A couple of years, ago I wrote an article about the value of a GPS on the trail. I ride with a Garmin Montana 600. Back then I was using a Garmin 60CSX, which is an upgrade from the Garmin eTrex Vista – my first GPS.
Since I wrote that article, I have learned more from my experience in using a GPS and the technology has improved. I would be lost without it — literally. Can I just say that I love my GPS?
I use a RAM mount to attach it to my machine. It is easy to use and it holds my GPS firmly in place when I am riding.
Lest you think I am a little overboard here, I have a friend who rides with two GPS units on his machine. He uses one to make sure the other one is working right.
Here are some of the reasons I like to ride with a GPS:
Recording a track
I like to keep a record of my rides. My GPS creates a track of the trail I have ridden and makes it possible to ride that trail again. Many times I have had readers ask for a GPS track of a trail I have written about so they can ride it themselves.
Dropping a marker on the track
When I find an interesting point on a trail, I like to drop a marker on my GPS and add a note about its importance. It might be something historical or some particularly outstanding scenery. The marker allows me to return to that spot on another day and to share it with others.
Looking for points of interest
Last year, a couple approached me about taking them on a ride to celebrate their 30th anniversary. There is a beautiful waterfall above Manti with a not so beautiful name. At least, I don’t think the name Milky Falls is very pretty. I wanted to show them those falls, but I didn’t have the track of that ride with me.
Anyway, I was trying to find this place from memory and it was not working. I finally checked my GPS. Looking up points of interest, I found Milky Falls. Pressing the “go to” button, a line appeared on the screen. I quickly realized that I was going the wrong direction. The line was a direct route to the falls so riding in that general direction brought us to the exact point.
Making exploring the backcountry safer
The track my GPS makes allows me to explore the backcountry without worrying about making it back to my starting point. When I finish a ride, I have a track of exactly where I went.
The screen allows me to view my progress on a trail from an elevation of my choice. I like to set that point at 500 feet. If I set it too high, it is difficult to monitor my progress.
Finding trails to ride
With over 75,000 miles of documented trails in Utah, the challenge becomes finding them. I have the Utah trails loaded into my GPS so that I can pull off the highway in any given point in the state and find a trail to ride. With the exception of being in downtown Salt Lake City, I can usually find one close by.
As I said, I ride with a Garmin Montana 600. The 600 series is made rugged especially for ATV and UTV use. It is water proof — a feature that I have found out the hard way that I have needed more than once.
The 600 has been replaced with the 610. The upgrade includes an increase from three gigs of internal memory to four.
The next step up is the Montana 680. This model features an eight megapixel camera built in, allowing you to document the trail with high definition pictures.
The Montana models 610t and 680t come preloaded with 100K Topo maps. Look for the small “t” by the model number indicating that enhancement.
There are other makers of GPS units, but I ride with a Garmin because I have found it to be the easiest system to navigate. Coupled with the Garmin Base Camp program on my computer, I can download tracks and save them to ride another day.
When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down, and learn how to use a GPS — it will only add to the adventure.