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Although the main focus of attention for GPS technology has been on automotive navigation, it has many more uses other than helping you drive from A to B. If you're out hiking in the wilderness, knowing where you are and which direction you should be going is equally essential, and potentially a life saver. Previously, a GPS was good for getting your coordinates, but the built-in maps paled in comparison to traditional Ordnance Survey paper. Now, at long last, Garmin's Oregon 300 addresses those needs, offering a full range of digital OS maps for the UK, plus plenty of useful and fun extras.
The Oregon 300 is a sturdy device, encased in shock-resistant plastic, and certainly feels capable of handling life in the great outdoors. It measures 5.8 x 11.4 x 3.5cm (W x H x D), weighs just under 193g, and is waterproof to IPX7 standards, which means it can withstand 30 minutes at depths down to a metre underwater, so even torrential British rain shouldn't be a problem. An industrial-strength karabiner locks onto the back, built of solid aluminium and similar to the kind found on mountaineering gear. This allows you to hook the unit somewhere convenient about your person so you don't lose it.
The karabiner attachment conceals the catch securing the back of the device, so you can't accidentally open it when out and about. Inside, can be found the slots for two regular AA batteries, and underneath that a MicroSD slot. As standard, the Oregon 300 comes with basic world maps, showing major highways and cities, plus shaded contours. But these are not particularly detailed, so you will want to add a MapSource-compatible map with more features. This will primarily be via preloaded MicroSD, but there is also 850MB of memory onboard for loading data via the Oregon 300's USB port and a desktop computer.
We were sent a Garmin GB Discoverer map on MircoSD covering national parks of Great Britain with a 1:50,000 scale, but 1:25,000 scale maps are also available for specific national parks and trails, such as the Peak District or the Ridgeway. You can find out more details of map coverage here. The GB Discoverer maps are based on Ordnance Survey data, and such quality does not come cheap. The 1:50,000 data costs £79.99, and each 1:25,000 set £129.99. When you can pick up the paper versions for £7.99 apiece, digital hiking looks like an expensive option. You could also install cheaper TOPO maps, but these don't have a very good reputation for detail. The OS map options are the Oregon's killer feature.
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