My GPS Setup:
Garmin GPS 60
- Garmin GSP60 reciever
- Plug-in cig adapter for power + battery back up for when the engine is off
- Gilsson MCX auxillary antenna mounted on hood.
- National Geographic TOPO! mapping software.
When shopping for a GPS receiver about 2+ years ago I just wanted something to map the trails. I already knew where I was going so I just wanted a recorder, pretty much. The GPS 60 was the cheapest I could find that had a good built-in antenna, and the WAAS stuff to help refine the signal and it also interfaced with my Mac. I could turn it on, run the trail, then hit record. Very simple and straight forward. I really didn't want a lot of features. Also, being that it's hand held I can take it with me outside of the Jeep easily. That said, if I were to get another one I wouldn't mind a color screen and ability to load topo maps onto the unit. Garmin has some other GPS60 series units that have more features and I'd look at those.
As nice as the GPS 60 is, it's compromised by the need for the small built-in antenna. Factor in the fact I didn't have a good mounting spot (I had it dangling from my rear view mirror) AND the dense tree cover in the NW and signal reception was a bit of a problem. On the Reiter run there'd be some significant gaps in signal coverage. Not a big enough problem but it was there.
Gilsson MCX Auxillary Antenna
Wow. HUGE FREAK'N DIFFERENCE in signal strength. This antenna gives similar performance to Garmin's own external antennas but it retails for ~$23 instead of Garmin's $99. It was simply amazing how much the signal improved with the use of the antenna. I figured I was getting at minimum of 3 times better reception and probably averaged 5-6 times improved reception. Before I'd get strong but partial signal on 2-3 satellites and maybe a full-bar signal on another. With the Gilsson antenna I'd get 5-6 full solid bars of reception and another 2-3 very strong partial signals. It'd also take just a fraction of the time to pick up the satellites that without the antenna.
Also, the antenna has a 9 ft wire and magnetic base. I was able to stick it on the hood where it had an unrestricted view up from the Jeep. This also let me stick the GPS 60 receiver in my cup holder where it was significantly more secured and much less annoying. The antenna cable was thin enough to run through the weather stripping on the passenger door.
National Geographic TOPO! Software
What can I say. . . it works. But it's very clunky. I like that is uses the 7.5' USGS base maps and that you can turn shading on for improve map readability (helps define the contours and land shape). But the software tools really suck and are difficult to work with. I've found work-arounds to speed up and ease the use of the software but it's just poorly designed. Unfortunately, it's the only software that I know of (at least at the time I bought it) that works on the Mac platform.
For the Reiter Map (and what I'll do for the Evan's Creek map) is import the GPS data into TOPO! to get the trails mapped out over the base raster map images. Then I'll re-trace the routes if needed to clean them up and get continuous trail routes (instead of cut up into separate sections we ran at different times). Finally, I'll select all the trails and change their line colors to what I want. And I'll generate some extra content such as the elevation profiles, note trail milages, and any 3D perspective views. All this gets exported into Photoshop where the final map is composed. Icons added, text written, borders drawn, titles typed, etc.