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Reviews > Navigation and Map Gear > GPS > Magellan eXplorist 350H GPS > Test Report by Michael Mosack

MAGELLAN EXPLORIST GPS 350H
TEST SERIES BY MIKE MOSACK
LONG-TERM REPORT
March 02, 2014

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Mike Mosack
EMAIL: mosack@earthlink.net
AGE: 50
LOCATION: San Diego, California, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 1" (1.85 m)
WEIGHT: 240 lb (109.00 kg)

I've been backpacking for over 30 years, doing solo and group trips, with and without kids. I do day trips, weekenders and week-long or longer trips throughout the year. I backpack in all climates and seasons and in various locations within the USA, to include my favorites being Yosemite and Sierra Nevada, California. I also have worked in Afghanistan for 4 years and rely on my backpacking equipment constantly. I go lighter whenever possible. Quality and reliability of items I carry are paramount to me over price and weight.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: MITAC International Corporation
IMAGE 1
Image courtesy of Magellan website

Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website: www.magellangps.com
MSRP: US $249.99
Listed Weight: 5.2 oz (147 g)
Measured Weight: with batteries 5.2 oz (148 g)
Measured Weight: without batteries 4.2 oz (118 g)

Other details:
Manufacturer contact information as well as a "thank you" message can be found inside the box cover in English, French, and Spanish.
Per website -
Listed Dimensions: 2.2" x 4.4" x 1.4" (56 mm x 111 mm x 36 mm)
Battery Type: 2 each AA size (Energizer brand included)
Battery Life: 18 Hours
Waterproof IPX-7 meaning it is protected against water immersion - Immersion for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter.
Available User Storage 500 MB
CPU: 233MHz
Temperature Range: 14 to 140 F (-10 to 60 C)
Suspend Mode
Internal Memory: 2 GB

Screen
Display Resolution: WxH QVGA, 240 x 320
Screen Size: 2.2" (56 mm)
Display Type: Color, Transmissive

GPS & Sensors
GPS Accuracy: Up to 3-5 meters
High-Sensitivity: GPS SiRFstarIII™
Antenna Type: Multidirectional Patch
WAAS / EGNOS / MSAS

Mapping & Navigation
Preloaded Maps World Edition - NA Detail Only + Topo Contours + Hunting GMU's
Uploadable Maps
Points of Interest
Vertical Profile
Hunt & Fish Calendar
Sun & Moon Information
Coordinates Systems & Datums
Audible Proximity Alarms

User Generated Content
Accepts GPX Files
Waypoints: 2000
Routes: 200
Legs Per Route: 500
Picture Viewer
Tracks: 200
Points Per Track: 10000
User Data Online Sharing

Interface & Communications
Communication Protocol: USB Mass Storage
USB Port
PC & MAC Compatible

IMAGE 2
Actual product with packaging



The Magellan eXplorist 350H GPS hereafter referred to as the GPS or eXplorist or Magellan, is a handheld, special purpose GPS device designed specifically for hunting and hiking (note the "H" in 350H). The case is submersible and waterproof and has a camouflage pattern with high visibility (hunter) orange trim on the front side with gray and "hunter" orange on the back. There is an external loop on the bottom of the case to allow a clip to be attached. The GPS has an internal memory capacity of 2GB and sports a USB connection for data transfer to either a PC or MAC compatible computer. There are pre-loaded Hunt and TOPO maps - a detailed base map with contour lines, over 30 hunting-specific waypoints to allow for a customized database of my hunting grounds for a very personal experience.

Hunting Border Alerts - User configurable notifications help stay within GMU/WMU hunt zones
Satellite Imagery from DigitalGlobe™ - Free 1 year subscription to DigitalGlobe to pre-scout hunting areas. Per the website, "before the Hunt start the 1 year free subscription to DigitalGlobe™ provided in the package. Use the satellite imagery from DigitalGlobe to pre-scout hunting grounds. Download the detailed imagery to a computer, identifying glassing locations, tree lines or game funnels. Once certain areas are identified with features beneficial to a successful hunt download them into the 350H."

Some more of the features include a calendar to identify the best days and time to hunt based on moon phases and solunar (sun and moon) positioning. Sunrise and sunset times are provided to help plan a hunt. There are over 30 hunt-specific waypoints to mark animal tracks, trail camera locations and build a database of what is happening within the hunting area. The Manufacturer's website claims there is "no need to type out names; use the waypoint icons to mark streams, bedding areas, food sources, game tracks and more."

IMAGE 3
Front of GPS


In addition to DigitalGlobe satellite imagery the 350H includes a detailed base map with contour elevation overlays shows roads, trails, and water bodies and identifies other types of terrain features for easier navigation in the backcountry. In my experience, having both road and trails on the same GPS is rare without the purchase of additional maps so this is a nice feature for me.

The eXplorist 350H comes with pre-loaded Game Management Units (GMU) and Wildlife Management Units (WMU) to help stay within legal hunt borders and avoid the costly mistake of hunting outside legal zones.

The website provides a list of currently supported U.S. states and Canadian provinces.

