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 A good digital or GPS compass?

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Tembo
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PostSubject: A good digital or GPS compass?   Tue Jun 27, 2017 9:14 pm

I have been looking around for a decent digital or GPS compass that I can use when off road on desert trips. It seems such a thing doesn't really exist in a reliable format without spending over a £1000 pounds. What I am looking for is:

- something I can secure on Tembo's dash
- is well built enough to endure heat, dust and vibration
- can be hard wired in, or at least not run solely on batteries
- Allows me to input a lat/long and show me direction and distance to the navpoint
- Has a screen bigger than a hand held hiking GPS, which is too small to look at safely while driving
- Is not affected by the magnetic/electrical fields produced by a running vehicle.
- Is not a street map system because the locations I prefer going have no roads.
- Is not a smartphone app because I have found that in remote areas the typical GPS function in a smartphone either doesn't work or can take 20-30 minutes to update.

There are really cheap (£10-£20) stick on units that I wouldn't bother with, and very expensive maritime nav systems, but not much in between.

Any suggestions?

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Tom Mc
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PostSubject: Re: A good digital or GPS compass?   Sat Jul 01, 2017 4:17 am

I've always found Silva to be top notch, although price-wise it really depends what your're after and willing to pay.

BTW, just found this place in Derbyshire, didn't know it existed - https://silvanavigationschool.com Wish this was around years ago, I would have been there like a shot ... if I could have found it that is!

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Tembo
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PostSubject: Re: A good digital or GPS compass?   Sat Jul 01, 2017 7:33 pm

Looks like an interesting program...may have to send my navigator/spouse to upgrade her skills. I have been using a big Silva taken from a military BV206 for my desert travels but it has lately developed a big bubble....never a good sign. It used to get one in the winter as the cold condensed the fluid, but this one is sticking around. It still works but the reliability is going down. So pondering if I should upgrade to something digital. I have a satnav for finding routes in the UK, but really just want something that I can plug in a lat/long destination into and get a compass arrow and distance to nav point (reliably...which leaves out smart phone apps).

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Tom Mc
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PostSubject: Re: A good digital or GPS compass?   Sat Jul 01, 2017 7:52 pm

I may have mentioned this before, on a sponsorship deal (unfortunately had to hand them back afterwards) Silva UK provided me with a couple of electronic compasses when taking part in a two Range Rover charity drive to Morocco in 1992, so pre-internet. It was wonderful. Showing a red glowing compass complete with needle, plus a heading in degrees, as soon as you deviated from the set heading - to go around a dune for instance - obviously it all changed bearing until you could finally get back on the required heading ... idiot proof!

At the dead of night we found the mouth of the Todra Gorge with this piece of kit, so just had to drive it. This was when it was unpaved and full of boulders, so we were only just able to make it though as the gaps got pretty narrow I can tell you. ADVENTURE!!!  yesss

Really don't know what the modern equivalent would be, all I know is they served us well at the time. Silva are after all marine specialists, and the desert is a sea, so they and other marine navigation have to be worth checking out. As you say though, quality comes at a price.

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PostSubject: Re: A good digital or GPS compass?   Sun Jul 02, 2017 10:46 pm

My Garmin sat nav allows you to navigate to a programmed Lat long we did use it in Morocco on the second trip a couple of times. After inputting the co-ordinates it shows a straight green line to the target and a pointer to show your position. The only downside is there are not topographical maps available only street maps. So after navigating around an obstacle you have to find your way back on the green line which if the detour is over a pretty vast distance some scrolling and enlarging is necessary.
You can however use the centre your position option but the drawback with that is north is always at the top of the device instead of sticking to true or magnetic north which can get confusing.

That said it was only about £200 so I think you either pay out loads of money or you have to compromise on ability

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Tembo
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PostSubject: Re: A good digital or GPS compass?   Sat Sep 09, 2017 6:01 pm

Well, came across this the other day...getting closer to my ideal. A Garmin 158i...intended for yachting it gives compass bearings, lat/long, trip and leg distance...everything I was looking for as a desert nav device. About £200+ so not too bad!


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PostSubject: Re: A good digital or GPS compass?   Sun Mar 11, 2018 5:56 am

What did you buy in the end?
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Tembo
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PostSubject: Re: A good digital or GPS compass?   Sun Mar 11, 2018 5:57 pm

Nothing yet, but will get the Garmin 158 before our Morocco trip in September. I am also upgrading to a new InReach sat message/tracking system

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PostSubject: Re: A good digital or GPS compass?   Sat Mar 17, 2018 7:00 pm

Tembo wrote:
Nothing yet, but will get the Garmin 158 before our Morocco trip in September. I am also upgrading to a new InReach sat message/tracking system

Given your enthusiasm for PPA, have you ever tried one of these?



Doesn't do what you want it to do, though- but a lot of fun to play with.

I've looked at the spec for the Garmin 158 and nowhere can I find anything intelligent written about the compass function. I'm sure it is, but worth checking that it's a flux-gate type or it'll not give sensible readings unless you're on the move, and moving either quickly or in a straight line.This used to be a major problem with GPS-driven (vector analysis) compass systems but now generally overcome, but worth checking anyway.

