GPS Receivers


New member
Seems to me that the perfect toy for a travelling Westfalia owner has to be a GPS unit.

There are standalone units and others that interface to software packages like Delormes AAA MAp n Go.

Anyone have any experience with GPS units?

Capt. Mike

/infopop/emoticons/icon_frown.gifI guess, as the poor ship's captain that was given our company's very first Satelite Navigator (what they called GPS back then), I'll forever be stigmatized by how overrated they were. I'd see spreads of 2 miles from a dead set docked position. My sextant gave more accurate fixes. Over the years, they've come a long way and are now quite reliable from a travelers point of view.

But . . . they also have severe limits. Latitude & Longitude are fantastic reference grids -- too bad 99% of our land map makers are too stupid to include them on the land maps. Especially to the degree required for GPS use. Those little 5° Latitude lines in a Rand McNally are 300 nautical miles apart -- about 350 landlubber miles. Ask your favorite camp spot what their Latitude & Longitude are? They won't know and probably haven't the foggiest clue as to what you're taking about. So GPS is very limited -- not in its ability to locate you -- but in its ability to give you usefull info you can immediately feed back into the maps available.

I have several DeLorme packages(without GPS); I use it regular with mixed success. It's fine for first rough draft of a trip. It makes cute maps of destinations if they are in the city. But it also has a huge number of errors, particularly in remote areas. Major roads are missing or pure wrong, reference topography and detail are sketchy, and the working packages like Map & Go and Street Atlas don't have useable grids. Map & Go is even missing such needed info as rest stops, and can't differentiate between towns so a little unknown crossroads might be on the map while a major metro area is missing.

And again, Latitude is in Nautical Miles and Longitude is a proportion of Latitude -- only a true mile at the Equator. DeLorme's Topo package is a rip off -- poor design and near impossible feature to use. It shows hills & valleys in the middle of a lake! It's missing so much of the road grid and reference landmarks as to be useless for navigation purposes.

The newest GPS's are available with built in reference charts, and therein is probably their saving grace. At least they put you on some sort of map. But I wouldn't expect major detailed "you are here" output. You notice they always show downtown LA or something in their ads -- never the boonies where we take our Westies!

I'm not going to say GPS is a waste -- if I'm lost or have a medical emergency, I'd love to tell the rescue chopper where I'm at in Latitude & Longitude -- he understands. But don't expect too much. A good compass and detailed maps are more valuable.

[This message has been edited by Capt. Mike (edited 06-03-2000).]


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Funny you should mention it but I just wired in my Garmin to my Westy... They are good for those who know how to use them and know how to make to with available information.. as Capt John says road maps are not charts so as I go along I create and log waypoints... this is the way commercial fisherman around here lay traps and mark good fishing holes... you must build your own data base at least for the time being... there is a company on the west coast called noble teck that has some wicked good programs for boats and sooner of later someone will get the idea and put one together for Westy routes... that being said I find mine quite useful it is a good compass and a good trip log caculator and a good speedometer it will give you range and bearing for what that is worth ... it is good if you are a crow or just want a general idea just how far and what direction it is from here to where... I carry boat stuff with me incase someone asks me to crew... These include a good pair of light intensifying Binocs with a built in bearing compass .. a hand held vhf radio (mine is an Icom M-11) .. my own life jacket and saftey harness.. and my non skid coffee cup.. all of these I find use for in unexpected ways while I am Westying about... I probably would not spend the money if I did not already own the stuff for sailing.. I suspect that knowing your way around a gps will be more handy as time goes on... sort of like these computers we all type messages on


New member
R e:"The newest GPS's are available with built in reference charts, and therein is probably their saving grace. At least they put you on some sort of map. But I wouldn't expect major detailed "you are here" output. You notice they always show downtown LA or something in their ads -- never the boonies where we take our Westies!

I was looking at some of the newer GPS models that allow you to download maps from a cd-rom. Seems that these models would offer the best possibility of detailed maps and the ability to add newer maps as they become available.

