Your dad, the Eagle Scout, could steer by the stars — and he told you about it a lot. Today we can use the Global Positioning System, a network of government satellites, to pinpoint our locations just about anywhere on Earth. Whether prowling the back country or seeking a meeting in an unfamiliar downtown, a GPS receiver will put you on the map.


Magellan Meridian Gold Mapping GPS, $300
Pros: Packs power with 16MB of built-in maps, expandable to 64MB via Secure Digital memory slot; WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) capability
Cons: PC compatible, of course, but Mac users can get lost.
Bottom line: With seven customizable navigation screens —
including position, road, compass, and speedometer — the Meridian Gold marks an advance over Magellan’s MAP 330, a jewel in itself.
Garmin StreetPilot III, $800-$1,000
Pros:Turn-by-turn, voice-guided directions make this the best full-featured GPS unit on the market. Once mounted on your dashboard (where it’s easy to see even in bright sunlight), the StreetPilot does it all.
Cons: At this price, you may want to find your own way back from Kandahar.
Bottom line: The Cadillac of vehicle GPS systems makes it almost impossible to get lost. When we deliberately took wrong turns, the StreetPilot barked out “Recalculating!” and quickly plotted another course. Also cool: Use the “pan” feature to skim across maps; banks, restaurants, and other businesses appear as icons.
Garmin Rino 120 GPS-enabled two-way radio, available mid-2002 for about $300
Pros: The rugged Rino (Radios Integrated with Navigation for the Outdoors) marries great mapping technology with handy radio communication. You can even transmit your location to someone trying to find you; position ac-curacy is within 10 feet. And Garmin is a name to trust.
Cons: “Combo” devices don’t always deliver the best of both worlds.
Bottom line: The Rino 120 should attract the dedicated boater, biker, or backpacker who doesn’t mind spending for quality.