Author Topic: Prudhoe Bay to Tierra Del Fuego - What GPS? Any Advice?  (Read 8312 times)

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Offline Fanwaar

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Prudhoe Bay to Tierra Del Fuego - What GPS? Any Advice?
« on: April 05, 2009, 05:24:59 am »
In July i shall be setting off from Prudhoe Bay on a planned 15 month trip down to Tierra Del Fuego.
I'm struggling to ascertain which GPS unit will suit me best. I'll want solar recharging (through separate unit if necessary) the ability to upload a huge range of maps and the capability for my family in London to track my progress. It's proving a headache ... any one done the route and got any advice?


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Re: Prudhoe Bay to Tierra Del Fuego - What GPS? Any Advice?
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2009, 10:08:01 am »
Hi Fanwaar,

General route experience will be easier to find on the larger biking forums, but you can get a good start with Greg Siple at Adventure Cycling, who did the trip long before the days of GPS.

I can help with some of your other questions. First, GPS is a receive-only system. It shows you with great accuracy where you are, but it does not send your location to anyone. For that, you need a cell-phone connection in civilization or a satellite connection (telephone or dedicated to locations) elsewhere. This will be expensive, heavy, and a power hog.

Solar recharging is slow, needing several hours in sunlight, so plan on rigging a couple of square feet of solar cells on your bike somewhere. Get a GPS with removable, rechargeable batteries (most use two AA cells) so you can charge one set while using another. Most NiMH cells--the common chemistry in rechargeable AAs--do not take a complete charge when trickle-charged, but you can probably get a day's riding on a charge.

Consider a small mains charger and about eight AA cells as an alternative. If you can reach mains once a week, charge them all and ride about two days on each pair of fully charged cells. Cheaper, lighter, easier to pack, and much less hassle. Probably more reliable in the rough and tumble, too.

The Garmin line of GPS receivers (GPSRs) has the broadest selection of maps. Canada, USA, and Mexico are well covered. Check their web site for the rest of South America. A GPSR with LOTS of map memory is important. I'd look first at their GPSmap 60Cx. I would buy the maps on CD, not the preloaded SD cards, so I could make a custom set of maps on a computer and write it to one or more SD cards.


Offline gferry

Re: Prudhoe Bay to Tierra Del Fuego - What GPS? Any Advice?
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2009, 01:39:53 pm »
I've been been thinking about a similar trip, but this year it will only be from San Diego to Portland.  I have a Garmin eTrex Vista Hcx and have maps for USA and Europe.  I don't know what to do about points south.  I'm considering using google maps and downloading critical points as waypoints.

I concur with Fred, handful of batteries and a charger.  I think that solar panels will be impractical, as you'll probably be lucky to get a set of batteries charged while you're riding.  I looked into hub generators and the one guy who knew a lot about them (sorry, I don't remember his name right now) said that they don't tolerate water well and they have to be rebuilt after a dip in a creek.  He is going to use batteries and a charger.

Note on power usage of the the eTrex Vista Hcx (and probably all Garmins).  The more track points stored, the more drain on the battery.  The battery drain is double when you store the data to the microSD card.  (Sounds weird, but there are indeed technical reasons for this.)

You're going to want to document your trip; lots of pictures, write in a journal.  But you know this.  If you synchronize your camera's time to the GPS everyday, (camera time will drift) you'll be able to geotag your photos.  From there it is an easy step to create a digital map with digital pushpins showing where every photo was taken.  Eventually you'll get to a place where someone has a computer and you can download your track and photos and then send them to some who can do this for you.

Personally, my strategy is to take a 1.5kg weight hit and bring a small computer.  With all free (not pirated) software and a bit of glue code, I can save a day's track and pictures, then create a web page automatically in 5 minutes.  I'm going to photograph my written journal and download that at the same time.  When I get to a place with internet access, I'll upload my pages to my web site.  for example

I'll be looking forward to following your progress!

Bon voyage,


ps, take a back up GPS, I've had two bounce off the mount, one was two-dimensionally transmorgified and the other is back for repairs.