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Gear Test: Garmin GPSMAP 60C & Wicksfield Campfire Grille

June 1, 2004
Filed under Camping Gear, Navigation & Communication

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Garmin GPSMAP 60C

Garmin Int’l (913/397-8200; garmin.com) has come out with two new devices that are of interest to the camping enthusiast, the GPSMAP 60C and 60CS. These two handheld devices with Global Positioning System (GPS) technology are almost identical, save that the 60CS comes with an electronic compass and a barometric altimeter, while the 60C does not. But what sets both of these units apart from other handheld topo GPS devices is their vivid color display. The sunlight-readable screen is a 256-color transflective TFT display measuring 1.5×2.2 inches. We found the high-resolution, 160×240-pixel display bright and easy to read, with brilliantly colored cartography and detailed map features.

The 12-channel, WAAS-enabled GPSMAP 60C is a full-featured GPS navigation device, offering an 8MB base map of major highways and roads, cities and towns, water features and borders. The 60C has another 56MB of available memory for downloading highly detailed maps, including topographic features, from one of the available (not included) MapSource software products. (City Select is for driving, and U.S. Topo and U.S. Topo 24K are for hiking.) The 60C can store up to 10,000 track log points with 20 saved tracks; 50 reversible point-to-point or automatic routes; 1000 waypoints with comments and symbols, position averaging, waypoint projection and selectable distance units. Navigation is simple and waypoints can be made instantly with a touch of the Mark button. The Find function allows you to easily locate, access information about and navigate to any of your stored waypoints.

Five screen options include Satellite, Trip Computer, Map, Compass and Main Menu. The Satellite page is just that, a graphic display of the satellites and their status in the sky, with a location reading at the top of the display. Once at least three satellites have been locked in, the 60C becomes fully operational. When four have been secured, the GPS operates in 3-D mode, allowing the unit to display elevation above sea level based on satellite cartography.

The Trip Computer page was easy to read, and each of the eight data fields could be customized through a varied but easily navigable menu system.

You can choose to display data such as trip odometer, moving time, time stopped, maximum speed, average moving speed, overall average speed, elevation and total odometer.

The Map page is the main navigation page and can be configured for North Up or Track Up operation. North Up will keep the map oriented with north at the top, just like a paper map. Track Up rotates the map to keep your direction of movement pointing forward, or “up” on the screen, and a north reference arrow appears at the top left corner to orient the map. The map screen can be customized to display multiple data fields, with dozens of field options, and offers zoom and pan functions. When the arrow (cursor) is placed on top of a feature, information about the feature is displayed.

The Compass page provided a clear and simple way to navigate a course using either the Course Pointer or Bearing Pointer functions. Course Pointer will indicate your course of travel, as well as deviation from course and distance off course. The Bearing Pointer always points directly to the destination. The Bearing Pointer and the compass ring act independently of your movement and the direction of your destination. Up to four customizable data fields are available for display at the top of the Compass page.

The Main Menu page offers portals to specialized tasks such as sunset and sunrise times, moon phases, a table of best fishing and hunting times, proximity-to-landmark alarms, routes and stopwatch. A dedicated geo-caching mode is available for those participating in this growing new activity. This unit had some basic but fun games, too.

The unit weighs just 5.4 ounces, and the 2.4×1.3×7.1-inch case is molded to comfortably fit in your hand. A USB-port computer-connection cable, user’s manual, quick-start guide, belt-clip and wrist-lanyard came in the kit. The belt-clip saw plenty of use, as we found a hip-mount the best way to carry the GPSMAP 60C during our hikes. Some sort of dashboard mount will be needed for in-car navigation, though. We kept ours in the open console between the two front seats because we didn’t want to have it sitting unsecured on the dash underneath the windshield while driving. A handful of times during our two-hour drive, the unit signaled that it had lost satellite connection. When held under the windshield (clear of the car’s roof), the 60C would regain system contact.

The Garmin GPSMAP 60C (MSRP $482) was easy to use and quick to learn, and is perfectly capable of accurate, major-arterial-road navigation right out of the box. However, the preloaded base map lacks detail and offers no street-level or topographic features. You must get the extra ($116) disc and upload map sections into the unit in order to have this more detail-specific information available to you in the field. The same is true for the 60CS (MSRP $535).

Wicksfield Campfire Grille
Those who love to grill while camping (count me in), long ago learned to bring a clean, steel grilling grate to place food on while cooking. The cast iron grates provided on the typical ground-fixed fire-ring or post-mounted barbeque box in most front-country campgrounds are fine for placing pots and pans on, but are too rusty and corroded to provide an acceptable cooking surface for food. For years, I have carried a small (14-inch), steel grilling grate that can be set over the rusty grate, or balanced atop my campfire rock-ring when in the backcountry. But long utensils or heavy gloves are needed when attending to food on the fire. Wicksfield (877/688-9959; wicksfield.com) has come up with an idea that eliminates that hot reach.

Its Campfire Grille (MSRP $44.95, plus $14.95 S&H) can be swiveled out of the way of the flames. The grilling grate (21.5-inch diameter) is mounted (simple assembly required) on the end of a 36-inch-long handle. The entire grate and handle assembly is mounted near its center on a 3/8-inch-thick, 36-inch-long steel support post. Not only can the grate be swiveled away from the heat by moving the handle to one side or the other, but by lightly rocking the handle down to release its grip on the post, the grill/handle assembly can be moved up and down the support post. When at rest, the weight of the grill jams the handle’s mounting bracket on the support rod, holding it and your food at any height above the fire.

The Wicksfield Grille is a great idea, and for the most part it works remarkably well. The mounting-bracket assembly bound on the support rod a couple of times during adjustment, causing the grill to shake and jerk a bit as it was lowered or raised. This is not a problem unless your food — like a hot dog — rolls. Our solution was to cook the dogs parallel to and nestled among the grate wires, but that meant we couldn’t get that picture-perfect striping on the grilled wieners.

The steel rod that acts as the support post is pointed at one end and flat at the other. It was relatively easy to pound (using a household carpentry hammer) the support post into the ground, and only especially rocky soil presented the challenge of finding just the right spot. We did notice, though, that the flat, top end of the post mushroomed a tiny bit after repeated poundings, creating a burr that hung up the handle/post-mounting fixture. But after a good going over with a metal file, all was working fine again.

We found these minor difficulties with the Wicksfield Campfire Grille insignificant, considering we no longer wished for Nomex gloves and 2-foot-long cooking utensils. It’s certainly too large and heavy for backpacking use, but the Wicksfield Grille is ideal for any campsites you can drive to.

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