Discussion: What are the best GPS units for orienteering training and analysis?
in: Orienteering; Gear & Toys;
I'm interested in people's views on the best type of GPS units and software currently available for orienteering tracking, analysis and coaching.
The units seem to be getting smaller and less expensive and several elites are now using them in Australia (and probably other countries also).
I have a Garmin ForeRunner 201. It's probably not the "best" (since it has older technology than the newer 205 / 305), but it was inexpensive -- US$112 on amazon.com
in late 2005. Trouble locating satellites in forested areas is a common criticism, I think -- but I've hardly ever had that problem.
Vmeyer showed me how to overlay my GPS tracks on an orienteering course map using shareware called GarTrip
. I don't think GarTrip is especially user-friendly, but it gets the job done. It's pretty cool (and sometimes embarassing) to see where I deviated from my intended plan, where I wandered in circles, etc. Here's an example
of the GarTrip + GPS + O-map output. (This is my least embarassing example, since I only had only major snafu from 14 to 15...)
Also, I think newer versions of RouteGadget
will allow you to import GPS tracks, but I haven't tried it.
I bet vmeyer will have some good input for you, since she has the newer ForeRunner 305...
You don't have forests where you live, Brooke. Wait until this weekend, then you'll see a forest (although there won't be any leaves on the trees)(and it's still relatively open, as forests go).
I bought the Garmin 305. I have only used it in a couple of orienteering events, but have used it to measure my distance and where I go in parks quite a bit. Last sunday I used it for a test run of an O course, and I do not know if because I had it on auto-pause (where the clock stops if you are not moving, such as a stoplight) or whether the forest canopy was too dense in some areas, but it did not track accurately where I had been. I have now taken it off its autopause mode (not good if you want to use it for timing splits at orienteering, since the clock stops when the unit does not detect any motion, or actually that may be a good thing, as my times will come down drastically since it eliminates all my hesitations and very slow climbing up wooded hillsides). The software that comes with it is pretty primitive, but you can use MotionBase site for free, and that has a nice feature that with one click, it will show you on Google Earth where you have been. I have tried once importing my GPS route into Route Gadget, but since O maps are not exactly correct, you end up fiddling with a lot of points, and probably do just as good a job drawing your route by hand. However, if you really did not know where you went, then it would be very helpful.
If someone is interested, I could write something about the issue (how and for what we use them).
There is lots of tools and sites going around GPS, either for navigation or analysis (to the point it is difficult to find one and only one satisfactory for your purpose). To date, the best and most useful (already cited) are in my opinion :
SportTracks, for conversion, log, quick analysis
CompeGPS (Land), for detailed analysis (esp. speed variations)
(unfortunately not totally free, you have to pay for the interesting plugins :))
GPS Visualizer, a web site which offers free conversion between many formats (including Google Maps), and lots of option (including speed variations, but not as good as CompeGPS)
Woops, here is the rest:
By speed variation, I mean a colour-coded drawing of your trace depending on your speed (gradient : red = fast, blue ) slow). I find it is a very neat feature of CompeGPS, here is how it looks on one of my race:
A smaller portion with a better resolution (you can see on some controls an offset between my trace and the circle center, but the trace is accurate relative to itself - the map is not GPS-made)
If you can read French, here is a document comparing the relative precision of the FRx05 and FRWD
Jagge: I would love to read about nice uses and limits of GPS tracking.
Jagge - I have been thinking about getting myself a Garmin 305, but would like to hear your thoughts first. A GPS tracker is only worth it to me if it can reliably follow my routes through the forest and also if these routes can then be easily uploaded into Routegadget. How user-friendly are these GPS gadgets and how long does it take to transfer the data from the unit to Routegadget?
I'll try to post something. Mainly about how, for what and why (but not much about tools). And it will be just what we do, and maybe not the best & smartest way. But an example anyway and something to start with I hope.
my home computer is a mac. does anyone have a link for software that will transfer garmin 205 history to mac. the in box software was for PC.
