and brighter the screen, the faster the battery drain.

Putting a phone in flight mode will eliminate the "reception" battery drain. Also turning off Bluetooth, voice recognition and the GPS (I often only use the phone as a digital map, only turning on the GPS a couple of times a day, I get extra battery life this way)

Then you have different chips that have different efficiencies.

And of course size of battery. Varies quite a bit between phone models and also GPS models.

I suspect you would get longer battery life out of a GPS simply because it does less things and will likely have a smaller screen. But it varies between models so much that's it's worth checking the battery specs etc to be more certain.

The way I look at it, on a walk, my phone is a multi use device. It's my map, compass, my GPS, my camera and my reading book. I carry a battery pack so I can top it up each night.

My inreach mini is my sos, my communicator and weather forecastor. I can use the battery pack to also top up them if required. It's also a backup GPS of sorts.

I've found phones are very reliable, now days. And if you keep it in a dedicated, secure and well padded pocket they are very hard to lose or damage. Especially if you buy a 'water proof' phone so it won't be damaged by rain etc.

I have a zipped padded camera case attached to my pack shoulder strap near my chest which holds my phone.

One thing I've noticed is that as phones get older the batteries lose their power and you get less hours per charge. I can't afford a new phone at the moment, so I'm carrying a bigger battery pack and will carry paper maps/compass on solo, off track/remote routes as a added precaution.
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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby wildwanderer » Sat 08 May, 2021 8:20 pm

Sorry Seamus, I noticed we didn't really answer your question.

If I was choosing between the 66i and a combo of inreach mini/dedicated GPS..

I'd get the 66i as it's 1 device that does two things and 1 device is easier to look after, keep charged, not lose.

Note I always keep my devices in padded cases. not strapped in the open on a chest strap. But others do this without issues. I just think it's to big a risk if you fall and smash against a rock etc.

I would consider checking to see if you can load andrewp's topo maps on it. As they are far superior to the ones Garmin provides as standard.

Also I noticed you mentioning sat phone, it's not really a sat phone as you cant make voice calls on it. You can only message. I assume you know this but thought I'd mention just in case :)

This is a fairly good pro/con review to check out if you haven't already.

https://hikingguy.com/hiking-gear/garmi ... iew-guide/
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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby Warin » Sat 08 May, 2021 9:47 pm

wildwanderer wrote:Note I always keep my devices in padded cases. not strapped in the open on a chest strap. But others do this without issues. I just think it's to big a risk if you fall and smcash against a rock etc.


I have been very impressed with the ruggedness of the garmin 60Cx.
The first one I had suffered from a fall from a motorcycle at 80 kmh (according to the track log, I was busy with other things at the time) on the Great Central Road on to sand ... cracked the screen and case .. but the unit kept on working until I returned it for an exchange.
The second one has a small crack on the case from a fall from a stationary bicycle while I was off looking at something. Still functional.

The 66i has some resemblance to the old 60 - same kind of form and size. I think a padded bag on a shoulder strap would be ok, I do like to refer to it from time to time for both navigation and identifying features. I could do hte same with a paper map, but the GPS is quicker and water proof.

I am reminded of the one engine plane vs the two engine plane. Statically the two engine plane is more likely to have one of its engines fail before the single engine plane has its engine fail. And, yes, that is for the same engines in both planes. Similar things can be said for 3 engines, 4, 5 etc..

--------------------------------------
I found the GPS extremely useful on Mt Field when cloud cover came in on a day walk taking visibility down to a few meters. I had not been using the map so was uncertain as to exactly where I was and the lack of landmarks made the map usage rather difficult. The GPS found my location nicely and I used it to get off the mountain.
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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby seamus20 » Sun 09 May, 2021 8:01 am

wildwanderer wrote:For me a modern android smartphone loaded with oruxmaps and a inreach mini is the best combination.

I don't see the need to carry a dedicated GPS when my smartphone has the same capabilities and likely a bigger screen.

