Thursday, November 14, 2013

Travel Gear: Handheld GPS

Eurostar, Northern France, heading straight for the English Channel at 183 MPH
If I could only bring one piece of electronic equipment when traveling, it would be my handheld GPS.
When riding the bus in a strange city, I know when to get off.
When exploring, I can find my way back to the starting point by tracking back on a crumb trail.
When hiking I load the entire trail into the GPS. One glance tells me if I'm more than a few feet off the trail.
My phone has a GPS, so why, would I not just bring my phone? No phone can compete with features like these:
Transreflective screen, always on, readable in bright sunlight.
Real buttons.
Waterproof: I've submerged it in a stream to wash off mud.
Basically unbreakable, extraordinarily reliable.
AA batteries, up to 20 hours continuous use depending on battery type. 
I've used my current GPS over 7 years on 5 continents. Every bash and scrape tells a story:

In the Himalayas, Uttar Pradesh, India the GPS took the fall for me, saving the palm of my hand as I fell on gravel. The screen is scratched, and the top of the "In" button is now missing.
Shikoku, Japan, the lanyard fell off because the lanyard attachment point finally failed.
Minneapolis, MN, my bike fell over, breaking off the mounting pin that latches the GPS to a cradle on the handlebar. The pin is now permanently glued on, slightly askew.
Everywhere I go, my GPS goes.

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