View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy
Showing posts with label SatMap. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SatMap. Show all posts

Sunday, 14 December 2014

10th December, Mick and Gayle go for a Curry

…without Mick

Being as wot Mick and Gayle were staying in the sunny north-west for a few days I thought it might be nice to go for a walk and go for a curry with them. Mick ended up having to work for the day so it was just Gayle and I doing the walking.

We decided to walk from Oldham, close to where Mick was working, into the centre of Manchester. The idea was to keep to a green a route as possible, ie: minimal tarmac, I think we succeeded.

Gayle met me off the tram at Oldham Mumps(that’s a place, not a disease) and we wandered off south-ish through Oldham’s Alexander Park to pick up the River Medlock. It was quite cold – it’s the altitude you know. Oldham’s quite a lot of feet above sea level….and December isn’t the warmest month of the year.

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Park Bridge Iron Works, more info on it’s website

Trundling along the not always dry banks of the River Medlock we made good time through Daisy Nook Country Park. I marched, whilst Gayle wobbled across the M60 motorway, busy with traffic.  

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At a very conveniently sited picnic table, a coffee, flap jack, scone and another flapjack break (in the rain) was taken. Well, it would have been rude not to – it’s not every day you find a vacant picnic table, even in December.

Suitably refreshed and refuelled we faced some splodgy, muddy walking. Along with added navigational challenges and some wind-driven hail and rainy stuff we eventually gained the heady heights of the banks of the Rochdale Canal.

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Canals that run into and through former industrial areas often look grim and depressing, but spending just a little time looking around and exploring can unearth some really interesting sites (and sights). 

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Leaving the canal towpath in Manchester it was time to hit the streets. The rain was only raining a bit but it was still quite cold…..the temptation of a yummy curry was becoming too much to bear. Not before a quick photo-shoot in Stevenson Square in Manchester’s Northern Quarter:

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Manchester’s former Smithfield Fish Market, once famous for selling fish.

Approaching our destination, This and That, our rumbling stomachs were heard by Alan R …who’s stomach was also rumbling loudly. I’m not sure what Gayle thought of our favourite curry emporium, perhaps she was too polite to say, but I suspect she enjoyed the experience. There wasn’t much left on her plate afterwards!

A pint or two at the the very fine Holt’s house, the Ape & Apple, provided the necessary apres-curry rehydration. Alan’s partner, Sheila, joined us for a short time before it was time for us all to make tracks. Trams took Gayle back north to Oldham Mumps, and me to the southern flatlands of Cheshire. We’d had a pleasant day out and once again managed to put the world to rights. We’re good at that sort of thing.

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Manchester’s Cenotaph, recently moved to the other side of St Peter’s Square to allow for the square’s redevelopment

Where we went:

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11 miles, with rather more down than up

Oh, and just for a giggle I took my SatMap GPS to record the route – although I didn’t rely on it, I left that to my trusty Garmin Etrex20.

The route was recorded as being 11 miles on the Garmin, whilst the SatMap stopped recording the route soon after we set off. Nowt new there then,

Sunday, 16 November 2014

15th November, Tally-Ho! from Nangreaves, Route v4.2

The real thing..

A number of exploratory / recce trips to this area were needed in order to finalise this route, mainly due to the large number of illegally blocked Rights of Way (Right of Ways?), completely unmarked footpaths and generally difficult to navigate ground. An a lot of mud.

Anyroadup, this is what happened on the Big Day…

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The Lord Raglan, Nangreaves

The choice of this pub as a venue for Tally-Ho! had absolutely nothing to do with The Leyden Brewery. Nothing at all.

First to set off from The Lord Raglan at Nangreaves were Ding Dong and Whitworth. They had arranged to meet at the pub at 12.30, thus ensuring an early start. After a leisurely tour around the lanes of South Lancashire, Ding-Dong arrived promptly at 1.30pm thus ensuring a not terribly early start.

Rumours of a collection in the pub to raise dosh to buy Ding-Dong a map are completely false….I think they want to buy him a SatNav so his navigation prowess could match that of Whitworth’s…..and he NEVER gets lost. Well, not very often – especially now he has a new Merc with a built in SatNav.

