Garmin GPSMAP 64 Review – Handheld GPS with GLONASS Receiver
Rugged, Waterproof and High Sensitivity GPS with GLONASS Receiver
The Garmin GPSMAP 64 is a tough little piece of kit with easily readable graphics and the ability to upload topographic maps all around the world. With an aptly sized 2.6″ color display, the sunlight readable screen gives you clear images in the brightest or wettest of days. The dual battery is a must for anyone who wants to spend more than a few days out in the sticks and gives one less excuse for die hard map and compass folk. Weighing just 7.6 oz or 215 grams, you get a powerful and lightweight handheld GPS in a toughened waterproof casing.
Features and Specifications
Size (L x W x H): 1.4″ x 4.2″ x 6.3″
Weight: 7.6 oz / 215 g
2.6″ color display with sunlight readable screen
4 GB internal memory and a microSD compatible reader for expanded memory
High-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS receiver with a quad helix antenna
Dual battery system – Use 2 x AA batteries or the optional rechargeable NiMH battery pack that can be charged while inside the device
16 hour+ battery life in full use
250,000 preloaded caches from Geocaching.com
What is GLONASS?
GLONASS Satellites orbit on the left, GPS on the right
GLONASS is an acronym standing for GLObal NAvigation Satellite System and is Russia’s answer to the USA’s development of GPS (Global Position System). With 24 satellites covering the planet, GLONASS has no clear advantage over GPS which has a network of 31 satellites covering the globe. Even though there are fewer satellites in the GLONASS network, you still get a more accurate reading and features such as turn by turn navigation, real-time traffic data and more. With coverage not being as good as GPS, the real advantage comes in when you use GLONASS in conjunction with GPS, giving you increased accuracy and coverage.
Built in Worldwide Base Map with Geocaching
The GPSMAP 64 comes with a pre-installed worldwide base map with easy to read terrain and shaded relief so you can navigate through the landscape before you get there. While there is no denying this is a fantastic feature, they are often limited in detail and the TOPO maps are far better. You also get over 250,000 worldwide geocaches, pre-loaded onto the device sourced directly from Geocaching.com with access to all the user photographs. This is great news for geocaching users as the website has one of the biggest and best databases of geocaches on the interweb. Wherever you go in the world, you will have instant access to local topographic maps as well as points of interest listed on the geocache.
Preloaded Maps and 4GB Internal Storage
If the pre-loaded maps weren’t enough for you then adding new map data is easy with multiple, topographic, marine and road maps with precise detail. The 4GB internal memory can be expanded using a microSD card in the slot under the battery so you can download 24k and 100K TOPO maps. The microSD card reader supports BlueChart® G2 and City Navigator NT® pre-loaded charts and map data memory cards. The Garmin GPSMAP 64 works hand in hand with BirdsEye Satellite Imagery (subscription needed) which allows you to install satellite imagery onto your device and integrate it with your existing maps.
Adding Custom Maps
The Garmin GPSMAP 64 is also compatible with the Garmin Custom Maps which allows you to turn paper maps and other digital maps into compatible maps for your GPSMAP 64, for free. The transfer process is very user-friendly and easy to figure out with loads of online support should you need it. You also get free access to BaseCamp trip planning software that allows you to view, create, organize and share your maps and trail routes. So beyond a standard handheld GPS system, you get access to all kinds of different free software and upgrades that are only available to Garmin users.
Pre-installed TOPO Light Maps
If you buy a Garmin GPSMAP 64 in the UK or Ireland you conveniently get some light TOPO maps already loaded onto the device, which saves you a lot of money after your initial purchase. I am not sure if this is something you get in other countries as well but for me, it was an unexpected pleasant surprise and they come in handy most weekends. Created from the Open Street Map (OSM) database generated by the community, you get lots of detail including trail networks for all manner of outdoor activities, place names, waterways, places of historical interest and lots more.
Reception in Thick Cover
The GPS quad helix antenna and GLONASS receiver work very well together to give a fast and more precise location fix even in deep canyons, boulder valleys, and thick tree cover. The GLONASS helps to get that initial fix, as well as maintaining a good satellite lock in more rugged terrain while the GPS gives you a wider coverage and helps keep a consistent connection. I have never experienced any lack of signal or even the notion of a struggle while in the great outdoors, it doesn’t like being used underground or even indoors in general but that is to be expected with high-performance equipment.
The battery life of the Garmin GPSMAP 64 is 16 hours according to the manufacturer, however, I have not done a test from fully charged to a dead battery to test this out. Long weekends on a single charge are not a problem but one of the best features of the Garmin GPSMAP 64 is the dual battery option, which allows you to leave the house fully charged but take a couple of AA batteries as backup. The battery pack can be recharged via an AC adapter or, USB cable, or Portable USB charger which also connects the device to backup and upload new data. I recommend using the rechargeable battery pack whenever possible for both Eco-friendliness and money saving…ness!
In terms of usability, the Garmin 64 is very user-friendly and the nicely spaced and clearly defined buttons mean you can use it without having to take your gloves off in cold weather. Yes, it does take longer than the Garmin Oregon 600 to key in waypoints and coordinates but it is far more reliable than a touch screen GPS and the screen is much tougher. There is very little lag and the pinpoint is quick to find your locations, thanks to the GLONASS and GPS combination receiver. I have not tested mine in extreme cold but it handles the severe heat just fine and the sunlight readable screen comes in handy during mid-day sun.
With the Garmin GPSMAP 64 being the base model of the series of 3 devices, you can also get The Garmin GPSMAP 64s and the Garmin GPSMAP 64st for a little extra. The next model up from the base model is the 64s which has a magnetic compass, barometric pressure reading sensors and Bluetooth which is a good feature but I have heard it does not work all that well yet. The next model up from that is the 64st which includes all the features of the 64s and adds 100k scale TOPO maps. I think the compass is a nifty little idea but the standard base model works just fine for me.