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Global Positioning System Devices

GPS Equipment Loan

Global System Positioning (GPS) technology allows for mapping locations anywhere in the world with a handheld device.

The CGA maintains GPS devices which can be checked out for free on a first-come first-served basis by people with a Harvard affiliation. We offer a wide range of devices: accuracy varies from 10-meter to submeter, and features vary from camera-equipped to PDA to Bluetooth, etc. Our inventory includes:

How to Reserve a GPS Unit

  1. Harvard affiliates may click here to REQUEST GPS UNITS ONLINE. Enter your Harvard PIN info to see the GPS units available for your requested dates, then click on the Model Name to fill out your Request Form. We will get back to you to confirm your reservation.
  2. Submit this GPS Evaluation form after you have returned the GPS unit to the CGA

We also offer a free training workshop on how to use them!  Or get started on your own by checking out one of our basic Magellan eXplorist GC devices, and follow the Self Guided Tutorial.

GPS Apps for Mobile Devices

Nearly all smartphones and tablets now are contain GPS receivers. For mapping lines, routes, or other linear features, the CGA recommends using Strava for iPhone / Android devices.  For mapping single point locations, the Fulcrum mapping app has proven to be easy to use, while also offering many database customization options for iPhone / Android devices.  

Some more basics on GPS mapping

Performing mapping using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology is an alternative method to map your own data, if the data you are looking for does not exist in GIS format. In fact, it may be the only option if there is no or inadequate basemap data for your area of interest. Fortunately, GPS mapping is possible world-wide, and there are a wide range of handheld GPS devices to choose from.

Recreational GPS units: These devices can perform mapping accurate to +/- 7-10 meters, and range from $120 to $500. There is a wide range of recreational GPS devices, with lots of variation in functionality.  Garmin and Magellan are two of the top recreational GPS providers.   GPSInformation.NET  has lots of GPS device listings, reviews, and tutorials.  The CGA can help you determine the best model based on your specific mapping need and conditions. 

Mapping grade GPS units: These devices are capable of mapping at an accuracy up to +/- 1m by using a process called differential correction. Using differential correction is dependant on the mapped area's proximity to GPS base stations. There is base station coverage for most of North America (the entire conterminious U.S.), as well as in many other parts of the world. To find out if there is base station coverage in your research area, check the Contiuously Operating Reference Station network map (mostly U.S. locations, some global), or Trimble's network of base stations (global).

Wtih all of the mapping grade GPS devices it is possible to set up a GIS database into which features are mapped. Harvard has several of these available for loan to Harvard affiliates

GPS User-Agreement Forms and User Guides

If using a CGA GPS, reading and signing a User-Agreement Form is necessary, to accept responsibility for the unit while in your possession.Click the GPS models below for User Agreements, and Users Guides. (View the CGA's information-confidentiality policy)

More GPS Reference Material

To learn more about CGA's mapping grade GeoXT device, read our GeoXT GPS User Tutorial. (updated 11/17/09)

Read a CGA  overview of GPS Logger/Trackers and their many uses.  They log the position of the device at regular intervals in its memory, and can be used as a handheld GPS device, for GPS navigation, GPS logging, geotagging, and as a mapping tool with desktop GIS.

For more helpful tips, download ESRI's GIS Best Practices: Using GIS with GPS 

Tufts University also has a helpful field guide to GPS mapping.