Whitworth and Prez Park left the pub in a blur (well that’s what the drunk outside the pub said), heading north along a short strip of tarmac. The money men (Ding Dong and Mapless  Taylor) ran together – leaving a little later than normal.

The dryness of the tarmac wasn’t to last long. Leaving the road, the extremely well-laid sawdust trail led our valiant heroes to a soggy path of a couple of hundred yards (around 183.44m). Damp grass drenched their running shoes comprehensively. Nice.

Other runners followed in their wake, all finding the extremely well-laid trail very easy to follow.

Whilst the hounds were enjoying (eh?) following the trail, the hares were taking great care to leave a clear sawdust & paper trail across some seriously rough and boggy ground.

First obstacle of the day was the illegally blocked footpath at  Croston Close:

image A Concessionary Path is offered as an alternative route, but the path through the farmyard exists as a Public Right of Way – the landowner clearly has a different opinion.

Next came the first ‘river’ crossing of the day. In recent weeks the stream that is Cheesden Brook had been a mere 2 – 3ft wide (609.6– 914.4mm….approx), the recent heavy rain had swollen the watercourse quite considerably. This ensured that many pairs of Innovates were suddenly mud-free. For a minute.

An uphill pull to a track led the hounds to Ashworth Reservoir. Once through a heavy metal gate the trail ran alongside a Water Authority-built wall to pick up a minor road at the east side of the reservoir.

The Trail-Layers were on the return leg of the trail and were able to watch some of the hounds, on the outward leg, as they ran along that stretch of road. Fortunately they were too far away to be able to hear the runners cursing, swearing and plotting sweet revenge.

Once across Edenfield Road, Knowle Hill came into full view. Curses were heard to be uttered as it slowly dawned on the hounds that the trig-point at the top was to be their next objective. And so it was.

Mud, bog, streams, windmills and sheep were just some of the hazards to be encountered on this uphill stretch. The sheep seemed intrigued:

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image The view south from Knowle Hill

A clear path off the eastern flank of Knowle Hill led the runners along part of the Rochdale Way, (thank-you Wiki!) in the direction of the Naden Reservoirs. The reservoirs only became visible after climbing a stile at Dixon’s Brow. The change of scenery was quite a revelation – so far the views were mainly of moorland, bogs and mud. To see the land open out in such a dramatic way almost caused some to stop and stare for a few minutes. It was either that or they were knackered after Knowle Hill and they needed a breather.

P1030208aNaden Reservoirs 

Clumps of sawdust and the Rochdale Way made for easy navigation as the route swung south and then west(ish) on the return leg.

Another stream crossing and on through Knowl Farm:

imageKnowle Farm, used for filming ‘Last Tango in Halifax’ 

Re-crossing Edenfield Road gave temporary relief from the mud and gunge, in fact there was a good 10-15 minutes of relatively clean running. Until a particularly muddy, sludgy stretch of track that led to a particularly muddy, sludgy river crossing. It wasn’t long before Ashworth Reservoir once again hove into view, this heralded some nice running along only slightly horrendously waterlogged ground.

The Right of Way runs through Yates Farm but there was so much rubbish and detritus on the ground that a diversion was needed. It looks like the place is used as a scrap yard, a real mess.

Much nicer running followed once passed the farm: good tracks and paths, a short stretch of tarmac, and then a really gloopy farm track.

An uphill pull to a ‘notch’ on the horizon indicated the last stretch of the trail, although it was only once through the notch that it became clear the running was almost done. A stile and a short stretch of tarmac had us back at the pub.

20141115_161112First runners in 

imageNext in, Paul and Les 

The trail seemed to have been generally well received – although the beer at the pub got a better reception. It was rather good – just a shame I was driving.

Numbers were a bit low today, only 14(?) members sat down to a filling dinner of stewy stuff and mushy peas followed by fruit crumble. ‘Always hungry’  Blackshaw was unable to stay for dinner due to family commitments, this left Murray in a bit of a quandary regarding his pudding. He needn’t have worried though, help was at hand and his pudding vanished in the blink of an eye.

Layers of trail were Blackshaw and Jocys who had a thoroughly good day out – and even managed to beat all the hounds back to the pub.

