Dirt Rag Magazine

Review: Rand McNally Foris 850 GPS

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Rand McNally certainly knows how to make maps, but when it comes to using them in the outdoors, why let the tech companies take over? The Foris is a handheld GPS unit designed for general purpose outdoor use by hikers, cyclists, geocachers and others.

The $199 Foris 850 comes loaded with a full set of maps and waypoints, including many popular trail networks, campgrounds and parks. It also has room for you to save 7,000 more of your own. Choose one by name or proximity and the Foris will route you there by directions or voice navigation. It can also provide alternate routes with elevation profiles if you’re looking for a way to stay out of the granny ring.

If you’re feeling open-minded, you can use the LoopMe feature to set a desired distance and the Foris will calculate a loop for you to ride. You can also add your own tracks created on a desktop and loaded onto the MicroSD card. The Foris will help you stay along the route, but it often comes with some confusing instructions, such as constantly telling you to continue straight, especially if you are mixing trails, bike paths and roads all together in one ride.

Like most GPS devices, it will track where you have been, and if need be, will reverse your direction to get you out the way you came. While the menus are easy to navigate, the lingo of waypoints, tracks, routes and points-of-interest are best studied before you leave, as their uses and functions can sometimes overlap. Once powered up it finds and locks onto satellites quickly and easily.

Included in the box is a sturdy and easy-to-use handlebar mount that you can leave attached and pop the unit out of very easily. The unit itself is very sturdy and waterproof, and the 3-inch touch screen is big and easy to use, even with gloves on, though it isn’t as large as some of the newer competition. There are also two external buttons: one to activate the screen and bring up the base menu, and another to drop a waypoint. You can also reprogram the buttons for other uses.

Running on two AA batteries, rather than being rechargeable, is great for extended tours or anywhere that USB chargers are rare – which is pretty much everywhere in the outdoors. Bring extras though. When following a pre-made route the batteries are devoured rather quickly, especially when it’s cold. I only managed two or three hours of continuous use per set.

I really like the Foris as an enthusiast-level GPS unit at an attractive price. It will certainly help you get un-lost and can give you a lot of piece of mind in the woods. Some power users may be disappointed by the specs and battery life though. It’s a crowded market that pumps out massively improved versions of its products every year. But don’t head straight for the popular brands—the Foris 850 is a worthy contender.

 

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