GPS

Questions, answers, tips & tricks for newbies and veterans alike
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delle
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GPS

Postby delle » Thu Feb 03, 2011 3:39 pm

I read somewhere in these pages that it was possible to use a GPS on-Playa. Although I did a search, I found only passing references in the middle of non-related threads. Not wanting to hijack a thread, I figured I'd start a new one.

Considering that I know absolutely NOTHING about GPS technology, I was wondering if I could get a bit of feedback on the "what and how's" of the units and an idea of cost. (so I don't just buy something really cheap that won't do what I want it to -- or pay way to much for something that does way more than what I really need it for)

So.... what kind of unit should I be looking for (on an already over-depleted budget)... Are there after-market fees to updat, load grids, or to just-plain-use? Can I expect to buy a used unit that might work? Etc., Etc.

Because the truth is, if you cover my eyes and spin me around in my own livingroom I'm likely to get lost and forget what I was originally headed for -- so this kind of appeals to me on some level... fully understanding that I could be happy being lost most of the time. I'd just like to be able to find home-base quickly if need be.
Worry is a misuse of imagination

She had blue skin, And so did he.
He kept it hid And so did she.
They searched for blue Their whole life through,
Then passed right by- And never knew.”

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Zhust
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Postby Zhust » Thu Feb 03, 2011 3:49 pm

GPS is "Global Positioning System" and it works on American military satellites orbiting over the Earth. Therefore, a GPS will work anywhere on Earth where you can see the sky (i.e. not underground). For free.

Garmin is a decent brand. You can get one for under $100 that's pretty good. I had a Magellan (another decent brand) from a long time ago, but it died from the (now fixed) "1024 bug" -- it died 1024 weeks after the satellites were put in orbit because nobody knew what was supposed to happen when they started GPS. So beware of buying a very old GPS (before, say, 2005). More money gets you built-in maps and guided road directions. Car GPS units can sometimes get mad if you're so far off road like at Burning Man. Hiking GPS's let you set waypoints in the middle of nowhere and find your way back to that point.

Cell phone locators sometimes use triangulation between cell towers. If you can get cell phone service at all, it's unlikely that you'll get reception from 3 separate towers, so cell phone GPS probably won't work.

In the end, probably don't bother having one for Burning Man only. It may be fun if you want one to get one.
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delle
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Postby delle » Thu Feb 03, 2011 4:01 pm

Thank You!!!

It was the Garmin Nuvi 1200 @ $87 that got me to thinking that this might be a worthwhile thing to have. I'd probably get 2 (one for my wandering husband as well), but then we'd just have one for each of our vehicles before and after.

Having seen a good amount of home video of the dark nighttime out there, it seems like a good thing to have if it'll work.
Worry is a misuse of imagination

She had blue skin, And so did he.
He kept it hid And so did she.
They searched for blue Their whole life through,
Then passed right by- And never knew.”

Shel Silverstein

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Token
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Postby Token » Thu Feb 03, 2011 4:27 pm

Garmin also makes the Rino GPS/Radio combo for hiking. The entry level ones are in the $150 range if you look hard enough.

The super cool thing if you have two: You can set it up so that the two way radio transmitts the location when you talk, so that the other unit shows exactly where you are. Really cool when you got a honey-do list and a missing honey.

Lots of used ones too. Many service folks took them to Iraq and Afghanistan and are selling theirs after their tours were done.

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Postby FIGJAM » Thu Feb 03, 2011 4:28 pm

The Man is your main landmark.

If you stand on any of the spoke streets and look toward the playa, you can see him. :)
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JStep
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Postby JStep » Thu Feb 03, 2011 4:32 pm

I've been wondering about this too. My street nav gps is a Magellan but it doesn't give me lat/lon coordinates and needs to be plugged into the car, no option to load my own batteries.

Is there a good recommendation for a hiking/geocaching unit that will serve my needs at BM?
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delle
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Postby delle » Thu Feb 03, 2011 5:01 pm

Hmmmmmmmmmm.

