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Reviews > Navigation and Map Gear > GPS > Magellan eXplorist 350H GPS > Test Report by Brett Haydin
Magellan eXplorist 350H GPS
Test Series by Brett Haydin
Initial Report - November 22, 2013
Field Report - February 10, 2014
Long Term Report - April 22, 2014
I started backpacking in Wisconsin as a youth, being involved in the Boy Scouts programs. As a young adult, I worked at a summer camp leading backpacking, canoeing and mountain biking trips. I now generally take short weekend or day trips in rough, mountainous terrain, although I have extensive experience in the upper Midwest as well. I take one or two longer trips each year, where I typically carry about 40 lb (18 kg). I prefer to be prepared and comfortable, but I have taken lightweight trips as well.
Product Information & SpecificationsManufacturer: MITAC International Corporation
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website: www.magellangps.com
MSRP: $249.99 US
Listed Weight: 5.2 oz (147 g)
Measured Weight: 5.2 oz (147 g)
Dimensions: 2.2 x 4.4 x 1.4 in (56 x 111 x 36 mm)
Battery Type: Two AA
Internal Memory: 2 GB
Temperature Range: 14 to 140 F (-10 to 60 C)
Warranty: Warranty from 1 year of purchase covers manufacturer's defects.
Product DescriptionThe Magellan eXplorist 350H, henceforth called the "GPS", or "eXplorist 350H" is an outdoor GPS unit designed specifically for hunting and hiking. The unit is small, light and comes in a camouflage color scheme. The GPS is waterproof to IPX-7 standards and is rugged according to the manufacturer. The eXplorist 350H is rather simple in design, with just four buttons and a center "joystick," for lack of a better description. Two buttons help zoom in and out of the maps, another brings up menu options and the fourth is a "back" button. The joystick also functions as an "enter" button.
The power button is on the top of the unit, but it is almost as camouflaged as the unit itself. When I press it on it takes a few moments to cycle through a couple of screens before starting up. The screen is preset to a dim setting, but can easily be changed. The GPS does not use a touch screen at all, instead relying on the buttons to navigate through the menus.
There are two AA batteries included with the unit to get me started, which I appreciated. Turning the GPS over, there is a battery compartment that can be accessed by turning a lock on the compartment door. The manufacturer suggests changing the settings on the device to identify the type of battery used to ensure that the battery life estimate is accurate. On the rear of the unit is also a small speaker. There is also a mini-USB port to transfer data to and from my computer. It has a very well-secured waterproof cover. Next to the mini-USB port is a small button that can be used to hard reset the GPS.
Finally, there is a handle, of sorts, built into the bottom of the unit. It is a great size and burly enough to attach a lanyard to. This will come in handy so I can keep the GPS close by. On the battery case, there is a slot for use with other Magellan accessories.
FeaturesThe GPS comes with a number of features, so many in fact it would be impractical to describe them all here. The manufacturer included a quick start guide in the packaging, however the full manual is available online for easy download. One thing I wanted to do was to be sure I had the most up-to-date maps. Once I downloaded the update, the prompts included in the installer were easy to follow and the process took only a few minutes from start to finish.
The eXplorist comes preloaded with maps of North America, including the US and Canada. Because the unit is specifically designed for hunters, the GMU's and WMU's (Game/Wildlife Management Unit) are also included as an overlay for the maps. Not all states have the GMU's loaded with the eXplorist, and in September 2013 an update was made available for a number of states. However several states have no GMU data as of the date of this report. I am hunting in Colorado and Wisconsin this year and those states are covered.
This information is really important for hunting since I purchase a license for a specific GMU where I hunt. In Wisconsin, my license is for GMU 54A, for example. If I were to stray out of that GMU and shoot a deer in another unit, I could get in trouble. The eXplorist 350H has a feature that will send me an alarm if I am close to the boundary or even if I cross over. Nice feature!
While designed for hunting, the eXplorist is quite useful for hiking as well. In fact, from the main screen, you can select "Hunt" and "Hike." What makes this GPS special is in part all of the hunter-specific waypoints. If I had had this unit several months ago, I could have logged waypoints of where I spotted wildlife for example. But such options as "blood-trail," "scat," and "bedding area" are just a few of the useful tools available. In addition, the hiking waypoints include "summit, "trailhead," and "campsite among others.
I can also change views on the device. The different settings include a strictly map-view, a compass-view, a dashboard-view and a hybrid-view. The dashboard is handy as it displays elevation gain, distance speed and direction in addition to others. I appreciate that there are different views. When I am hiking in Colorado, for example, I am generally more interested in the elevation so I know how much higher I have to climb to get to the top!
There is a handy battery-saving feature with this GPS, which the manufacturer refers to as "active suspend." The idea is that the eXplorist can go into sleep mode to extend the life of the battery. My previous GPS unit had a similar feature; however I found that I still used up the battery within a couple of days on that unit. I am anxious to see if the eXplorist will exceed my expectations! I can set the device to go into active suspend mode by a predetermined amount of time, so I selected 15 minutes.