Any chance of getting hold of a unit to "troop-trial"? I used a Sony unit a few years ago that met your spec but getting waypoints into it was a real pain. I'd guess you can feed them into the 158 using Basecamp or whatever the latest gizmo is, but this requires a lot of prep work with the laptop - probably not ideal. There may be other things that aren't obvious from just looking at the picture.

From what you say in the OP you want a navigation system, not just a compass. Given that a combined unit increases the chance of being left with nothing if it fails, what's wrong with a good steering compass and an accurate Present Position, given that you navigate using Lat/Long co-ordinates? I bought the 2nd generation InReach after reading your review a while ago. Very useful bit of kit, I think. Apart from the obvious use it's good to be able to let the Folks At Home know how things are going and leave a breadcrumb trail for them - and us, later - to plot the route we've taken. Anyway, my point here is that it'll give you an accurate PP which can be used with an accurate compass to DR your course to steer. Not the easiest thing to get good at if one has to follow roads or other constraints, but if you have the luxury of travelling in a pretty-much-straight line, like on the Rekkam - it's really easy to do. With a bit of practice this can be done in your head, leaving the hands free to drive and eat jellybabies and the eyes to enjoy the view. I used to navigate for a living and found that the more "aids to navigation" I had the less I enjoyed the journey.

FWIW, we use a boat-type compass and a GPS-based trip meter on a 7" tablet - a cheap Tesco unit. We also use the vehicle odometer as a check on this, allowing for a 10% overread. We have OSM mapping which we use to plot routes but try to just use heading/time and trip meter/odo to actually navigate. It doesn't always produce the desired result and we've sometimes had to use the InReach to find out where we really are as opposed to where the DR suggests we are, but as long as it isn't critical this is part of the fun. It also means we share the success....and the blame!
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PostSubject: Re: A good digital or GPS compass?   Sat Mar 17, 2018 8:34 pm

I would love to try out a Bagnold sun compass one day, just out of curiousity. But the combination of needing the sunlight tables and having to constantly change the dial setting every 15 minutes would make it a pain to use for more than a bit of fun.

It is hard to find anything too detailed about the 158. The one I am looking at is the newest version, so hoping it is relatively up to date technology-wise. I figure the best way to know is just to get one and give it a try. I think I will still largely rely on my big military grade Silva while driving and just use the Garmin more for the closer in navigation as I close on specific way points. I could use the second gen InReach as it has that satnav mapping capacity and screen, but at you say, I don't want to be spending all my time checking a tiny screen as I drive. I think I would use that more as a redundant back up if my Silva and the 158 were ever giving contradictory readings.

To be honest, most of my navigation just relies on a combination of instinct and the old military 'back stops and hand rails' methodology. But I want the technology to help me find a specific entrance to a canyon, a track through a range of hills, a well or similar that need a bit more targeted location-finding.

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PostSubject: Re: A good digital or GPS compass?   Wed May 23, 2018 5:17 am

Having just got back from a lengthy off-road trip into Morocco desert areas, I stand by my comments above - in spades. Every time we half-relied on satnav/GPS to find a spot or give sensible directions, it went belly-up. What always saved the day was a pretty good idea of where we were so a similarly good idea of which direction to aim. Using the vehicle compass (calibrated by the sun) and the tripmeter we did pretty well.
Our sextant was of limited use as the horizon was seldom visible (sand and dust) and the wind made our DIY artificial horizon almost impossible to use. Add to that the elevation of the sun and we had to do our astro shots early or late in the day, which isn't ideal.
In all, DR compass work with decent maps (Morocco? Hah!) is the way ahead for us backed up by  a decent and reliable satnav/OSM or similar system and  - and we'd take the DR position every time! Our GPS-based systems didn't perform. We could use the GPS to "find" a waypoint but often there'd be nothing there that even remotely resembled the landmark we were searching for. With DR, at least you only have one system to argue with. There's a GPS position if all else fails as long as you can trust it. At least it'll get the SAR to the right area...perhaps.
The only time we really needed to hit a precise point we used the Francis Chichester Method - aim off so when you hit the line/time/feature, you know which way to turn. The compass did this, the GPS was out of power because the silly little micro-usb connector didn't stand up to the vibration and dust of 3 days in the bush.
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PostSubject: Re: A good digital or GPS compass?   Tue May 29, 2018 7:00 am

I am at present driving in Spain and France. I've totally ditched the SatNav and reverted back to a good ol' fashioned map ... albeit a large scale map of Europe! It's still better than my SatNav.

Although to be fair, SatNavs are great for finding your way out of a city heading to your next location en route to a much further destination

i.e. Leaving Perpignan, type in Narbonne (either with or without tolls), and it'll lead you out of what otherwise ccan be a very complicated city.

Apart from that ... mad




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PostSubject: Re: A good digital or GPS compass?   Thu May 31, 2018 12:20 am

Tom Mc wrote:
I am at present driving in Spain and France. I've totally ditched the SatNav and reverted back to a good ol' fashioned map ... albeit a large scale map of Europe! It's still better than my SatNav.

Although to be fair, SatNavs are great for finding your way out of a city heading to your next location en route to a much further destination

i.e. Leaving Perpignan, type in Narbonne (either with or without tolls), and it'll lead you out of what otherwise ccan be a very complicated city.

Apart from that ...  mad



Totaly agree with Tom do it all the time clinking teacups
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