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APPLICATION: DeLorme Earthmate GPS PN-20 & Topo USA 6.0

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  • nwcurt
    Application to test the DeLorme Earthmate GPS PN-20 & Topo USA 6.0 Included: 1) Request to Test the DeLorme Earthmate GPS PN-20 2) Tester Biography 3) Comments
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 4, 2007
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      Application to test the DeLorme Earthmate GPS PN-20 & Topo USA 6.0


      1) Request to Test the DeLorme Earthmate GPS PN-20
      2) Tester Biography
      3) Comments on GPS Units and Mapping Software
      4) Test Plan
      5) Previous Tests
      1) Request to Test the DeLorme Earthmate GPS PN-20

      I have read, reviewed, and will follow the BGT Tester requirements as
      posted in v.0609. I have remained current on all updates to tester
      requirements via the Yahoo! list, and have submitted my Gear Tester
      Agreement. My computer easily meets all requirements of the test. I
      have multiple SD cards to use in the PN-20.

      I currently have zero active tests. I have been selected for two
      tests – the Montbell SS Down Hugger (shipping in a month or so) and
      the Primus Micron stove (questionable status due to contact issues).

      2) Tester Biography

      Name: Curt Peterson
      Age: 35
      Gender: Male
      Height: 6'3" (1.91 m)
      Weight: 270 (122 kg)
      Email address: curt<at>boopants<dot>com
      Location: North Bend, Washington

      I live in the Cascade foothills, just 20 mi (32 km) from the Pacific
      Crest Trail via trails leading right from my backyard. My outdoor time
      in Washington is spent dayhiking, backpacking, climbing, and skiing
      everywhere from the Olympic coast to rainforests to Cascade volcanoes
      to dry steppe. I played football in college and often evaluate
      products from a big guy perspective. My typical pack load ranges from
      11 - 20 lbs (5 - 9 kg) and usually includes plenty of wet weather gear.

      3) Comments on GPS Units and Mapping Software

      I believe that testing backcountry electronics and software are the
      most difficult things we test at BGT. They are so complicated, so
      technical, and so feature-rich that covering them thoroughly is a
      challenge. Testing both the Earthmate GPS PN-20 and the Topo USA 6.0
      is a huge job! I have used (and continue to use) the Topo USA 5.0
      software from a previous BGT test, so I think that half of the battle
      will be familiar.

      I have owned and used a GPS unit for about 7 years. It is one of the
      most basic units available – the yellow Garmin eTrex. It has served
      me very well and does a fine job of giving latitude and longitude to
      find my position on a map. The reception is weak in Washington's
      dense forests, however, though I rarely HAVE to have a reading – most
      of my use has been for fun and to feed my outdoor geek curiosity.
      Where I have found GPS to be a truly amazing tool is in alpine
      settings with bad weather. It's a long story, but I have no doubt
      that GPS saved my rear on Mount Adams about 6 years ago. A whiteout
      left sky and snow indistinguishable from each other and descending to
      our tent would have been impossible with map and compass. After
      wandering for a bit we decided to trust the "go to" feature of the
      GPS. Believing it was incorrect the entire trek, we simply followed
      the arrow and stumbled within 10 feet (3 meters) of our tent. That's
      the day I became a believer in GPS. Truly amazing and a potential
      nightmare was averted.

      I have also always been a bit of a map junkie. Before trips - and even
      more between trips - I have spent countless hours browsing maps for
      backpacking and scrambling routes. I use them for dayhikes and
      backpacking but I have begun to spend more and more time seeking
      undefined routes off-trail over the past 5 + years. This has placed a
      high priority on quality, usable maps.

      I was one of the testers for the TopoUSA 5.0 series. I am very
      familiar with this software and the learning curve for that part of
      the test will be minimal allowing me to focus on the GPS unit.

      The idea of combining a GPS with the computer topographic software is
      powerful. At the very least it can cut down navigation time, and at
      best it can open up new routes. With the addition of aerial and
      satellite images, it offers an unprecedented range of "you are here"

      4) Test Plan

      I will test the software at home on my laptop. I will test the GPS
      here in the Northwest as spring turns into summer and peak backpacking
      season. I will use it on valley trails, subalpine mountain
      backpacking in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, higher cross-country
      routes in the Alpine Lakes, Central Washington steppe, and hopefully
      at least one volcano climb. Depending on when the DeLorme package
      ships, I may also test it on a massive summer road trip from Seattle
      to Cape Cod and back. We plan to stop in multiple National Parks,
      Wilderness Areas, and State Parks as we hike, backpack, and car camp
      our way across the U.S. and back. I have trips currently planned for
      late March in Central Washington or the Alpine Lakes, mid-April in
      northern Utah, and early May in the Alpine lakes.

      I will be making maps of all trips I take over the testing period. I
      plan on making a 2D, shaded relief, and 3D map of Snoqualmie Pass
      right away to test the software to GPS transfer capabilities.

