DeLorme PN-40, a review


The PN-40 is the latest GPS offered by DeLorme, which is a small mapping company based in Yarmouth, ME. The product was released in early November and many hikers, bikers and geocachers have had the opportunity to purchase it and put it through its paces, including myself.

I could wax poetically about the barometric altimeter and refresh rates, but if you want to know more about those you can go to the DeLorme site and look at the spec page. I've never been that interested in the particulars of these devices. The only thing I care about is whether the GPS can get me to where I need to go. This unit can do it, and do it spectacularly well.

I admit it, I'm a huge map snob. I don't use substandard maps. Maps that I include in the substandard map catagory are: All National Geographic mapping software, PATC maps, Maryland DNR maps and National Park Service maps. For a paper map I will only use National Geographic maps. For mapping software, only DeLorme TOPO will do, period, end of sentence, don't argue with me. I don't have time for incorrect or missing data.

If you read this blog and look at the pictures you will find that I get to places very few other people go. It can take twice as many hours to plan my trip than to carry it out. These bushwhacks I create are complicated, carefully planned and double and triple checked before I leave home. The DeLorme PN-40 is a critical part of the process.

The DeLorme TOPO software allows me to mark-up the basic contour map. I will look at aerial data and create waypoints, outlines of logging roads, identify bridges, parking areas, structures to avoid and fence lines. The aerial data comes from many sources, but I use the black and white aerial data from DeLorme's Netlink server extensively. The black and white pictures are taken in winter and I can see what is on the ground.

I create a draw layer which is an overlay to any map that I view on the PN-40. I transfer the draw layer to the device, and I will also transfer some aerial data, either black & white or color. Once I have everything transferred I create a route that I want to take, and also create some bail-out points just in case.

The PN-40 allows me to create a driving route between my home and the parking area which I have annotated as a waypoint. This way the PN40 works as a road router. Once I get to the trailhead I know that I can pretty much walk anywhere and know exactly where I am. I can change my course if I want, or expand it because I have all the information. I can look at the contour lines, the aerial data, the USGS data, view my intended route, and see my track line.

The PN-40 is lightweight, it only takes 2 AA batteries. It can also use a CRV3 Lithium ion battery pack, which is extremely light and works in very cold temperatures. These batteries are rechargeable and last about 6 hours on a charge while in full routing use. The backlight works well too, in full sun I can see every detail. The device can find addresses and provide phone numbers of "Points of Interest". I've already used it to find a specific cafe and a rental car place.

As far as geocaching goes, I use PN-40 for that too. It works well, I can find the caches without a problem and with the aerial data I have a very good idea where the cache is before I even get to the location. The biggest problem I have now with caches is lousy coordinates provided by cache owners.

The best part of all of this is the cost. You can find the PN-40 now on the J&R site for $340. Most everything you need is included. The mapping software comes with the product. For an extra $30 you can get an unlimited subscription to Netlink for one year. And if you are angry, mad and want to vent can do that too by joining the DeLorme forum. You can ask any questions about the products, make suggestions or provide a tip and someone will provide a response. Try doing that with Magellan or Garmin!

2 comments:

RobG said...

I too am a map snob. :)

For really good USGS maps, check out Terrain Navigator from mytopo.com (formerly from Maptech). FAR better than the software from Nat'l Geographic.

While I find the Topo7 maps far superior to Garmin's Mapsource Topo maps, they can't hold a candle to USGS 7.5' quadrangles. That's why I download those into my PN-40 SE to use in addition to the Topo7 vector maps.

Brian said...

I think a friend of mine just bought this GPS also! The $30/year map access sounds like a sweet deal to me compared to Garmin, etc. Thanks for the mapping advice!