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on June 26, 2002
I am not the type of person who buys a product without careful considerations. In fact, it took well over a week of comparing prices, technical data, research, and reading several reviews of various GPS units before I finally decided that the Garmin 76S is perhaps the best of the handheld on the market. My decision to buy the 76S was based on three reasons. First, I believe it is the best value for the money. Second, it has the most memory of all the handhelds. Finally, is simply it's durability.
It was on a Canada fishing trip when I first realized that I had to have one of these units. My friend and I missed a chance to go on a fly in fishing trip with some friends. However, being so determined, using a Garmin Map 76, we drove to Canada, then the Map 76 pointed us to an old logging road which we drove for about an hour. Once we got to the end of the logging road, we had to paddle a canoe for about 45 minutes across a lake. When we got across the lake we had to hike about four miles over a mountainous ridge to reach the edge of another lake where our friends radioed us and picked us up. The fishing was ever so great! But we really could have never done the trip without a GPS.
Anyway, back to the review. I narrowed it down to three units to purchase: the Garmin Map 76, the Garmin V, and the Garmin Map 76S. Consider the price. True, the Map 76 is cheaper but it does not have all the features of the 76S (the "S" stands for sensors like electronic compass and barometric pressure I think). Not to say these extra features are much greater than the MAP 76, but it is nice to have them just for the extra "fluff".
Secondly, the MAP 76 is only capable of downloading 8MB of information compared to the whopping 24MB of of the MAP 76S. This means that it would take three MAP 76 to equal the memory of one MAP 76S. To give you an idea of how much 8MB of information is, my friend could only load half the state of Colorado onto his MAP 76. As far as the GPS V goes, it holds 19 MB of information. If your are planning a trip by auto and you have only one destination, then the MAP 76 should suffice. But if you are planning a trip and have several destinations, you may find the extra memory in the MAP 76S to be helpful.
Finally, consider the durability. The MAP 76 and 76S are very durable. They both float! The GPS V is waterproof but only up to about 3.3 feet of water. This is fine if you just plan on wading. But mostly what I did not like about the GPS V was the crazy looking antenna that sticks out perpendicular to the unit. I just knew in my clumsy and reckless ways that the antenna would only last so long before I would break it off somehow on a mountain bike flip or something else.
So take into consideration the best value for your money, available memory, and durability and just plain common sense and purchase a MAP 76S. I hope this review will help you "find" the right choice!
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on July 16, 2002
This is my third GPS unit, and it is by far the best. I tried the Garmin eTrex Vista and had problems with sensitivity to tree cover. I live near Sequoia National Park and routinely use the GPS units around "large" trees. I found that the eTrex Vista would lose the signal, or not acquire a signal to begin with, even in fairly large clearings.
In comparison, the antenna in the GPSMAP 76S is much less affected by tree cover. The unit and its software are also much more sophisticated than the eTrex. Also, the function keys on the face of the 76S are easier to use in the field than the ClickStick on the Vista. The latter works o.k. when you are sitting at home, learning to use the machine. However, I found it frustrating to try to use the ClickStick while hiking: The darn thing often wouldn't "go" where I wanted it to on the screen, and the screen areas are fairly small and hard to see in sunlight.
Again, the screen and accessibility are much better on the 76S. The memory (24MB) is the same for both units. In summary, the eTrex wins the "cute" award, but the GPSMAP 76S is a much better piece of equipment and it is easily worth the higher initial cost.
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on April 24, 2003
I labored long and hard over a piece of gear that I use on my boat, in my truck, and on the trail. This unit isn't perfect for each one, but its the best if you do all 3.
The somewhat small display compared to other marine units is not a problem. If you need a huge color display to look cool that's up to you. The fact that it floats is a huge safety feature incase the unthinkable happens. I don't think your hard mounted 5 lbs chart plotter that needs 12volt power is going to be joining you on the life raft if it comes to that. The bluechart software is incredible and a great buy considering what it would cost to buy all the paper charts. The screen resolution is much crisper than older units though it is B&W so don't expect too much. However some of the color units you can't see at all in sunlight so I think B&W is just fine. One of my concerns was switching between road maps and charts. I was glad to find out that it took only a few menu choices to do this. In other words you can load all kinds of information in and just select which one you want to see. You don't have to look at every road in the US while on the boat and you won't have depth contours while driving. Other good boating features are the anchor alarm and Tide charts!
In the car this unit will not auto route to an address however they are releasing software soon that will let you easily route on the computer and download to the GPS. You will also be able to search for an address on the GPS. Right now I own a previous version from an old GPS and have to select the turns myself. I really wanted auto routing , but the units that do offer this had real problems on the boat or trail or both and they cost even more than this one. I also had to be realistic. How lost can you be if you can see every road and know exactly where you are.
On the trail this thing is great. Its light, has a compass, altitude measurement (Alt is better than with normal altimeter because it uses GPS to calibrate itself) and you can get topo maps if you think you need them. It's a little bigger than other trail models but try looking at one of those units while driving 80mph...I mean 65. Remember to bring extra batteries for the trail if you plan to leave it on all the time.
