‘URGH, your embracement of technology insults me’ – Someone, Somewhere.
Those of you that have read the ‘about the human’ section of this site will know that I’m a self-confessed ‘new-age’ outdoorsman. I see no issue with embracing technology and progression to better present the outdoors to the masses. Everything from fancy membranes in our boots, to the brightest L.E.D torches you ever did see, each step forward in technological advancement makes our adventures that little bit more enjoyable and a whole lot safer.
That said, some of the old guard will still have you believe that technology is the devils work and is not to be trusted in the great outdoors. Many a time I’ve found myself being the recipient of many-a-tut because I’ve used my phone out on the trail or spoken highly of my Gore-tex boots.
Out of all the divisions though, there is one that I find will polarise most people’s opinions; GPS’s.
I’m no stranger to using a map, and I often find myself using one to ensure that my skill doesn’t fade; but there is something nice about being able to just look at a screen that isn’t your delicate £1000+ smartphone and know exactly where you are, where you’re going and how long it will take you to get there.
This technology can take a few different forms; your smartphone + app, a full featured GPS system, or a lightweight GPS tracking system. This gear review will be taking a look at the Garmin GPSMAP 66 Series (a full featured system) and I aim to do a write-up on the smartphone + app combination to help you guys make an informed decision with this technology.
I personally don’t believe this technology reduces the skill involved in our outdoor activities, more supplements them to allows us to focus on our surroundings and occasionally picking up rubbish from the last lot of reprobates that passed through!
The Garmin GPSMAP series is an extremely rugged, button operated assortment of devices that, in its most recent form of the 66 series, offers a huge range of trail-specific features in a single removeable battery powered offering.
The first thing you’ll notice when hands on with the Garmin is the impeccable build quality of the unit itself. From the soft but rugged rubber surround to the all-metal twist-loc battery hood catch, everything on the device is clearly purpose built to withstand pretty much anything you could reasonably throw at it.
The screen itself is large and bright – my eyes seem to be failing me at a rate of knots and yet I haven’t had any issues seeing the screen clearly in the bright sunlight. The buttons are well spaced and far more responsive than your typical touchscreen, which is absolutely amazing on those cold days wearing gloves. The sensors lock-on incredibly quickly, showing clear orientation of the device on the maps
At first, set-up can be a little overwhelming – there are a lot of different options and interfaces with this device. However, once you get into the swing of things and how you like your device to function, it’s an absolute breeze. I can import pretty much any route/track I want from any source in the form of a .GPX file and the Garmin preps the route and sends we on my way in seconds. The device also takes standard AA batteries, further reducing your reliance on big battery banks and the like. I’ve found the battery life to be in the 10/12 hour mark of continuous usage (dependant on batteries used), with a power saving ‘trail’ mode available if you need more.
One thing that will be aggravating is the price; it’s not cheap by any stretch of the imagination – the version I’m currently using (pictured) is the 66S, which retails at £399.99 and is the ‘base’ model of this series. Now, if you are like me, and pretty much insist on having access to Ordnance Survey mapping too, you’ll be adding a few more hundred to that before you know it. It’s safe to say that, had it not been for a very generous family and a combination of Christmas and birthday gifts, I certainly wouldn’t have the pleasure of using this unit just yet.
You can install open source maps for free, which are certainly not to be scoffed at these days, and the link I have provided below takes you to the ordnance survey website where they’re currently providing a free TOPO Pro 1:50k bundle with the purchase of this unit!
If you’d like to charge the batteries internally using the supplied cable (I.E. not remove them), you’ll be shelling out even more of your hard earned for the dedicated battery pack that is capable of this. I’ve just bought a job-lot of Duracell rechargables with the charger and they do just fine.
But with that said, I’m struggling to put a finite value on the benefits this system brings to my hikes (and my mountain biking, more recently). When I’ve used hard paper maps in the past, I’ve become obsessive with staying on route, reducing the risk of catching myself out with sunlight fading. Since I’ve started using this device, I’ve started taking that lesser trodden path to see where it ends up; safe in the knowledge that a quick glance and re-orientation using the Garmin will get my right back on track if needs be. It’s often these lesser trodden areas that we find the most breath-taking moments, so that’s surely priceless!
All-in-all, the Garmin has helped me spend more time enjoying the surroundings and adding new layers to my activities, without any sort of fear of damaging it or letting me down at any point, something that is lesser said about our expensive smartphones.
- No squinting necessary with this large, sunlight-readable colour display.
- Multi-GNSS satellite support shows the way, and ABC sensors point you in the right direction.
- Maps as pretty as a picture and just as detailed.
- See the peaks and valleys clearly with TopoActive Europe maps.
- Having Active Weather is like having your own personal weather forecaster on every journey.
- Explore more with up to 16 hours of battery life in GPS mode and 1 week in Expedition mode.
- Download high-resolution photo-realistic maps directly to your device without an annual subscription. Easily find trails, pick stand locations, find parking, create waypoints and more.
Recommendation Rate : 85%
Garmin GPSMAP 66 Series – 66s – Available at Ordnance Survey with free Topo 1:50k mapping!