For my last holiday and for biking I got myself a Garmin eTrex Legend GPS device. It comes with a black and white (well, greenish-grey) display and a basic map of the Americas, the Atlantic and the Pacific. This map was useful enough to find even small towns on the island of Korcula.
The gadget comes without software, only drivers for Windows are included. Linux users don’t need them, all you need is GPSBabel. What’s really annoying is the included RS232 cable to connect the device to a computer. I bought a cheap RS232-to-USB adapter for a few Euros. What computer comes with a RS232 port nowadays, especially laptops?
With GPSBabel downloading tracks from the device is easy:
gpsbabel -t -i garmin -f /dev/ttyUSB0 -o kml -F track1.kml
Now you can visualize the track on GoogleEarth which uses the KML format. With a GoogleEarth Plus subscription (approximately $20/year) you can access the device directly – but this only works on Windows, this feature is disabled on Linux.
Converting the data into formats like NMEA, GPX and so on is as easy, too. It also works the other way round, e.g. if you download a mountain bike track from one of the numerous websites with trails or if you make your own track and upload it to the device for geo-caching.
The device itself makes a robust impression. The GPS chip is not the best, sometimes in the forrest I lose the signal, but it’s good enough and the eTrex Legend is the cheapest Garmin device with a map display. Alternatively you can take a look at the Gecko series from Garmin, they don’t have maps but are built into a nice slim case and are equally affordable.
The eTrex Legend runs on two standard AA batteries. With these you are able to use it for nearly 30 hours – depending on the battery quality. To save the environment I bought 4 AA rechargeable batteries with 2600 mAh and a charger which can be used in a car and with standard sockets at home.
I needed to replace my radio tachometer on my bike with a wired one because it interfered with the device. But I wanted to do that anyways, the tachometer also interfered with my LED lights. What’s the point of a radio tachometer when it is mounted to the bike?