I have a 305 and have found it to be a very useful tool for road training (both running and cycling) where I want to run tempos at a specific pace on a course I haven't measured (I got the 305 over the 205 because tying the HR data to pace is also useful). I've run in the forest with it and found the tracks to be reasonably good, but I wouldn't say it gives me any more information than I already have - the track seldome deviates from what I draw in from memory (and it is technically against the rules to wear it during a race - although that rule is not enforced, even at A-meets in the US).
From a running standpoint, I'd put it in the category of "nice to have" training aid (as opposed to a regular watch, which is more of a neccessity). For orienteering, it's more in the category of "cool toy".
On a related note, I'll second the recommendation on SportTracks. Way, way better than the junky software that Garmin ships with the unit. Could still be improved in many ways, which is why you should go ahead and register it rather than using it for free. We can't expect these nifty programs to keep popping up if we don't support the people who write them.
well, do you find it really useful? I think I won't pay hundreds of dollars only to know where I get...I think the best solution is writing down your way by hand on the map...you will notice the mistakes anyhow (may not be that precise, but you certainly can understand the reason why you had a mistake)
Don't know, maybe they are much more useful that what I imagine, tell me, but I'm still skeptical.
sit2much: Garmin is beginning to offer a better support for Mac. There is a version of their soft since february and a web client since march. But... I don't know if there is other software, since those seem too simple sometimes.
Could Brooke, Valery or someone else outline how to combine the track and an ocad map using Gartrip? My attempts at importing, clicking here, selecting there, haven't gotten me anywhere.
Well, drawing your route in by hand after your run is excellent training. Seeing the tracking and laying it on the map is just a cool thing to me. I do like my toys.
But I don't think I could have recreated this wild route on paper after the event:
Though I didn't need the tracks to tell me that I was totally messed up most of the three+ hours I was out there.
Sure, Tom. I'll send instructions your way.
In case someone is not reading my AP blog:
is some of my O runs I have done with gps (this is not the analysis thing, this is just for fun).
is my 6 km road test run blog (uncorrected gps tracks).
sit2much: in addition to the links posted above for Garmin support for MacOS X, you can also transfer your tracks into Google Earth (also free). You can overlay your O map onto Google Earth and then put the tracks on top. You can also exaggerate the elevation. It's neat, though that's about it as far as navigational training is concerned. I've found that when drawing my routes (which I always do before looking at the gps tracks) I seldom have significant differences from what the GPS indicates.
For other training purposes it (I have a 305) can be pretty useful, mainly for keeping a speed over a distance. Instataneous speed isn't very good but you can watch average speed over a split. Total distance is generally very accurate, too.
This thread has been up a few times before.
I have a FR301 and am happy with it. It is now old though and the replacment 305 has a better acuracy around trees so this would be one to look at.
It is more expensive than the older range though.
Ah, Valerie, I had almost forgotten that course at BV. I didn't have a Garmin, but it would have revealed many of the same excursions you took if I did. I too spent a lot of time on that nasty hillside between 1 and 2, and I had similar excursions hunting down 3, 4 and 8. Definitely one of the worst. It would certainly have been entertaining to have it all memorialized by GPS, because I would be ill pressed to draw it. Besides, if I knew where I was I wouldn't have been there!
Ah, the fond memories of BV - besides the disastrous navigation - the rain, the cold rain, the rocks made wet by the rain, the sight of half of the green/red runners on the wrong hill in the rain. :)
I think vowing to improve my technical ability after that event was my turning point. It may not have been as clear to me without the tracks.
I have a GARMIN GPS60 and I'm doing some tests with it. This receiver often loose the signal if you are under trees or in deep valleys. But since when I added and external antenna, the signal quality is improved.
I used it during an orienteering race last Sunday. The receiver was fastened to an elastic belt, while the external antenna was below my hat (it was a cold day so the hat was worth to have).
Here is the resulting track:
OK, here is an example
how we analyse our O technique using gps. Like I said, nothing fancy, nothing special. But also very easy to do, no special computer skills needed and no need to do long data processing. And there may be better ways to do it - this is only how we are used analyse/check what a ???? we did in the forest.
