Envy Of The Explorers Club

Pocket GPS devices don't just navigate anymore

Slide Show >>

GPS devices have long helped outdoors enthusiasts steer through the woods or mark prime fishing spots, but their dull designs were more practical than fun. Now improvements in technology are bringing forth do-everything gadgets with bright screens, loads of memory, and high-performance receivers that give fast and accurate readings, even when shrouded by trees.

I recently tested four top-of-the-line models to see which were worth taking into the wild. Three had color displays, electronic compasses, and barometric altimeters for tracking elevation and predicting weather, as well as memory card slots for adding detailed topographical or marine maps. While I drove, they all could identify points of interest, highway exits, and restaurants. The fourth, a fitness-friendly wrist device, uses GPS to enhance outdoor workouts.

Once home, users can easily download details of excursions to a PC. Or share them with other outdoor freaks on Web sites such as Garmin's MotionBased, which has nearly a half-million hikes, runs, bike rides, and other adventures posted by its members.

To see many of these portable GPS units in action, go to businessweek.com/go/tv/gps

By Andrew Park

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.