This is where we went:

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Around 9 miles with about 1200’ ascent

That’s according to Memory Map and my Garmin Etrex20. I felt I could do with a good laugh so I took my SatMap Active10 along too. According to that heap of junk we covered 16.75 miles.

Impressed, eh?

Friday, 22 August 2014

Carpet Baggers 50

Another in the series ‘A bit out of order’, the Carpet Baggers 50 is an Anytime Challenge Walk….that means it’s a challenge walk that can be done at anytime. And it’s 50 miles. Obvious really, innit?

The Plan was to complete the route in 16 – 17 hours, with a 6am start there was half a chance of grabbing a pint at the end of the walk. It’s good to have an incentive.

At almost 6am precisely the party, led by Aaron, left Birchen Coppice and headed to Bewdley and the western bank of the River Severn. It was a bit muddy.

P1000859River Severn at Bewdley @ Stupid O’clock  

The River Severn is spanned by some beautiful ironwork, real engineering:

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After a muddy 5 miles of Worcestershire Way, the route briefly left the banks of the Severn and went through Seckley Wood. It was in this wood that I thought it prudent to examine the path very closely indeed. It was a sudden decision, very sudden. Only another 45 miles to go. With muddy knees. Oh well.

The paths through Seckley Wood weren’t as clear as the map suggested. Having only recently acquired the SatMap Active 10 GPS I was keen to try it out in anger. The SatMap wasn’t any help –it took 25 minutes to compute my location, by which time we’d succeeded in navigating out of the wood using map and compass.

A more detailed report on the poor performance of the SatMap can be found here.

 

P1000866 Crossing the Severn Valley Railway, just after Seckley Wood

5 more miles of riverbank to cross the river at Highley and a stretch of very welcome dry tarmac.

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The first breakfast / lunch stop was at an ancient stone near Alveley, the ‘Butter Cross’. It’s a stone cross that dates back to the Black Death, it was where food was left when the village was quarantined.

P1000870The Butter Cross 

Miles and bloody miles (about another seven actually) of reasonably dry fieldery and roadery took us to our next breakfast / lunch stop at Claverley.

P1000873 Over the fields to Claverley

The plan was to grab some grub in the pub – perhaps a bag of chips and a pint of tea. Unfortunately the long waiting time for food meant we just grabbed a cuppa.

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Tower of All Saints Church, Claverley, and the churchyard cross. And a litter bin.

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Ludstone Hall, a couple of miles north of Claverley

Signs of the area’s industrial past became evident as we approached the outskirts of Wolverhampton:

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Awbridge Bridge on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal

P1000879Judi leading the way 

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Annabel leading from the rear

Aaron continued to drag us along way. Some of it was incredibly muddy whilst other bits were just muddy. Some bits (not many) weren’t muddy at all, these were generally the tarmac bits.

High Energy Flapjacks

Another lunch stop, I can’t remember exactly where, but it was memorable in that we were treated to some High Energy Flapjacks. Annabel had been busy baking. These flapjacks were wonderful. I’ll publish the recipe, probably after this posting. They’re not just delicious, they’re a serious source of high octane energy.

Minds were concentrated as the light faded. It pays to watch where you put your feet – when you’re getting tired AND it’s dark it’s very easy to slip, trip, fall into a man-eating fetid swamp or whatever.

I really wanted to see the red sandstone Kinver Edge in the light, but it wasn’t to be. Kinver Edge is the site of an ancient hill fort. Not so ancient are the Holy Austin Rock Houses, which were inhabited until the 1950s. These rock houses are actually built into the side of the Edge. Night navigation onto the Edge wasn’t easy, unkempt woodland concealed the footpaths and it took ages to find our way onto the Edge.

It was around this point that the SatMap actually started to perform. Admittedly it had been switched on for ages and so had already computed our position. The woodlands paths over Kinver Edge and Arley Wood were very muddy indeed and trying to navigate in the dark whilst attempting to stay upright was proving difficult. With the aid of the SatMap we managed to stay on track through the woods. So y’see, the SatMAp Active 10 CAN perform, it just doesn’t do it consistently.