Then I saw the prices!! Think I'll wait a while until the technology and pricing are more in line with my expectations and wallet.

Actually this GPS bug has been pat and parcel of my annual vacation planning. I pull out the maps and the Map n Go and think of how much fun it would be to have a new toy. Then reality strikes and I decide that I can live without it. At least until next year!!


[This message has been edited by JohnB (edited 06-04-2000).]


New member
I just loaded Microsofts Streets and Trips 200o and the program has a lat long feature... ie you type in the lat long and it brings up a map of where you are ... and pretty quick too... I also went looking for some road wise gps ... inthe new Camping World catalog there are several... hugely over priced gps for highways... they tell about being voice activated and that technology has not impressed me yet... maybe next year... they are also basically gadgits... the soft ware is new the prices high... I will play with my $200 garmin gps and the Microsoft map program for a this years sojourning...


New member
Yes, Microsoft Streets & Trips seems to be a great and detailed and inexpensive map package. There is a mode in which it displays high-resolution lat and lon of any spot clicked on. It claims to accept input from GPS units. I have a used Magellan 410 handheld GPS (their top of the line at one time). It's instructions, partiucularly for the accessory Map CD are practically unintelligible. Using its internal map (which must be uploaded from the CD every half a state or so for detailed maps) is impossibly slow to use for any route inputing. I don't know how to use it. I'd like to hook it up as an input device to Streets & Trips but don't know how. Magellan's website doesn't help. Any help here?


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Back when I was a probation officer in Northern Arizona, we used to go out onto the Navajo Reservation. We used some of my old aviation sectional charts combined with a GPS the department gave us. It came in handy, especially when we were way out near that place in Egypt they are always talking about. :rolleyes:


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I am an army guy and we use World Geodesic Survey Maps with either standard or issued GPS to an accuracy of +/- 10 meters. The commercial GPS is actually much more accurate than the army "pluggers". The whole secret, as stated above is getting good maps. They can be ordered through USGS - United States Geodesic Survey(I suggest the WGS 84 datum) - located either in Rolla, Missouri or in Reston, Virginia. There may be more, but those are the only two I have been to. Anyway, its a great place to get very detailed maps and as a Corps of Engineers guy I have used it many times to assist in manuevers. Good luck and happy camping!!!

Alexander Bullock
85 Westy


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I may be mistaken, but weren't the first "civilian" GPS recievers subject to errors due to the US military including a built in error in the signals? The military recievers could de-code the error, but the civilian ones couldn't, resulting in errors of up to 100 feet or so. I believe this was to foil any "enemy" who wanted to use the GPS navigation system for some evil use. However, this error was removed in 2000 or so (presumably, if you are smart enough to use the GPS for your evil plot, you are probably smart enough to correct for the built in error!), and now civilian GPS is as accurate as the military recievers (+/- 10 feet or so). This may be the reason for Capt. Mike's scathing post on GPS accuracy.

Capt. Mike

Time marches on and my post discussed the GPS/Satellite systems of the '80s. I'm willing to bet 'Government built in error' is one of those 'won't die' myths because civilian systems long before 2000 had developed into acceptable accuracy for general shipboard navigation. In fact doesn't a military poster above state the civilian market was better than military back then? And I wasn't talking a couple hundred feet -- I was talking MILES! The improvements in accuracy are acknowledged in the post "Over the years, they've come a long way and are now quite reliable from a travelers point of view."

What I was attempting to point out to is the general lack of good maps for the automotive market and the difficulties of translating GPS's latitude & longitude into reference-based road map use. Even the computer-based systems -- I have DeLorme's -- have significant limits.

I still watch the GPS market, and will probably invest in one when the prices pass from 'tech groupie' to mass market. (My first VHS was $1100; the replacement $99.95! My company's first Satelite system was $15,000!) By then, I hope we'll also have continuous upgrade downloads, much like your computer virus programs, so the year-plus lag in mapping improves, too.