That Rino sounds interesting, and opens up a whole 'nother aspect with the radio. Tho I'd have to wonder how well it would work if there were alot of them out there. Does it work on channels? Is the range really as stipulated in the vendors' stats? (I have radios touted to be 5km range that hardly do 100m).

I did find some at under $160, but being twice the budget so far, well.... you know....

I also wonder how defeating of the experience it would be to know we could/should be able to reach each other. Although I can't deny that it would be handy in a crunch, my original thought of the "ooooooh, you won't believe what I'm looking at!" call being a generous one has kind of disintegrated abit with the thoughts of obligation taking over. I don't want to be on either end of a leash, and neither does he, I'm sure. Tho that certainly needn't be the case.


At the other end of the price spectrum, I've found Insignias (INSIGNIA NS-NAV01C 4.3) for just under $60 with free shipping.
Worry is a misuse of imagination

She had blue skin, And so did he.
He kept it hid And so did she.
They searched for blue Their whole life through,
Then passed right by- And never knew.”

Shel Silverstein

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Token
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Postby Token » Thu Feb 03, 2011 5:34 pm

I have both the Rino 110 & 120. On GMRS the range is ~ 2 miles in flat terrain. FRS is ~ 1 mile (lower power transmission by FCC rule). Since you speak km, international models may have different rules/restrictions, eh.

Used is your friend. Try eBay.

BTW, the car GPS units you are mentioning are not a good choice for the middle of the dry lake bed with the closest road 15km away. The car units don't store waypoints of where you've been and the tracks to get you back. Portable hiking units do and are a bit more $$.

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delle
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Postby delle » Thu Feb 03, 2011 5:36 pm

...and then there's the simple Bushnell Backtrack.

Small round unit. Click in home, and a simple arrow shows you which direction and how far that may be....

Simple. But maybe that's all we need.


It's apparently pretty handy for finding your car in the lot during Christmas shopping too. Tho that might be about the extent of it's year-round practicality for us.



Sigh. Too many options. And I've only just begun looking.
Worry is a misuse of imagination

She had blue skin, And so did he.
He kept it hid And so did she.
They searched for blue Their whole life through,
Then passed right by- And never knew.”

Shel Silverstein

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delle
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Postby delle » Thu Feb 03, 2011 5:40 pm

Token wrote: BTW, the car GPS units you are mentioning are not a good choice for the middle of the dry lake bed with the closest road 15km away. The car units don't store waypoints of where you've been and the tracks to get you back. Portable hiking units do and are a bit more $$.


AHA!! Now that right there is Etremely Important, and just the sort of information that I was needing!!!! Thank you!

Do you think that little unit I just mentionned (which is a hiker) might work? It's certainly inexpensive enough.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001F7BKZQ/ref ... B001F7BKZQ
Worry is a misuse of imagination

She had blue skin, And so did he.
He kept it hid And so did she.
They searched for blue Their whole life through,
Then passed right by- And never knew.”

Shel Silverstein

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chris2010
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Postby chris2010 » Thu Feb 03, 2011 6:31 pm

I had my GPS (Magellan Meridian Platinum) running in my Backpack most of the time when I was on the Playa without any problems.

There is also a Burning Man Geocache (http://www.geocaching.com/) even that happens at burning Man. [GC29YVJ] "Cache and Burn III 'Home Again!!'" N 40° 45.947 W 119° 13.659 http://coord.info/GC29YVJ

But I did have a strange thing happen to my GPS on the drive back to Sacramento, on the way back my GPS kept showing that I was at 32,000ft, then would drop back down to normal again, it did this 4 or 5 times. It never did that before, or on the way to the Playa. I've had this GPS for about 10 years, and I never seen that happen before... I will have it with me again this year to see what happens.