Over all the killer features are its easy to use, will hold every map, chart or trail you can think of and it works everywhere well. The only thing I can say bad about it is with all the software, mounting bracket, and power cord its expensive, but its a lot cheaper than buying 4 different GPS for the car, boat, lifeboat, and trail. If your thinking about just getting the MAP 76 and saving [money] you'll regret not having the memory for all the maps your going to want to load into it.
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on May 14, 2003
In late July of 2001 I attempted to do the classic mountain bike ride known as the Reno Divide-Bear Creek-Flag Creek route, located near Crested Butte, Colo. The route ascends to about 11,300 feet above sea level, and it's isolated and challenging. Unfortunately, although equipped with a map, I became lost in a valley while descending from a ridge. At 10,880 feet I was at an unmarked intersection in a bowl and could not see or discern the way out. Nor could I turn around, because an ominous-looking electrical storm was approaching from the west and to return to the high ridge with a metal mountain bike was too dangerous. It took several false starts, but I did eventually find my way out with an altimeter and the map. I got back down to my car, miles away at about the 9,500-foot level, just as the storm rolled in. It turned cold and rained all that night and into the next day, possibly snowing where I had been lost.
That scary situation persuaded me to buy a Garmin GPSMap 76S last month as I prepare to return to Colorado this summer. Last weekend I used it to navigate an obscure mountain bike route in Henry Willard Coe State Park near Gilroy, Calif. It performed excellently. It made easier a long, difficult ride in remote and rugged terrain by accurately showing where we were and alerting me to the approach of tiny overgrown trails that were barely visible by the side of wider fire roads. Without the Garmin, following the route would have been much harder, even though I had a high-quality map and an odometer.
I have a few comments and quibbles. (1) The alkaline batteries I've used have lasted only a few hours even on battery saver mode. (2) It would be nice to be able to download the route altitude profile from the plot page. Currently this cannot be done. And (3) be sure the software installed in your unit is the latest version -- visit the Garmin website to ensure that it is.
And be prepared to spend hours familiarizing yourself with the unit. There are so many menus, submenus, and possible data fields that it takes a long time to become well acquainted with the unit's functions. If you shirk this task, you won't get full use of it.
I also purchased Garmin's Mapsource topographical mapping software and have reviewed it on Amazon.
I had a couple of technical questions and Garmin's technical support department responded to them promptly and helpfully.
In sum, highly recommended.
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on November 11, 2002
I bought this unit primarily for backpacking but have found it useful for many other uses. On a recent trip it was invaluable. Trying to find a trail head in the middle of the night on the West-Virginia/Virginia Border, it was invaluable. It also kept us from getting lost on major high-ways as well. It doesn't come with super detail road info (I think you can download it with optional software) but it had plenty of info to keep us on the right track. During our excursion it proved invaluable in finding water, deciding where and when to camp and just plain figuring out where we were. I was easily able to load routes from my Delorme Topo 4.0 software (unfortunatly no additional map detail though) and always knew where I was and how far I had to go. Critical information when the sun was going down and we needed a place to camp and find water. My only complaint was that it would lose signal when in its case so the only way to track my route was to hold it (I use 2 trekking poles so this wasn't a good option). Luckily this unit can use an external antena which is next on the list. Incidently we also had a Garmin Etrex (the yellow one) with us. It also did well but it required much more up front planning to be as useful (we just fed information from my unit to get around this) but it did have good bang for the buck as well.
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on June 16, 2003
I wanted the best for my first GPS, so I chose Garmin GPS MAP76S based on possitive reviews I read about it. Except for the one, but very important, flaw I will mention below GPS MAP 76S would have been the best choice.
The flaw refers to the rubber sheet used as waterproof covering of the unit which is just too thin and, thus, easily tears off. To those not familiar with GPS MAP 76S, in order that water will not seep through the opening for the keys, Garmin covered the keys with a rubber sheet which is sticky to the feel. In the unit I bought, one of the keys popped out just after a day's use because the rubber sheet ruptured at the base of that key. I found out that the rubber sheet was too thin and easily tears off.
I hope Garmin would come up with stronger waterproof covering to make the unit withstand rough handling in the outdoors.
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on December 25, 2003
From a slightly different perspective, I use the 76S primarily for interstate driving, where it has thus largely been versatile, rugged (or as rugged as the road can be), and quite usable.
I have only used the preloaded 'basemap' that Garmin provides, reluctantly moving to the MapSource Software because of the price and the limited nature in which I use my GPS unit (which is usually on the highway). The 'basemap' is reliable, providing most major roadways in the U.S., and I find the information accompanying the general road info to be satisfactory (exits, rest areas, airports).
