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Reviews > Navigation and Map Gear > GPS > Bushnell BackTrack D Tour > Test Report by Gail StaisilBushnell Outdoor Products
Test Series by: Gail Staisil, Marquette, Michigan
Initial Report - July 30, 2013
Field Report - October 28, 2013
Long Term Report - January 6, 2014
July 30, 2013
Name: Gail Staisil
Location: Marquette, Michigan USA
Email: woodswoman 2001 AT yahoo DOT comFor the last 20 years, backpacking has become a passion. I am a four-season backpacker and an off-trail navigator. Although I do take yearly trips to the American West or Southwest, the majority of my trips are in Michigan and Canada. My pack weight varies considerably but my base weight is below 18 lb (8 kg). I am primarily a tarp camper who averages more than 50 nights a year backpacking in a huge variety of weather conditions including relentless rain, wet snow and sub-zero temps.
Initial Impressions and Product Description
The Bushnell Outdoor Products BackTrack D-TOUR arrived with a Quick Start Guide, a discount coupon for batteries and a USB cable. The latter would be used to run it on Windows (XP SP1 or later) and MAC (10.4.9 or later). Three AAA batteries are required to use it.
As suggested by the manufacturer, the BackTrack D-TOUR is a simple-to-use GPS unit. It is small but bulky in size and rather lightweight at 3.6 oz (102 g) with batteries. It has a 1 year warranty and has weather-resistant construction (International Protection Rating of IPX4). The front and back appear to be made from a hard plastic while all sides are surrounded by a protective rubberized strip that also incorporates function buttons, a lanyard loop (no lanyard included) and integrated grips.
The BackTrack features of the unit can store and locate up to five locations. Those location way points can be used to retrace a route. A digital compass is integrated into the unit. Several features can be set such as time and distance with a choice of units. It can also track the course taken so that it can be reviewed. Length of trip, speed of trip, elevation along route and temperature during a trip are the D-TOUR features. Latitude and longitude coordinates can be used to pinpoint location in conjunction with a paper map.
Design and Technical Features
Since I am not very electronically inclined the promise of a simple GPS sounded attractive. I do not like to be bogged down by a lot of details so was happy to see the Quick Start Guide. I quickly found I needed more information, so I checked the website and found a user's manual. Although I panicked when I saw there were 64 pages, I soon realized that it was because it was written in 6 languages! There is also an interactive demonstration of the features on the website as well as nine very helpful videos of different features.
Luckily I had 3 AAA batteries (Energizer Ultimate Lithium) on hand so I removed the battery cover which is done by using a coin to turn a screw. Although it wasn't stated what batteries to use, a discount coupon for the same type of batteries was included in the packaging ...however the coupon was expired! I then headed outdoors to turn on the POWER button and wait for the GPS satellite logo to stop blinking. The unit has four buttons including POWER and TRIP buttons on the left side and MARK and SETUP buttons on the right side. There is also a USB port that is covered below the buttons on the right side.
The POWER button will stay on for 10 minutes if no buttons have been pressed except if it's in the TRIP mode. It can of course be turned off manually by pressing the POWER button down. The MARK button can be used to backlight the display and it turns off in 30 seconds.
The basic user settings such as time, distance and temperature are set by pressing SETUP to select and then pressing MARK to toggle between the settings. The distance units are yards or meters, the temperature can be set to Fahrenheit or Celsius and the time has a choice of 12 hr or 24 hr settings. To view other screens such as the temperature and altitude, I had to press the POWER button after the Target screen (one of the five way points). That sequence is not instinctive to me so hopefully the more I use it the easier it will be to remember. POWER can be pressed again to view the compass which also displays the longitude and latitude of my current location plus a digital compass including the direction of travel. I dislike having to toggle through multiple screens to get all of this information.
The compass must be calibrated. This is easily done by rotating the unit which is held horizontally in a "figure 8" pattern a few times. This needs to be done after the unit is turned on and before each use to insure accuracy.
Taking a Trip
There are five location icons to choose from which include Home, Car, Star, Flag or Target. One of those can be saved by pressing and holding down the MARK button. I find that I have to press the button hard for this to work. I suppose that this is so that it doesn't get accidentally changed (all buttons take the same amount of pressure to work). To return to a location such as "Home" I would select its icon and then the display would indicate the direction and distance back to the location. I can then move in the direction of the arrow until I reach the location when the MARK icon will flash in the center of the unit.
The unit will log up to 48 hours of trip data. This data is mapped out so that it shows locations, elevation and distances. In order to use the TRIP function, I have to hold down the TRIP button. It needs to be pressed again for a moving "hiker icon" to be shown as well as elapsed distance and average speed. To stop recording data, hold down the TRIP button. The TRIP button also allows me to find out how much memory is left by indicating the percentage of memory used. To try it out, I just walked around my yard in no particular pattern.
Connecting to Computer
In order to see more data of any trip the D-TOUR must be connected to a computer. To get the software I had to register the unit and create an account. Adobe Air is required for the software to be installed and that installation went quickly. I then uploaded the D-TOUR software. Both steps went smoothly and that made me happy as I mainly use an old computer with Windows XP SP3.
