Submitted by Eric Daniel
Well, I broke down and bit the bullet, picking up a Garmin GPSmap 60CSx. I purchased it primarily as a navigation aid for training out on the back forty at Pendleton and Irwin, but for ocean fishing and high sierra hiking as well. Out of the box I'm very pleased with the unit; those functions, like waypoint management, display preferences, and unit configuration and set up, which you'll be using frequently, are simple to understand and manipulate, meaning they don't require a whole lot of button smashing in order to get the job done.
The unit itself has a 1.5 x 2.2 inch color display with an automatic backlight feature for day/night time operations (you can also force the backlight on or off with a button push, and in the event of a low battery power condition, the backlight function will automatically be disabled.) The GPS calculated altitude is accurate to within +/- 10 feet, the GPS location to +/- 33 feet (15 feet using the WAAS system in North America) and the compass is accurate to +/- 5 degrees. The GPS is waterproof to IPX7 standards (immersion in 1m water for 30 minutes) and has an operational temperature range of 5 to 158 degrees F. The unit runs on 2 x AA batteries, and has a typical battery life of 18 hours (though cold, frequent use of audio tones and backlight feature will degrade this time significantly.) You can store up to 1000 waypoints in the GPS, along with 50 specific routes. While the 60CSx will provide you with sun and moon data (rise and set times specifically) it won't provide you with percent illumination of the moon, though it does give you a graphic depicting the moons phase, so you could extrapolate the %illumination from that yourself. The gps will display your location in a variety of ways (including digital lat long, DMS lat long, military grid, and standard UTM) and I especially like the military grid display; rather than showing the grid zone designator and a 16 digit string of numbers, it "stacks" the coordinates and allows you to easily provide as accurate a grid as you want, just by reading off the first 2, 3 or 4 digits from each set.
One interesting feature that the 60CSx has is a jumpmaster tool, which allows you to plot chute opening altitudes, freefall and canopy drift, as well as jump location to arrive at a specific destination based on input environmental factors. Obviously I have no means of verifying the accuracy of this tool, but the manual says it was based on U.S. military guidelines. The gps is also compatible with digital marine charts (supplied by Garmin) for open water navigating, something I will have to play with when I go fishing in Alaska.
The 60CSx does not come with a detailed map; the map provided is good enough for navigating on roads, but it doesn't provide any topographic detail. More detailed maps are available, for both topographic and road networks, but you have to buy them individually, and by region (I purchased the 24k western U.S. topo map DVD (1:24,000 scale) (CA, OR, WA, NV) for $120.) The 24k topo map is good enough to do map recon with, and they can be updated electronically through the internet. One thing to remember though; these are custom topo maps created by Garmin. You can't download an image of a defense mapping agency military map and geo reference it to your gps, and the Garmin topo maps are strictly civilian, meaning you aren't going to see range boundaries or artillery impact areas on them.
While the gps does allow you to manually enter points, if you're going to be doing a lot of points, my recommendation is that you do your plotting on a computer and then download the data to the gps. To manually enter a point requires the use of an alpha numeric keypad and the menu rocker switch and is definitely something you wouldn't want to try to do on the run (you can, however, store your current location as a waypoint by pushing one button.) The gps comes with a rout and point editing tool for the built in map, and what ever mapsets you purchase will have those same editing capabilities.