AA battery powered GPS with maps for long distance

by ianking   February 14, 2014  

I am planning a long distance ride through northern France this Summer and being a cheapskate, don't want to buy a dynamo hub and USB charging system for a smartphone or a GPS mapping unit. Can anyone recommend a device which I can power using AA (or AAA) batteries but which will let me download decent street maps. Another option would be a smartphone and charge it using a battery pack (again using AA batteries which I can buy en route) - has anyone used a system like this and is it practical (ie how many charges do you get out of a couple of AA batteries)

Many thanks for any advice.

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I've got a Garmin Dakota 20, it has mapping and routing and takes 2 AAs. It's a bit bulkier than the cycle specific ones but does have the normal speed, av speed, odometer etc, will link up with a heart rate monitor and cadence sensor and being able to change the batteries is great when you're on a long ride you'd struggle to do any audaxes over 200/300k without needing a charge.

It's cheaper too and the Dakota 10 is even cheaper but doesn't come with an SD card slot.

The only thing with them seems to be the mount, you have to buy it separately, which is fine as it's really cheap (~£3 from one place) but it does have a tendency to come loose. If you put some superglue on the rails though, it holds it in securely or a lot of people attach it to a clip or lanyard attached to the stem.

Si

posted by sim1515 [137 posts]
15th February 2014 - 9:24

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Not cheap but the Satmap takes aa batteries

posted by Stratman [36 posts]
15th February 2014 - 9:39

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Garmin Etrex 30 here. As the Dakota, but not touch screen. Personally, I deliberately chose not to have a touch screen device.

You can customise your data screens to show almost any stat you can think of. The big one for me was altitude, as I do a lot of hills and the 30 has a more accurate altimeter. The 30 is also compatible with HR and Cadence sensors.

Very Robust and great off the bike too as I use it to take the kids geocaching. Also excellent battery life - I get at least 24hrs from 2500mAh rechargeables (which is why I chose it over the touch screen Dakota)

Never paid for a map for it. I have full UK from www.talkytoaster.com and bits of mainland Europe (added as required) ripped from the cache of the Osmand routing app on my tablet.

My eyes prefer Celeste, my bum prefers titanium.

Jack Osbourne snr's picture

posted by Jack Osbourne snr [304 posts]
15th February 2014 - 9:48

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If you want in depth discussion on every make and model of cycling-able GPS unit ever even thought of then have a look at www.yacf.co.uk where the (mostly) Audax crowd will enlighten you. There are hundreds of pages on it...

Be warned though... Some people on there are very very anoraky about GPS, so this visit should be carefully limited lest it adversely affects your life.

I got through a few dozen pages of discussion before I chose the Etrex 30... Although I was one of the first to have one in the UK.

My eyes prefer Celeste, my bum prefers titanium.

Jack Osbourne snr's picture

posted by Jack Osbourne snr [304 posts]
15th February 2014 - 11:25

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I have a Dakota 20 as well. Pretty good. Am using OpenStreetMap based maps.

I like the compass - without the compass the GPS only knows which way you are moving so can't orientate itself whilst you are stationary.

Lately (our GPS is several years old) the compass seems to be playing up though - giving obviously false readings and needing constant recalibration. Not sure if it's dying or needs a software update. It's not a major problem as when the GPS is moving things seem to sort themselves out and it works mostly.

The mount isn't great - I find that after a few years of wear the GPS no longer sits securely and can come flying out on, e.g. cobblestones. There is a hook for tying it to the handlebars though to prevent it hitting the ground.

The touchscreen...I do like it. If you ever find you have to type on a non touch screen device (e.g. to search for a place name) then doing it with a little joystick is annoying...however its accuracy is poor, especially if you have ben using a smartphone. It's harder to see in bright light than our previous non-touch screen GPS. I also find that more water sits on the screen than with our former GPS making it harder to see in heavy rain.

Whilst I am complaining about our GPS I also find that whenever external power is removed it restarts. I have tried to run it on an external battery back (that I can charge with my dynamo) but it frequently restarts - I assume the connection isn't great and bumps cause a brief disconnection and it restarts on the internal batteries, only to find external power again.

If I had to buy another device now I would be looking at an eTrex and live with the joystick. Despite my complaints I wouldn't tour without a GPS now - it works fine 90% of the time and is much less hassle than paper maps.

posted by cqexbesd [15 posts]
15th February 2014 - 12:24

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+1 for the Etrex 30. The (RAM) mounts are a bit Heath Robinson, though. There's certainly room for a better bicycle-specific mount.

Ride your own ride

posted by CanAmSteve [120 posts]
15th February 2014 - 16:44

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