IMAGE 4
Rear of GPS

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The packaging is clean, clear and attractive. For those with "green" concepts, there is also a printed request on the package to please recycle the packaging material and that 75% of the package is made from recycled material.

The GPS itself is smaller than I expected, but seems to fit well into my hand and is easy to hold. I can easily reach the buttons using either my left or right hand. I can easily remove/replace the back cover to access and change the batteries. I can also easily access the USB port located on the bottom of the GPS and I can do this without having to remove the back cover. The GPS seems to be well made and solidly built. I found a rubber "O" ring type gasket to aid in the waterproofness of the unit inside to seal the unit when the cover is in place. The unit's serial number is found on a printed sticker located on the inside and near the batteries. I also found the serial number displayed using the menu directory, which I appreciate as stickers, (in my experience) can get lost or damaged over time.

There are many, many features for this GPS. I will endeavor to report on as many as I can during the upcoming testing phases of this report.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

There is an included "User Manual" that provides instructions on how to use this GPS. It also provides a QR Code (square type bar-code) that I was able to use my smartphone's QR Code reader app, to read and download the user manual to my phone. Magellan also provides the ability to download the digital version of the user manual from the website. They say they do this in the hope to save a few trees. The user manual supplied seems to be easy to read and understand and it has the instructions in English, French, and Spanish.

TRYING IT OUT

I sometimes get ahead of myself even when playing with a new toy and I fail to actually read the instructions before use - or attempted use. I victimized myself once again upon opening up this GPS and installing the batteries for the first time. I tried quite unsuccessfully numerous times to turn on the GPS. I couldn't figure out where the "on" switch was. I had to finally open up the user manual and lo and behold, it is almost invisible and located on the top-right portion of the GPS as you look at the screen. It is concealed quite nicely among the camouflage pattern and cannot be accidently caught on something.

Once I turned the GPS on, it seems easy to navigate through the different screens. Setting adjustments are self-explanatory and the clock, while automatically set by satellite connection, can be set to either standard or 24-hour (common military) time.

SUMMARY

Well, this looks like a very well made product that is packed with numerous features designed specifically for hunting and hiking. While I am intrigued by the concept, I am equally intrigued by the differences in this device as compared to other "general" GPS devices that I am more familiar with. Certain features like not needing to type in text or coordinates seems restrictive when I'm one who is used to using them. I like the color display and the GPS seems to be relatively easy to navigate through, even though this is a different platform than I am used to. I look forward to getting out and playing with this some more.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Location #1 - El Capitan Mountain area, Eastern San Diego County in Southern California.
Conditions: Foot trails and rocky outcroppings.
Temperatures ranging from 38 to 75 F (3 to 24 C).
Duration: Two overnight trips

Location #2 - Pacific Crest Trail section in Laguna Mountain region of Southern California, Cleveland National Forest, USA
Conditions: Foot trails, open forest, and forest access dirt roads.
Temperatures ranging from 30 to 75 F (-1 to 24 C)
Duration: 3 days

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Using the computer software is relatively painless and easy. I first set up an account and registered my GPS and downloaded the Vantage Point software. Checked for updates and checked out the trip planing options available. It was all pretty straightforward and easy to use. There are numerous maps available for purchase on the website to include the entire US, sections of the US, sections of Canada and Mexico.

If you're into "green" philosophy, Magellan provides the user manual via a downloadable file to your smartphone specifically intending to reduce environmental impact. There is a QR code displayed in the Quick Start Guide that comes with the GPS.

I had occasion to play with the GPS while sitting stationary and I never moved. I found that when I went to the "Track Me" page and clicked on it. I marked my spot (and no I didn't pee on it). I picked an icon for marking my position and checked it out on the map page. I then ended the trip (or tracking). I found that even though I never moved from my location, the GPS showed that I had traveled 214 ft (64 m) with an elevation gain of 102 ft (31 m). Under the Elevation Profile page it says my distance was 64 feet. This is pretty disconcerting to me as there is quite a disparity of information that is also inaccurate. I never moved! I do not believe that this was caused by the satellites' narrowing down on my position as the GPS had had enough time to do that prior to my test trip. I would not have thought it would be so far off. I have to mention though that the actual GPS display is much brighter and easier to see than how it looks in my photographs here.

IMAGE 6


During my trip to Laguna Mountain, I found myself near a dirt road or two-track for those who know what those are. Some might call this a Forest Service road, but regardless it showed up on the GPS which surprised me. I noticed it was about 20 ft (6 m) off from being accurately displayed on the screen but this was also under a thick canopy of trees and very little open sky overhead for the satellites to get a good fix on my position. So some accuracy loss is normal under those circumstances and this result was pretty good I think.

