In 13 years of teaching GPS classes I have had very, very few reports of a GPS receiver breaking or failing electronically. What I do hear about is battery power draining at the worst time.

I’d offer a few suggestions:

  • Batteries will generally last for a reported 20 hours of continuous use; more on that shortly.  If you just turn it on, mark a waypoint, and turn the receiver off, the batteries will last quite a while.
  • I prefer the Duracell and COSTCO alkaline batteries.  I have found that cheap batteries don’t last as long and require replacement more frequently.
  • If a GPS receiver can use Lithium batteries that consider that option and do check the owner’s manual.  Lithium batteries are more expensive but last longer and work better in cold temperatures (down to -40°F).
  • Carry a spare set of AA batteries.
  • I keep fresh batteries in my GPS all the time, though I am reading more frequently that this is no longer needed.  That said, because of my SAR responsibilities and the frequency of my trips, fresh batteries are always loaded.  It’s my personal preference that “works for me.”
  • If you have an older receiver such as the Garmin 12, keep batteries in it always.  The four AA batteries keep the internal lithium battery charged.  The internal lithium provides power to retain saved waypoints and tracks.
  • Features such as the backlight, audible tones and electronic compasses drain a set of batteries.  On many models the electronic compass can be turned off by pressing and holding down the page button.  Manage your power needs.

I don’t have a baseline for rechargeable batteries.  My suggestion would be to keep extra’s on hand and really “wring them out” over a full day to see how well they work.  Do this before your trip afield; remember, it has to work for you.

I keep my GPS powered up all day when in the backcountry.  I download my track and waypoint data at the end of a hike to my Terrain Navigator software. This gives me the best historical record of my outing.  Usually batteries become drained after a full day and it just simpler to change them out as I get my gear ready for the next day.  

A fully charged GPS is a wonderful tool that complements your backcountry experience.  Remember, even though you have the latest and best receiver, always take that map and compass on every trip.






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