Garmin GPS 12XL Crash Tested, Ev'Mon Approved
This is one cool toy! It's rugged, it's compact, it's cool-looking, and most importantly it works. I bought my Garmin GPS 12XL personal navigation unit for a recent trip to the Mojave Desert. We were headed to a new area that we were completely unfamiliar with. What better chance to try out one of these devices. I carried it in a fanny-pack in front of me. It was able to hold signal lock for most of our 200-mile ride. It provided a nifty little on-screen map of the route we had taken boy did we ride in circles (more details in the Rasor Valley Trip Report)! With Pinhead in the lead, we expected nothing less. While I still haven't learned how all of the features work, within a couple hours of playing, and very little manual-reading, I was able to figure out most of the basic features and we were off. I had a few hard get-offs, landing on it twice. While I knocked the wind out of myself, it held up incredibly well. Compared to several other units, the Garmin 12XL seems to be one of the best suited for dirt biking. With its ultrasonically welded, dry-nitrogen-filled case, it seems to be rugged enough to stand a reasonable amount of abuse.
It's advertised to acquire satellites in 3 seconds, compared to other units where it could take 15 seconds to several minutes. I found it to take several seconds to pinpoint its position, after being powered off. This seemed completely acceptable. It is also supports DGPS for improved accuracy. During our entire test, we were in wide-open desert. I assume performance would degrade in the heavy tree cover of the mountains. However, an external, active antenna is available to improve performance. How practical that would be for dirt bike riding is yet to be determined.
With the growing popularity of inexpensive GPS units, many atlases, such as the DeLORME Atlas & Gazetteer series, are available with GPS grids. As cool as these units are, they are no substitute for a good topographic map. If forced to choose, I'd take the map every time. I've found it handy to enter the coordinates of as many landmarks and nearby cities prior to heading out for a long ride. This makes it very easy to pinpoint your location on maps.
For those into dual sport riding or riding in the open desert, it works well to enter most/all intersections you plan to cross as waypoints. This will give you "as the crow flies" estimates of mileage between points and a rough estimate for the total trip. When riding in remote areas, this can assist in locating the correct intersection, when there are so many that have never made it onto the map.
For the experienced navigator and good map-reader, this is a fun toy. For those less experienced, it's a great idea.