Inreach mini is reliable, compact and lightweight.

Battery life is the main reason to have some type of dedicated GPS, especially given battery performance in extreme cold.

But it's a fair point about how well smart phones can perform in this regard - makes me inclined to go for Garmin 66i, along with bringing a phone
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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby seamus20 » Sun 09 May, 2021 8:03 am

[/quote]

Is there any data comparing battery longevity between a dedicated GPS device and a mobile phone?

I'm not trying to be smart. I honestly don't know. And there are many variables of course, depending on how one employs these things.[/quote]
Garmin 66i has battery life of 35 hours.

My iphone 7 has a battery life of 6 hours.
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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby seamus20 » Sun 09 May, 2021 8:07 am

peregrinator wrote:
wildwanderer wrote:For me a modern android smartphone loaded with oruxmaps and a inreach mini is the best combination.

I don't see the need to carry a dedicated GPS when my smartphone has the same capabilities and likely a bigger screen.

Inreach mini is reliable, compact and lightweight.


Is there any data comparing battery longevity between a dedicated GPS device and a mobile phone?

I'm not trying to be smart. I honestly don't know. And there are many variables of course, depending on how one employs these things.

Garmin 66i has battery life of 35 hours.

My iphone 7 has a battery life of 6 hours
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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby seamus20 » Sun 09 May, 2021 8:26 am

crollsurf wrote:I run with gaiaGPS on my phone and a compass.

You can be 20m off track but your phone will get you back ontrack. That's how accurate they are these days.

I don't ever rely on my phone in case it fails. I rely on observeration. Every time you hit a junction, walk 10m and look behind you, remember what you see.

Worst case, I've got the compass and my memory. Train your memory.

If you're convinced your memory is crap, get an Inreach Mini, pay money and get a battery pack to keep it charged.

Use your phone unless a loved one is freaking out and you need to message them that it's OK


I recall a situation when I was hiking in the mountains in SW Tassie. We were following a rough pad, with occasional rock cairns very widely spaced apart. We needed to use map and compass continually, even while the weather was good. Then heavy fog and sleet rolled in, reducing visibility to about 3m. There was no possibility to stop and pitch a tent. If we stopped for too long we would have become hypothermic - it was absolutely freezing even wearing good gear. The area we were in was full of narrow ridges, cliffs, and plunging gulleys. We dealt with it by taking bearings with map and compass, counting our steps to estimate the number of metres we had travelled, then taking new bearings where the map indicated we should be changing direction. We began descending what turned out to be cliffs a couple of times and had to retrace our steps. We got out of that area safely, through keeping our heads and navigating effectively, but it was a dicey situation.

So remembering where I"ve come from is not the issue that is prompting me to want to get gear that could save people in an emergency.

Messaging loved ones who are freaking out is not the reason either - it's so that I could know, with confidence, that in an emergency I could message a person I trust so that they could organise local authorities to coordinate a rescue.

Phones are great, but if you're walking in remote areas with either very rough pads, or no tracks at all, where the weather can become deadly even in summer, then I want something more sturdy and with much longer battery life, especially in very cold conditions that drain batteries. My iphone 7 has a battery life of 6 hours, compared to 35 hours for a Garmin 66i. But yeah, a phone with a good GPS app is great to have as well.
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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby seamus20 » Sun 09 May, 2021 8:36 am

wildwanderer wrote:Sorry Seamus, I noticed we didn't really answer your question.

If I was choosing between the 66i and a combo of inreach mini/dedicated GPS..

I'd get the 66i as it's 1 device that does two things and 1 device is easier to look after, keep charged, not lose.

Note I always keep my devices in padded cases. not strapped in the open on a chest strap. But others do this without issues. I just think it's to big a risk if you fall and smash against a rock etc.

I would consider checking to see if you can load andrewp's topo maps on it. As they are far superior to the ones Garmin provides as standard.

