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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey All,

I've searched the board for threads about the recommended Handheld GPS for use in a ditch kit, and the thread results were a bit dated. Since technology changes so much, I'd like to know what everyone is using out there...and why. Right now, here is my thought process

Do I want a dedicated GPS or combo VHS unit?

Whats the difference between Garmin Etrex and GPSMAP 76CSX
- why the price premium for the 76 series?
- waterproofing?

It would be good to know what else everyone is using on their boats.
 

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Aquaholic
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Well, it seems that a GPS alone without any way to communicate to others the information you are getting from it is not very usefull; comforting maybe, in that you will know exactly where you are not getting rescued from, but not a great help in and of itself.

Something like the SPOT messenger, for about teh same price as a cheap handheld GPS, might be a better option for a ditch bag.

Absolutely add a handheld VHF. It might not bring rescuers; but when they get there it could make a huge difference in how efficiently they get you aboard.

Just my opinions,
Fred
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Well, it seems that a GPS alone without any way to communicate to others the information you are getting from it is not very usefull; comforting maybe, in that you will know exactly where you are not getting rescued from, but not a great help in and of itself.

Something like the SPOT messenger, for about teh same price as a cheap handheld GPS, might be a better option for a ditch bag.

Absolutely add a handheld VHF. It might not bring rescuers; but when they get there it could make a huge difference in how efficiently they get you aboard.

Just my opinions,
Fred
I like the concept of the Spot messenger, but that $99 subscription bothers me. Couldn't you get the same result out of a $400 PLB w/EPIRB capability? Pays for itself in a few years.

But back to GPS...you always want to have a redundant one in case the plotter goes haywire, right?
 

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Epirb with GPS built in is the solution.
Failing that...GPS with Sat phone.
GPS and handheld VHF will only give the ability to communicate for 5 miles or so.

As to WHICH GPS...no need to get the 76...the 72 is the same guts and floats and is waterproof. The Etrex is 10-20 bucks cheaper. It is also waterproof but does not float and does not have the marine functions that would allow the GPS72 to serve also as a backup on board. Add AA batteries to the ditch bag either way!
 

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Owl, I too am ambivalent as to the SPOT messenger.

I see it as useful for sending location updates for long term cruisers, like Labatt is. (of course it is useless the two places I really wanted/want one in then past and upcoming year, the Arctic Ocean and the west coast of equatorial Africa) I agree, for a strictly emergency tool the EPIRB with GPS is absolutely the gold standard.

Of course, neither will function as a back up GPS unit; but that really is a separate question.

If I were going off shore, and HAD to choose one; it would be the GPS enabled EPIRB.

If I were sailing inshore, same conditions, I would probably go for a small backup GPS with a VHF, or the SPOT; but again only as an emergency tool.

Scratch that; buy the GPS-EPIRB and a crummy $100 GPS for backup. Do it right.
 

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VHF is a battery drainer, I would not want one in any package but instead as a handheld stand-alone, then I would only use it as necessary. The GPS can also be a handheld standalone and compared to the VHF, it is easy on batteries. I have both a handheld VHF and 76CS, the 76 lasts for hours on two AA batteries, while the Uniden Atlantis hand-held VHF drains six AA batteries in short order.
The 76 series seem to be a premium but compared to when they were first introduced at $600+ dollars they are budget priced. They carry enough memory to load all your charts, are color plus they have a multitude of functions to double as a back-up unit if your main system fails. They can come in quite handy. I don't go off shore (always in easy reach of land) so I don't really need a ditch bag per say but if/when I do every item would be standalone and I always have a plentiful supply of batteries on board.
 

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I'd opt for basic garmin 76map (monochrome) with generic (less details, more coverage) maps loaded in it. Just slap some dielectric grease into battery compartment. Battery compartment is a weak point of the device, if it exposed to open water, it may rust eventually. I mean real exposure – like while kayaking.
It is cheap, robust, last long time on two AA batteries, and does job well.
The tricky question is how to get maps for it on a budget.
 