My post is not a condemnation of GPS accuracy; it is to remind users be sure they know its capabilities AND ITS LIMITS. When I research for GPS (and did so again not long ago) they all talk about their pluses but are grossly negligent in talking about their limits. (Also see the topic on "DeLorme . . ." in this forum.)


New member
Yes, the government did, and still has the ability to make civilian GPS units less accurate, its known as "Selective Availability." Ex-President Clinton had it turned off towards the end of his administration, and to my knowledge it still is. Additionally, many maps are now giving what is known as UTM grids, or Universal Transverse Mercator. UTM is a metric, originally military grid system that breaks down the earth into 1000 meter grids, and gets smaller by tens. Once you learn to use this system, its accurate down to almost one meter, and its a lot easier than trying to divide by sixty for lat and lon. Almost all GPS receivers on the market now will also convert lat and lon to UTM.

I prefer old fashioned map and compass for most navigating; however, if there is a certain camp spot you need to find, or remember where it is, a GPS is very handy. Most of the handheld GPS units are difficult to use in a vehicle, as the viewscreen is too small. Last time I checked, there is a unit called an Eagle View that has a large screen, but I don't know if it has any new mapping functions.


New member
I have the Delorme GPS for my laptop...easy to see...easy to use...I don't have to wonder where the next exit is at...or where am i NOW........I love it....I bought mine off I have the map on my harddrive....get a USB adapter so you do not have to buy batteries....and buy a charger for your laptop...and enjoy


New member
Garmin builds both inexpensive GPS units (eTrex is only $99) and units for vehicular navigation. The units for navigation have a large display and come with software that is uploadable into the unit for the area you need a map for. You enter the address (not lats and longs but the actual legal address) of the place you want to get to and it will voice prompt you when you need to turn. I have the eTrex unit with a serial cable/auto adapter that allows me to hook it up to my laptop.

I have used it in conjunction with Microsoft Map Point (software that is not only updated on a regular basis with street and highway information, but also with construction information for your route via the internet). A good example was this summer my wife and I went to Vancouver and got terribly lost. I pulled out the laptop and the GPS and within minutes we knew where we were and what we needed to do to get to where we were going. My only wish now was that I had a PDA instead of the laptop to provide a smaller interface.

'85 VanagonGL Westy
1.9L Wasserboxer


New member
I have a Garmin Vista GPS, a small handlheld model. Althought I purchased the GPS for hiking it has become a must have in my 87' Westy as I travel the highways and bi-ways. Using Garmins auto mount ( and 2 small pieces of surgical tubing ) the GPS mounts right behind the steering wheel, only blocking the digital clock on the instrument panel. The display is perfect as you drive, maps, speed, locations, etc.
I use the GPS as my primary map while traveling and to mark favorite camping spots so I can tell freinds where they are or find them again myself.
It's also perfect for exploring Idaho's southern deserts where there are many roads and few landmarks to navigate by.


New member
Ihave a great PDA (Compaq 3955, PocketPC). Do you know if the Etrex works with a Pocket PC? thanx.. tom

[This message was edited by Capt. Mike on September 30, 2002 at 07:49 AM.]


New member
There is a cable adaptor here:

that will hook into a serial adaptor cable for the Compaq PDA. I haven't tried it personally, but did notice it.

There is a GPS receiver that will hook up directly to the Compaq IPaq. They have it here: would probably have it as well.

I have ordered off of GPS City Canada and have had excellent service.

Hope this helps.

'85 VanagonGL Westy
1.9L Wasserboxer


New member
I'm a newcomer to this website, but a several-years user of GPS in the '86 Transporter I drove all over Europe before recently travelling back in time to an '81 Westy Joker. I have a tray mounted on the dash which holds an IBM ThinkPad with a Garmin GPS receiver plugged into it. Microsoft Autoroute Express gives me a constantly self-updating map, to whatever scale I choose, following my predetermined route. The maps are not perfect, but they've been remarkably useful, including small one-lane dirt roads in the Spanish and Portugese hinterlands. I've learned to estimate my probable speeds with enough accuracy to bring me to my end-of-the-day destination within about half an hour. Travelling alone, it has made life infinitely easier, and travelling with my wife (using GPS instead of asking her to navigate), it has saved my marriage! :)

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate similar topics.

