Which GPS unit is best for my needs?

“How dey runnin’?” — Only in Louisiana

Dear Capt. Paul:

I would like to buy a handheld, battery-operated GPS unit. I would like the capability of being able to load detailed parish/county roads and streets, as well as detailed areas of the Gulf Coast and adjacent inland waterways.

Which units are capable of this?

Thanks,Roy Lipscomb

Capt. Paul’s response:

Almost of all of the major brands of GPS units have models that will suit your needs when loaded with the proper mapping software. Most of these manufacturers have a web site that comprehensively covers their line of receivers.

I suggest that you begin by looking at each of these sites for an understanding of what is being offered in today’s market. There are others, but I would start with the three largest companies that sell to the consumer market.

I know that Garmin at www.garmin.com, Magellan at www.magellangps.com and Lowrance at www.lowrance.com all offer features and specifications on all of their units.

In the Garmin line of handheld units, I would begin by using the Garmin GPSMAP 60C or the Garmin GPSMAP76C as a basis for your comparisons. These are the top of the line on both styles of their units. Other units will do, but use these two as a comparison.

These units, when loaded with the optional MapSource U.S. Topo mapping software, are a very versatile package. In addition, Garmin offers a city select mapping product that details most streets, even some of the smallest towns and villages.

For the Magellan line, check out the Meridian Color GPS, comparing it to their other handheld units. I believe that the Meridian Color is the flagship of their handheld units. Yes, other Meridian units will do, but start with the Meridian Color as the basis for your investigation.

Magellan has been offering their Meridian Color GPS in a Travelers Value Package that includes their MapSend Direct Route mapping software, a mounting bracket, a 64 MB memory card and the necessary accessories to connect the unit to your computer for downloading maps and files into your GPS unit.

This, when supplemented with their optional MapSend TOPO in the U.S. mapping program, will more than adequately fulfill all of your auto traveling, hiking or fishing/hunting needs.

The Lowrance iFinder H2O Plus and iFinder Hunter are other units that have an impressive amount of features that would also suit your needs.

I consider the iFinder Hunter to be Lowrance’s top-of-the-line handheld unit. This receiver, when loaded with their MapCreate 6.3 Mapping software, offers a really first-class handheld receiver.

In addition all of these units have the ability to receive the new WAAS differential signals, which increases the accuracy to within 3 meters. Check them out, and narrow down your choice. Then get back with me.

Dear Capt. Paul:

Santa appropriated enough money for me to buy the sonar/GPS combo I have been wanting.So far I have narrowed the search in my price range to either a Garmin GPSMAP 178 or an Eagle FishElite 480.

I think I favor the Eagle due to a bigger display and higher resolution. I think that would lock me in to the Lowrance MapCreate mapping software.

In your opinion, how does that compare to the Garmin MapSource software for our coastal areas? Are there other factors I should consider?

Art Frens

Captain Paul’s response:

You must have been a very good boy this past year for Santa to take care of you with such a choice. Both of the units are really top-flight equipment. Both should more than fill your needs for a GPS/sonar combo.

The Eagle will only take the MapCreate software, whereas the Garmin can only use the Garmin MapSource mapping software.

I have not yet had the opportunity to personally review the new MapCreate 6.3 mapping software, but all reports indicate that is a very good program.

I like the fact that the FishElite 400 can record and store a sonar graph on a data card for later review, but I don’t like the fact that you can only use four data cards with the new MapCreate 6.3, and these cards can only be loaded via the Lowrance brand card reader/writer.

Four cards, if they are of the 256+ MB, should do, but remind Santa that with either unit you will still need the mapping software for that specific unit.

About Captain Paul Titus 192 Articles
Capt. Paul Titus has been responding to G.P.S questions on LouisianaSportsman.com since 2000. He has been fishing and hunting in Louisiana since 1957. Titus holds a USCG license and conducts instruction courses in the use of GPS for private individuals and government agencies.