Excellent examples Jagge. Nicely illustrates that the new information is not where you went (you should be able to figure that out in the post mortem unless the leg was really bad), but where you lost time. This could uncover a lot of "time bleeds".
I used Mike's Forerunner 201 at a recent meet. I didn't know it could track time spent "not moving". I was shocked at how much time I stood around staring at the map. Very useful feedback, for me. I'm bringing it with me to the next two meets; I hope I spend less time standing still.
I added now somethig about my lastest race, in Barbate, Spain.
I find it kind of ironic that the GPS helps find out where you were long after the fact.
Also, I was wondering why the no-GPS rule is not more strictly enforced in orienteering? I realize that it doesn't really help too much, but why have the rule if it's not enforced? In AR, no-GPS rules are taken very seriously.
21.3 During the competition the only navigational aids that competitors may use are the map and control descriptions provided by the organiser, and a compass.
What it comes to me, I don't use it, I only wear it. And the way I carry it, it's not a navigational aid, it's just 65g of extra weight: I carry it on my back, inside a little bag/sock (without it's own starp). I can't see the display at all, I can't even push buttons too easily. (BTW, you ge better satelllite reception if you use it like this)
I think the reason for the lax rule in orienteering is that GPS doesn't even help a little bit unless you are so bad that you have no chance of placing well. That's not true in AR. AR maps are typically gridded and the coordinates of the checkpoints are given. Heck, you could save 10-20 minutes by simply not plotting the points at all and letting the GPS do the fine nav into the control. Also a GPS is a lot more useful on a vague map at night than on a detailed map during the day.
That's true. The unit alone doesn't help at much, you need to do some additional cheating to get any real advantage.
I think the best way to cheat with current Forerunner models is if one person with early start time runs the course with it first, takes splits (=saves waypoints) at each control. At finish he hands the unit over to a friend who a late start time. He uses the route map & waypoints to navigate or he runs as he normally does, but if he is uncertain he checks the right direction from the unit screen. It's quite easy and straight forward to do with current units.
This could be done also in relays with no / only little forking.
Wow, I'm a little concerned at how well you've thought that through! :)
Wow, I'm a little concerned at how well you've thought that through! :)
hel vino >> It´s a vest weighing 113 grams according to the Tracking info
from last year´s Tiomila. I haven´t seen anything for this year yet...
Based on the feedback, it sounds to me like the best ones currently on the market are the:
- Garmin Forerunner 305/205, and the
- FWRD types.
Any thoughts on the pros and cons of each?
Garmin Forerunner 305 can be purchased from prosportwatches.com
far cheaper than what you can buy in Aus. WA athletes have bought from website this model and we use them quite often for training.
Compatable with software such as sportstrack (tranfers an overlay onto google earth), o Track (orienteeting map software where multiple data streams can be inputted), routegadget plus others. Garmin can give u feedback pretty much instantly but i think the other (FWRD)needs to be downloaded after onto computer to retreive anything.
Bruce, the Garmin 305 is great, but they do have their problems. Mine has died and am waiting for a replacement. I bought mine from youprice.com.au
for $400 about 6mths ago. Good price, but had to pay $55 to get a replacement thru GME australia, or send it back to USA
Bruce, I ran an AP thread on this in December, and ultimately purchased the 305 from Prosport in the US - cost was less than AU$400 - probably cheaper now with the AU$ going up to 83c - it was 76c when I bought it. This is much cheaper than the discounted price advertised on the AO web site for the FRWD. Delivery took about 2 weeks. There is a thread on the Cool Running web site, showing that several CRs have had their faulty 305s replaced for free very quickly by Prosport. However, so far no problems with mine (or any others in WA as far as I know).
I bought my 301 in Melbourne, thinking it valuable to have a local supplier if there were problems. However based on contributors to Simmo's AP thread I bought a 305 from Prosport at a considerable discount to local quotes (<<$400 AUD) and delivery time was less than 2 weeks compared to 10 weeks quoted from local supplier. (Delivery by international courier with Internet tracking)
You need to weigh what features you want from a GPS Tracker. e.g. Do you need pulse rate reporting? A lot of people don't use pulse rate and buy the significantly cheaper unit. Or they use a separate sports watch/pulse monitor.
