Tag Archives: handheld GPS units

Garmin Montana 650T Review – A Handheld GPS for Adventurers

Last year Garmin introduced three new handheld GPS devices for the Montana range.  There was the new 650T, 650, and 600 all of which come with an extra large 4-inch display and as well as offering voice guidance if you wish to also use it in your car as a standard GPS.  However, its main use is for those adventuring in the great outdoors.  Read on for a review of the Montana 650T detailing the functions that make it a cutting edge outdoor GPS handheld that is perfect for adventurers.

Montana Comes with a Large Touch Screen Display

From the outside the Montana 650T does look a bit like the existing Garmin Oregon product. The Montana’s appearance is dominated by the touch screen display which is large enough to be operated when wearing gloves which is perfect for outdoor use in rugged environments.  There is a button on the right edge of the case which lets you regulate the backlight and volume and the casing is very robust as well as being water resistant with all ports are hidden behind solid rubber caps.

Loads of Memory Storage for New Garmin Maps

There is plenty of storage space for maps with an internal memory of 7.35 GB, of which about 3.2 GB is freed up for user data that you generate whilst using the handheld.  There is also a micro SD memory card slot so you can upload additional GPX files such as way points, tracks, and geo caches.

Use the Virtual Keyboard and Clear Display

The 4-inch resistive touch screen display shows a large virtual keyboard that lets you enter text and shows clearly defined maps.  Comparing the Montana to the Garmin Oregon, this screen is almost double the size and has clearly been designed to be used by people who are going to be battling the elements where visibility could be poor.  The backlight is only used when sun light hits the display at an awkward angle but in most scenarios no additional lighting is necessary. The display is far brighter than in any other outdoor GPS device by Garmin. However, this can lead to a short battery life if you turn the display up to full brightness for extended periods of time.

Interestingly, the antenna appears on the back – next to the camera lens – so in order to record your progress via GPS it is usually best to strap the Montana vertically to your backpack straps so that the antenna has a clear view of the sky. If you carry the Montana horizontally in front of your body then you might not get a great reception which could be an issue whilst in dense forest.

Improved Software Enhancements and Easy to Use Menu

The software shows many improvements compared to the old Garmin Oregon and there are many different configuration options that are accessed using a three-page menu structure.  Each page has easy to understand icons which you can slide between using your finger.

The Garmin Montana offers the same features as the other GPS handhelds from Garmin included paperless geo caching, track and GPS navigation, Topo maps, and more.  To load new maps you can use the following types of cards: City Navigator, BlueChart marine, outdoor topographic maps, satellite images, raster, and OpenStreetMap compatibility – if you wish to buy additional maps for your Montana then you should use a Garmin Discount 2012 coupon to save yourself some money.

Comes with a Digital Camera for Geo Cachers

There is also a digital camera included with the Garmin Montana, letting you take photos as you hike.  It uses a 5 megapixel digital camera – this could be good for geo cachers as they can scan a clever hiding place, or perhaps a geologist who wishes to make an image of a new find.

Conclusion: The Garmin Montana is very similar to existing Garmin GPS handhelds, with the addition of a camera and a larger display.  Whilst this might not be enough for existing users of older models to be persuaded to upgrade, it is a superb handheld for people who do not yet own a device like this.  Prices start around $200 US Dollars although you might want to wait until the new Garmin Fenix watch hits the shelves later in the year before purchasing.

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Latitude & Longitude

Thought question: when you are standing at the North Pole, which direction are you looking?

A topic that I think people find a bit confusing is the coordinate systems commonly used in their handheld GPS units. The handheld GPS can tell you your exact location, and this is because cartographers have partitioned the surface of the Earth so that one point can be located with regard to any other point. However, over time they have developed a variety of different coordinate systems to meet various needs.

The most commonly used coordinate system is probably the latitude and longitude grid. This system is based on two 360 degree circles that are envisioned to circle the planet. The first great circle spans the planet from “head to toe,” or along the axis of rotation. The second great circle goes around the “waist” of the planet, at right angles to the axis of rotation, and along the planet’s midline. We call this great circle the equator.

You no doubt learned that a circle can be divided into 360 degrees. The circle of the equator can likewise be divided, but where should we start? The line projected from the North Pole through Greenwich, England, through the equator to the South Pole is the prime meridian. Here, “prime” means “first” or “initial.” The point where it crosses the equator is the starting point for dividing the equatorial circle.

Why Greenwich, England, you ask? This standard was really only recently set, in 1884, when delegates from 25 nations met in Washington, D.C. for the International Meridian Conference. They adopted the meridian passing through the Transit Instrument at the Greenwich Observatory as the “prime” one. You have to start somewhere!

From the prime meridian, we can measure around the circle of the equator east and west up to 180 degrees, covering the full circle. This establishes the lines of longitude (running from the pole to pole) and defines the directions “east” and “west.”

We can divide the prime meridian into its 360 degrees also, and we find it useful to start at the equator and count 180 degrees from pole to pole. So, you can go from zero to 90 degrees in both directions, north and south, and this establishes lines of latitude, and defines “north” and “south.”

Notice that lines of latitude do not converge on a spot—they remain parallel to each other on the globe. However, lines of longitude do converge, at the poles. What this means is that the distance on the ground remains the same between degrees of latitude. But the degrees of longitude get closer together as you approach the poles. In other words, one degree of longitude at the equator is a longer physical distance on the ground than one degree of longitude farther to the north, say in Greenland. This is just an interesting complication of living on a sphere.

And it is because of that complication that I know exactly which direction you are looking when you are standing on the North Pole—no matter how you turn your body, you are by definition looking south. At 90 degrees north there is so other way to go but down (in latitude, that is).

Related posts:
Handheld GPS basics
Basic features in a handheld GPS unit

Recommended handheld GPS units
Latitude and Longitude 2

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