The picture on the right is an example of tracking from the manufacturer's website.
Next I was anxious to see if I could view the "trip" around my yard on the new software. After connecting the unit with my computer with the USB cord and making sure the unit was powered on, I was able to locate a file with today's date on it. Inside that file I found the tracking from around my yard. I viewed it in all the screen choices such as map (Google Maps), satellite, hybrid and terrain.
Although the tracking was off as far as the exact tracking location, it gave me an idea of what I had done. The tracking had me walking from my yard into the neighbor's across the street (whereas I was only in my yard). I assume the satellite has some room for error! I really look forward to getting the BackTrack D-TOUR out on the trail.
1st and 3rd Photos: Courtesy of Manufacturer
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October 28, 2013
USA Locations and Conditions
During the field test period I have used the BackTrack for a variety of activities including two backpacking trips and a lot of dayhikes. Location of all activities were in Michigan and ranged from hilly deciduous forest to open non-deciduous communities. Elevation ranged from well over 600 ft (183 m) to almost 2000 ft (610 m).
The backpacking trips data are as follows:
Location: Grand Island National Recreation Area, Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Type of Trip: Trail/Bushwhack
Distance: 18 mi (29 km)
Length of Trip: 2 days/1 night
Pack Weight: 23 lb (10 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Sunny
Temperature Range: 64 F to 88 F (18 C to 31 C)
Location: Porcupine Mountains State Park, Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Type of Trip: Trail
Distance: 26 mi (42 km)
Length of Trip: 4 days/3nights
Pack Weight: 24 lb (11 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Sunny, cloudy, unseasonably nice
Temperature Range: 46 F to 74 F (8 C to 23 C)
During the field test period I have used the BackTrack during day outings as well as shorter backpacking trips. With the limited data function I decided not to take it on my longer backpacking trips (that were up to 11 days) as it would be just extra weight after recording just 48 hours of data. I believe this imposes a real limitation to where I would take it.
I run and hike a lot on local trails. Many of these have never been marked with distances. Now I have a ballpark figure (more about that later) as to how long they actually are. I also love to see the terrain profiles as there are nonstop descents and ascents in the landscape here.
According to the manufacturer, the BackTrack is designed to be held horizontal in my hand. I use poles during all my treks so the BackTrack was located in various pockets depending on what I was wearing (front, side or back). I really can't envision walking down a trail holding it out in front of me with my hand. This however has to be done when I use the feature to track back or return to where I started. I used that feature on long stretches of beach where my poles weren't needed. If I was in a bind though such as being lost, I would have to revert to using my hand to hold the unit. I know that the BackTrack is designed to primarily be a simple GPS device to mainly help the user get back to their original starting position.
All in all it has been fun to see the mapping results of my various hikes. Once I got through initial mistakes it became user friendly. One of the notable things is that even after the satellites are reached that it takes several minutes longer for the unit to adjust to the elevation. The first few times I used it I started hiking right away and found that the data recorded for elevation was not adjusted immediately. There was a large spike in the first few minutes that was shown on the map.
The biggest inconsistency I have found is that many of my hikes according to the BackTrack are starting at 500 plus feet (152 m). Since the lowest elevation here is around 666 ft (203 m) I don't think that can be accurate. With that said I have compared some of the known points with what was recorded on the BackTrack. For example my home lies at 725 ft (221 m) but the BackTrack has it at 650 ft (198 m) for a total of 75 ft (23 m) difference. I don't find this a real negative but if one is looking for complete accuracy it is not to be found. On a recent out-and-back hike to Hogback Mt the high point is 1220 ft (372 m). The BackTrack had it recorded at 1139 (347 m) which is a difference of 81 ft (25 m). The picture below shows that I reached the highest point of Hogback. I do however like that fact that the mapping records the overall terrain so I can see the overall differential in elevation so I guess the inaccuracy is not a real problem for me.
Another feature that could be useful is the temperature data. Because most of my hikes featured getting out of a warm car with a warm BackTrack, the temperature would drop significantly (colder outside temps). From there it would be all over the place because I placed the unit in my jacket pocket subjecting it to body heat. For greater accuracy it would be best to keep the unit unstowed. Other features of the pop-up data include time and date of the trip, total mileage, my average speed and as mentioned the change in elevation.
I am far from an electronic geek not even owning a smart phone or the latest GPS (I own a dated one with no mapping features). That said I really didn't like to have to go home to see the map that the BackTrack was recording. Part of that was that there was no way to check that it was even starting in the right spot without comparing a paper map to the UTM location (which by the way has been dead on compared to another GPS unit). I guess the desire for more information hits me when carrying a gadget. (normally I am a map and compass user so I usually check the terrain based on a topo map).
Connecting to D-Tour has been easy and quick. I normally check each view once I upload the maps. I like the satellite view as it gives an overall picture of tree cover as well as any existing backroads. I can faintly see an old railroad grade on this map on the left (grade is on west side of lake and trail):
So far I have used a set of Lithium batteries and a half set of alkaline. I switched the batteries out again to Lithium before the last multi-day trip to insure longevity. I am using the BackTrack several times per week on average so I guess the battery usage seems about normal.
