Sat nav or Map?

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
jack1
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Sat nav or Map?

Postby jack1 » 7 Feb 2011, 7:56pm

Hi going on 3month Trip france/spain dont know if to take maps ? or Buy Sat Nav. So best buy sat nav /Best maps? Regard,s Jack1

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cycleruk
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Re: Sat nav or Map?

Postby cycleruk » 7 Feb 2011, 8:10pm

Take both.
Get a general road atlas and tear out the sections you need. Put them a waterproof cover.
With a sat-nav you will need to be able to re-charge it or have a supply of new batteries.
A sat-nav is a great asset but you have to be able to program for the whole tour or input the next days route. (which would probably require the use of a map).
There's no such thing as a tailwind.
It's either a headwind, or you're going well.

psmiffy
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Re: Sat nav or Map?

Postby psmiffy » 7 Feb 2011, 11:05pm

It really depends on how you go about things – if you are the sort of person that likes to plan their route to the nth detail beforehand and follow it from A – Z then a “satnav” is probably what you want (although having a map as well would be more than prudent) - however, if you just want to go and enjoy a toddle to places new then maps are probably the best way to go.
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?o=RrzKj&page_id=144153&v=3O
I am a map person – with a map you can see where you are going, get an idea of the topography you are going to ride through, identify interesting places to visit, identify roads that you want to give a miss to and get an idea of what your progress is through the landscape.
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?o=RrzKj&page_id=176331&v=1N

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tridantri
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Re: Sat nav or Map?

Postby tridantri » 8 Feb 2011, 3:02pm

I have always and will always use just a map. I like the map reading part of things and they allow you to very easily change your route on the road without having to program it in.

A map never runs out of power either.

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meic
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Re: Sat nav or Map?

Postby meic » 8 Feb 2011, 3:10pm

and the ink in a GPS never runs.
Yma o Hyd

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al_yrpal
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Re: Sat nav or Map?

Postby al_yrpal » 8 Feb 2011, 3:19pm

I like to navigate with maps, you can see any byways or alternative routes more easily. I like to plan a route ahead in vague detail, and then plan each day in detail the evening before. I use a sat nav merely to confirm my position when I am unsure of it.

Maps are expensive though.

Al
Touring on a bicycle is a great way to explore and appreciate the countryside and towns you pass through. What do you do to make a difference?

stewartpratt
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Re: Sat nav or Map?

Postby stewartpratt » 8 Feb 2011, 3:30pm

What psmiffy said.

A GPS is useful if you want to stick to a route and can't afford the time/energy of finding you've gone two miles up the wrong climb. However, note that GPS autorouting is at best idiosyncratic, and a pre-planned route may not come out on the GPS the way you hoped. You need time up front learning the foibles of your unit.

If your itinerary is whimsical in nature then a GPS is of less use.

Maps are always best carried - pages torn out of road atlases make ideal backups for a GPS.

Don't forget that modern phones can compete with the beat GPS units and can provide specialised functionality, so if you're due an upgrade consider that option. Battery life is a consideration here, as is the issue of offline map storage, and this differs between the packages available on the different platforms (Android, iOs, Symbian), but that's perhaps a separate topic.

Mattie
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Re: Sat nav or Map?

Postby Mattie » 8 Feb 2011, 7:01pm

I am still experimenting with this myself but so far have found that the killer combination is a good map, a small netbook with Google Earth on it and a small GPS.

The map gets used for your normal route finding and the GPS gets used to find specific locations the co-ordinates of which you have got from Google Earth. Example - Look up a Hostel/Hotel in a large city and then look it up on Google Earth. You can put in the street address and Google Earth will find it. Get the GPS co-ordinates and put them in your GPS unit and save as a waypoint. Cycle along happily, as you get into your large city put the GPS on and follow the arrow until you reach the front door of the Hostel/Hotel.

One drawback is that Google Earth needs an internet connection so you will have to dowload some waypoints while you have access to a connection, but it cannot be such a problem in Europe. Another problem could be cost - a netbook is about £250 ? and a GPS £100 ?