The analytical tools described accept input from a number of different GPS data formats/devices. It is the computer based tools which are the real value for analyses, although you can set up a training session on the GPS unit with preloaded pulse ranges, speeds, exercise times etc.
I'm just a little concerned that we are seeing a biased sample with the contributors to these threads. Are there only Garmin users out there?
It may not be the most recent thread on GPS (here it http://www.montebellosoftware.com/
: non free, limited use, just took a look - decent interface and may be less buggy than the one below
: well first it's free (or donation-ware if you want), second it has some amazing capabilities I had only seen on pricey tool (Compegps) or cumbersome (gpsvisualizer). That is : coloration of trace by speed/elevation/HR... Superposition of custom map sample. It seems to get elevation data from USGS?
Granted, it has some limits right now:
- buggy, often crashes, but data dont seem affected so it's ok
- the software is always responsive but some updates do not appear automatically
- no smoothing on all data, like pace
- adjusting a custom map is just a pain, because you have to play on 5 different variables by trial and error (although it didn't take me that much time to adjust one, perhaps 5 minutes)
The interesting thing is that those limits are mere simple bugs or requested enhancements.
Haven't bought one yet but did get to borrow a 305 at our last event. I made sure I had a pretty good day knowing the pressure was on, as my route would be downloaded for all to see.
I made one mistake (90 seconds). Looking at my map I assumed both on the run and even afterwards that there was a subtle gully that didn't show up on the map. Either that or I had been a long way short of where I thought I had been. Guess what the GPS showed. The map was correct and I had seriously under run.
I feel that these devices can make a real difference to orienteers that are still learning. At elite level they are probably less valued as a tool as elite make less navigational mistakes (don't you?).
I'm somewhere in the middle and do have some disposable cash so I'll probably buy one - maybe the 405 when I know more about them. It would be good to have a couple available to club members to borrow at events, I'm sure it would be quite revealing and useful if they discussed the results with experienced people.
I'm surprised JJ has not mentioned some $50 GPS recording units he showed me. He has one which he uses to record his hang gliding flights. He has some software which puts in onto Google Earth.
Here is what he uses, the Royaltek 3800 GPS datalogger.
There are a few other brands as well. Looks like many are made for photography!
The one I have is the RoyalTek RGM-3800
, which I got for $44 including shipping. It creates an NMEA file, and I've written a program to convert that to a KML for viewing in GoogleEarth. I don't have a way to view the track superimposed on an O map yet, but I suspect that the programs that cristina, bbrooke, vmeyer, etc. have been using would work (I just haven't looked into them yet). This device does exactly one thing: record a track of your position. Just an on-off button and one LED, no display. It can record the position (lat-long-alt-time) every 5 seconds (or apparently every second with a firmware upgrade, though that seems unnecessary). I had it in my pocket for the Billygoat, and it got the entire run, with no bogus-looking points. It's about the size of Matchbox car.
J-J, you can use GoogleEarth to superimpose the track on an O map. Easy as.
Wow - this (royaltek) device looks promising and without a readout it negates any rules issues. Be interested to hear more about it and how it performs especially when running through different terrains. Couldn't see on the website if it was waterproof but it could be "wrapped in plastic" Laura Palmer style.
is getting quite popular here. Battery lasts almost 30 hours and memory 15 hours with 1 sec saving interval. Can be used for logging 24h races with 2 sec interval, or logging O weeks like FIN5 without having to recharge or save track data to computer in the middle of the week.
It has bluetooth, GPSBabel can read the data wireless from the unit and write it as gpx or what ever format, and it can also be used with PDA / cell phone for other purposes. I use my Fore these days only for regular running.
