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Gear Test: Magellan eXplorist 200 GPS, Brunton Glorb, Spyderco SpyderSaw

January 5, 2006
Filed under Camping Gear, Lights & Lamps, Navigation & Communication, Tools & Knives

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Magellan eXplorist 200 GPS

A series of three new entries to the already crowded handheld GPS receiver market has been introduced by Thales Navigation (909/394-5000; magellangps.com), the producers of Magellan products. These new units are the eXplorist 100, 200 and 300.

All three of these models are packaged in compact, waterproof and comfortable-to-grip cases that have ribbed, rubber grips that help you hold fast to them with both bare and gloved hands. The cases are only 41/2 inches tall and 13/4 inches wide, and weigh less than 6 ounces with two AA batteries inside. Each of the eXplorist units provides the outdoorsman with a 14-parallel-channel, WAAS/EGNOS-enabled GPS receiver that allows for precise 3-D positioning with full satellite contact. You can store up to 500 waypoints — or points of interest (POI) in Magellan speak — 20 routes, and from three to five (depending on the model) multiple track logs with up to 2000 points each. These can be saved, custom named and accessed for quick recall through the on-screen menu.

In and Out buttons select screen scales down to 100 feet per 1/2-inch. The Mark button can be used to instantly record positions as points of interest. The menu can be accessed at the touch of a button, and a thumb joystick in the center of the keypad is used to toggle through and select options. A Go To option instantly creates a track back to any POI selected, and an Escape button lets you return to the previous screen or function.

Despite its shirt-pocket size, the eXplorist offers a relatively large (1.8×1.4 inches), four-level grayscale LCD screen. Four screen views are available: satellite-tracking status, map, compass and a location/data screen. Access to each screen is through the NAV button. The cursor can be moved and maps scrolled in any direction through the use of the joystick.

Each model of the Magellan eXplorist comes in a different color: The model 100 ($99) is red, the model 200 ($149) is yellow and the model 300 ($199) is blue. But the LCD screen, or we should say the amount of information available for viewing, is where the personalities and capabilities of the three models really begin to diverge.

The eXplorist 100 is a GPS/track plotter for the budget conscious. It can save up to three track-log files. Its map screen displays tracks and POIs, but no geographic or street features. The 200 and 300 both come with a preloaded North American (or European) background map with major arterial highways and roads, parks, waterways, airports and other major sites, and can save up to five track-log files. In addition to these features, the 300 boasts a barometer, altimeter and an electronic compass that works even when the GPS unit is stationary. We spent a weekend using the eXplorist 200 and found it to be a fair tool for simple navigational exercises. Our only lament is that the map detail was a little shy.

We knew it would have no topographic contours, but only major arterial highways and roads were present — many small streets were missing from the display. But for this price (and total memory size of 8 MB), we really didn’t expect a richly detailed map. However, all of the functions are easy to access and operate, the characters are large enough to read without a magnifying glass, and the screen is plenty bright to be read during daylight hours. A two-level, amber backlight feature makes the screen great for night navigation, too. And it kept working, albeit with fewer satellites, even when positioned on the center console (shadowed by the steel roof) inside my pickup. If you’re looking for a good bargain in a handheld GPS unit for basic navigation and waypoint (POI) capture and recall purposes, take a look at the eXplorist 200 GPS receiver.

Brunton Glorb
Brunton (800/443-4871; brunton.com) manufactures a variety of outdoor equipment, including products such as binoculars, portable power sources, handheld GPS receivers, compasses, stoves and lanterns. Among its offering of lanterns is the diminutive, but powerful and useful, Glorb. The Glorb is Brunton’s most popular lantern, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a compact (51/2 inches high; 21/4 inches in diameter) and lightweight (8 ounces empty) camp-lighting instrument that can be used with a mantle to approximate the illuminative power of a 60-watt light bulb (without a mantle, it works as an effective candle lantern).

The bottom half of the Glorb incorporates the fuel tank. The Glorb burns on butane and can be refilled at an inlet valve protected by the lantern’s removable base plate. It’s the same kind of butane that fires your pocket cigar lighter. The base plate features three fold-out legs to keep the lantern steady on a flat surface. The top half of the Glorb is made up of the glass globe, burner and piezo-electric igniter. By unsnapping the globe’s protective frame, you can remove the glass globe to access the burner for installing new (or removing old) mantles.

Operation of the Glorb is simple. The position of a sliding lever determines whether the Glorb functions as a mantle or candle lantern. The same lever is used to set the lantern in the Ignition mode. After ignition, the lever is slid back to the mantle or candle position, depending on use. A red ignition button sparks the burner. Once the butane is lit, the ignition button can be slid downward into a locked position to keep the lantern lit.

The base of the lantern rotates to control the amount of fuel flowing to the burner. However, as a safety feature, no matter where the fuel control is set, the fuel will not flow to the burner if the ignition button is not fully depressed.

We found the compact, refillable Glorb to be an easy-to-use and highly illuminating compact lantern. You can find canisters of butane fuel in almost any grocery store or smoke shop, and most outdoor-equipment stores. Post-type burner mantles for the Glorb can also be found in outdoor-equipment stores. Brunton claims a burn time (with mantle) of approximately two hours from a single tank of butane — we have recorded burn times at least that long, and longer without the mantle. As with any fuel-burning appliance, the Glorb is not to be used in enclosed, poorly ventilated locations such as your tent, but it has proven to be an excellent light source for a late-night snack around the camp table. The Brunton Glorb ($55) comes with a hard plastic case and two mantles.

Spyderco SpyderSaw
Aside from a discrete selection of knives, a compact, yet capable handsaw can be an essential addition to your camping gear. We’ve found the Spyderco (800/525-7770; spyderco.com) SpyderSaw ($59.95) to be a welcome addition to our camp tool kit. Its 5-inch blade is made from AUS-6 steel, and it features a large thumb hole for easy one-hand opening. The saw weighs just 3 ounces, and an integral pocket-clip built into the black, fiberglass-reinforced nylon handle positions the saw for tip-up carry in your trousers. Uses ranging from the everyday breaking up of small firewood to once-in-a-lifetime, rescue cutting can be covered with this single handy tool. We have yet to experience the latter, but we can attest to the SpyderSaw’s voracious appetite for chewing through everything we’ve presented to its dual-level serrations. The teeth are ground for a drawing action, so the best cut can be made with a power-stroke that pulls the blade back across the material, rather than pushing the blade forward. In a pocket, pack or gear bag, the SpyderSaw has served us well.

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