By Lynn Seldon
April 1, 2004
Upside: On the water or dry land, this is a great GPS.
Downside: Do you really need a GPS at all?
Rating: ^^^^ (4 out of 5 peaks)
Ideal User: Any paddler (or paddle trip leader) heading out anywhere, anytime.
I'll be the first to admit that I have a fascination with maps. I love looking at them, remembering previous trips and dreaming of future ones. That's true whether the map involves water, land, or a bit of both.
Lately, this fascination has grown to include those little GPS units. I used some of the early consumer versions of these (brand names best left unnamed), but found they had little use beyond a bit of novelty.
However, the new breeds of GPS units are coming packed with a ton of memory, features, and usefulness that's made me look again. I like what I see.
This is especially true of many Magellan products (full disclosure--I already owned their SporTrak Color, which I've used for hiking, paddling, and just playing around--with maps, of course). Thus, the Magellan SporTrak Pro Marine had particular appeal to me.
Similarly shaped and styled like other Magellan units, the Pro Marine comes packed with features (though, if you're like me, you'll quickly want to add more).
Here's a laundry list of features you may or may not like and use: 32MB of built-in memory, including a 15MB mapping database from Navionics, complete with waterways, navigation aids, buoys, beacons, lights, fog signals, radio/radar stations, and highly detailed coastline information; 17MB of available memory for downloading enhanced marine data, cartography, and additional geographic regions using Magellan MapSend software (which you can guess I love doing); tide and current data with graphs showing high and low tides at certain areas; a decently large high-resolution display (but this ain't your computer monitor folks); and a rubber-armored waterproof case that floats when dropped overboard (my favorite feature, from personal experience).
What do all of these features mean? Well, most importantly, you're unlikely to get lost when paddling in unfamiliar territory (even basic compass functions can come in handy--believe me, I know!). But, I've also found a GPS is a great thing to have along on any outing--whether you're on the water or land. One feature paddlers will love is the ability to use it when exploring somewhere new once the kayaking is completed for the day.
This unit debuted last year. The only reason I gave four peaks instead of five is the lingering question of whether you really need a GPS at all. I'm a map junkie, so there was no question of my needing a fix. I know there are others out there.
My bottom-line is that if you spend time on the water (in small boats or big), plus pursue other outdoors stuff like hiking, I'd recommend this as a good all-around GPS choice.