Global Positioning Systems (GPS) FAQ's
In the past decade, Global Positioning Systems have changed the way people explore both the wilderness and urban settings. They have also improved so dramatically that someone who used a GPS system ten years ago will be blown away by what the newer ones can do. Many cell phones are starting to have GPS devices and topographic maps can be downloaded to some of the units. There is no doubt that having a GPS unit can help you stay on track and be very useful for finding your way on any adventure.
Can I go into the backcountry with just a GPS Device? Although the technology continues to improve, even if you have a GPS unit, you should still learn how to use a map and compass and have all the appropriate maps with you when you travel in any wilderness area.
What is GPS?
A little about Global Positioning Systems (GPS): GPS is a global navigation satellite system that was originally introduced by the United States. Long before there were navigation units, the United States Department of Defense put twenty-four satellites into orbit to help the military. In the 1980's, the satellites were opened to public use and several companies began developing technology for personal navigation. The devices pick up the signals from the satellites which are constantly orbiting the Earth and use triangulation to figure out where the user is. The devices can tell latitude, longitude, altitude, and time. Today, the same twenty-four satellites are still being used but the technology has improved so much that the units are even more accurate and have an incredible number of applications.
There are so many GPS devices out there, how do I know which ones are good?
Some of the most respected GPS device manufacturers are listed below. More and more companies are making high-tech devices and software you can download to your iPhone (or other smart phone), and much of the software is free and very accurate.
Garmin: http:// www.Garmin.com
Tom Tom: http://www.tomtom.com (also supplies software for smartphones)
National Geographic Maps: http://maps.nationalgeographic.com (also a provider of software for phones)