Hand Held GPS Units

The following is some information about hand held GPS units that I obtained by asking people on the birding-aus mailing list, and the web sites that they pointed me to.

There seem to be a few models that fit the bill.  The Eagle Explorer, the Garmin 12XL and the Magellan GPS 2000XL are the newer models, with the Trimble ScoutMaster being slightly older.  The Garmin 12XL is a later and superior model than the Garmin 38 and Garmin 45XL.  Note that Birds Australia in Melbourne will soon be selling the Magellan units.

The better units are 12 channel units (which means they locate faster and are less likely to lose their locks to the satellites).  They all have about 30 to 100 metre accuracy which is the best that can be achieved due to the US DoD SA (Selective Availability) option, unless you have differential GPS (i.e. a fixed base station to calculate corrections) which is not applicable for this application.  They have the ability to connect to a PC to upload/download coordinates, but this is not a feature that I need.  They can store 200 to 1000 locations.  The battery life seems to be a useful consideration with units varying from 7 to 24 hours.  The unit should preferably display the remaining battery life.  Water resistance and water proofing is another feature that you should consider.  Some units display the sunrise and sunset times for the current location.  A couple have an odometer so you know how far you have walked!!

There is a lot of information about GPS and the available units on the internet, although not very much specific to Australia.  The sci.geo.satellite-nav USENET newsgroup is the main discussion group.

In general, the reviews available on the WWW use the Garmin 12XL as the standard, but recommend the Eagle Explorer over the Garmin 12XL, unless battery life (6.5 vs 10 hours) and water resistance (rain proof vs water proof) are critical factors.

Some of the web sites are :


I tracked down suppliers for the various models in Perth.  I started by checking the online Yellow Pages at http://www.yellowpages.com.au and searched for 'Global Positioning'.  I finally went with the Eagle Explorer.

One piece of advice : Ring around the larger fishing tackle shops.  I bought the Eagle for $355 (compared to the RRP of $449 which is the going price at GPS retailers).

Copyright Frank O'Connor 1997-2002 Visits Last Modified 31st January 2002