One of the most important tools for the modern prospector is a reliable GPS. Whether you are staking claims or marking a sample location, chances are you are using a GPS almost everyday in the field. Gone are the days of pacing out claim boundaries or making rough guesses based off terrain. In today’s digital world GPS coordinates reign supreme and having quick access to this data is key to success. Different GPS units are good for different things, today we will be looking primarily at GPS units for use in prospecting and staking.
So what exactly are we looking for in a GPS?
- Durability/Ruggedness- Waterproof
- Ability to load custom maps- Very important for staking and sampling.
- Easy to use
- Large display
- Good battery life
- Can hold a lot of data/ has expandable memory
Is it possible to get all of those features in an affordable unit? Yes, but you can expect to pay around $400-$600 and another $20-$50 or so to protect it.
Here is what we have found works for us.
We at FreeMilling.com have field tested several GPS units over the years with varying degrees of success. Here is our GPS diary from the past 10 years.
Our first GPS unit was the Magellan eXplorist 200. Small and water-resistant this GPS got the job done for years, but it definitely lacked in features. We had to just use the numbers to find a point on the map such as a stake or mine location. Entering coordinates is also difficult and time consuming, but after 10 years of use it still turns on and works reliably every time. The biggest downside to this unit is no computer connectivity. We have staked well over 500 claims with this unit, but I wouldn’t recommend it with so many better and nicer units out there today.
Our second GPS unit and the one we still use for backup occasionally today is the Garmin Colorado 300. This compact unit has had its ups and downs for sure. With a color screen, expandable memory, and the ability to load custom topo maps and coordinates from a computer, this unit is leaps and bounds above our first GPS. The screen is just big enough and the selection wheel at the top makes it easy to use. The higher sensitivity WAAS enabled receiver resulted in more accurate positioning as well. The only problem we have consistently had with this GPS is reliability, it hangs, freezes, and tracks very slowly at random moments. Sometimes it will freeze altogether requiring a reset, this didn’t fix after getting a second unit. Battery life is ok, but not great.
After this GPS froze and ran out of batteries dozens of times we finally switched to the fancy Garmin Montana 600 . Significantly bigger and featuring a full color touch screen we had our doubts about durability, but this unit has held up very well with only a couple of exceptions. With expandable memory and a respectable on-board memory you can load hundreds of topo maps and thousands of coordinates onto this unit. Interfacing with our All-Topo mapping software is a breeze and we are able to load huge batches of staking or sample location coordinates onto the unit with maps and it performs flawlessly. This unit only has one downside that we have found, the screen WILL crack if you drop it just right. (We have cracked two, luckily Garmin will do screen replacements for much cheaper than a new unit.) That is why we highly recommend getting a case AND screen protector for it. You can expect to fork out almost $500 for this unit so make sure you spend the few extra dollars on protection. We also recomend the ATV and vehicle GPS mount, it charges the unit on the go and keeps the screen at full brightness while you are driving around. This is very helpful on sunny days while trying to navigate dirt roads to get to a mine location.
We highly recommend the Garmin Montana 600 GPS for use in prospecting and mine staking, but there may be other units out there that are just as good. Have another unit to recommend? Post below in the comments and we will check it out.
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Thanks for reading and happy prospecting!