The RoyalTek is not waterproof, but yes, it could be put in a ziploc bag. The only time I've used it for orienteering so far was in a northeast US forest before the leaves came out, and it maintained satellite lock the whole time (about 3.5 hours). I'll try it again after the leaves come out. It uses AAA batteries, which it claims will last for 10 hours, and I'm using rechargeable NiMH ones, which might give longer or shorter life, I don't know. The memory capacity is very large — at 5 second recording interval, it could hold over 37 days of tracklog (7.5 days at 1 sec recording).
As it turns out, it might have one drawback for me that will ultimately be a problem. I bought it primarily to record tracks while I'm hang gliding. This year I will probably start flying cross-country, which often involves landing somewhere that can't be predicted at launch. Having a GPS that would give me lat-long coordinates would allow me to convey my location by radio or call phone to whoever is driving the retrieve vehicle, so that they can come pick me up. For now, I'll just have to use my skills as an orienteer to keep track of where I am so that I can just tell them using conventional terms.
I used the RoyalTek unit this weekend. Well, actually two different adventure racers used it. The rechargeable batteries I used died after ~4.5 hours on Sunday.
The first day guy had it in his camelbak zipped up in the pocket. I think it went for a swim.
The second guy carried it in the mesh pocket near his front shoulder.
Both guys canoed, biked, and ran. Some steep stuff, and some wide open stuff. The tracks were pretty good, with the second guys getting worse near the end of the battery life.
O' specific GPS software:
The software is in English, but the instructions on the web age are in Swedish. Basically, what you do is:
1. Get an image file of the map
2. Us the Garmine training center software to download you track and convert it to a .tcx file
3, Start Quickroute. Then File and New. Put the map file in the first box and the .tcx file in the second. The map opens with the track on top of it.
4. Adjust the track to the map by clicking a point on the map and dragging it to the right place on the map. After about 3 points, the track is probably lined up pretty well.
5. The track is color codes to show changes in speed. You can also adjust it to show heart rate or altitude.
Works for fast runners. For slow runners it shows all black lines. Can't adjust rates--any ideas? (I know there are arrows, but they don't adjust enough for me.)
I'll add my own application, OGPS
, to the list of programs discussed. It is for orienteers with Garmin GPS watches.
See the following thread where I officially announced it:
My program is similar to QuickRoute, but differs in the following ways:
- It cannot yet color-code the route according to speed, elevation, or heart rate.
- The calibration procedure isn't drag-and-drop, but it provides precise control over the calibration points.
- It allows you to do a few things that QuickRoute doesn't.
My program is freeware, so try it for yourself if you have a Garmin GPS watch.
I have a Garmin Forerunner 305 and am completely satisfied with it. The best price ($204) is actiongps.com
And they sell refurbished ones for $190.
Starting tomorrow, you can get a Garmin Forerunner 305 for $165 at REI, and a Forerunner 205 for $125. These prices will be good from May 2nd to May 11th, during their anniversary sale.
REI also has the 405's available for purchase, too.
that's a gonga deal on the 305 at REI, and shipping is only $12, free shipping to REI store for pickup
I purchased a Kogan GPS Watch and sent it back with a couple of days!
The problems were several, it had a terrible interface on the watch with too many buttons with multiple functions, the download did not work even after reinstalling the software a couple of times on two different computers, I never was able to compare the trace with the 305 which I had planned to do, the promised heart moniter was not in the box and there was live bug crawling around inside the watch that gave me some concerns for the Quality Control!
The good thing was they gave me my money back with no questions.
I have been using a 305 that belongs to Orienteering Western Australia (OAWA) and it is good when you remember to take it to the event! Very easy to use and the interface to the PC is also robust and straight forward.
OAWA purchased two untits for coaching and these are available to members.
I purchased a Kogan GPS Watch and sent it back with a couple of days!
"The most feature packed watch on the market!"
Yeah! No other watch comes with a live bug inside! :-)
I just order another Forerunner 305 from REI. Total cost $187 with shipping and tax.
My 405 just arrived to my local REI overnight. I'll be picking it up in 7 hours! Not exactly $187...
This discussion thread is closed.