A few years ago, if you wanted a hiking GPS the two main brands to consider were Garmin and Magellan. Then Magellan exited the UK market, leaving Garmin as your main option. But as we've already reported, Magellan is back, with a full portfolio of products, including the Geocaching-oriented eXplorist GC and iPhone-ensconcing ToughCase. Whilst these are rather niche products, the eXplorist 710 on review here is a much more mainstream hiking GPS. In fact, it's the flagship of Magellan's eXplorist range, with a few unique tricks up its sleeve.
The most unique features of all aren't directly hiking GPS functions, however, although they can enhance your experience considerably. Like Garmin's excellent Oregon 550t, the 710 incorporates a 3.2Mpixel camera. Although Garmin has recently gone beyond this with its Montana 650t, which offers a 5Mpixel camera, neither are quite up with what even current smartphones such as the iPhone 4S are now sporting. But while you will still want to bring a proper digital camera for serious photography, the pictures will be good enough for recording landmarks and discoveries for navigational purposes, and the 710 has some more capabilities here as well.
It can also shoot video, although only at a paltry 320 x 240, and record audio voice memos. Once these multimedia files have been captured, they can be assigned to waypoints, Geocaches, tracks or routes. So you can use these three multimedia functions to augment your navigation with audiovisual reminders, which will be listed along with the other details of your waypoints, Geocaches, tracks or routes. The camera function even has its own physical button, which calls up the app and is then used to trigger the shutter, although the other options can only be accessed via the menu.
Although its multimedia capabilities are the headline act, the 710 is also packed with high-end hiking features. Naturally, the device itself is ruggedised, with waterproofing to IPX7 standard. This means it can withstand submersion in up to 1m of water for up to 30 minutes. So you can accidentally drop it in a puddle or leave it in the rain without fear of it coming a cropper. It achieves this with rubberised buttons and a rubber flap over the USB 2 port, plus a back cover which locks firmly in place with a screwing catch. There's a connection on the back for attaching a karabiner or windscreen mount, although none of these are included in the box, unlike Garmin's Oregon 550t, which includes a karabiner.