IMAGE 5


I located the GMU (Game Management Unit) for the hunting area I was in. This is a pretty cool tool to have on the GPS. As I walked around and got close to the GMU border, I was able to see that on the display. This makes it so much easier to know the hunting boundary which keeps me in line with the game laws.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Private land located near Galesburg, Illinois USA
Elevation: 600-700 ft (180 - 210 m)
Terrain: Mostly flat to gently rolling farmland and wooded area.
Conditions: Cloudy with temperature approximately 41 - 50 F (5 - 10 C)
Duration: Three days

I also have used it extensively at home, in connection with my laptop computer as well as using it as a navigational aid during driving.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

When I initially was asked about possibly testing this product my immediate thought was that I had hoped the test took place during hunting season otherwise it would just be another piece of gear for the backpack. I was wrong to take that stance. This is absolutely a tool to use year round, in all seasons whether hunting or not. It is especially helpful during non-hunting seasons when I am out scouting trails, game signs, feeding areas, etc. I can then plot these locales and "build" my hunting grounds onto my computer. This can greatly assist me later when I am ready to begin hunting. Having a "living document" of my hunting grounds helps me to stay up to date on game movement, bedding areas, feeding areas, marking areas and more. I can then use it to plan my trip or send it to another hunter (or hiker) who might or might not have immediate access to the location and we can plan our hunt or trip from afar. Guides might especially like this possibility.

The ease of using this GPS in connection with my computer is relatively seamless. The GPS and its associated software work well together.

I tried another test of a stationary positional fix on the GPS to see if I could repeat the incident I had during my field test. Here are the results of this second one.
Under clear blue skies (no clouds at all) and full sky without visual obstructions, so there were no trees or buildings or terrain to get in the way of satellite view, I ran another test trip. As I did previously, I set the GPS to record a trip when actually it remained stationary to see what this GPS would record over a period of time. As you might remember, in my previous Field Report above, I did a test trip like this and had some (in my opinion) questionable information recorded by the GPS. During that one I was under trees which might explain some of it and this second test under open sky is for comparison purposes.

Trip Details:
Distance - 0
Elevation - 143 ft (44 m)
Elevation Gain - 6 ft (1.8 m)

Under the Elevation Profile page, the following information was provided...
Distance - 2 ft (0.6 m)
Elapsed Time - 0:11:09
Elevation - 470 ft (144 m)

Now, I can only assure you that I was not jumping or climbing up anything to get the elevation gain reading that I did. I should note that the GPS had been on for over 15 minutes prior to beginning this test, therefore I do not believe that it was a matter of the satellite's using the time during the test to continue calculating an elevation fix resulting in a perceived "gain." I have no explanation for this reading as the GPS unit was lying on the ground the entire time. I even started and stopped the "trip" while the the GPS was on the ground. So is this a deal breaker? I think not in this case. I remain concerned by the Field Test result of the stationary trip, however, those numbers were certainly much higher.

SUMMARY

So far, using this GPS has been a positive experience. I've never owned a Magellan brand before so there was only a very minor learning curve getting used to the difference from this brand to the one I have more experience with. A few features I appreciate with this device are the power stand by option, the road map and who can't love and find a use for a decent pile of steaming poop icon err I mean a scat icon.

So in conclusion, I've come up with a few thoughts on this device. Overall, I like it, but I am a self-described gear-junkie. Then again, if you're reading this than you are quite probably one as well so welcome to the group.

The finish on the exterior of the unit is slippery. It makes it easy to slip into or out of a pocket. This feels good in the hand when the weather is warm, but when it's freezing and wet and hands are stiff and cold, the GPS is sometimes difficult to hold onto. I'd prefer to have a rubberized and textured finish on it to ensure a good grip, especially in harsher weather.

The on-screen cursor icon is too large for my taste. I do not like that it is a large circle either. I would prefer having a standard shaped cursor or the ability to pick from a group of shapes or icons.

There are so many navigational products available on the market today that this kind of fills its own little niche. Having said that, I would prefer to see its features to include some that are more commonly known to experienced GPS users and that would make the GPS more multitask oriented. Add in some standard icons for driving, I think that since there is already a decent base map in its programming we should be able to have many of the standard icons that would normally go with that. Not everyone has the ability to take off and go to the deepest wilds of Alaska. I know I can't, at least not in the foreseeable future.

The Game Management Units and hunting borders are fantastic in my opinion. I really like knowing when I am close to my hunting area border as it keeps me legal.

Marking trails in the field is a two-pronged sword in my opinion. Any good hunter knows to stay off the trails if he or she ever wants to see game continue to use them but having these known trails located and plotted can greatly assist in identifying future hunting locations.

Pro -
The size, shape, color, and feel of the GPS is good, but is too slippery in cold weather.
The D-ring attachment is very convenient.
The website is easy to navigate and use with the GPS.
The numerous hunting specific icons work for me.
The base map includes a good road map as well.
There is a power standby option that turns off the display, while allowing tracking to continue, extending the battery life which is a terrific idea.

Con -
The joystick is a small button that can be difficult to use with gloves on. It is difficult to use even without gloves, especially left to right as there isn't as much room as there is top to bottom.
There is an accuracy discrepancy within the device from one page to another that I found during a stationary track of 214 ft (64 m) distance and 102 ft (31 m) of elevation change, neither of which actually occurred. This is a problem that I have a lot of difficulty accepting.

I would like to thank both Magellan and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in the test of this product.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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