      With the DeLorme Topo USA 6.0 software, I hope to test and report on:

      1) Out of the box usability: Can a user familiar with mapping
      software use it relatively quickly or does it take dozens of hours to
      learn before the real mapmaking can begin? Is it an upgrade to Topo
      USA 5.0 or a complete overhaul?

      2) Zoom: Does the software pan back enough for a big picture, but
      zoom enough for ridiculous detail. I often will make larger area maps,
      but also add in extremely zoomed maps of one area that needs as much
      detail as possible - a couloir I hope to climb, for example.

      3) Shaded Relief and 3D Rendering: Are they realistic? Most
      importantly, do they still serve as a functioning map, or are they
      just an add-on for effect? To me, a well done shaded relief or 3D map
      is worthy of being framed and hung on a wall. Does this software
      produce that kind of quality? How does the new flyover feature work
      in 6.0?

      4) Printing: How easy is it to print maps? Can an accurate
      "preview" be made? How difficult is it to print multiple maps that
      connect to make larger maps?

      5) How usable are the drawing and labeling tools? This allows me
      to make my maps truly one of a kind. Will the DeLorme software allow
      this kind of customization?

      6) Accuracy: Almost all map software estimates mileage of drawn or
      existing trail sections. How accurate is the DeLorme mileage?

      7) Updates and Support: If I run into trouble, how responsive is
      DeLorme? Do they update and patch the software regularly?

      8) This software is claimed to easily integrate with GPS units.
      This is a key feature of this package. In the end, is it worth the
      trouble and effort to do, or just an option that sounds great, but
      isn't worth the hassle.

      9) Do the maps enhance my outdoor experience? They certainly get
      me through the weeks between trips and let my mind wander to the
      wilderness, but do they produce when I'm actually out there? Do they
      help me find the hidden camps? Do they allow me to scramble to places
      I normally wouldn't go for fear of what's on the other side of the
      ridge? Can they get me to water in the middle of nowhere? Ultimately,
      despite all the computer fun and daydreaming and pretty pictures, this
      is the test of map software.

      10) How do the free downloads work with this software? I used
      this feature with TOPO USA 5.0 and while very neat, the $50 coupon
      does not cover very much area. Will the downloads on 6.0 cover the
      same areas or have they expanded the size of the areas?

      With the DeLorme Earthmate GPS PN-20, I hope to test and report on:

      1) Out of the box usability: Can a user familiar with GPS units
      pick up the PN-20 and be using it in minutes or is a manual study
      session required?

      2) Reception: The Northwest is one of the toughest places in the
      country for GPS use due to dense forests and huge trees. Can the
      receiver in the PN-20 penetrate the canopy and give a good reading?

      3) Usability Outdoors: Is the screen really readable in sunlight?
      I'm very familiar with transflective displays from my PDA usage and
      there is a huge variation by manufacturer. Has DeLorme found the
      right configuration for outdoor use?

      4) Battery Life: I could not find an expected battery life during
      my browse of the DeLorme website. How long will it go? As it will go
      on multi-day trips, I hope it can last a long time. They do note the
      use of alkaline, lithium (my preferred), or rechargeable batteries –
      an appreciated range of options.

      5) Integration with Topo USA 6.0? Truly the key to this package –
      how well does it work? Is the transfer simple? Do all of my notes,
      icons, and add-ons show up nicely on the GPS rendering of the map?

      6)Screen? Is the screen usable for map navigation at that size?
      The 2.2 inch screen is pretty tight, but I'm used to that as I'm a
      Palm Treo user and routinely deal with Word and Excel files on a
      similar sized screen. What I'm not used to, however, is the 220x176
      pixel resolution. Is that resolution good enough for map display?
      I'm used to 320x320 on the Treo – is the lower resolution noticeable?
      How saturated is the color? Washed out? Vivid?

      7)Speed? How fast does the GPS render different images? Does
      switching from Topo view to Aerial photo view take a couple seconds or

      8)Durability? How durable is the PN-20? It claims to be
      waterproof – is it? Does it feel solid and tough or do I find myself
      treating it as a fragile piece of gear?

      9)Can I add notes and icons on the GPS unit and send them back to
      my computer later? This would allow on-the-fly trail journaling –
      something that would very cool and create a trail history of my outings.

      10)Overall – is this the GPS/Software combination that DeLorme
      outlines – a truly integrated system with top-end capabilities and
      unprecedented mapping options? Is it something that finds its way
      into my all-the-time gear kit or is it a techy toy?

      5) Previous Tests

      A hyperlinked list of all of my BGT Tests and Owner Reviews can be
      found at: http://www.backpackgeartest.org/tester_reviews/Curtis

      Active Tests: Selected for two tests, but neither have shipped or been
      confirmed to ship.

      Previous DeLorme Tests http://tinyurl.com/3ylyht
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