Entering Shatterford I’d twigged that Judi had been quiet. Not that she’s a chatterbox or anything, she was just very quiet. I put it down to tiredness. I was wrong…..I’m a man thing, it’s what we do. All the time. This fact is constantly pointed out to me, so it MUST be right. Mustn’t it?

Judi was feeling quite unwell and really needed to bale out. At around the 41 mile mark we managed to order a taxi for Judi and she was whisked back to CarpetBaggers Control back in Kidderminster. This was exactly the right thing to do.

The last big woodland of the day, well it was around midnight by this time, was Eymore Wood. The route through the wood generally followed the signposted Worcestershire Way this really helped route-finding in the dark.

The poor weather had brought down some trees in the wood, there was no walking round these obstacles – the only options was to climb over…or scrat around and try to crawl under. Not easy when you’re knackered.

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One of Eymore Wood’s fallen trees. 

At around 1am a break was called in the wonderfully named village of Catchems End. Heaven only knows what the residents would have thought if they’d looked out of their bedroom windows to see a bunch over-tired, ragged bunch of walkers littering there garden walls at that time of night morning!

We were thankfully back on tarmac once again (I never thought I’d welcome the appearance of a road!) all the way to the eastern bank of the River Severn. A bit of Severn Way followed by some quiet country lanes took us back to our cars, parked just where we’d left them at Birchen Coppice, by the A451. Badges and certificates were dished out, there was much shaking of hands, hugs, patting of backs and so on – the sort of stuff that we stiff upper-lipped Brits do so well. Ahem.

It was now 2am and the pubs were shut. to be honest I was far too tired to go for a pint – or even eat properly. I managed a hot shower and forced some food down, and then promptly fell asleep.

Aaron had put on a good walk. Although it was a published route it can’t have been easy leading a group of unknowns over an unfamiliar route, especially considering that he’d had no opportunity for a pre-walk recce….so thanks Aaron! 

This is where we went:

Route 

50 miles with around 3300’ of ascent in 20 hours.

More photos here.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

1st August 2014, SatMap GPS review.


 SatMap Active 10

imageFrom the current SatMap website
Up until recently I’ve used an old Garmin GPS for confirming my location. It was simple, had no frills and worked absolutely fine. Newer types of GPS are just so much more powerful and provide all manner of bells & whistles – often too many to make use of!
In December last year I was encouraged to take advantage of a special deal for members of the LDWA by SatMap, offering their SatMap Active 10, along with full UK mapping at 1:50k, 1:25k and 1:10k, all for £350. The deal included a two Lithium Ion rechargeable batteries, a set of Lithium (non-rechargeable) cells, and a voucher offering a substantial discount off Ordnance Survey mapping.
£350 is a lot of money – but when compared to the competition this appeared to be a good deal. One attraction of the SatMap was the large LCD screen – a relatively large area could be displayed on the screen.
imageThe LDWA SatMap offer: I was expecting all to be hunky-dory.
The SatMap Active 10 arrived very well packaged and it really looked the business. To say I was excited was an understatement! Other than a ‘Quick Start’ type leaflet, no other documentation was provided – not even on CD. I downloaded the manual off the internet and printed it off the 90 odd pages.
Mapping is supplied on two SD cards, one covering the entire South of the UK, t’other was the North.
The advertised spec of this device is seriously impressive: a sensitive receiver, good battery life, easy to use, large colour LCD display, excellent map coverage, etc. I was itching to get out with my new toy and try it in the real outdoors.
I’m still awaiting hunky-dory. Read on:

Issue No1: Failure after 3 hours

Timperley appeared on the South card and before long I was playing outside and having great fun tracking my short walks around the garden….until the display failed. This failure occurred after about 3 hours of use. Failures happen and although I was very disappointed I was quite philosophical about it. I phoned SatMap the following morning and they very promptly sent me a returns label to get the GPS back to them. A couple of days later a brand new GPS arrived and I was a happy bunny once again.
All things considered I felt that SatMap had provided a good service: my unit had failed and after returning it to them they had replaced it promptly and without fuss.
A couple of weeks later I went off to the Lake District for a day’s walking and took the SatMap with me – putting the ‘North’ SD card card in before leaving home. Of course I took my paper map with me – I would NEVER go out without map and compass….apart from anything else their batteries never run out!