During my Porcupine Mountains trip I recorded the first three days of backpacking. The last day was only about a mile (1.6 km) so I didn't track it. Based on park map data the BackTrack data for the other three days was longer in distance (park map data was a couple miles/several kilometers a day shorter). I compared these to a couple of old maps from the park as well and the BackTrack gave me credit for a few extra miles each day. Again I have no way of knowing which is correct.
I also noticed that the map overlays nicely with the park map except for the out-and-back section on the purple outline below (that never happened). That could account for the extra mileage that day. I did not turn off the BackTrack during breaks so I also wonder if the extra mileage occurs while I am sitting!
To summarize, since the BackTrack is a really simple device it lends itself to a lot of limitations. That said I have still found it fun to review the data despite the inconsistencies primarily in elevation and distance.
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Long Term Report:
January 6, 2014
USA Locations and Conditions
Location of all activities during the long term period were in Michigan and ranged from hilly deciduous forest to open non-deciduous communities. Elevation ranged from well over 600 ft (183 m) to almost 2000 ft (610 m). Temperatures varied from -18 F to 30 F (-28 C to 1 C).
The multi-day trip data is as follows:
Location: Hiawatha National Forest, Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Type of Trip: Trail (ski-in rustic cabin trip)
Distance: Approximately 4-5 mi (6.5-8 km) per day
Length of Trip: 4 days/3 nights
Sled Weight: At least 50 lb (23 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, light snow
Precipitation: 0.10 in (0.25 cm)
Temperature Range: -18 F to 9 F (-28 C to -13 C)
Hikes, Snowshoes, Ski Trips:
Locations: Hiawatha National Forest, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Escanaba State Forest and NoquemanonTrail Network in Marquette and Alger Counties, Michigan
Distances: vary between 3 -10 mi (5-16 km)
Temps: Below Zero (-18 C) to 30 F (1 C)
During the long term period I have used the BackTrack during day outings which involved hiking, snowshoeing and cross country skiing. It also came with me on a four-day rustic cabin trip in bitter cold temps over the New Year. Actually there has been a lot of below-normal temperatures the whole long term period.
The BackTrack has been both a delight and frustration. Throughout the fall I used it on about every trail hike I did. Most of the time it functioned fine but on many occasions it would just simply quit in the middle of my route. Of course I didn't find that out until I was finished. I would go to turn it off and find that it already was off. Some of these times the battery indicator had implied that it had only half or more battery power left when I started so I thought it would be fine (as these outings were generally around only two hours in time). I have used a variety of batteries as the unit seems to eat batteries. For the most part I have used lithium for purported longevity but the alkaline ones seems to offer just as much usage for a lot less money. I would say that on average I am not getting more than 9-to-10 hours of data on a set of batteries.
Some of my routes have been the same so it was fun to see if I would get the same calculation of distance each time. It has been fairly consistent. Oftentimes if I go with a friend they run an app on their smart phone and the distances have been close, but the BackTrack edged out their distance a little each time. Of course there is no way to tell which one is right on but this is not important in my opinion.
Winter came for good early this year so I have been mostly on skis and snowshoes since mid-November. I try to get a satellite before adventuring out into the cold whether I start from my car at the trailhead or just inside a trail hut. Repeatedly it has taken forever to get a satellite...sometimes at least 12-15 minutes. Needless to say this is frustrating especially with the bitter cold temperatures that were at or below zero (0F/-18 C) with significant wind chill. Many of the trails are in no-cell service areas but I wouldn't think that it would affect getting a satellite reading. As soon as I get a satellite I turn on the track function and head off (placing the unit in my pocket). Once skiing I usually don't take it out of my pocket until the end of the route. At least a third of the time it has turned itself off. Since all buttons on the unit are hard to press I really don't think that it is being accidentally turned off. I do consider that maybe the cold is affecting it but even with new batteries it does the same thing sometimes. Therein lies the frustration.
I have used the return function on a few snowshoe outings to see if it would take me back to my car. It seems to work fairly well even if I ventured off trail on purpose.
OK, so what has been fun about the BackTrack? Well when it works I delight in seeing the track I made once I upload it to the computer. It seems to work better in warmer weather but this may be just my experience. While the elevation still seem to be off, most times for my purposes it really isn't a negative. I simply enjoy just seeing the total differences in elevation rather than specific elevation readings. It really is easy to carry with it being lightweight.
As far as future use after the test period is concerned, I believe I will continue to use it for many outings but I certainly wouldn't rely on it backtracking me to the start if I were in dire straits (due to it not always performing perfectly). This is not abnormal for me as I don't depend on any electronic device to do that; there is simply too much room for failure. Overall I have enjoyed testing it.
Thanks to Bushnell Outdoor Products and BackpackGearTest for this opportunity to test the BackTrack D-TOUR. This report concludes the test series.
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