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Premium Member
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Using a GPS on your ATV.

All of us here at ATV Torture like to ride our ATV, UTV, dirt bike, etc., in the wilderness or you wouldn't be on this site.
Some of the ATV riders here, myself included use a GPS unit. But why? and how do they work?
I'm sure we all have our different reasons but let me explain how the GPS works and why ATV riders like to use them.

With out going too deep into the history of GPS (Global Satellite Positioning) I will say that its was invented for military usage by the DoD and is now maintained by the US Air Force.
GPS capability was introduced to the public for our use some time in 1994 and had 24 positioning satellites in space. There are now a total of 32 GPS satellites operating in space.

The GPS system is a very complicated system of satellites and computers but unless you are an engineer, I am not, you only need to know a little about this system.

When you turn on your GPS unit it begins "looking" for available satellites. The GPS unit is a receiver only and does not transmit any signals. When 3 GPS satellites are located the GPS receiver can give you your approximate location. The accuracy will increase as more satellites are located. It takes a minimum of 4 satellites to give you a location with altitude.

Your GPS receiver will not only place you on a map at any particular location, but will also trace your path across a map as you move. These traces are called bread crumbs. If you leave your receiver on, it can stay in constant communication with GPS satellites to see how your location is changing. With this information and its built-in clock, the receiver can give you several pieces of valuable information:

  • How far you've traveled
  • How long you've been traveling
  • Your current speed (speedometer)
  • Your average speed
  • A "bread crumb" trail showing you exactly where you have traveled on the map
  • The estimated time of arrival at your destination if you maintain your current speed
I have used the "bread crumb" feature many times in unfamiliar territory to find my way back to camp.

There are many manufacturers of GPS units and many websites that will give you reviews so I won't go into that here. I will say though that when you buy a GPS for your ATV you should consider a few things.
1. Mounting: Does the GPS have a handle bar mount or a mount that will suit your mounting needs.
2. GPS receivers come in many sizes and shapes, and have many different features and come in a variety of prices. Choose only what you need. All the cool buttons and color touch screens are neat, but they add to the cost. I personally use a Garmin GPS V. Its Black and White and has minimal options but does exactly what I need.

3. Make sure it sure it's water and dust tight. *Only needed if you take your ATV outside.
4. Power: Check the expected battery life. Make sure it will run a few days on batteries. Make sure it has a DC cigarette lighter plug or another method to run it off of the ATV power in case batteries die.
5. Can you export the saved tracks from the GPS unit and import them into mapping software or Google Earth. Usually a .KMZ or a .GPX file. It's always exciting to download your tracks to a map and see how much territory you covered on your ride.


What are longitude and latitude?
When looking at a map, latitude lines run horizontally. Latitude lines are also known as parallels since they are parallel and are an equal distance from each other. You can remember which lines are latitude if you remember that they climb the map like a "latter (ladder)", lattertude if you will. The most popular latitudinal line is the equator which is 0 deg. latitude.

Longitudinal lines circle the earth from North to South. The vertical longitude lines are also known as meridians. The most popular longitudinal line is the Prime Meridian located in or near Greenwich England is at 0 deg longitude. The Prime Meridian and it's opposite, the 180th Meridian, create the International Date line which separate the Eastern and Western hemispheres.

To precisely locate points on the earth's surface, degrees longitude and latitude have been divided into minutes (') and seconds ("). There are 60 minutes in each degree. Each minute is divided into 60 seconds. Seconds can be further divided into tenths, hundredths, or even thousandths. For example, the U.S. Capitol is located at 38°53'23"N , 77°00'27"W (38 degrees, 53 minutes, and 23 seconds north of the equator and 77 degrees, no minutes and 27 seconds west of the meridian passing through Greenwich, England).

I hope that this short tutorial has helped a little. There are a ton of websites that you can learn from but the best thing to do is get a GPS and play with it.
 

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The Boss
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4,362 Posts
Great info. You mentioned uploading your info into a .KMZ or a .GPX file. This I always thought was a great feature. In fact, we are looking to implement a mod to hopefully allow this mod on the ATVT website.

Great write up!!!
 

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The Sheriff
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1,827 Posts
Great guilines DesertRat.

I would also like to add another point to consider when buying: Some GPS units comes with detailed streets and maps already included. Others have basic maps but require you to purchase additional software for $100 or more to have detailed maps of streets. When I purchased my Garmin C60CSx, which is an awesome unit by the way, I assumed b/c of it's high price tag, it would have had detailed maps. Well, it did not and would not even show my home's street in a local neighborhood. I had to spend $129 on the City street and maps software for it to get the detail that anyone would expect, and it was around $400 for the GPS itself. It was insane to me to realize after paying that price, that I would have to buy additional software to get normal, around town streets, in a non-rural area.

So, all that being said, ask the sales person ahead of time what sofftware is included before you buy, and ask him/her to deom it for you.

Buster
 

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Premium Member
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148 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Great guilines DesertRat.

I would also like to add another point to consider when buying: Some GPS units comes with detailed streets and maps already included. Others have basic maps but require you to purchase additional software for $100 or more to have detailed maps of streets. When I purchased my Garmin C60CSx, which is an awesome unit by the way, I assumed b/c of it's high price tag, it would have had detailed maps. Well, it did not and would not even show my home's street in a local neighborhood. I had to spend $129 on the City street and maps software for it to get the detail that anyone would expect, and it was around $400 for the GPS itself. It was insane to me to realize after paying that price, that I would have to buy additional software to get normal, around town streets, in a non-rural area.

So, all that being said, ask the sales person ahead of time what sofftware is included before you buy, and ask him/her to deom it for you.

Buster
Good point..
When I got mine I new it was only going to be used on my ATV so I didnt want any street software. But GPS units are so versatile that you can use them on your ATV then put it in your car to drive home or get around a city that you are not familiar with.
 

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Premium Member
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148 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Great info. You mentioned uploading your info into a .KMZ or a .GPX file. This I always thought was a great feature. In fact, we are looking to implement a mod to hopefully allow this mod on the ATVT website.

Great write up!!!
That would be awesome,,,
One person could upload the file from their ride then we could download their tracks and either load it into Google earth or possibly into our GPS receiver.
It might be pretty cool to sit here in the west and retrace your ride through the Hatfield and McCoy trails.
 
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