Garmin GPSMap 62sc — Mini Review

© 2013 Peter Free


08 July 2013


Photograph of Garmin GPSMaps 62sc for Peter Free review of it. 


Not impressed


I’m in my seventh decade and reasonably experienced outdoors.  Both factors jaded my view of the Garmin GPSMap 62sc, which I ultimately found to be worse than useless for most of what I hoped it might accomplish.



My biases — and mountainous location — slant this review


I rarely carry a map because that would mean that I have to make the effort to identify which ones I need and then take the time to buy them.  Instead, I tend to traipse off into something that looks interesting, carrying a simple compass.  And, when I was younger, I avoided trails like illness.  I liked the quiet adventure of route-finding through challenging up and down terrain.


I have been lost a number of times, but never for more than a few hours, even in arctic Alaska.



“So, Pete, why did a geezer like you buy a GPS for hiking?”


With age, severe osteoarthritis has limited my hiking range.  The inflammatory process has neuromuscular implications that give me problems controlling my legs.  In the last few years, I’ve managed to get myself into some jams simply because I could no longer walk.


I figured that a GPS unit might allow me to shorten my rambles to only the distance necessary to get me most directly to where I was going.  And, for my wife’s sake, I figured I could reassure her that I could inform rescuers where I was — if the cell phone she “makes” me carry works at the site of whatever mishap I’ve created.


So, I gave the GPS 62sc a shot.



Not much to recommend it — for my limited purposes


As with a lot of modern gadgets, they hype around GPS for ordinary users is inflated.


The free maps that I have for the 62sc are not very good.  The Colorado map that I have on mine omits town names, has no trail information, and often misses roads.  According to reviews, maps you can buy are not really any better. 


Worse, the 62’s screen is so small that it is impossible to see enough of a map area to orient oneself in the way that one easily can using paper maps.


The compass works well enough, but the 62sc is many times heavier than my Silva compass and not as pleasurable to use.


Then there are the unit’s self-defeating behaviors:


(i) relatively short battery life


(ii) proneness (in the terrain that I frequent) to losing signal,




(iii) less than easily visible screen in high altitude sunlight.


I keep the unit shut off, unless I want to check my position.  When it loses signal — or bright sunlight washes out the screen — the 62sc turns itself into useless weight.




At 8 ounces, the 62sc is surprisingly heavy.  It is also bulky.


If located in a backpack, it’s inconvenient to reach.  If in a pants pocket, it’s a bulgy annoyance.  And strung from a pack strap (with the included carabiner), it swings irritatingly to and fro.


Carrying the unit in one hand is out of the question when using trekking poles or negotiating ground that requires free hands.



Entering data


The one aspect with this unit that drove me up the wall was its resistance to efficient data entry.


The waypoint screen allows one to enter a note that identifies the point’s significance.   But doing this requires using a directional rocker button and negotiating from letter to letter and number to number on an alphanumeric panel displayed on the screen.  The process is tedious and takes forever.





The Garmin menus are typical of what happens when software designers, rather than users, create a graphical interface.  I often found myself wondering how to get from to the page I wanted from the one I did not.  And, once there, I had to play around to see how to get that screen to do what I hoped it would.



In sum


The 62sc met neither of my primary hopes.  It is not a good substitute for lighter and more visually useful paper maps.  Its compass is a step backward from traditional needle units.  And the overall unit is too heavy for me to overlook the fact that it often doesn’t know where it is.


Overall, Garmin’s engineering (in practical use) seems far behind Apple and Samsung’s cell phones.


In terms of return-to-vehicle route finding, the 62sc arguably comes up short compared to the small digital camera that I ordinarily have with me.  To remember aspects of the descent (return) route that I anticipate getting temporarily confused about (in my pained and elderly state), I sometimes take a picture looking in that direction.  This does not require a GPS signal.  And the photos are easier to access and magnify on the camera than they are on the Garmin.


Consequently, when carry weight is a consideration — which for me is always — the Garmin is more disposable than an ordinary compass and a small digital camera (both of which I would have with me in any event).



On the other hand — for a more receptive audience — or people on flat, treed ground


The 62sc probably lives up to its favorable reviews for people who really need a GPS.


For example, I doubt that my memory is good enough to cache a series of items and later find them all.


People less experienced in being almost (but not quite) lost will find the 62sc a reassuring accessory.  I would love this Garmin, if I lived on terrain that all looked alike.  The times that I’ve been “lost” have mostly been on relatively large expanses of flat, forested ground under circumstances in which I had been moving faster than I should have been.


In the Rocky Mountain region, if the Garmin weighed only 2 ounces, I would put up with its marginal utility.  But at half a pound, it is simply too heavy and too clunky in use to be worthwhile.


That said, if I lived in all-looks-the-same terrain, I would have the 62sc strapped to my belt, until I became more familiar with my surroundings.



Not recommended — except to gadget freaks, people living on similar looking terrain, and those who really need to mark (or find) waypoints


When maps and map software catch up with the possibilities of GPS technology, these Garmins will be worthwhile for a much larger audience.


As it is now, for me, the 62sc was more of an annoyance than a benefit.