Stuff - Garmin handheld GPS (15)

If you asked me two years ago if I was an “outdoorsy” kind of guy, I'd have said no. And honestly, if you asked today I'd give the same answer.

I suppose once you take on cabin-in-the-woods living you have to own up to a certain amount of outdoorsy-ness, but most of what I do is aimed at making me more comfortable in nature, not just appreciating it. I can't stand tents; long backcountry hikes don't really do it for me; and at the end of the day I am a fan of our new-fangled climate-controlled homes.

But as I've learned to embrace being outdoors, I've also learned about an awesome side perk: Gear. 

Whatever your adventure is – hiking, rock climbing, van-living or going it off-grid – there's just certain stuff you need. Stuff that needs to work, rather than look pretty all the time. Stuff that gets used, banged up, dropped and broken and fixed and used again and again.


Turns out this is a direction, not a location. That, or I actually bought land in Russia.

Turns out this is a direction, not a location. That, or I actually bought land in Russia.

This isn't really a gear review blog, but there are some items I use over and over again –  things which have become essential, which work, which solved a problem or make life better or whatever. And the little eTrex 10 GPS device from Garmin is definitely one of those items. 

You see, I lost the fourth pin. Two of my property markers are on the road, and easy to locate. Another, I'd forged a wide path up the eastern property line to reach. But that last marker was elusive – I'd found  it walking the property with the real estate agent, groping our way through rose scrub and snow. But since I closed on the purchase, I hadn't been able to find the pin and it was driving me nuts.

At one point I'd sworn to cut a path all around the property, to each pin. But I got sidetracked on the last leg and cut a nice trail about 20 feet into a neighbor's land – I'd feel bad, but you can tell no one has been out here in many years.

The survey map had some coordinate-looking numbers on it, but entering them into Google Maps brought up a location somewhere in Siberia. 

It turned out, the numbers were not locations but directions – bearings. So for about $80 I bought this little introductory GPS device, stood on the third pin, plugged in a heading and distance, and started bumbling about.

Pin found, in about 4 minutes.

I have no sense of direction. Combined with the overgrown, neglected state of this land, it can be difficult to navigate. But using the little GPS, I've started creating a map. There are open groves on the land, guest campsites, the property markers , things like that – when I find them I just drop a pin with the Garmin, and then add them to a custom Google Map of the land.

It's a work in progress, but it's really helped me have a better understanding of where I am on the land, how much space I have, how close I am to the neighbors … and now I can find all the pins.

The eTrex 10 was cheap and that's why I bought it. The user interface is basic, antiquated and awful. But it gets the job done.

Posted on June 23, 2015 .