Fun Ideas for Your New Portable GPS

GPS is no longer just a military spy tool—it’s now a commercial gadget, and if you’re creative, a really cool toy. Read on for some ways to have fun with your new GPS receiver.

When you think of GPS, you probably picture high-tech receivers, advanced communication systems, and those cool moving maps in GPS-enabled cars. Or maybe you think of war, weapons, and missile attacks. But while they’re all part of the GPS experience, there are other fun (and peaceful) ways to use this new technology. In fact, toy companies have been incorporating GPS in their products for the past few years, which shows that even kids can use it for fun. With a bit of creative thinking, you can turn a simple tracking device into something entertaining, useful, and even educational. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started.

Take a hike

Take your portable GPS for a walk in the woods, a local park, or even a remote mountain. The precise location points will help you find your way even if you have no sense of direction. Start small—try going to a familiar location and get a feel of your receiver’s capacity. Once you’re comfortable, you can explore other areas, or if you have time, even other states. You can even take your kids for a treasure hunt or put a hiking team together.

Get in shape

So you’ve been hitting the gym everyday, but how do you know if it’s getting you anywhere? With a GPS receiver, you can track your speed, distance, and overall fitness progress from day to day. You can even program your fitness goals into your device, so you can keep tab of good and bad days. If you’re really serious about shaping up, invest in a more advanced unit that lets you upload data into your computer and keep a weekly or monthly progress chart.

Go on a road trip

Road navigation is perhaps the most popular commercial application of GPS. Most new cars come equipped with a built-in GPS navigation system, which is basically a digital map that you can constantly update. If you can afford one of these cars, great, but you don’t need one to go on a GPS-assisted road trip. Simply take your receiver, pack a few travel essentials, and drive to parts unknown with your little high-tech tour guide. Just for fun, try tagging unusual landmarks such as a huge rock or a funny shop name.

Geocache

GeoCache is the 21st century version of the classic treasure hunt; the main difference is that it’s global. That means you can find treasures anywhere in the world—or to be precise, in over 100 countries, including Antarctica. A typical geocache is a waterproof container holding things of little value, such as a toy, a note from the creator, or coins of the local currency. Not an avid traveler? Set up your own geogaching course at home for your kids.

Spice up your phone

If you have a GPS-enabled phone or PDA, there’s likely to be a GPS application available for your device. Mobile GPS applications range from simple navigational games to multi-user adventure races. You can also use it to track your phone in case it gets lost—a useful feature for people who spend a lot of time in airports, train stations, and busy transport hubs. Check your phone manufacturer’s website to see what programs are available (some may have to be purchased).

Draw a picture

If you’re feeling particularly creative, gather all your friends and draw a giant GPS picture for the entire world to see. GPS pictures cover large areas, sometimes spanning a number of villages, so that it’s visible on real-time trackers such as Google Earth. Get creative with your medium—use stones, cables, clothes, recycled materials, whatever’s available. Or to make it even more special, make a human GPS drawing—just make sure there’s someone who can take a picture!