Comparing GPS Handhelds and Satellite Trackers

Introduction to GPS Handhelds and Satellite Trackers

Anyone looking to venture off-grid either on land or at sea that wants a way of tracking their location or following a digital route map should take a GPS tracker or one of our personal satellite trackers with them. Not only do they provide peace of mind for those back home or back at headquarters, they serve as vital location indicators in the event of an emergency. Because when you need evacuating from a remote area where traditional cellular signal cannot reach or does not exist, a satellite powered GPS handheld or tracker is the ideal solution.

GPS Handhelds Overview: Empowering Navigation and Exploration

GPS handhelds are for the serious navigators. From hikers to trekkers, bikers and mountain climbers, they are vitally important for providing digital handheld mapping technology and coordinates. At OSAT, we specialise in a range of Garmin GPS handhelds that are widely used by outdoor enthusiasts, wilderness course leaders, or those taking on personal endurance challenges across vast areas of potentially hazardous and remote countryside. These devices typically come with a powerful antenna through which they channel the satellite signal and a digital display that clearly shows their current location and a route to follow in real-time. GPS handhelds can be pre-loaded with add-on mapping packs to enhance their default capabilities and show a lot more geographical features and waypoints than they would right out of the box.

Satellite Trackers Explained: Enhancing Location Awareness

Equally portable, equally compact, and equally rugged, satellite trackers serve a hugely important job when taken off-grid as some of them can trigger SOS calls, and their typical purpose is to log the carrier’s location to a centralized, online mapping portal which can be accessed by anyone with a computer or laptop that is connected to the internet. Although they don’t usually come with display screens like GPS handhelds do, satellite trackers deliver the same potentially life-saving capabilities as handhelds do thanks to the way they can signal to emergency rescue serves when a situation turns dangerous. Some trackers come with different intervals too, tracking the carrier’s location for example every two minutes, every minutes, or all the way up to every half an hour, or hour.

Satellite Trackers vs. GPS Handhelds: Features and Functions

Although satellite trackers and GPS handhelds both cater for many of the same applications, there are some subtle differences between the two concepts, and we recommend you consider these differences before making a purchase.

Coverage and Connectivity

  • Satellite Trackers: These trackers utilize global satellite networks to provide coverage even in the most remote and off-the-grid locations. They are ideal for wilderness exploration, mountaineering, and expeditions where traditional cellular networks might not reach
  • Handheld GPS Trackers: Handheld GPS devices primarily rely on terrestrial signals from satellites. While they offer good coverage in most areas, they might struggle in dense forests, deep canyons, or other obstructed environments.

Accuracy and Precision

  • Satellite Trackers: Due to their connection with satellite constellations, these trackers offer high levels of accuracy, often within a few meters. This precision is crucial for activities like geocaching and navigating tricky terrains.
  • Handheld GPS Trackers: Handheld devices also provide accurate positioning, typically within 5-10 meters. While this level of precision is generally sufficient for hiking and general navigation, it might not meet the needs of more specialized activities.

Battery Life

  • Satellite Trackers: These trackers often have impressive battery life, lasting weeks or even months on a single charge, making them suitable for extended trips or emergency situations.
  • Handheld GPS Trackers: Handheld devices tend to have shorter battery life, usually lasting a day or two. Carrying extra batteries or a portable charger is advisable for longer excursions.

Mapping and Navigation

  • Satellite Trackers: Many satellite trackers come with basic mapping features, displaying waypoints and tracks. However, the user interface might be limited due to the smaller screens.
  • Handheld GPS Trackers: Handheld devices usually offer more advanced mapping capabilities, including topographic maps, route planning, and detailed navigation instructions. Their larger screens make them user-friendly in this aspect.

Size and Portability

  • Satellite Trackers: These trackers are often compact and lightweight, designed for easy attachment to gear or clothing. They're suitable for those who prioritize minimalism and ease of use.
  • Handheld GPS Trackers: Handheld devices are larger due to their screens and additional features. They are bulkier but provide a more comprehensive navigation experience.

    Communication and Emergency Features:

    • Satellite Trackers: Many satellite trackers offer two-way communication features, allowing you to send and receive messages even when far from cellular coverage. This is a crucial safety feature in case of emergencies.
    • Handheld GPS Trackers: While some handheld devices have limited communication options, they might not be as reliable as satellite trackers in remote areas.

      Making the Right Choice: Selecting Your Navigation and Tracking Device

      We highly recommend you asses the nature of your excursion, trip, adventure, or challenge well in advance of departure. Because of the difference between satellite trackers and GPS handhelds, some options will definitely cater better to different applications. You need to decide how long you will be away for, and whether consistent charging will be necessary of your device. If so, choose one with a long battery life, which satellite trackers typically have. However, if you need to rely on real-time mapping in order to find your way between one destination and another, a GPS handheld as the device you need. If there are people back home that you know will want to keep track of where you are at all times, satellite trackers will automatically map your location to an accessible online portal so that people can log in and check your progress. Satellite trackers are typically cheaper than handhelds as well, so if budget is an issue, then you might need to consider this option over a handheld.

      As always, our team of experts at OSAT is here to help. So, if you need any advice about our range of satellite trackers and GPS handhelds, contact us via:

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