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Bushnell BackTrack, a fairly limited intro to GPS devices

October 22nd, 2008 by James in Health /Fitness, Miscellaneous Reviews, Outdoor reviews

Those who are seriously into GPS (the worldwide global positioning system which uses a series of satellites to show their position within a few yards) will probably be rather frustrated with the simple interactivity of the Bushnell BackPack, but for the beginner looking to understand how it works and how to navigate with it, it can be a very useful gadget.

The basics are these. Turn the BackTrack on and wait a minute or two while it acquires the GPS satellites. Then, you mark your location using the left hand button and one of three markers to mark where you are. Then, just go where you want to go. The BackTrack will not only keep track of how far a hiker is going, but will point you the way back to where you need to be, counting down the distance so hikers don’t wander past their position. In addition, it has a self calibrating digital compass which can advise the direction one is headed. And with three markers (one for home, the car, and a third open marker) users can keep track of waypoints, where their car is on a shopping trip, or mark their basecamp.

But while the BackTrack will tell you where you’ve been and how to get back, it can’t tell you how to get there in the first place. This is its Achilles heel. I would’ve really liked to have seen a USB plug access and some software which would allow more advanced hikers to input a destination and then get there the very first time. This leaves out a natural niche market of Geotaggers looking for a convenient GPS interface with which to find their hidden treasures. And it would seem to be a simple affair, and judging from the design of the the interior, could’ve provided easy access (considering that AAAA batteries are available now which would give even more room inside). It’s not like asking for turn by turn instructions here or suggestions on where to go to dinner, just the ability to put in a location directly so you can get there the FIRST time. Sure, it could perhaps cost more – the BackTrack costs about $60-70 dollars. But for an additional, what, $25 it would be more than worth the price to give it more interactivity and advanced functionality? I think so.

But other than that, the BackTrack is an excellent hiking tool if you already know where you’re going to start out your day hike. It’s compact medallion design makes for comfortable and lightweight dangling around the neck, and the LCD display is very easy to read thanks to simple symbols and only two buttons with which to navigate and pinpoint starting locations. And keeping markers to three locations doesn’t overwhelm the beginner who’s just learning about GPS navigation.

And here’s a great little secret. KIDS. WILL. ABSOLUTELY. LOVE. THIS. THING. Kids love gadgets and most are just starting to learn about map reading and navigation as they get into elementary school, scouting activities, and the like. And for the cost, it’s a very affordable gift for the right child who has a love for the outdoors and is into camping and backpacking with the family or through scouting.
And the average user can not only use the Back Tracker in the bush, but at malls, stadiums, theme parks or anywhere else where finding a car is like a needle in a haystack.

And I shouldn’t say it isn’t completely useless for GPS Geotagging. Only that you’d have to already have been at the location you’re trying to reach to get the initial marking. If it’s done for you – like in a competition. Then the Back Tracker can easily be used for that purpose. Only not for going somewhere the very first time.

The Bushnell BackTrack is completely weather proof, can keep track on position and distance using both metric and imperial measurement, and is powered by two AAA batteries (not included). It comes in a variety of colors, which include Pink, Green, Camouflage and Gray. Here’s hoping that Bushnell upgrades the next version to make it a little more smart. But don’t let that stop you from getting it. It’s a just for any backpack or car’s glove compartment.

The BackTrack is a blast to have on any hike or trip where you want to remember where you’re going.

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