If you only trail ride near your own place, carrying a GPS is just extra baggage. But if you ride out into large tracts of unfamiliar territory, a hand-held Global Positioning System (GPS) can be a lifesaver.
This type of GPS unit isn?t made for turn-by-turn directions in a car. it's made to carry as you hike, bike, run or ride. Most are fairly expensive with internal (or downloadable) maps that show the territory and even the terrain as you go.
We used a simple, inexpensive BackTrack D-Tour GPS device from Bushnell. No flashy maps, and it doesn't leave a ?breadcrumb? trail on the screen so you can follow your exact steps back. But you can mark where the barn or trailer is and the BackTrack displays a big arrow that points in that general direction when it's time to go home.
The unit allows marking up to four spots along the way, and we found this pretty important to do as the arrow pointing to ?home? points ?as the crow flies,? so if there's a ridge or ravine in the way, you could have a problem figuring your way around it. But the BackTrack also shows how far you are from each place you marked, so we found ourselves relying more on the distance to each and using the arrow as a general direction.
While the BackTrack doesn't contain maps, it can track your steps and hold it in memory. Once you get home, that's when the fun begins. Plug it into your computer (after installing software) and it will download your exact path and overlay it on a Google map. The Web site stores your rides and keeps them on file by date, so you can go back any time and see where you rode, how fast and far you went.
The BackTrack has a compass and displays the time, speed and distance traveled as you go. Minimal instructions are included, so there's a learning curve figuring out what button to push when. But it got easier as we used it more.
The retail price for the BackTrack D-Tour GPS is $199, street price $100-$140 (www.bushnell.com, 800-423-3537). Available in red or green, but we recommend the red so it will be easier to spot if you drop it . . . well, in the forest.