Issue No2: SD Card Mapping faulty

I parked the car in Kentmere and headed out to walk the Kentmere Round. I switched on the SatMap to record my route and waited for the maps to appear. Then I waited a bit more. Nothing happened. I messed about but couldn’t bring the maps up, whatever I did. This wasn’t surprising – the ‘North’ SD card was anything but. In fact it was another ‘South’ card.
Another call to SatMap. They asked me to return the SD card and they would re-programme it for me. I did this and within a few days I had the re-programmed card. All was well once again.
SatMap programme the SD cards themselves under licence from OS – they’d programmed  / labelled the card incorrectly. Poor Quality Control, that sort of thing shouldn’t happen – certainly not when you pay this sort of money.
Timperley is very close to the northern boundary of the ‘South’ SD card – and a lot of my walking is in the Peak District and Pennines. Because of the position of the boundary I found I was having to swap SD cards in the field, not a good thing to have to do in poor weather…..or good weather for that matter, it’s VERY easy to drop a tiny SD card and to lose it in the undergrowth. So….

Issue No3: Unusable Discount Voucher

 

SatMap advertise a ‘Central’ UK SD card, again with 1:50k, 1:25k and 1:10k mapping. The coverage of this card would be ideal for me. It covered (from memory) almost as far as the Scottish border to the north, and almost as far south as South Wales. This would dramatically reduce the faffing about with swapping cards whilst out on walks.
I decided to take advantage of the discount voucher from SatMap to buy the Central card. I called SatMap, my discount voucher in hand, but was told that the voucher couldn’t be used to buy that map. WHY?? No sensible answer was forthcoming.
Why on earth offer a discount and then refuse to honour it? I was seriously not impressed.
To their credit, SatMap offered to reprogramme the ‘North’ SD card so that it’s southern boundary was level with the southern border of the Peak District. SatMap told me that there was sufficient space on the SD card to do this, – this made the situation better but not as good as I would have liked. This reprogramming was done at no extra charge. This was okay but not really what I wanted.

Issue No4: Poor battery life and other battery problems

 

The SatMap 10 is a powerful bit of kit – and the processing power gave the batteries quite a hammering, The 16 – 24 hours of battery life advertised was never achieved, anything from 6 – 14 hours was nearer the mark. Not really good enough.
A couple of other problems in the battery & charging department, really down to poor design:
1) The battery is charged via a USB connector. When the charger is connected it turns on the SatMap. However, disconnecting the charger from the SatMap DOESN’T switch it off. On more than a couple of occasions I’ve charged the battery the day before a walk and discovered the next morning that the batteries are flat. I’d disconnected the charger, forgotten the unit was switched on (after all, I’d not switched it on, the charger had!) and after a night sitting on the kitchen table the batteries were once again flat.
2) The battery connector used really isn’t man enough for the job. It’s the type of connector used for inter-PCB connections, designed for a very limited number of connection / disconnection cycles. This is a weak point in the hardware design and the connector WILL fail if used beyond it’s design limit – I’m guessing at 50 cycles max.

Issue No5: VERY slow acquiring satellites and computing position

 

Speed…or lack of speed. My SatMap is very slow in acquiring satellite signals and computing position. It can take up to 25minutes to discover where you are unless the GPS has an absolutely unobstructed view of the sky and is kept stationary.
My Garmin Etrex20 on the other hand is very quick. Today I did a side-by-side test in my back garden: SatMap vs Garmin. The Garmin won, hands down.
Results:
SatMap 10 Plus: 18mins 21secs
Garmin Etrex 20: 1min 14 secs

Issue 6: Insensitive receiver

 

…and this could well be related to the previous problem. The sensitivity of MY SatMap when compared to other identical devices is clearly well down. On a walk with Alan R earlier this year, Alan’s Satmap took not much more than 3 minutes to compute position. Mine took 14 minutes.
I borrowed a SatMap 10 Plus from a friend to do some more controlled comparisons. The results more or less confirmed that my SatMap device (the one on the right) was a poor performer:

