Lowrance Endura Handhelds Serve Several Roles

Lowrance Endura Sierra Handheld GPS

Lowrance Endura Sierra Handheld GPS

The handheld GPS I’m looking for has to serve multiple roles because I can’t buy and manage more than one.  So, whatever I get has to be an effective backup for my hardwired navigation system on the bridge; a reasonable navigator for the dinghy in crowded harbors and anchorages, and if possible,  a good tour guide once I’m ashore.  I think  I’ve found the unit that will do all that.  It’s gonna cost me some money, but the Lowrance Endura Sierra handheld navigation unit is all these things, and more.

What do I like about it?  Well, I just finished nearly two months with an early production unit loaned by Lowrance and these are the top selling points, in my opinion.

  • It’s easy to use out of the box, and will get even easier with a recent modification to the shipping configuration that will have more of the options turned on by default.
  • It’s fantastically customizable.  I can re-order pages, customize the displays on pages and create unique pages based on how I want to use the unit.
  • It has several key boater-friendly features, including a barometric altimeter, which, for us sea-level types, can be used as a barometer.
  • It’s rugged and waterproof (IPX7).
  • It is remarkably accurate.  After a minute or two the Estimated Position Error (EPE) is usually less than 10 feet.
  • The electronic compass in it is 3-D, meaning it will show direction regardless of the orientation of the device.

 

Lowrance Endura Find Menu

Lowrance Endura Find Menu

The Sierra unit, the top-of-the-line in the Endura series, comes with detailed base maps that include some 3GB of data, and contour maps ashore with 100-foot intervals.  It has a list price of $499.  The next-in-line Safari, in slate grey vs. the blue of the Sierra, has 500′ contours on its base maps and lists for $349. 

Both Sierra and Safari can be upgraded to full turn-by-turn driving directions for the U.S. and Canada with a software purchase.  The base Out&Back unit (yellow) lists for $199, but lacks the altimeter and compass of the other two.  All three feature a full-color touchscreen that is easily visible in full sun.  It’s not quite as bright as a non-touch-screen, but the utility of the touch-and-drag capability more than makes up for it in my opinion.

According to Scott Roy, Navico’s Product Marketing Manager, Outdoor Business Unit, the company plans to sell a series of regional (5-6 state) upgraded detail maps for the Endura units.  These will feature more detailed contours, hill shading, more outdoor Points of Interest (POIs) and depth contours for several miles offshore, which will be sufficient for all but the most hardcore of bluewater fishermen.  They will likely cost just under $100 per region.

The units can handle microSD storage cards up to 32GB, although you’re unlikely to find anything larger than 16GB in stores today, selling for #70-$100.  That’s plenty of storage, however, for any maps you want to use, for songs (yes, the units have a built-in mp3 player) and video.  For backpackers, hikers and geo-cachers, the units integrate fabulously with Google Earth.

The units also use the same type of USB cable for connection to a computer that most cameras use, with the mini-USB on the device end and a standard USB connector on the computer end.  The unit doesn’t ship with such a cable, but if you have a digital camera you already have one.  You can use either the microSD card or the USB connector for software/firmware upgrades and for loading additional maps, music and video, and GPX trail files.

Lowrance Endura Handheld Used for Navigation

Lowrance Endura Handheld Used for Navigation

Aboard the boat, I think most users will want to have the available 12v power adaptor and some kind of mount — RAM Mounts will have one for the Endura line — at the helm.  Battery life can theoretically run as high as 10-12 hours on alkalines, with backlighting set to a 15-second delay.  I got more like 8-10 hours per pair of alkalines but I was using long backlight delays and fumbling through screens while experimenting a lot so perhaps I could have squeezed a bit more time out of it.

In the dinghy and taken ashore, you should have extra batteries in your backpack and you can use the track feature to simply follow your own breadcrumb trail back to the dinghy when you’re done exploring.

The bottom line for me is that the Endura Sierra, with an additional regional detail map, a 12V power cord and a 16GB storage card, will be all I ever want or need in a handheld GPS, both for backup and for going ashore.  I might add turn-by-turn driving software if I’m going to be renting cars in port.  All of this means I’m gonna spend some serious bucks but I know it will work and I know I can customize it so it works exactly the way I want it to work.

Copyright © 2009 by OceanLines LLC

 

 

If you’d like to get a good comparison of the three models — Sierra, Safari and Out-and-Back — download this pdf of the operator’s manual.

Posted by Tom

Tom Tripp is the owner of OceanLines LLC, the publisher of OceanLines and founder of Marine Science Today. He is an award-winning marine journalist, science writer and long-time public communications specialist. His PR career and much of his writing stems from the fact that he loves to explain stuff. It all began when he and his brother Mark threw all of Mom's tomatoes at the back wall of the house. . .