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GPS Receivers: Best Uses

Updated on September 21, 2008

Best GPS Receivers

Well the uses of GPS Receivers just get more and more innovative. What started out as an invention of the US Military has become almost ubiquitous technology for the western world. I thought I would review where GPS Receivers had proliferated too and there are some great and not so great developments. Unfortunately many people now equate "a GPS" with a model that includes a large screen showing your location on an urban street map. That's a popular use sure, but its far from being the best use for GPS Receivers.

Tamar River, Tasmania, Australia Photo: Lissie
Tamar River, Tasmania, Australia Photo: Lissie

Best GPS Receivers and Boats

The first buyers of GPS Recievers in big numbers were the boating community. If you have ever wondered why your cheap GPS unit has a "drag anchor" function - that's why: it charts how far the boat has moved while you slept - and will then let you set sale back to the point where you started. So the oldest use is still the best as far as I can see. The sea or large lake is difficult to navigate and the proliferation of marine maps and charts will make sure you can avoid that sandbank, find the sail boat channel or even the club house!

Mt Kosciusko, Australia's Highest Peak: Photo: Lissie
Mt Kosciusko, Australia's Highest Peak: Photo: Lissie

Best GPS Receivers and Hiking

Solving the WTFAW question (that's "where the f.. are we" for those of you who didn't have to do a mapping course at college). For anyone who has had the cold feeling in the bottom of your stomach when you get to the bottom of the river you been following for hours to discover that a) you are not where you thought you were and b) there are only 2 hours of daylight left, these devices are truly awesome. Not only will a light compact handheld GPS Receiver locate where you are: it will also show key points (such as your camp or where you left the car), guide you back along the route you came, handy if the snow or cloud has closed in, tell you when the sun will set and even act as an old-fashioned compass. Of course you should still have a decent map, a traditional compass and know how to use them but seriously these units can save you an enormous amount of stress!

Near Innaminka, South Australia though you would never know! Photo: Lissie
Near Innaminka, South Australia though you would never know! Photo: Lissie
The next time we saw a real road sign like this was 2 days later! Photo: Lissie
The next time we saw a real road sign like this was 2 days later! Photo: Lissie

Best GPS Receivers and Off-Roading

When you drive the back roads of Australia and other countries you often follow a "way route" where the recommended track is described in terms of follow the track on the right for 15km until you reach the creek crossing, continue straight on for another 25km until you get to fork in the road, take the track on the left marked "Old Station Rd 52mi" etc. Fortunately most of these guides come with GPS coordinates for each way point. Fortunately because sometimes there just isn't a track in 25km, or there is a track but not the sign mentioned. Tracks come and go, particularly where oil or mineral exploration companies are active: or a station is burnt down and rebuilt in a more convenient location. In this back roads what you do NOT want is a standard auto GPS Receiver, although you can readily get detailed steet plans for Sydney or Melbourne, these tracks aren't available in commercial software (that I've found leave a comment if you disagree). What you want is a handheld GPS Receiver, you can mount this in your 4WD or you stop and take the GPS unit out of the truck and let it find itself (if its been a few 100km's since you last did this it might take a few minutes to find itself). You can then check the coordinates either against the way points you have previously entered or just do it by eye.

GPS Receivers and Tracking.

A GPS unit uses satellites to triangulates its location. A GPS tracker can be as simple as a GPS tracker with a memory so that when you download the device it tells you where/when it was driven, how fast and where it stopped. As with all technology you can use this for good uses such as an easy way to calculate your business/personal vehicle use for taxes or bad uses: spying on your spouse or employees. You can also get GPS trackers which transmit their location real-time: a base unit or a subscription service which then alerts you if your child/car/dog has roamed too far. Great for vehicle fleet management or for finding your hunting dog in heavy undergrowth (though the units are still quite bulky and only suitable for larger dogs), not so great if you want to use them to check on your teen's driving habits!

Best GPS Receivers: Where to Buy?

Once you have narrowed down your options for what you want in a GPS then check them out online and or at your local store. it's helpful to see and touch the units on your short-list but buying the best GPS receiver can be cheaper online. Check online so you know if you are getting the current model: last year's model may be just find but make sure you get a discount!


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    • Angela Harris profile image

      Angela Harris 

      10 years ago from Around the USA

      I hadn't considered these other uses for GPS units. Cool! All I know is that a GPS was a lifesaver navigating around in Houston during a conference. Highly recommended to any out of towners staying in Houston for awhile!

    • lavenderstreak profile image


      10 years ago from Seattle

      Lissie, great hub. My father was a boater in the days before GPS units were available, I'm sure he would have had one. I remember our sonar detector to see how close we were to the bottom. I have a friend who has been using GPS in his car for so long, he turns it on even when I know the way (it's a little annoying). But when I'm on travel with co-workers (especially one who loves using the GPS on his blackberry), they're great for getting you where you need to get. I'm in the US, so I haven't heard about alot of these problems you have with them in Australia.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Technology is getting better and better day by day.I sometimes feel someday I am going to lose track of everything.If it weren't for hubbers like you who keep feeding us with such info,where would I be?Thanks Lissie.

    • grumpyjacksa profile image


      10 years ago from south africa

      Fantastic tool . But when I hit the backroads for fun , I'll probably ( want to ) get lost first , and then switch it on.......

      Great hub ! Keep them coming .

    • pjdscott profile image


      10 years ago from Durham, UK

      Great hub Lissie - we have a GPS in our car and as long as you are sensible when using it, they are great devices! For long journeys I would always bring a map as well.

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      Hi Eileen - I should clarify for other readers that Eileen is talking about Australia - in the southern hemisphere we sometimes get poor GPS coverage because there are fewer satellites above the horizon! And yes there was some poor tourist that set off from Christchurch, NZ going west and ended up on a narrow dangerous road because the GPS told her to follow it - yes the programming was wrong - but she should have done enough research to tell her that Reefton does have a sealed road to it! The job is going great - fun being a geologist again!

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 

      10 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      These are really great inventions. And you have done a good job Lizzie. The only problem is with these things. We have a mio one and lots of times we have put a destination in and it has led us in the oposite direction. The are succeptible to interference. We had problems in Bendigo. It just would not recognise our request. We found out they have this station out there that none of the gps work in that area.

      One guy I spoke to wanted to go to the beach. He ended up at the sewerage farm Not exactly his place of choice for a swim. So you still need to have the basic idea of where u are going North south east or west so you know on right track. Thanks Lizzie. Hows the job going.


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