SatMap
This initial test was carried out with both receivers on my kitchen table adjacent to a window, not an ideal position to check a satellite receiver’s performance. The photograph above was taken exactly 4 minutes after both devices were switched on together.
The GPS on the left had received data from 7 satellites and had computed it’s position.
The GPS on the right (mine) had detected only one satellite in that time. It took a further 12 minutes (total 16 minutes) for it to compute it’s position, and that was only receiving 5 satellites.
Similar differences in performance were obtained when the same test was carried out in my back garden with an unobstructed view of the sky.
SatMap explained that this difference in performance could be down to the SD card maps – cards with more data slow the device down. My SD cards had 1:10k, 1:25k and 1:50k OS maps for the South of UK, the other device had 1:50k OS for all of UK. I swapped the cards and although there was an improvement in the performance of my SatMap device it wasn’t overly significant.
In May this year I headed off to Scotland for pre-TGO Challenge trip and the actual TGO Challenge itself. I travelled around Glasgow, Fort William, Oban, the Isle of Mull, Kyle of Lochalsh, Plockton, and then to my Challenge start point of Torridon.
I’ve mentioned before that I ALWAYS carry paper maps and a compass, a good job too. 

Issue 7: Map tiles missing from SD Card

 

Out for a bit of a walk around Oban, I switched my SatMap on. I really couldn’t believe that SD card (North) didn’t have Oban on it. I went inland 10 or so miles, same result. In fact there was a huge area of the west coast of Scotland where the 1:10k, 1:25k and 1:50k OS mapping was missing from the card – certainly up as far as Torridon.
Messages on the LDWA discussion forum show that this isn’t an unknown problem.
I contacted SatMap who apologised once again and promised to programme another card that would be thoroughly checked and sent out within a couple of days. As I was moving around and had little idea of where I was going to be from one day to the next, this wasn’t much use so I asked for the SD card to be sent to my home.
A member of their mapping team confirmed that the new SD card had been prepared and ‘thoroughly tested’ a few days later.
Bear in mind that this was the first week of May.
Last week (the first week of August) the card still hadn’t arrived. To be fair to SatMap, I hadn’t chased them – although I really would have expected them to have sent it when they said they would.
I chased them and it was quite clear that a new card hadn’t been prepared when they said it had – they asked me to return the faulty SD card so they could re-programme it.
Two days ago the repaired card arrived – and it seems to be fine. It would take an age to check the coverage is as it should be, it’s a matter of scrolling through the entire area from the north of Scotland down to the Peak District using 1:10k, 1:25k and 1:50k OS. This is simply not practical so I have to trust that SatMap have done the job properly this time.
Other problems I’ve had are relatively minor, but annoying: the LCD screen lacks clarity and is difficult to view in bright sunlight, the manual is poor, I found that the device isn’t particularly intuitive to use – it’s quite complex, the battery cover looks flimsy and likely to fail….
Whilst on this year’s TGO Challenge I spoke to two other SatMap owners – both are looking to sell them. That says a lot.
Another owner, a Challenger, isn’t overly happy with his SatMap. He finds it over-complex and finds it difficult to use. He uses a Garmin Etrex instead. 
On the other hand I know two very satisfied SatMap Active 10 owners.
Amazon have an interesting range of reviews here. It’s clear that a majority of owners are happy with their purchases but well over 30% report significant problems.

Conclusion

On paper the SatMap Active 10 Plus is a superb bit of kit, however the build quality, reliability and general performance are all poor. customer service was initially good although as time went on I felt it was poor.
Once it became clear that I wasn’t able to rely on the SatMap I put my hand in my pocket (again!) and bought the Garmin Etrex 20. If you check around t’interweb it’s possible to buy mapping at sensible prices – take a look at TalkyToaster for example.
The Garmin performs, is reliable and has excellent battery life. I’m afraid the SatMap Active 10 Plus simply isn’t a patch on the Garmin in these departments. I can’t comment on Garmin’s customer service, I haven’t had cause to contact them.
To counter it’s shortcomings the SatMap has a much larger display (and of course mine has 1:10k, 1:25k and 1:50k mapping) than the Etrex 20, and zooming and panning around the map display are both quicker and more responsive on the SatMap.
I feel I’ve made an expensive mistake in buying the SatMap Active 10 Plus – I wish I’d have bought the Etrex20 in the first place. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I would be very interested to receive comments on this review. So please, comment away!