Use it around town
Learn the terminology
We’ve got a handheld GPS 101 series just waiting for you.
Let it bake
Not in the oven! Take it outside, turn it on and let it sit motionless under open sky for awhile. It can take up to half an hour to fully download the satellite almanac; do this and when you want to use it over the next few days, it should lock onto satellites very fast.
Before going out in the woods, get a screen protector. The investment is well worth it.
Go green, save green
Handheld GPS receivers will go through alkaline batteries very quickly. Get yourself a good set of Eneloop rechargeables; keep a spare pair charged and you’ll always be ready to go.
If your unit has an electronic compass, learn to calibrate it. And if it has a barometric altimeter and you’re an adventurous backcountry explorer, it’s fun to find a USGS benchmark and calibrate the altimeter too.
Backup your GPS
This one will take awhile but connect it to your computer and just copy the entire GPS drive over; you’ll always have a backup with factory settings.
Get some free maps
If you have a Garmin, head on over to GPS File Depot for some awesome free topos and trail maps. They’ve got some great tutorials too. The best way to do this is to put them on a microSD card; that way if you run up against the rare incompatibility issue, all you’ll need to do is pull the card out.
Download some tracks
Want to have the trail shown on your GPS? Download the track from one of the many .gpx file sharing sites; my current favorite is Garmin Connect. Oh, and you might want to check to be sure the track wasn’t collected using a smartphone.
Create an “if found” splash screen
This tutorial is geared towards the Garmin Oregon, but it should work for just about any of the newer Garmin models.
Grab some BirdsEye aerial imagery or topos
Don’t get lost
After all, that would be pretty embarrassing. And believe me, there are plenty of ways to get lost with a GPS.
Check out our handheld GPS FAQs.