Ultralight GPS Units

I don't normally bother with a GPS. It doesn't quite fit my ultralight principles. The extra few ounces that I could live without – as I would not leave map and compass at home.

However, Backpacker Magazine is looking for volunteers to help gather some mapping data and write-up trail guides/accounts. I agreed to do this for the our Wonderland Trail hike in July. To do so, I need to bring a GPS to track coordinates and record way points.


So what do I buy? Here's my criteria:

– As light as possible.

– Can log up-to 10 days or 100 miles of data.

– Has enough battery life for 10 days.

– Altimeter

I don't care about maps and fancy color screens. Lithium Ion rechargeable models are obviously out due to lack of recharge ability.

After a bit of digging around, it looks like the Garmin Geko 301 is coming up trumps.

It weighs just 3.1 oz with batteries – and has a run-time of 12 hrs on two AAA's. We will be planning a few resupply points – so shipping in some extra batteries should be no worries. Retails for $246.

If anyone has a better idea, I'd love to hear it…

3 thoughts on “Ultralight GPS Units

  1. Peter

    Do you really need a screen and an altimeter for your purposes? If not, have a look at GPS loggers. This one for example: http://www.qstarz.com/Products/GPS%20Products/BT-Q920-F.htm weighs only 2.1 oz with battery, and most of these things are less expensive than a full-blown GPS. On the other hand, I’ve used Garmin sets for years for fieldwork and I’ve always been very happy with them.

  2. Sarah

    The Foretrex’s are nice but….and a huge but! They don’t work in tree cover worth squat. I have a Foretrex 201 and use it on open trails to help train myself with speed. But all it takes is minimal trees and bam, no signal. You also have to be fully locked in before you start – getting full 3D coverage.
    Fun for training, but not everything you will need!

  3. brett Post author

    Good tips – Peter – I’ll look into the logger idea more – it’s a good one.

    Anyone had experience with the Forerunner 405? https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?pID=11039# ? Neat that its a small watch form factor. I could probably deal with the rechargable Li battery with some AA-powered USB-charge transfer hookup.

    I wonder how well the forest reception is with these? Not something that the marketing brochures talk about much 🙂

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