Reading the InstructionsThe included quick start manual was easy to follow and had great information for using the GPS straight out of the box. I read it in a few minutes and then used the GPS to track an activity the same day I received it.
A much more comprehensive manual is available on Magellan's website, although it was very user-friendly to read. This unit and the manual were very easy to follow, but I am admittedly a techno-geek.
Initial ImpressionsI have owned one other GPS before, but I found it frustratingly complicated to use. Not only did I have to purchase an annual subscription to get any kind of map, the tracks were not easy to view on my computer nor was it easy to plan a hike. So far my experience with the eXplorist is completely the opposite. The simple menu is user-friendly and I can easily add waypoints as I see fit.
The buttons work great and since they are large and brightly colored, I should be able to use them in the dark with a headlamp as needed. I find the joystick a little tricky to use, however. When I am trying to move up/down/left/right, I sometimes press down which causes the unit to drop a waypoint or select a menu option. I can always press the back button to get out of my mistake, but I hope with practice this won't be an issue. I am a little concerned that with a gloved hand I will have a harder problem.
To use the unit, I select the activity I wish to do (hunt or hike) and then I can start a trip, view my past trips or plan a trip. Frankly, planning a trip from the GPS proved to be a bit difficult, but not impossible. Instead, Magellan provides a program for my computer, called Vantage Point that makes it much easier. Not only can I plot the hike, hunt or activity, but I can also add geocache sites along the way with my geocaching.com account.
I took the unit out for a few activities, including a hike and a bike ride (road bike). The GPS works great and is accurate enough for my needs. The weather was clear on all of my uses so far, which greatly helps I can imagine.
Field ConditionsOver the past two months I have been on four backpacking trips. My first trip was to a hunting cabin near Como, Colorado. The cabin is located nearly 1 mi (1.6 km) off the road, and because of the season we had to hike our gear through the snow to get there. The wood-burning stove kept the cabin warm, but overnight lows dropped to 15 F (-9 C) where we were at 11,000 ft (3,350 m). Once the fire died out, the temperature inside dropped to about 40 F (4 C). The weather was otherwise perfect with blue skies and no precipitation.
My second trip was a short out-and-back in the Badlands National Park in the Sage Creek Wilderness area. I hiked a total of 10.5 mi (17 km) along rocky, dry lands, with some snow here and there. Overnight, the temperature dropped to 25 F (-4 C) with good cloud cover to help keep the temperatures from dropping any more. There was no precipitation.
My next trip was to Devil's Lake State Park in Wisconsin. I snowshoed a total of 12 mi (19 km) through a mix of open fields and deciduous forests and stayed at the established campground. The weather was sunny, windy and rather cold. The high temperature was only 35 F (2 C) with an overnight low of about 20 F (-7 C).
My final trip was an overnight trip in the Torreya State Park near Tallahassee, Florida. This 6.3 mi (10.1 km) loop took me through a mix of forest, bluffs and some swampy terrain. Along the way I saw several deer and many different birds. It rained for parts of the trip with a mix of overcast skies and sunshine. Temperatures were between 65 and 80 F (18 and 27 C).
Additionally, I have used the eXplorist on three day hikes, three bike rides and three runs. I also spent a weekend hunting in Central Wisconsin for deer in November 2013. The first day out, the temperatures were exceptionally cold; -10 F (-23 C) at sunrise. The hike into the tree stand was short and uneventful, but I managed to see a fair amount of wildlife, if not deer.
ObservationsSo far I have really enjoyed using the GPS. I have been backpacking in four states with it, and each time it becomes a little easier to use. Shortly after receiving the GPS, I headed out on a hunting trip in Colorado. I was still getting used to the device and had an especially difficult time with the waypoints. Selecting the right waypoint proved to be a bit difficult with an (insulated) gloved hand. I have found that with my liner gloves, I can still navigate well, but the joystick is a bit more fickle. I like how easy it is to press the menu button, mark a waypoint or navigate back to where I started.
The screen is bright enough under most circumstances at a low (hopefully battery-saving) level. On a few occasions, I had to readjust the screen brightness to be able to see in direct sun.
It's always hard to say exactly how accurate a GPS is for me. The GPS accuracy is listed at 3-5 m (10-16 ft) which is more than enough for me. Several of my trips have included hiking over previous terrain so I was curious to see what the tracks would look like. The GPS tracks show pretty much the same lines, with just a little variation here and there. One thing I found odd was how much drifting my position does while standing. When I was deer hunting in Wisconsin, for example, I sat in a tree stand for much of the day. However, looking at my track, I traveled back and forth quite a bit.
I wish I had had the GPS over the summer so I could scout out my hunting area more. I found the icons for the waypoints handy in keeping track of where I have seen game. I can imagine that over a longer period of time carrying this unit I could really map out some prime spots to set up my tree stand for next year! While I ended up nowhere near the GMU's I was hunting in, I really did appreciate the security it provides. This was less of an issue in Wisconsin, where my license afforded me access to any unit. In Colorado, however, I was limited to just one. I could easily tell that I was well within the boundary.