Also I noticed you mentioning sat phone, it's not really a sat phone as you cant make voice calls on it. You can only message. I assume you know this but thought I'd mention just in case :)

This is a fairly good pro/con review to check out if you haven't already.

https://hikingguy.com/hiking-gear/garmi ... iew-guide/

Thanks Wildwanderer.

Yeah I'm leaning towards the 66i. As a few other posters have mentioned, you can get very good gps functionality with phones these days, so I think it makes sense to optimise a phone and have the 66i for back-up GPS, and satellite messaging (not calls), as you mention.

I watched hiking guy's youtube review of the 66I - it went for 70 minutes but the time flew by! Will check out his written review too, cheers.
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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby wildwanderer » Sun 09 May, 2021 9:21 am

Seamus,

One thing I'd check on is your comparison between phone and GPS device battery life. Once you put a phone in flight mode, turn off Bluetooth etc you should get quite a bit longer than 7 hours. It's common for a new phone to have 48 hours+ of use in flight mode. (Not constantly with screen on)

It's a good point about cold, misty,wet conditions.

It's a tough environment, land features are hard to identify due to the conditions making GPS often the only option.

Those conditions for a electronic device are equally tough. It's hard to operate touch screens without removing gloves, battery gets used a lot faster. Even stopping to pull out a phone or GPS causes your body temp to drop.

Phones and dedicated GPS are going to suffer equally from the cold. They are both plastic uninsulated devices. You can mitigate this somewhat (as I'm sure you already know) by putting it in a chest pocket. Battery will still drain fast during use though..

It's actually the reason why I'm going to buy a Fenix 6x pro watch. Because it's on a wrist and receiving body heat it doesn't suffer from the cold, and the topo map on the watch face is good enough to do a quick check of position/bearing without stopping. The watch face is massive!

Also you can
- Select a spot on the watch map and it will give you bearing and distance to it.(and navigate to it if you wish)
- accurate digital compass, distance walked and altimeter.
- takes longer but you can even create a GPX route on your phone and send it to the watch so it's a useful backup to a full GPS.
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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby ribuck » Sun 09 May, 2021 4:11 pm

The biggest advantage of the 66i is the transflective screen, which can be read in bright sunshine. Other than that, a phone has a bigger screen, a higher-resolution screen, better software, a wider range of maps, etc. A phone plus an InReach Mini is a great combo - and because you're not using the InReach for maps, you know that it will have plenty of battery available if you need it for an emergency.
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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby seamus20 » Mon 10 May, 2021 10:04 am

wildwanderer wrote:Seamus,

One thing I'd check on is your comparison between phone and GPS device battery life. Once you put a phone in flight mode, turn off Bluetooth etc you should get quite a bit longer than 7 hours. It's common for a new phone to have 48 hours+ of use in flight mode. (Not constantly with screen on)

It's a good point about cold, misty,wet conditions.

It's a tough environment, land features are hard to identify due to the conditions making GPS often the only option.

Those conditions for a electronic device are equally tough. It's hard to operate touch screens without removing gloves, battery gets used a lot faster. Even stopping to pull out a phone or GPS causes your body temp to drop.

Phones and dedicated GPS are going to suffer equally from the cold. They are both plastic uninsulated devices. You can mitigate this somewhat (as I'm sure you already know) by putting it in a chest pocket. Battery will still drain fast during use though..

It's actually the reason why I'm going to buy a Fenix 6x pro watch. Because it's on a wrist and receiving body heat it doesn't suffer from the cold, and the topo map on the watch face is good enough to do a quick check of position/bearing without stopping. The watch face is massive!

Also you can
- Select a spot on the watch map and it will give you bearing and distance to it.(and navigate to it if you wish)
- accurate digital compass, distance walked and altimeter.
- takes longer but you can even create a GPX route on your phone and send it to the watch so it's a useful backup to a full GPS.

ribuck wrote:The biggest advantage of the 66i is the transflective screen, which can be read in bright sunshine. Other than that, a phone has a bigger screen, a higher-resolution screen, better software, a wider range of maps, etc. A phone plus an InReach Mini is a great combo - and because you're not using the InReach for maps, you know that it will have plenty of battery available if you need it for an emergency.

