It’s not every day you get to say thank you to the U.S. Department of the Defense, but here’s something you can thank the DOD for: GPS. GPS, which stands for “Global Positioning System,” was originally created for the US military so they could more accurately fix targets overseas at a cost of $12 billion. They originally called it NAVSTAR (Navigation System with Timing and Ranging), and although they only entered into mainstream civilian use relatively recently, they’ve done so with a vengeance. As GPS units get smaller and less expensive, they’re finding their way into more cars and boats, and even into the hands of some intrepid travelers. In this article, we’re going to explore whether you’ll want to take a GPS unit with you when you travel.
Because GPS tells you almost exactly where you are, they can be incredibly useful (if not indispensable) to people who work in the fields of mineral exploration, wildlife management, and cartography, just to name a few. But, as mentioned, GPS units are getting cheaper and smaller as the years go by, making them more accessible to everyday travelers who regularly trek into the wilderness, climb mountains, or who just really like knowing where they are at all times. You can spend quite a bit on a GPS unit if you want, but most of the units that would do everything backpackers and other travelers need range from $100 USD to $700 USD.
Why You Should Bring a GPS System
- Extreme outdoor activity: The number one reason to bring a GPS is that if you will be completing any intense outdoor activity, it’s usually a lot safer to have one. Because even if you take all the precautions, you might still get turned around – with a GPS unit, you should be able to find your way home again.
- Tech-geek: Just because you’re not embarking on a trek through the Sahara doesn’t mean you don’t covet a GPS unit, so for those of you who are tech geeks, the fact that GPS units are slick toys is all the reason you need to get one. With a GPS unit in your bag, you can mark your favorite routes, figure out how far away you are from home and even get directions to the restaurant. Dave Rogers also touches on this subject.
Why You Should Not Bring a GPS System
- Unnecessary: Guess what? If you don’t have any plans to climb a mountain or go trekking alone, there is no reason to have a GPS system. It’s another expensive toy that would take up space in your bag.
- It’s illegal: Even if you do decide to bring your system, make sure that it is legal to have one where you are going! As Ken Cochrane points out, GPS systems are still advanced technology in many non-Western countries and may be regarded suspiciously. Russia is one example where GPS systems are illegal.
Should you bring a GPS unit with you?
BootsnAll Sez: While it may be fun to look at the screen every forty seconds and say, “Ooh, look! That’s where I am right now!” we think you should leave the GPS unit at home. If your travel plans change and you decide to do some remote wilderness trekking after all, you can usually find a place to rent a GPS unit for the duration of your trek.
Recommended GPS Units
Of course, we know some of you won’t like our answer, so if you still want to bring a GPS with you on your trip, here are a few we think are worth looking into.