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geospyder
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Postby geospyder » Thu Feb 03, 2011 7:23 pm

I use a Garmin eTrex Vista HCx. One of the first things I do when we set up camp is waypoint the camp. In theory no matter where I am I can find me way back to my camp (providing I'm sober). There is a group that also sets up a file that you can download to your GPS that contains a basic map of all the streets, all the porta potties and if they have time, all the major pieces of art. As the time gets closer to the end of August, search on GPS and maps and you should find the details.
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Postby chris2010 » Thu Feb 03, 2011 7:48 pm

geospyder wrote:I use a Garmin eTrex Vista HCx. One of the first things I do when we set up camp is waypoint the camp. In theory no matter where I am I can find me way back to my camp (providing I'm sober). There is a group that also sets up a file that you can download to your GPS that contains a basic map of all the streets, all the porta potties and if they have time, all the major pieces of art. As the time gets closer to the end of August, search on GPS and maps and you should find the details.


I set up a waypoint of my camp as well, but my camp was not hard to find except the one night when we had the bad sandstorm and the GPS came in very handy to find our way home since we could not see 10 feet in front of us.
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phil
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Postby phil » Thu Feb 03, 2011 8:48 pm

I've taken a GPS to Burning Man for years. There's a Black Rock City GPS group on Yahoo (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BRC_GPS/messages),
and somebody posts a GPS map of BRC before the Burn with locations of portapotties, art, and such on it.

The last Burn occurred in a blinding dust storm, and I'd marked the location of our street at the Esplanade, so we could get our bearings and get off the playa without any confusion after the Burn. More than once, we've used a GPS to get back to our camp in a dust storm.

I leave it on while I'm wandering the playa, then I match our track to times when I took photos (Houdah Geo - http://www.houdah.com/), and I can geo-locate photos on Flickr and SmugMug. This often helps us identify art pieces that we can't figure out.

The Man is a great location device when you can see him. A GPS is a great location device.

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Token
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Postby Token » Thu Feb 03, 2011 9:25 pm

delle wrote:
Token wrote: BTW, the car GPS units you are mentioning are not a good choice for the middle of the dry lake bed with the closest road 15km away. The car units don't store waypoints of where you've been and the tracks to get you back. Portable hiking units do and are a bit more $$.


AHA!! Now that right there is Etremely Important, and just the sort of information that I was needing!!!! Thank you!

Do you think that little unit I just mentionned (which is a hiker) might work? It's certainly inexpensive enough.


Yes! That Bushnell might be just what you need.

I might just get one of these as well.

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Lucidvegas
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Postby Lucidvegas » Thu Feb 03, 2011 9:32 pm

Dumb virgin question.....besides dust storms....or even in them, can't you just go to your closest cross streets? Seems like it would be easy.....

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Token
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Postby Token » Thu Feb 03, 2011 9:42 pm

Lucidvegas wrote:Dumb virgin question.....besides dust storms....or even in them, can't you just go to your closest cross streets? Seems like it would be easy.....


*giggles*

Yeah, that doesn't work all the time. Look at the map from last year and you'll figure out why.

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Postby AntiM » Fri Feb 04, 2011 5:20 am

Of course, if you're on anything with wheels, you're not supposed to be rolling during a white out. You may have a GPS, but it won't show you the stationary art or the folks hunkered down. We've been run into, and it is annoying.
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phil
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Postby phil » Fri Feb 04, 2011 9:11 am

Lucidvegas wrote:can't you just go to your closest cross streets? Seems like it would be easy.....


We're not often within the street area, and in the open playa there are no landmarks if you're in a dust storm. As Anti-M says, you shouldn't be driving around in white outs, but for walkers in the middle of nowhere, finding a windbreak is often desirable. Mileages vary.

Additionally, after the Burn, most street signs are stolen. BMOrg has begun putting poles up with street names, but that's a recent innovation.

One other thought. Louise and I were in a dust storm where we literally couldn't see the ground we were standing on. The BLM website mentioned that storm in their after-report, and they said visibility was four feet. Finding a cross street and reading the sign in those conditions is iffy. Of course, you're better off sheltering in place, if possible. Louise and I were in the middle of the playa, and we could hear art cars driving around. I doubt they could see beyond their hoods if they were real cars and trucks. We wanted off the playa.

To each his own. One of the things I like about Burning Man is that people get to take their risks as the want them.