I did download and install the Vantage Point software. Like most programs for me, it was easy to learn, but I am a bit of a nerd. One thing I noticed was that there seems to be a discrepancy between the GPS and the software on the mileage. I first noticed this when I returned from my trip in Florida. I could have sworn that I recalled a distance of over 7 mi (11 km), but when I uploaded the track Vantage point had it listed as 6.3 mi (10.1 km). Additionally, my phone reported a track at just over 7 mi (11 km) as well. However, my phone also has some points where the track drifted so I am unsure of what to make of it at the moment. I will continue to monitor this prior to synchronizing my future trips to determine if this was user error!
I have also been exceptionally impressed with the battery life of this unit. I have used only lithium batteries, but I have only needed to replace them once. I have used the eXplorist in the battery-saving mode almost exclusively, and the results have been fantastic. The manufacturer estimates battery life to be up to 18 hours, and I am easily able to get at least double that. Thank you! Over the next phase, I plan to use rechargeable batteries to see if there is any decline.
Field ConditionsOver the past two months I have been on three additional trips for an additional five nights in the field. This included three more nights backpacking and two car-camping. My first trip was an overnight to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. I hiked the Hazel Mountain Trail, a 8.7 mi (14.0 km) loop meandering through a deciduous forest. Elevation ranged from 1200 to 2840 ft (366 to 866 m). I experienced a mix of rain with temperatures from 40 to 55 F (4 to 13 C).
My next trip was to Mammoth Caves National Park in Kentucky. I camped a total of three nights, with one night backpacking into the backcountry with my family. It was a short 1.5 mi (2.4 km) hike in to the campsite. The terrain was fairly easy with some rolling hills along a well-maintained path through a deciduous forest. We experienced rain, sunshine and mild winds at time but overall the weather was pleasant. Temperatures ranged from 32 to 70 F (0 to 21 C).
My last backpacking trip an overnight along the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin from the Brooklyn Wildlife trailhead to the end of the Montrose segment, a total of 11.2 mi (18.03 km). The terrain was a mix of meadows and deciduous forests with some marshes thrown in for good measure! Temperatures were great; 45 to 70 F (7 to 21 C). Weather was mild with sun and some clouds.
Additionally, I hiked six days which includes three days of turkey hunting in Central Wisconsin. While much of my time was sitting in a blind, I did break it up with some hikes from one location to the next. My longest day was 8.4 mi (13.5 km) and the shortest was 3.8 mi (6.12 km). I also used the eXplorist while road and mountain biking, including mountain biking at Mammoth Caves on one day.
ObservationsI am still extremely satisfied with this GPS unit. The battery life has far exceeded my expectations, which I believe is due to the battery-saving features this unit possesses. I swapped out the batteries for some rechargeable batteries to start the next phase and the batteries easily lasted my trips. Even at Mammoth Caves, over four days of hiking and I did not have to swap them out. I did turn the unit off at the end of the day each night, but otherwise I left my settings set at to turn off after five hours or to go into sleep-mode after 15 minutes of non-use. In the future, I am glad to know that I will only need to take one extra set on most of my trips!
I was able to do some geocaching with this unit, but it did prove to be a little more effort than I anticipated. There is no way as of this report to sync geocache locations from my computer. However, I can enter waypoints through the "Plan A Trip" function on the GPS. As long as I write the latitude and longitude coordinates down, I am able to find the cache location. Finding the geocache is a different story! While planning a trip, I can enter multiple waypoints and mark them. My choices of icons through the menu is a bit limited, especially compared to the options while I am out hunting and hiking. A generic flag is the best one I found for me. Overall, this was the only realyl disappointing feature I found with this device. There is no way to plan a trip other than through the device.
Because I was using this to locate geocaches, I turned on the alerts for when I approached a waypoint. This was helpful as I walked through the woods. As a result of using this feature, I set a waypoint for the location I want to set my blind up. No more guessing in the early morning darkness!
On one of my trips I lost one of my calls. Using the GPS and my own intuition, I was able to navigate back through the woods and find it. It was difficult, especially since the color on the call blended in with the leaves, but it was a successful retrieval! I would never have been able to do this without the GPS, in my opinion. Or at the very least it would have taken me much longer. I am very happy that the GPS is quite accurate with my tracks.
I was able to successfully download satellite imagery for use on my trips. This was helpful in locating fields to scout. Once the image is transferred to the device, I had to turn on a setting to make it visible. I did not find that it slowed the GPS down at all.
Continued UseI plan to continue to use this GPS for my hiking as well as hunting endeavors. It has a good set of features, and while I would it to have geocaches, it isn't a deal-breaker. I can do exactly what I need to already.
SummaryThe Magellan eXplorist has been an easy-to-use, accurate GPS with several useful features for hunting and hiking alike.
Pros: Lightweight, small and very user-friendly. I like the D-ring for attaching the unit to my pack. Battery life is excellent and it is accurate.
Cons: Joystick took some getting used to, but I was able to make it work well. I would like the ability to plan a trip to be a bit easier.
This concludes this test series. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to MITAC International Corporation for their generosity as well as the folks at BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to be a part of this test series.
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