The Garmin Oregon 650 handheld GPS is easily one of my favourite pieces of outdoor kit. It has a huge variety of functions and is incredibly versatile for a whole range of outdoor adventures and activities. Here’s my review:
If you love exploring the outdoors, you’ll also appreciate having good quality kit and equipment.
Good kit can mean the difference between a good and a lousy time on the hills. So I always buy the best whenever I can. For example, the JACS Baby Carrier is a quality light weight transport system which I love.
This is no different when it comes to handheld GPS units. You need a unit that is easy to read and use as well as doing all the things you need it to. This is especially important when exploring the outdoors with your kids.
The Garmin Oregon 650 Mixes Multiple Functions with Ease of Use
I’ve been using handheld GPS units for navigation and surveying since mid 2004. And since then they’ve come on a lot. The original unit I used had no map function and weighed about the same as a breeze block.
Thankfully things have moved on. These days, handheld GPS units are much more portable and easy to use.
The Garmin Oregon 650 is around the same size as an iPhone 4 and has an intuitive touch screen function as well as an optional 8 megapixel camera which is perfect for taking snaps when you’re out and about. It’s also a lot lighter than a brick at around 220g (8 oz).
As soon as you switch on the Oregon 650, you’ll be bowled over by the sheer number of functions. These include a map overlay which can be set to your country/state. I have the UK Ordnance Survey maps at 1:50k scale which provides a good level of detail for most of my hikes. Other features include:
Easy navigation with the digital compass
Hard wearing and waterproof so can be used in all weathers
Track your speed, elevation and distance with the trip computer
See you surroundings in three dimensions with the 3-D view
And much more.
One great function for kids is ‘Geocaching’ where the unit will automatically scan the nearby surroundings for known Geocaches. This is sure to capture their imagination and get them excited about the great outdoors.
Kids these days are much quicker to adopt and use technology and the touch screen really helps them do this. My son is still quite young but enjoyed looking at the map and arrow directions from the 3D view on a recent hike.
Even if hiking isn’t your bag, the Oregon 650 can be used for cycling, hunting and marine sports. This makes it a worthwhile investment if you’re passionate about outdoor adventures.
Using a Handheld GPS Unit for Longer Hikes
A common mistake among inexperienced hikers is an over reliance on their GPS units. The problem with this is that they can run out of batter (the Oregon 650 will do about 8 hours of constant use), or in worse case scenarios they are lost or broken.
If the GPS is your only navigation aid, you’re screwed.
Experienced walkers use the GPS as a support to a map and compass. On a recent solo hike, I was in cloud cover as soon as I reached 500 metres above sea level. Visibility was down to about 50 metres. So I used my map and compass to navigate, using the GPS to check my exact position when I was unsure.
The Garmin can also be used to check your ascent and descent. For example, if you needed to descend along a certain ridge at 700 metres, the GPS unit will tell you exactly when you’ve reached that elevation. If this stops you falling off a cliff, then even better!
If you’re new to the outdoors, I recommend taking time to learn basic map reading and navigation instead of relying on a handheld GPS unit. On longer expeditions, it should be used in conjunction with a map and compass, not replace it!
Let the Outdoor Adventures Begin!
If you’re exploring the outdoors with your kids, I recommend buying a handheld GPS unit to help teach them about navigation, mapping and hill craft. This, along with map reading, will give them a lot of confidence as it did for me solo hiking as a teenager.
I’ve used the Oregon 650 for several years now (and numerous hikes) and I highly recommend it. Amazon has some good prices on this and other similar units – plus I’ll get a small commission if you buy after clicking the link: