Next to an analog compass, the Garmin GPSMAP 66 and by extension the whole GPSMAP series is a fundamental piece of equipment for every outdoor enthousiast. The 66 being the latest flagship model model but even the 64 and 62 models are still as useful as the latest model. Specs vary a little bit but the basic functionality is as solid as a rock. The only reason I upgraded my 64 is for the bigger screen and syncing over Wifi. But i’ll get to that later.
This is a must have device in your EDC pack. I use it on hikes, long vacations, city trips, business trips, adventures, … I often even carry it on a day day base to remember places and locations. I hear you thinking why don’t you use your smartphone for that… True, but since I keep track of everything in Basecamp, it’s just a simple sync and everything is where I want it. From the smartphone I have to convert the GPS coordinates from degrees to UTM and then manually create an waypoint in Basecamp and with the right batteries the GPSMAP will outlast your smartphone! But we are running ahead of things, that’s for later, back to the beginning.
When I first got my 64ST, years ago it took me quit a while to wrap my head around the usability and the functionality. I’m not the “read the manual”-guy so it took me several reinstallation from scratch before I got things right.
What you need to know is that the GSMAP’s comes with different activity types and the can and must me configured individually. Each can have their own data fields and functionalities that can be selected to view. There is no apply to all. That’s a big advantage.
I have for example 4 activity types:
- Hike: Big map, Compass, Altimeter, Distance meter, … and track my route.
- Discover: With map and don’t track my route. (so it won’t be uploaded to Garmin/Strava etc) I use this for city trips, finding my way around towns
- Geocache: With map, Compass, Sight’nGo, Waypoint averaging and no tracking
- Bike: same as Hike but with speed and distance-field on the map.
I mainly use Hike & Discover and the geocache when the kids are bored on a hike 🙃
I’m not going to write a full manual on how to configure this device. I will get back on what features I use the most and how I use them in later articles.
Once you have mastered the functionality of the GPSMAP the next step is to understand how to get maps waypoints, tracks and routes on your device. There are several ways to do this. But from my experience using Basecamp is the best option to keep it structured and manageable.
Garmin maps come in two variation: the ones you pay and the ones you don’t pay. In general you don’t need to pay for the maps you can find every map for free out there.
Here a re a few of the free sources
- Freizeitkarte: high quality topographic routable maps of Europe
- Frikart: High Quality summer and winter maps of Europe
- OpenTopoMaps: Detailed maps for outdoor activities.
- Garmin OSM maps: Generic routable Maps
Depending on the level of detail you want you can select your type. You can also buy the official Garmin maps and install them via Garmin Express on your GPS. I own a couple of maps. The bad thing is that when you buy a new device you have to send your old on to Garmin to prove you don’t use it anymore and then they transfer the license to the new device. On the other hand, some of teh good maps they provide only cost 20 – 40 euros and since these device easily run for 7 years, that a good investment. I only have bought maps of countries outside europe. Alle the rest is covered by my favourite map provider Freizeitkarte.
If you want to know how to install those free maps in Basecamp and your GPS, head over to the short manual that I wrote: Maps for Garmin
So you understand your GPS and you’ve successfully installed maps in Basecamp and on your device. Time to get to know the different types of data on your screen.
- Waypoint: A waypoint is simply a unique address for any point in the world, but instead of the traditional street/city/state/zip format we’re used to for road travel, GPS units utilise waypoints expressed in mapping formats such as latitude/longitude or the UTM Grid.
- Routes are pre-defined paths created from a group of location points entered into the GPS receiver in the sequence you desire to navigate them.Location points can be user generated waypoints or points of interest that have been loaded from a map or from a Garmin program. Routes are created on the computer and/or on the device. Routes Navigate you from point A -> B
- Tracks act like breadcrumb trails, allowing you to see where you or another individual traveled in the past. This allows you to navigate a path previously taken. But it’s your responsibility to stay on the track, if you wander of your GPS won’t notify you.
I prefer to use tracks, that means you still have to be alert and read the landscape and match it to your GPS map. Also Routes only work when you have a routable map installed.
The only reason I upgraded to the 66 because it syncs over WIFI. Everything you upload to the Garmin Inreach maps will be synced to your device over the air. A desirable feature if you work a lot with new tracks etc.
Lately I keep the GPS in my backpack as a back up in case of emergency. I prefer to navigate with topographic maps and compass. Or when I don’t have acces to a topographic map (on holiday) I turn to this trusted companion.