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Postby mudpuppy000 » Fri Feb 04, 2011 9:38 am

Maybe I'm just lucky but I haven't been lost out there or needed a GPS. The rhino's look like they'd be really handy. Also if you have a smartphone you can get apps that will let you do the same thing, although the handheld GPS's are usually better. (longer battery life, easier to "cache" the maps on the device)

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Postby Token » Fri Feb 04, 2011 11:33 am

mudpuppy000 wrote:Maybe I'm just lucky but I haven't been lost out there or needed a GPS. The rhino's look like they'd be really handy. Also if you have a smartphone you can get apps that will let you do the same thing, although the handheld GPS's are usually better. (longer battery life, easier to "cache" the maps on the device)


Smartphone GPS don't work on the playa. Must use a satellite based unit.

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Postby dragonpilot » Fri Feb 04, 2011 11:39 am

Isn't the Garmin Nuvi series just for car street mapping driving directions? Not suitable for the open playa...no permanent streets there.

What you want is a GPS suitable for back country treks like those mentioned above.

IMO a GPS is overkill. There's not that many whiteouts, and when there is one, a simple compass bearing will get you back to the encampment if you're caught out on the deep playa when she blows.
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Postby mudpuppy000 » Fri Feb 04, 2011 11:59 am

Token wrote:
mudpuppy000 wrote:Maybe I'm just lucky but I haven't been lost out there or needed a GPS. The rhino's look like they'd be really handy. Also if you have a smartphone you can get apps that will let you do the same thing, although the handheld GPS's are usually better. (longer battery life, easier to "cache" the maps on the device)


Smartphone GPS don't work on the playa. Must use a satellite based unit.


I'm not sure about all the smartphones but the iphone gps is satellite based. Google maps won't work without a cell signal however. I use motionX gps and it functions like a standalone gps. It sucks the battery dry really fast though.

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phil
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Postby phil » Fri Feb 04, 2011 2:20 pm

> a simple compass bearing will get you back

You're absolutely right. Now -- how many of us here can take a simple compass bearing?

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Postby Elderberry » Fri Feb 04, 2011 2:48 pm

mudpuppy000 wrote:
I'm not sure about all the smartphones but the iphone gps is satellite based. Google maps won't work without a cell signal however. I use motionX gps and it functions like a standalone gps. It sucks the battery dry really fast though.


This is no longer true. Portions of the map are now downloaded to the phone so that if you lose the cell signal you will still be able to navigate.

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Postby Boijoy » Fri Feb 04, 2011 3:08 pm

phil wrote:> a simple compass bearing will get you back

You're absolutely right. Now -- how many of us here can take a simple compass bearing?


Don't you just have to know where your camp is in relationship to North?

I use dust storms as an excuse to meet new people. :)
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Postby Bounce530 » Fri Feb 04, 2011 3:29 pm

phil wrote:Additionally, after the Burn, most street signs are stolen. BMOrg has begun putting poles up with street names, but that's a recent innovation.


This past year, I noticed the sign stealing started around Wednesday, and after the burn people were stealing the hand writen street signs I was putting up in my 'hood.
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Postby skibear » Sun Feb 13, 2011 11:29 am

Every year near BM someone posts a data file of the streets in a format
that can be placed in a Garmin GPS. Don't know if it can be translated
to Magellen or others.
HTH

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phil
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Postby phil » Sun Feb 13, 2011 11:55 am

skibear wrote:Every year near BM someone posts a data file of the streets in a format
that can be placed in a Garmin GPS


That's what I use. It's very handy and accurate.

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Postby junglesmacks » Sun Feb 13, 2011 4:44 pm

FWIW, I never had even a bit of problem finding my way around in the dark.. even in whatever random altered state I may have found myself in.

The playa becomes a very discernible visual map once everything is lit up.. bit time. Between the corners and the man, you have your basis right there. The first thing you should do is walk directly out from your main spoke street and see what major visual landmark you should be using later at night. That way, all you have to do is scan the horizon for that one cue, and walk towards it. Simple.

As the week goes on, you get to know every single minute little cue on the horizon, and it just becomes second nature.

Now, for individual art project waypointing or camp waypointing, that's another subject. That could be fun..

Just, don't think that you'll absolutely have to have one to survive..
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