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Mountaineering & Expeditions

SatMap Active 12 GB Edition GPS Review

When the fog comes down and the wind speed picks up, the Cairngorm plateau must be one of the most disorientating places in Britain. When the snow is falling it’s even worse. High in these mountains, there is little room for navigational error, nor for any purist grumbling.

We go prepared and take all the tools available to us to make sure we have an enjoyable and safe trip up the mountains. That means a map and a compass of course. If you need an escape route, or there’s an emergency, or there’s a technology failure, or a battery dies, you need a map and compass, plus the skills to know how to use them. But for the other times, well then there’s a Satmap Active 12.

“Even for total luddites, the basics are very easy to use.”

This popular GPS system has bubbled its way to the top of the list for many gear testers (including us in the Outdoor 100 team), Mountain Rescue teams, Search & Rescue Teams and AMI, the Association of Mountaineering Instructors. In short, this is the GPS you need.

What makes this one stand out above the others? Firstly, it’s rugged. It can take the abuse of a very wet day on the mountain. I wouldn’t go swimming with it (you’ve seriously misread the instructions if you are), but it can get a bit wet. The hard wearing case will also take a bit of a battering in your backpack.

One of the main features we like is the large screen and very clear high res mapping; there’s even a sun filter for those really sunny days. The GB version comes bundled with 1:50k OS maps that look great on the screen (there are bundles of maps for across the world from Canada to Croatia).

The use of a barometric altimeter makes judging elevation and pressure accurate. The user interface is also simple. There are seven main buttons that allow you get get all manner of features out of it, whether it’s for planning your day, or a quick location search while on the mountain.

The lithium polymer battery lasts really well, but as always in the cold it can be depleted quite quickly, so there’s also space for three AA back-up batteries.

The main screens are the GPS map with the primary purpose of locating exactly where you are on the map, and it allows you to zoom in and out. By nudging the joystick, it automatically switches to Planning mode. This allows you to scroll around the map. Additionally, there’s a trip log that records a bewildering range of statistics, a compass, and a Shared Data screen that allows you to share data via Bluetooth.

Of course if you want to dive deeper into the various functions, you can. But even for total luddites, the basics are very easy to use. In short, if you’re heading into the mountains properly and you want a GPS, this is the one.

SatMap Active 12 GB Edition GPS Stats:

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