Works a treat so far.

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philg
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Re: Sat nav or Map?

Postby philg » 8 Feb 2011, 7:28pm

Mattie wrote: Another problem could be cost - a netbook is about £250 ? and a GPS £100 ?



A GPS enabled smart-phone might be a better combination?

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Robert
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Re: Sat nav or Map?

Postby Robert » 8 Feb 2011, 10:46pm

I'd agree with those who said both.
I use detailed paper maps for route planning.
Enter plan as numbered waypoints with the instruction embedded in the waypoint name - eg 123R, day 1 waypoint 23 turn right. Transfer routes and waypoints to GPS - don't rely on auto routing.
Carry road atlas pages or memory map print outs on the bar bag for the bigger picture and as a back up in case you fancy departing from the plan.

Louis
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Re: Sat nav or Map?

Postby Louis » 9 Feb 2011, 9:20am

I got a Garmin Etrex Vista a while back and I love it. I've tried smartphone GPS apps before and IMO, there is no comparison to a proper unit. If you're going to get a GPS, you want something that is waterproof and has a large / replaceable battery. Though, bear in mind that a lot of outdoor GPS units don't come with detailed mapping, which can be a quite expensive upgrade. As others said, having a real map for big overview and GPS for positioning is spot on.

psmiffy
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Re: Sat nav or Map?

Postby psmiffy » 9 Feb 2011, 9:54am

Louis wrote: Though, bear in mind that a lot of outdoor GPS units don't come with detailed mapping, which can be a quite expensive upgrade. As others said, having a real map for big overview and GPS for positioning is spot on.


Unless you are in the UK and using 25k or 50k OS maps where it is easy to transfer OS grid coodinates from the GPS to the map to obtain an accurate position a GPS is pretty useless for finding where you are without some sort of electronic mapping that you can correlate against a paper map - I am pretty map savvy and have never bothered fitting coodinates against any European map I have used

stewartpratt
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Re: Sat nav or Map?

Postby stewartpratt » 9 Feb 2011, 11:07am

A few assorted points re smartphones and GPS units.

I have two GPS-enables smartphones (Nokia 5800 and HTC Desire) as well as a Garmin eTrex Vista C. NB I'll mention vector and raster maps here - if you don't know the difference a quick google will see you right. Note that some mapping (Google, Openstreetmap) can fall into both categories.

Signal quality etc

For GPS performance, both phones perform easily as well as the eTrex (though note that newer eTrexes have better GPS chipsets) - in practice all are plenty accurate enough to track position whether in the open or stuffed into a pocket or the top of a bag.

If you're interested in accurate altitude readings then GPS alone is not enough, you'll want a barometer, and there's no smartphone which has one - you'll need a Vista or similar.

Battery life

Battery life for the eTrexes are published. As for the phones, I've recently tested them (note: with all other phone functions turned off). The Nokia with original battery provides 15 hours of GPS tracking; with a replacement 2200mAh battery (cost about £10 IIRC) it provides 23h, and the Desire (although I've not had the chance to run a full test yet as it's also my main phone) looks like it should run for 12-13 hours. Naturally, the more that's going one elsewhere in the phone's feature set, the less runtime you'll get.

Of course, you can always carry a spare £10 battery for a phone much as you would carry spare AA cells for a dedicated GPS.

Mapping

The Nokia has Ovi Maps, which is free and provides offline vector map data (ie stored on the phone's SD card rather than being downloaded as you use it) as well as autorouting - though I question the usefulness of autorouting; see below. There are also apps available which will let you view raster maps, either online (eg Google) or offline (eg Viewranger).

There are bucketloads of Android apps which make use of raster mapping and more are appearing. Android is an extremely vibrant platform. However there are fairly few which provide offline mapping, and there are two collaborating reasons for this: maps are best stored as vectors, and vector maps tend to cost money. MapDroyd will allow you to preload raster maps via an offline PC application, and there are a number of car-oriented satnav apps which include vector mapping but generally cost reasonable money (£20+), and I've no idea how well they lend themselves to the different use cases that cyclists tend to want.

