As a bloke I am rather partial to good kit. This includes a good GPS which I have found in the form of a Satmap Active10 GPS.
For some years I have been using the Memory Map software and electronic OS maps on my laptop. Fantastic for route planning whether walking or cycling providing data on distance and height profiles among other things, and allows you to zoom in to get a high level of detail. So it seemed a natural choice to extend my electronic mapping into the field with the purchase of a waterproof Memory Map Adventurer 3500 GPS….. or so I thought…………
A review of the Memory Map Adventurer 3500 GPS is a bit disappointing. At over £360 the 3500 is not a cheap device so I expected, quite rightly, a lot from my purchase. Within days however I began to doubt my decision. I had fully charged the unit out of the box ready for an excursion on to Dartmoor the following weekend to give it a test drive. Only to find when I got into the car park to switch the unit on that it had gone totally flat in less in 5 days. Not impressed. I subsequently found out that a design fault on the silicon cover that came with the unit meant that it put pressure on the on/off button when you put it in its case. Even stored outside the case the battery seemed to drain incredibly quickly and can’t be relied on.
Next outing I found that the unit came with a touch sensitive screen that you couldn’t lock, meaning just a touch of the screen accidently, easy done when walking or when raining a finger swipe to clear the screen, would take the unit off into an unwanted function. The onscreen keyboard with the stylus was almost impossible to use out and about as well, meaning what should have been a simple task of entering a grid reference became a frustrating game of trial and error.
The list of imperfections continued to rise and logging on to the forum also highlighted I wasn’t alone with my problems. A case of a unit that had been released onto the market without proper testing. An expensive prototype with a lot of very unhappy customers. Promises were being made of updates to fix the issues but these seemed very slow in coming and only addressed some of the faults. Eventually after a particularly wet rescue team exercise, and another frustrating attempt to use the unit, I gave up, and returned the unit to the shop for a refund and purchased instead a Satmap Active10 that another Rescue Team member had purchased, and thoroughly recommended.
What a superb unit the Active10 is. First of all its fit for purpose. It can be used with gloves on navigating through the menus via buttons and a joystick, as well as having an amazing battery life. It comes with a rechargable battery pack as well as a backup cradle for alkaline batteries should you run out of power. Best of both Worlds! It has a good clear screen that isn’t touch sensitive that means you don’t have to worry about selecting unwanted functions. Its also very easy to enter grid references and other information on the move. The unit on its own is weatherproof, however, it comes with a ruggedised rubbersealed ‘Pro Shield’ waterproof case (rated at IP67), for extra protection and recommended for use in heavy rain.
It has access to a range of electronic OS maps including 1:10k, 1:25k & 1:50k, which makes it very easy to use. All in all I can’t fault it apart from the fact it can take a while working your way around the menus as it has so many functions. But, after taking it out on a few trips I now find the menu’s very easy to work around and haven’t needed to revert to the instruction manual at all! So, all in all, a fantastic piece of kit. Their customer service is very good too when I have ordered extra maps.
As a backup, I also use the Viewranger app on my Android phone which is also very good and is used by a large number of team members in my search & rescue team. The only draw back with it is, and its not the app but a restriction of my HTC phone, it drains the battery real quick with the GPS functionality on. Hence I use as a fallback.
So if you’re thinking of purchasing a GPS, seriously consider an Active10. Ok its expensive but its worth the money in my opinion. I would also recommend avoiding the Memory Map Adventurer 3500 as its really not good and certainly not worth £360! If you are looking at it then check out the forum to see what the users think of it before making up your mind. And if you do buy it, good luck!!
Other Satmap reviews
If you have already invested in Memory Maps, there is an app on the Android market called MMTracker that allows you to use your memory map OS files on an Android phone with GPS functionality. Seems to work OK.