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How to Use a Handheld GPS


Handheld GPS Maps
Using a handheld GPS to plot a route is technology at its best.
Using a handheld GPS to plot a route is technology at its best.
Tom Grill/Getty Images

Simply being able to triangulate your location and find another point on the globe is pretty handy for the outdoor adventurer, but the maps that you can access with your handheld GPS device are really what make it such a fun and useful tool. Road maps are probably the most common maps that GPS users access. Despite the fact that GPS devices are increasingly being used for sport and fun, ensuring that you don't get lost on the road is still the reason many people buy a GPS. For the road, you can choose from world maps or local area city navigators that provide detailed street information along with millions of other pieces of information like the locations of public services, gas stations, rest areas, restaurants and other businesses.

If you're into water sports and recreation, you can go with a marine map. These will take you off the road and onto the water with detailed mapping, satellite imagery, aerial photographs and enhanced 3-D maps. The 3-D view comes in handy for fishermen and divers, as you can see images above and below the waterline. If you're out on the boat and want to know where deeper water is, forget your depth finder, just take a look at an underwater 3-D image of the lake bed. In addition, ports, harbors, waterways and marinas are listed on marine maps.

Trail maps are popular with hikers, campers, hunters, climbers and geocachers, which we'll learn more about on the next page. The trail maps provide a tremendous amount of topographic detail, making it safer to venture into unknown areas. Using these maps, there's no more mistaking what's coming just around the bend or what's beyond the next mountain ridge. Trail maps are split into different geographical zones, so if you're going camping in the Northern Plains, then you can purchase and download a map specific to that area. Elevations, bodies of water, and even the density of the forest can all be found out with the help of a trail map that has 3-D terrain shading, highlighting the contours of the surrounding land.

Finally, for the urban adventurer, there are detailed city maps. These can get you from point to point with great accuracy and provide a lot of extras for the city dweller, like locations of public transportation, restaurants and shopping destinations. Some city maps even have subway and bus schedules included in the database. As to how to find the closest public restroom -- that part is still up to you. Before you buy any GPS map, make sure that it's compatible with your handheld device.