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Hand-held GPS units gain popularity

By By Ben Norman
Outdoors Columnist
For anyone who spends time outdoors, chances are there is a GPS in their future. In fact, the latest generation of hand-held GPS (Global Positioning System) receivers are more affordable and user-friendly for those who enjoy fishing, boating, hiking and camping. With the recent elimination of signal error created by the government, GPS can now offer greater a greater level of accuracy.
Even though GPS navigation isn't new to most outdoor enthusiasts, one of the biggest questions for most people is "How can I use a GPS"? According to experts at Magellan Corp., the leading manufacturer of hand-held GPS receivers, there are many uses and application, but first you have to understand the basics of how GPS works.
GPS consists of a constellation of satellites deployed by the U.S. Government that continually transmit precise information on time and their location, 24 hours a day. Using GPS receiver, people can determine their position by locking onto at least three satellites, and their elevation by locking onto four.
Once you've recorded your position or the location of a favorite stream, lake or trail in the receiver's memory, it will guide you back to these locations anytime in any kind of weather.
As you prepare for fall outdoors activities, you may want to consider purchasing a GPS unit for one or several of the following activities:
Hunting-Now is a great time for pre-season scouting. Spend some time afield scouting for deer trails, tree stand locations and feeding areas. Quail hunters can take a reading where they found that covey of Bobwhites that had been eluding them and squirrel hunters can return to that new found "hotspot" for bushytails.
Fishing-With a GPS receiver you can put an electronic "X" on the water to mark underwater structure and other productive areas. Just follow the arrow and compass directions on the handheld satellite navigator to return time after time.
Camping-Record the location of your camp to make it easier to find after exploring the surrounding area. Even the kids will enjoy plotting their day hikes with a GPS receiver, and it makes them more aware of where they are and how to use maps. Secluded spots can be recorded and the coordinates shared with friends.
Hiking-Once the trail and key junctions have been logged in the receiver's memory, your GPS will ensure that you make no wrong turns on your way home.
Off-Road travel-Whether you travel by mountain bike, all-terrain vehicle or sport utility vehicle, a GPS and topo map will help you find your way off the beaten path and back again. When on vacation you can record the locations of ghost towns, waterfalls, picnic spots and other points of interest.
In the last few years GPS units have become smaller, extremely accurate, and much less expensive with some units beginning around $100. If you are having trouble finding that relocated tree stand in the dark, a GPS may be just what you need.