You know what. I think you've convinced me. Phone when needed; Garmin Fenix 6 x pro watch - as you say I would much prefer to be able to glance down to confirm position on a watch than be messing around with a handheld, and much longer life than phone; and InReach mini for emergencies. Just need to start saving :|

Thanks all!
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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby wildwanderer » Sat 15 May, 2021 11:38 am

Was just about to purchase a 6x pro from this mob. Cheapest price I'd seen in a while..

4.8 (out of 5) stars on trustpilot.

https://uk.trustpilot.com/review/ticwatches.co.uk

Thought I'd do an extra check by googling them a bit more...

https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/ ... arlington/ :lol:
Lucky!
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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby seamus20 » Thu 17 Jun, 2021 10:51 am

I recently bought a Fenix 6 51mm through Garmin, reduced from $1600 to $1100, but looks like that deal you found is even better!

Just a couple of follow up points.

In the last couple of months I bought an Iphone 11 (longer battery life than iphone 12) and started using Gaiagps. Also bought a Fenix 6, although at this stage I'm just using the pre-loaded Garmin maps.

Haven't done any overnight walking in that time, but went away for the Queen's bday weekend and did long day walks for 3 days.

GaiaGPS crashed regularly, on a brand new, high-powered phone. This reconfirmed what I had suspected - there is no way that I would trust a phone to be reliable as a GPS device on a serious multi-day bushwalk. Phones are jacks of all trades, masters of none. They are simply not reliable enough, particularly since you are reliant on apps, rather than truly dedicated software.

The Fenix, on the other hand, was fantastic, and, as I'd hoped, having a unit on my wrist really did make a significant difference in terms of convenience. Hopefully don't have any problems once I start creating routes on GaiaGPS and downloading them to the Fenix.

I'm unlikely to buy a dedicated handheld GPS unit at this point, but I still think they are greatly preferable to a phone if you think you might need to rely on a GPS in an emergency or sticky situation.
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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby wildwanderer » Thu 17 Jun, 2021 11:44 am

Good to hear your Fenix is working well for you.

Strange your having issues with Gaiagps. Maybe switch apps? I've been using oruxmaps (android)for about 3-4 years now. It's been rock solid and not crashed once.
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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby ChrisJHC » Thu 17 Jun, 2021 11:45 am

Agree about switching apps.
I’ve been using Pocket Earth for years and don’t think it’s ever crashed.
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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby crollsurf » Thu 17 Jun, 2021 12:56 pm

GaiaGPS has been rock solid on my Android Samsung 10+ but the phones compass doesn't always point North. That's the phone, not the app but I've recently discovered that if you shake/rotate the phone, it tends to fix/improve the North point issue.
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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby wildwanderer » Thu 17 Jun, 2021 1:42 pm

I've found that every time you restart a phone the onboard sensors need to be recallibrated for the compass to be accurate.

A astronomy app I have installed has a simple calibration program and informs how to calibrate the gyro sensors and gives a compass accuracy level. Is a heap of other apps that also do calibration checks.

I just do that when I turn my phone on in the morning and no more compass issues.
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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby Son of a Beach » Thu 17 Jun, 2021 1:53 pm

The battery on my phone (and every phone I've had since about the iPhone 5) lasts for over a week... IF it is placed in airplane mode, and has all non-necessary services turned off, and is used only sparingly (ie, the same amount that you'd use a dedicated GPS) and is shut down overnight. Using it as a camera all the time will drain the battery more too.

