Consumers have a lot of choices when it comes to buying a GPS device these days. Only a few years ago, it was fairly easy to walk into your favorite gear shop and select a handheld device from either Garmin or Magellan. Now though, there are plenty of other options to choose from, as well, all with a host of features to help you navigate your way through the backcountry.
One of those options is the Active 10 Trek from Satmap, a company with a strong reputation in Europe that is still building its brand here in the U.S.. As you would expect, the Active 10 Trek has all the features you could ever need in a handheld GPS device, including a comprehensive built-in base map of North American and Europe with plenty of points-of-interest, the ability to mark way-points and chart courses, and a digital compass to always keep you moving in the right direction. The Active 10 is also ruggedized against the worst weather conditions, and has a color screen which helps make the maps very easy to read, even in the bright sunlight. Navigation is a breeze at night as well, thanks to a red backlight that is easy on your eyes, and the oversized buttons make the Active 10 a breeze to use, even while wearing gloves.
The device is well built and its level of quality and refinement leave an impression from the moment you take it out of the box. It feels solid, but not overly heavy, and you get the feeling that it can easily withstand the rigors of the trail. With eight buttons on the unit, plus a navigational joystick, the Active 10 can be a bit intimidating to use at first, but with just a little “get acquainted” time, you’ll find it very easy to use. The intuitive interface puts contextual labels on the screen for the most used buttons so you always know what they do before you press them, and before you know it, you’ll be operating the device with ease. It is so easy in fact, that I took it out on my first trial run without ever opening the manual, and was able to use it to successfully navigate off trail between two points.
Of course, the description above could be applied to any number of GPS devices, as they’ve all refined their interface and improved their systems over the past few years. But the Active 10 has something that no other handheld GPS device can boast, which is the ability to access the entire library of National Geographic Maps in electronic format on the unit. The Active 10 has an SD card slot built into the device, which allows for the easy addition of expansion maps. Those maps are purchased separately but deliver the kind of expertise that only National Geographic can deliver, with a far higher level of detail than is possible with the built-in base map,
With my review unit, I received two of the Nat Geo SD map cards to test on the Active 10. Those cards included the Trails Illustrated: America’s Greatest National Parks and the Topo! Texas maps. The latter of those would prove very useful on weekend hikes in my home state, while the former offered up detailed maps of 25 of the best national parks in the U.S. Those parks include Acadia; Arches; Big Bend; Bryce Canyon; Canyonlands; Channel Islands; Death Valley; Glacier/Waterton; Grand Canyon; Grand Teton; Great Smoky Mountains; Isle Royale; Joshua Tree; Kings Canyon; Mount Rainier; North Cascades; Olympic; Redwood; Rocky Mountain; Sequoia; Shenandoah; Voyageurs; Yellowstone; Yosemite; and Zion.
The first time I used one of the Nat Geo maps I was completely blown away. When zooming in to the highest level of detail, my eyes nearly popped out of my head. Seeing all of the topographic lines, trails, and POI’s was very impressive, and a major upgrade over the eight-year-old GPS device that I have been using. It was the GPS equivalent of going from a Model-T to an ultra-modern Jeep Grand Cherokee.