Logging and other functionality

All of the devices will log well.

For other useful functions provided by the GPS (ie acting as a trip computer), there are plenty of free apps available for either which will do just as well.

Importantly, smartphones can be programmed. Anyone can release an app for an Android/Symbian/iOS phone (though there aren't that many people developing for Symbian) and you can write your own. A dedicated GPS such as an eTrex is a sealed box - you buys your feature set and you lives with it. For me this is a massive win for smartphones.

Smartphones generally also have significantly better displays than most dedicated GPS units. They also allow you to communicate via Internet and SMS, so you can keep people automatically informed of your position via various means.

The big win for a dedicated GPS tends to be weatherproofing, which is only really an issue if you want something mounted to the bars for constant viewing. There's only one smartphone that scores here, the Motorola Defy.

Autorouting

Autorouting (or event planned routing, so the device can inform you of turns to make) is a bit of a sticky area. I've had no end of trouble getting routes from Garmin's Mapsource desktop route planning software into the eTrex. They go, but it recalculates sections and they never end up as they were. Ovi Maps is, IME, a dog in this area - offline planning is a nightmare and once on the phone things aren't great either. To be honest I've not tried any of the Android apps but I've not yet found one that will allow me to plan an exact route on a desktop machine and then provide turn-by-turn directions on the phone.

But, back to a previous point: you can program them. So, given that Bikeroutetoaster.com allows precise planning and produces XML files with waypoints and directions, and given that Android has very good built-in speech synthesis, it's eminently possible to write a app to download the route XML and speak precise directions to you as you go. And I hope I'll find to do it at some point!

To my mind, the dedicated GPS is absolutely dead - long live the smartphone.

(Paper, of course, will never die... as long as you keep it out of the wind and rain. ;))

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philg
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Re: Sat nav or Map?

Postby philg » 9 Feb 2011, 11:51am

I can't disagree with any of that!

Few points though:
I suggested the smart phone earlier as a better alternative to a netbook/GPS combo - for bike use I always use the Garmin Oregon (Legend previously) though the points about battery life and waterproofing of smart phones are not terminal as you say. I too have a Nokia 5800 and the free Ovi maps are brilliant - better than Garmins in display quality

The Garmin auto-routing works as expected provided both PC and GPS are set to the same routing method (i.e. Bike) AND you give it enough waypoints to force it on your determined route. Rule 1 - never give the GPS chance to think for itself!

Battery life for GPS IME is best estimated by dividing the manufacturers claims by between 2 or 3 :(

As for paper maps - definitely! and a laminater is your friend!

stewartpratt
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Re: Sat nav or Map?

Postby stewartpratt » 9 Feb 2011, 12:14pm

The Garmin auto-routing works as expected provided both PC and GPS are set to the same routing method (i.e. Bike) AND you give it enough waypoints to force it on your determined route.

Hm. My Mapsource and my eTrex have a number of parameters, and they differ slightly between the two so it's impossible to configure the algorithm(s) to work identically. And yes, the solution is to feed it lots of waypoints. But there is a knack to putting them in the right place which takes a while to master. I reckon for a long (80-100 mile route), 90% of the time I can get the result I want, but even after using mine for some time it's not 100%. I ended up with one leg of a tour where it wanted to direct me 30 miles out of my way (in a circle, to add insult to injury) against my wishes.

My solution was to export the route from Mapsource to Google Earth, export as KML from that, use GPSBabel to convert that to a Mapsource track, re-import to Mapsource (all of which would have been obviated by a simple "convert to track" option in Mapsource!), and export both route and track to the GPS, so then I could take advantage of turn notification where the unit wasn't being stupid but could see my intended route where it was. All of this on top of already seeding the route with excessive numbers of 'persuasive' waypoints as you suggest.

A ridiculous workflow, I'm sure anyone would agree. I'd rather live in hope of finding enough time to write my own code than be held ransom by inadequate and black-boxed firmware :)

Though again we come back to the point that I'm happy to mount the weatherproof GPS to my bars, but not my smartphone. Rock, hard place.