Using a Garmin Geko 101 GPS

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For Christmas Sherree got me a Garmin Geko 101 GPS. Yesterday I hiked part of the Tunxis trail and had the GPS along. More specifically, I hiked part of the Southington region of the trail system. Looking at the bottom of the map of the trails, I started at the green, to the blue, to the red-orange, and back to the green.

Anyway, Sherree thought I should write something about using the GPS:

  • It's very small and light. I don't notice it in my pocket and I can easily hold other things in my hand with it.
  • When initially acquiring satellites to locate itself, it's slow; it takes about 5 minutes to do so. While in use, re-acquiring satellites only takes a second or two, though.
  • Marking waypoints (places you want to remember, go back to or whatever) is easy, though naming them is a rather slow process since clicking through each letter of the alphabet to get to the one you want is required.
  • The map scale (which you can change from 80 feet to 800 miles) seems fairly accurate, however using it is tough since you can't easily pan around the map to all the areas you might want to measure at once. Zooming out so you can see the whole map means you're going to make less accurate distance measurements.
  • The GPS is certainly not a direct replacement for a compass. It will tell me my bearing (42 degrees or 193 degrees, for example) but without a way to accurately tell which direction that is, it doesn't help. That said, assuming I've set a "start" waypoint and have enough batteries, it seems an adequate replacement for a compass--the GPS can easily direct me back to the "start" waypoint.

The biggest shortcoming I've found is that there isn't an easy way to view all of the data for each waypoint you've set. With this GPS you need to individually look at each waypoint, where you can see all the data about it. If this GPS could download it's data to the computer--such as the next model up, the Geko 201--you'd be able to see all the waypoint information at once. With all of the information in an easily-viewable format it would be easy to see how much altitude I gained and lost over the hike, for example.

Though for the price ($80 at Target, not sold on their website), I don't think it can be beat.

Sidenote: On my Saturday hike along the mainline trail there is a small cemetary. Most of the gravestones were from the early to mid-1800's. One of the stones (in excellent shape, nonetheless) was of a chick who was born in 1703 and died in 1776. I thought to myself "cool, I should take a photo."

But before doing that, I pulled out my GPS to mark a waypoint here. Just as I hit the "mark" button the "No GPS signal--need clear view of sky" message popped up. Like most cemetaries, this one had a clear view of the sky. I was also on a hilltop. There was no reason it shouldn't have gotten a signal. Regardless, I hit the ok button and expected it to re-lock in a second or two, such as it always does. But it didn't. Five minutes later, still no lock. Preoccupied by this, I never bothered with a photo. Holding the GPS up, I decided to continue on my hike.

On my step out of the cemetary grounds the GPS relocked its signal.

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