Garmin GPS Map 66i

Garmin GPS Map 66i

Years ago the DeLorme company of Maine invented a GPS device the size of two flip phones which held electronic copies of maps and could show you on the map screen where you were located.  When combined with a computer the device could desgn routes and way points to plan and follow on wilderness trips.  A few years later DeLorme invented a separate device that could send an SOS message to rescuers by satellite [without depending on cell phone signal] and crudely communicate with them by a tedious text messaging sytstem.   

I  had those two devices for years but they were so clunky and user un-friendly that every time I pulled them out to plan a trip I had to spend several hours re-learnign the procedures.  Plus they were flaky, undependable and frequenlty failed to download the trip data from the computer to the GPS.  When I would call their support department they would say there is no cure and to start over with planning the trip.  Eventually I said good riddance. 

Then a year or so ago the Garmin company bought the rights to these devices, combined then into one handheld unit and improved the systems.  It is called the Garmin GPS Map 66i.  This device is whiz bang unit and a game changer.  It is about the size of a large flip phone.  Like smart phones, it has many hundreds of features, some of which you may never find or use.  But Garmin has packed a treasure trove of life saving and communication functions into a tiny space.   The main thing it lacks is a touch screen. 

But guess what?  You can pair it with your smart phone and access that larger, clearer touch screen. 

Among its features are: electronic copies of maps, including wilderness areas and city streets; marine maps; tide tables; GPS location system from satellites;  access to smart phone keyboard and contacts list; blue tooth connection between devices; WiFi; several free smart phone apps that help manage the device; several free web sites that allows  your computer to further manage the device; weather by satellite [a new feature]; route planning; placing way points; tracing a trip as you move so you can return to your starting point without planning a route; SOS to rescue agencies; two way texting with rescue  agencies; and two way texting with friends without cell phone signal.   The SOS signal is an EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon) that shows the agency your location.  Some of these features require a service plan, similar to a cell phone service plan. 

I recommend this device. Even if you never hike, backpack or canoe , it is a wonderful piece of safety equipment to keep in your car. 

Bob Laney

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Bob is the site curator and writer of Blue Ridge Outing. Since starting the Blue Ridge Outing travel blog in 2002, Bob has written, recorded and documented countless expeditions in the US and around the world.