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Being a pilot, I'd add a handheld VHF that had the aviation frequencies, including 121.5. That way I can broadcast and hit planes many dozens of miles away. (What's the horizon for him at 35,000 feet?) You may have to explain the situation, but you'll be able to, no problem. And since I speak English, and English is the standard aviation language, there won't be a language barrier. Every pilot flying internationally speaks English.
 

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I have a ACR PLB (overkill for Lake Ontario, but it went with my wife and I to Portugal), a Magellen 315 GPS (old, but good acquisition and reasonable battery life), and a Standard Horizon HX 471S (has aircraft receive frequencies and several transmit options...plus a strobe light built in!) in my "crash box". Also hand flares, a flashlight, multitool, spare batteries, a throwing line and a signal mirror. All in a single fishing tackle-sized gasketed box.

For salt water, I go to a hard-bottomed, waterproof bag with food and water in it as well and would move to SOLAS grade flares, etc.
 

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Here's a great ditch bag supply list... Abandon Ship / Grab Bag With regards to GPS's, just remember that the batteries will need to be replaced on some sort of basis. With regards to a VHF, I bought an ACR emergency VHF handheld which has 5 year lithium batteries in it, so I can store it in my ditch bag for several years without having to worry about battery replacement.
 

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When buying a GPS that was really just for the ditch bag, or for when lightening took out all of the GPS units on the boat that are plugged in, I figured all I needed was lat and long, and the very basic chart that comes with it so I could see if land was close enough to try swimming for it. The Garmin GPSMap 76 is black and white, costs a $150 bucks and lives in a little kit with a bag of batteries next to it. You don't need color and fancy maps when you are in your life raft.

Bene505, can you name a couple of brands and models of handheld radios that have both maritime VHF and also the airplane freqs? Would appreciate it. Excellent idea. I'd been vaguely assuming that the Icom V8000 2 meter radio I have in my boat covered airplanes but it doesn't look like it goes down to 121.5.....

Ian
 

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I bought the Standard Horizon HX850S for my ditch bag. It also functions as a backup GPS and backup VHF radio. Seems like a lot of bang for the buck. Oh yes, and it's floating/water proof...
 

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Yes, that might be the next one I get. Heck, I need three, right?

Strangely, the one I use on deck is the now-old SH HX260S, a biggish, minimal submersible that has plenty of rubber around it and the option to use an alkaline pack or the stock Ni-Cads. It's been out in rain and sleet (I usually hang it off a cabin-top spinnaker winch) and it's taken a few tumbles I wouldn't want to test my other gear with.

It also has the best range of my handhelds: I did about six miles past the Spit and Toronto Islands from a Zodiac off the Bluffs back to the "home boat" as a test, and while I was at best a 2 out of a 5, I could be heard over low land from three feet of height.

I recommend that if you like a new fancy model, you borrow it from someone who has already bought it and try it for range, quality of transmission and runtime. The results can be surprisingly variable.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
So its down to the Garmin Etrex Vista HCx or the 76CSx

About a $60 difference between the two...but above my original price target of $150.
 

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So its down to the Garmin Etrex Vista HCx or the 76CSx

About a $60 difference between the two...but above my original price target of $150.
Does the Vista HCx have the fluxgate compass that the 76CSx has? If not, and you plan to also use this as a backup to the main navigation systems, get the 76CSx.

Also, does the HCx float? That would be important for marine use.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Does the Vista HCx have the fluxgate compass that the 76CSx has? If not, and you plan to also use this as a backup to the main navigation systems, get the 76CSx.

Also, does the HCx float? That would be important for marine use.
HCx does not float but is waterproof, both have electronic compass(es). Having something floating is worth the extra $$?
 

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What ever you get for your ditch bag should use AA or other standard batteries, and you should pack a bucketload of them. Personally, I'd recommend going with a handheld GPS like the Garmin GPS76, which uses AA batteries, and then get a handheld VHF that also uses AA batteries...and then pack the ditch bag with a lot of the Energizer Photo Lithium AA batteries. The reason I like the photo lithium AA batteries is they have a longer shelf life than alkalines and a longer run time...
 
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