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Help choosing a GPS and learning how to use it.

Hi I am interested in a Garmin GPS . I go on a number of Red Rock scrambles with Meetup groups and am so busy watching my feet I have no idea how to return on my own. Is there a good instruction video on using the Garmin TIA

12 Replies

Hey @losthiker

Here is a link to an REI Expert advice article on how to use a GPS

Here are some tips that I recommend for people to stay found. Staying found is far better than getting lost. 

1) start your hike by finding yourself on your map. Then, as you are hiking, every 15 to 30 minutes find yourself again. 

2) Keep track of the time, and how fast you are moving. This will give you better control on when to turn around, so you aren't navigating in the dark. 

3) At major landmarks, stop and take a look around. The trail will look very different on the return, so make sure you know what trail intersections look like in both directions. 

4) If you get that feeling in your stomach like something isn't right, stop! Relax. Figure it out. This isn't the time to be sprinting in the wrong direction.

5) Always let someone know where you are going and when you will be back, and most importantly who to call if you don't come back. 

Have fun out there, and stay found!

At REI, we believe a life outdoors is a life well-lived.

@REI-BrettF There are maps and there are maps.  The typial road map or the general map in your park brochure isn't going to be of much use on most trails.  The gold standard is a 1:24000 USGS topo map or a map based on them

Learn how to interpret all those squiggly lines.  This is crucial!! 

Many times you will know where you are and thee problem is where do I go from here....The topo map will be more useful than the GPS in that situation.

People managed to return home for many years before GPS.


Totally Agree @hikermor Skills with a map (topo maps in this case) and compass are crucial. @losthiker asked specifically about GPS and I wanted to add some concepts for staying found. 

At REI, we believe a life outdoors is a life well-lived.

I agree 100%!! I'm pushing 70 and grew up learning "Topo" maps that my father swore by, he had one for every square mile of NY, Colorado and more! Learning and knowing how to use one of these and a $5.00 compass will save you heartburn and heartache!! Besides, maps and compasses don't require batteries.


@REI-BrettF ,

Exactly ! My experiences in the wilderness are published in a now on-line book if I may recommend that book through REI if that is allowed. I wrote the book which was originally published back in 2014 through "Create Space"

Title:  "Guide to the Wilderness Experience"


I rave about maps, but GPS is a really sweet tool as well.

Years ago, I was furnished GPS coordinate for a pygmy mammoth tusk exposed on Santa Rosa Island (Channel Islands National Park). With the coordinates, we walked directly to the find - just like that!!

It took three years, but that tusk was attached to a well preserved skull, one of the most complete ever found.  Definitely a career highlight!



I absolutely love working with Map and Compass. I primarily use GPS as "check" for map and compass work. I'll check out your book!

At REI, we believe a life outdoors is a life well-lived.


Thank you very much! I greatly appreciate that you would read my book! Please let me know what you think. I've had about 40 people purchase it over the past years.




@losthiker I just got a Garmin Inreach mini and use the Gaiagps app on my phone.  I usually try to gamify it by planning my route beforehand and picking certain points to find, similar to a scavenger hunt.  I print a map of my area with the waypoints (scavenger hunt items) and leave a copy in my car and one with me.  I know how long it should take to find each point so, if it takes too long, I missed something.  May be weird, but it keepsy kind busy and paying attention to where I am.


Happy trails!