As a novice to the uses of GPS, I decided to splurge and get the best GPS unit on the market (at the time), and dive into the GPS 76S. I found the basic functions, such as Speed, Elevation, Accuracy, Coordinates, Date and Time to be very useful. With the speed and waypoints (a collection of thousands of cities), the 76S can tell you the estimated time of arrival at your predetermined, city destination. I've found the elevation useful while hiking in Colorado, although I have no real use for it otherwise -- and consider it merely a novelty for my novice tastes. The accuracy is good to know for error correction/possibility purposes. The coordinates speak for themselves - and the date and time are super-accurate, although the unit fails to adjust for different time zones (you must manually adjust it in the setup menu). The compass is handy, as well.
I do have a few issues, however. I find the 76S taking between 2 and 3 minutes to find a 3 satellite, 2D GPS signal and 4 minutes to find a 4+, 3D GPS Signal with elevation. Because the 76S eats batteries faster than the machines in "The Matrix" - I must turn the unit off and then 'reboot' it when I need information - which usually takes time, as described above - and when you're driving, you want/need the information as fast as you can get it, especially when navigating turns, intersections, etc... The 'zoom redraw' on the unit is slow, making it dangerous to drive and navigate at the same time without the proper car adapter/dock (which I don't have). Once locked on the satellites, however, the unit works flawlessly. The quad-helix antenna is powerful, and for the most part, the unit will stay locked onto a signal from well inside the car (to get a satellite connection quicker, I usually initially place the unit on my dash, though). I find the typical accuracy is between 30 and 150 feet, and I usually do not get a WAAS or differential signal (which makes the accuracy gravitate towards the 30 feet radius). The tide information is rarely used - and the celestial information is handy, but not static unless your location does not change (i.e. while driving, the sunset time must be adjusted for your current location, which changes as you travel, thus changing the time of the sunset).
There are also many features that I did not discuss, which are native to the fishing/boating/hunting industry. I cannot comment on these personally, but friends who have used my unit who fish and hunt find the celestial information, barometric pressure, and 'best hunting/fishing times' to be very useful. They also mentioned that the NAV AID function being useful, but I can't elaborate for lack of, again, personal knowledge.
Overall, I feel completely confident with the 76S while driving and hiking as far as accuracy of information. The timeliness of the information might be the 76S' only mildly problematic pitfall. Still, for someone who HATES getting lost, the 76S is perfect - if not a little overkill. I also wish I could get better use of the WAAS system, but this has little to do with Garmin. All-in-all, the 76S is great. Timing in getting a signal, redraw, and battery life are the only issues at this point. Again, I am a novice - so my inherent knowledge of the system and its full attributes is limited.
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on May 24, 2004
I've used this unit for well over a year now. I do a lot of mountaineering, sea kayaking, and sailing, and the GPS 76S seemed ideal for my needs. I invested $399 in the unit, about a hundred dollars on a the US Topo MapSource CD, and over a hundred dollars on a single set of marine charts. So I've sunk a ton of dollars into the unit. I would have to say I am definitely not satisfied with the unit, mostly because the display is unreadable under most lighting conditions.
Some specific comments:
- MapSource software, for interfacing with Garming topo and marine data, is extremely primitive
- Very difficult to tailor the display to show relevant marine data
- Magnetic compass is not usable, first because it is almost impossible to hold it "level" to its standard, second because its directions are always wildly off
- Screen is very hard to see due to low contrast, partly because Garmin insists on adding a grey background to the images in the display
- Screen is very reflective, in many lighting situations all you can see is your nose and sunglasses!
- Screen surface is very soft and very sratchable
Overall impression: In demanding outdoor use, with real lighting conditions and the need to get a real answer fast (mountaineering, or looking for a navigation buoy at sunset in high winds) this unit is worthless. I'm really sorry I bought it. I've owned four other Garmin GPS units, as well as a Lowrance, and this is the least usable in my experience.
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on October 9, 2002
After 2-weeks of research I picked the Map 76S. I have had a Lowrance 100plus for about a year and was ready to move up. What a great move. The Map 76S is a very nice unit. With so many bells and whistles you don't know which to ring or blow first. I have had the unit for 2-weeks now and am getting to know it very well. Because of the amount of things the unit will do there is a learning curve. The documentation is very good and the quick start booklet had me operational in less than 5 mins. While I am a some what experienced GPS user, I think a novice could be operational in under 10 mins. I fully expect this unit to live up to its name.
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on August 16, 2004
I like this GPS and bought mine from Amazon. As with all GPS, the unit has to be able to "see" the satellites - e.g. GPS cannot see the satellites through the metal roof of your car. We get so use to AM/FM radio, we take this for granted. The GA 27 C Garmin antenna works with the GPS 76s and comes with an included suction mount that can be attached to the inside of your windshield in car or aircraft. This is my first GPS - the Garmin controls are intuitive to me. Construction is high quality, great ergonomics -- and great vibes, if you consider that : )

To previous reviewer, Van:

Van - get the antenna for your truck and put on your inside front window - you dont need a roof mount!

GPS units use batteries fast. I dont know how you could use this on a backpacking trip, unless you had a solar charger. You would need a pack mule just to haul your AA batteries. Maybe get a position and turn if off immediately? I used a set of new Duracells on an ~10-hour trip with some backlight use. Im getting the 12V car adapter for use in my car.

Despite that typical GPS stuff that you will find with any/all GPS units, I love the 76s. 4 stars - make it more power efficient & it will be 5, Garmin. Highly recommended!

-E Tak
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