JohnB Webmaster Member Posted August 06, 2000 10:55 PM

Had a lot of fun with my new gadget.

During our latest trip I hooked my eMap GPS (Global Positioning System) into my laptop.

I used Map n Go 6.0 software and I got voice intructions as well as the appropriate map on the screen everywhere we went.

Map n Go provided campground and sites of interest as well.

This is what vacation travel should be. No worrying about maps, and when you get lost, nobody to blame but yourself or the computer.

My wife loved it!

Too bad it didn't say anything when I backed into that tree.

Capt. Mike Tech Writer Super Member Posted August 07, 2000 10:15 AM

Heck, if it wasn't for getting lost, I wouldn't have found half the neat places I've been!

My smart-aleck wife bought me a shirt the other day that's got the cartoon Tazmanian Devil character on it, eating the map and the motto "Real men don't ask directions."

That's me; just my compass, knowing the sun rises in the East except in months ending in 'r', and a stubborn conviction my destination is "just over the next hill."

PS: It's the tree's fault for failing to properly register it's location with the GPS folks!

Ed Pullen Member Posted October 24, 2000 10:59 PM

I agree about getting "lost". I recently made a very large U-shape trip from Salt Lake City (where I bought my Westy), up through Idaho into Montana, up to the NW corner (within 50 miles of Canada) around Libby, then across to Seattle, then straight down (sure felt down when I got home) through Eugene and finally to the Monterey Peninsula. Where is this story going? I got specific driving directions from Yahoo!, which were legit until it came time to head north to Libby. I ended up on somewhere between 20 and 30 miles of logging road. NO 2WD VEHICLES was posted about 2/3 of the way through. It was mostly 1st gear stuff, and I even drove under fallen (probably not felled) trees that spanned the road, and the branches tickled the poptop. Anyway, the weather was fabulous, and I saw river and canyon views that I would never have seen otherwise - believe me, breathtaking is a mild description. This also happened in Baja a few decades ago. In that case, I sort of wish I would have had a GPS. The consequences of getting lost down there can be harsh.

Mrdi Member Posted November 10, 2001 09:05 PM

You're never lost in a Westy, just destinationaly rescheduled.


Yukon_girl Member Posted May 29, 2004 10:10 PM

You're only lost when you can't find your way back to your Westy!!

1990 Westyru (Westy with a Subaru engine...)

Mike Robinson

New member
Garman nuvi nav screen

We have just come back from an 18 day trip down the westy cast to California. Great trip. Made so easy by the purchase of a Garman nuvi. Just buy one!

Never buy a map again, find everything, gives excellent instructions, cheep what a great product!

Ever wondered where the next gas is? - this will tell you, and the next food store etc etc etc

Driving through San Francisco - piece of cake.

Westy Diesel 1.9TD


New member
Hey there,
I'm new to these forums and am finding tons of great info. What a great site.
Since we recently got a GPS, I'll add my thoughts.
We used a Garmin Nuvi 760 on a trip to Vancouver Island and it was awesome. I tried a TomTom XL340S first, but returned it because of a lack of memory [it didn't even have enough memory to update the map]. After using it and getting familiar with how to use it, I don't think I'd want to tour an unfamiliar area without one. It's actually easier to explore around when you have an active map in front of you and you know you can easily find your way out of somewhere. You can see what roads are dead ends or lead to the beach, etc. before you turn down them.
If you're in the market for one, do your research and find out what features you want and need. Spoken street names is a must in my opinion - it's a lot easier to keep your eyes on the road that way.
That being said, not all areas are accurately mapped yet, so it's still a good idea to have map handy. I still needed mine once or twice and was glad I had it along.