Some of the many mapping navigation apps on phones are so much better than anything I've seen on a dedicated GPS unit, that I couldn't possibly consider using a dedicated GPS. I've never had a dedicated GPS device, but I've been disgusted at the shockingly terrible software on the devices that I've watched other people battle with. I'm sure there must be better ones out there, but I've just not seen them in use. My main reason for preferring a phone is that I can use whatever maps I like, whether they've been designed for GPS/device navigation or not. I can even scan in a paper map, and georeference it to navigate by on my phone. I can also pick and choose the app that has the features I want, or even use multiple apps if I'm not so confident in one, or need features from more than one of them.

Having said that, a dedicated GPS is more rugged, and I'm sure would have better battery life than a phone, even with all the above mentioned considerations. These days, I take a spare battery to recharge the phone for long walks if necessary, but I almost never need to recharge, even when I also use the phone as a camera, and chat to my wife if I can get a signal from a mountain top.

(and yes, I still carry a paper map and compass, and even practice using them occasionally)
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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby GPSGuided » Thu 17 Jun, 2021 3:33 pm

seamus20 wrote:GaiaGPS crashed regularly, on a brand new, high-powered phone. This reconfirmed what I had suspected - there is no way that I would trust a phone to be reliable as a GPS device on a serious multi-day bushwalk. Phones are jacks of all trades, masters of none. They are simply not reliable enough, particularly since you are reliant on apps, rather than truly dedicated software.


As you are on an iPhone, I’d suggest that you use Pocket Earth app on your iOS device. It’s the go-to mapping app for me, well worth the few bucks it charges. Downloadable maps include topo and has a very easy to use interface. I also have the GaiaGPS app on my iPhone as a backup but have found that I have never resorted to it whilst out except for some plays at home.

Otherwise I concur with you that for critical safety equipments, it’s best to have a dedicated unit for the purpose. Whilst the latest iPhones are waterproofed with long battery life, I don’t want to share its battery with phone/text/photo/weather and numerous other functionalities. Otherwise my iPhones up to model 11 now have been perfectly functional GPS units but I’ve held off on iPhone 12 and is waiting for iPhone 13 for the next upgrade, as it should add the new Beidou constellation services for further performance improvements, let alone the crippled 5G on the 12. In the meantime and in parallel, acquired a Huawei P30 with Beidou support and running Oruxmap, trying it as a dedicated GPS mapping device whilst out but not yet replacing my rechargeable AA powered Garmin Oregon 650 of a few years.


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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby GPSGuided » Thu 17 Jun, 2021 3:40 pm

Son of a Beach wrote:Having said that, a dedicated GPS is more rugged, and I'm sure would have better battery life than a phone, even with all the above mentioned considerations. These days, I take a spare battery to recharge the phone for long walks if necessary, but I almost never need to recharge, even when I also use the phone as a camera, and chat to my wife if I can get a signal from a mountain top.

(and yes, I still carry a paper map and compass, and even practice using them occasionally)

Yep, that’s why I still carry my Garmin Oregon 650 on walks. Rechargeable AA batteries lasts all day as I usually run logs of my walks. It’s rugged and compact that I don’t have much fear of smashing it as for my smartphone device. The big buttons are also simple enough to operate for a quick location and direction check than the potentially fragile large screens of a smartphone. Easy to just hang off a carabiner on my pack shoulder strap for quick references.

But I agree that at some point smartphone devices will completely take over. In the meantime I don’t mind carrying two GPS mapping devices.


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Re: Combo GPS and Sat Phone worth it?

Postby camm » Thu 17 Jun, 2021 10:48 pm

After many years navigating exclusively on the phone and watch I've gone back to a dedicated gps (Etrex 32x) for the complicated stuff. I had a few occasions where the phone repeatedly failed me and I needed to use my inReach mini to provide the gps via the earthmate app. Not a fan of running down the battery on the device with the big red button for reasons that should be obvious. On the plus side, I've now got the phone, the watch, the gps, the inReach, and god help me the Sunnto clipper which seems like enough redundancy for all but the crustiest paper map guys.
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