By Ian Knott
While so many modern mobile phones have GPS tracking included, mobiles can be fickle beasts at the best of times. Imagine relying on your phone to get you out of the bush and your battery suddenly dying.
That’s why regular trampers and outdoorsy types need a dedicated mobile GPS navigation system on hand in case of emergency.
The good people at Lowrance have the Endura series of handheld units that not only serve as GPS devices, but also include multimedia and networking capabilities for those quiet moments. All the units run on 2 AA batteries, so if you’re going to make full use of the feature they have on offer then packing plenty of spare batteries is essential.
There are three products in the Endura range, but I’ll be taking a look at the ‘Out&Back’ which is the entry level model and the ‘Sierra’ – the high-end flagship model of the range. The mid-range model – the Safari, doesn’t seem to be available in New Zealand.
Smartly designed for easy, out-of-the-box use, the Out&Back’s straightforward menu makes navigation simple. Its large 6.8cm colour transflective touch-screen allows for easy viewing and operation, and its pre-loaded mapping content with key land features such as lakes, rivers, primary roads and key Points of Interest (POI) provides accurate situational awareness.
Out&Back is also easy to customize, including a recording option that saves trails and routes allowing quick recall or sharing, a geocaching application providing paperless geocaching with Geocaching.com and power standby to conserve battery life as well as provide quick restart.
The Out&Back supports a wide range of optional mapping content. Like all Endura handhelds, the Out&Back accepts public domain files and community-based content such as GPX trails, routes and general outdoor POIs.
A trip computer and route recording tracks performance to share with friends or web communities. Sport specific trail content is available for purchase online for hiking, mountain biking, skiing, kayaking, offroad/ATV, and many more.
This model has a picture viewer for viewing photos loaded from computer or web or for use with trail cameras and has a mini USB port for power and data cables.
Designed for versatility and sporting the same 6.8cm vivid touchscreen, Sierra provides never before seen expansion capabilities. The device contains over 3GB of preloaded mapping content and provides a micro SD expansion slot supporting up to an additional 32GB of storage for mapping, pictures and MP3 audio files. The pre-loaded content includes Intermap’s AccuterraTM topographic maps, extensive outdoor trail networks and Points of Interest. In addition, Lowrance is compatible with a full range of optional mapping content including Fishing Hot Spots®, LakeMaster, and other national and international map content. Fully customizable and like the Out&Back, the Sierra accepts many public domain files and community-based content such as GPX trails and general outdoor POI’s.
The Sierra has sensor enhanced navigation with digital, stabilized 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter. The trip computer displays trip distance, altitudes, trip times, current speed, average speed, and time to destination.
For those nights spent in lonely huts, the Sierra can play MP3 files, display pictures, and play video files (utilising the inbuilt speaker or headphone jack) – for entertainment or viewing trail camera photos and video loaded using the mini USB port.
Both Endura models – the Sierra and Out&Back are waterproof to IPx7 standard which means they can remain in 1 metre of water for up to 30 minutes.
I must admit that my only experience with GPS has been with mobile phones and in-car navigation, so there may well be similar/better/cheaper models out on the market – I don’t exactly have a point of comparison. But I can comment that the Lowrance Enduras gave me a definite feeling of security with their rugged, reassuring build quality and pinpoint, rapid updating positioning and navigation.
My only reserves were the out of the box user-friendliness (easily sorted by a scan of the manual) and the fact that both units took about 40 seconds from being switched off to boot into the main menu system.