My First GPS

It’s probably worth taking two minutes to explain about my GPS navigation device. As usual I have gone for something a little different, a little bespoke.

I use Memory Map for route planning. This is a Windows PC application for which you can buy many different OS maps – these are provided by Ordnance Survey and look exactly like a paper OS map, just on the screen of your PC. Country Walking and Trail, both use Memory Map in their published routes each month. I have most of the UK National parks in 1:25,000 scale and all the UK in 1:50,000 scale.

Routes you create in Memory Map are shown as a blue line and walks recorded by the GPS are shown as red lines (see screen shot).

Memory Map

Memory Map in action

Memory Map comes with a version of the product for use on a Windows PocketPC compatible PDA (handheld computer) and as I have had various PDA’s over the years it was an easy step to install MM on the Pocket PC. My PDA is an iPaq hx4700, which has a fantastic high resolution screen and comes with a Compact Flash memory slot as well as a Secure Digital memory slot.

Recently it has been possible to get GPS receivers which will plug into a Compact Flash (CF) slot in a PDA, meaning that the PDA has full GPS capability, through a communication port provided by the CF slot. These GPS cards are available on ebay for as little as £30, however my initial experiments with this cheap card were less than satisfactory, so in the end I spent a little bit more and bought a branded receiver from a well known manufacturer. This works brilliantly, it gets a satellite lock very quickly and maintains it under difficult conditions. It even works in the house!

SysOn CF GPS Card

SysOn CF GPS Card

Putting all these elements together, I have a high resolution screen in the palm of my hand showing a 1:25,000 scale OS map with my current position pinpointed. If I have produced a route in Memory Map and transferred it to the PDA I also have a blue line overlayed on the map showing the route for the day. As I walk a red line is written to the map recording the current speed, height, time, position etc. This is called a track.

When I start walking, the GPS extrapolates the movement and produces a red line (which varies in length depending on how fast you are walking), pointing in the direction of travel. This is similar to taking a compass bearing, because in itself GPS cannot display a compass bearing.

 

When this is enclosed in a waterproof case such as those produced by Aquapac, I have an electronic substitute for paper maps. Generally this system is deadly accurate (to within 10 yards) and makes navigation so much more simple. Not least I am free from having to fold my map (or worse still change maps) several times a day.

It is not a fool-proof alternative to a map and compass though, battery life is limited and instead of changing maps mid-way through a walk I generally have to change batteries instead. If disaster strikes I always carry the appropriate OS map in my pack along with a waterproof map case.

All My PDAs

Left: iPAQ hx4700 - Centre: iPAQ hx4700 in Aquapac case - Right: iPAQ 214 in Small Whanganui Aquapac

Update: The case shown above is the old version supplied by Aquapac and to be honest, was always a little too small for my PDA. They now do a much better case (called the “Small Whanganui“) which is longer in the body and has a clearer case. This can be found on their web site, here. At the time of writing, this case was £15, inc. VAT and delivery.

Update #2: Advances in GPS devices has meant that it is now possible to get a GPS device that will fit into the SD card slot of a PDA, this makes them much smaller and lighter and also compatible with a wider range of PDA devices, as you no longer need a CF slot

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  1. Oleg says:

    how do you installed this syson cf gps card in to the ipaq 214? i have bought the same card and the device doesn’t recognise this card, this driver was made for older windows mobile versions… so you found the right driver for ipaq 214 windows mobile 6.x? of you downgraded the ipaq 214 OS to windows mobile 2003?

    • lonewalker says:

      Oh my, it’s been a while since I used that device 🙂

      From memory I seem to recall that the iPaq device didn’t recognise the memory inside the sysonchip card but it would read from the GPS receiver when you loaded Memory Map (or some other GPS software).

      I used the standard OS provided by HP on the iPaq and the latest driver I could find for the sysonchip card, which still wouldn’t allow the iPaq to read the on board memory.

      Other than that I can’t really help I’m afraid. It did work for me, without any major hacking.

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