Friday, 18 August

This is a great story about the survival of my DeLorme unit from quite an ordeal in the elements! I should really write a comprehensive review of the unit, after all the years I have been using it, but that will be for another day.

DeLorme handheld GPSThe DeLorme PN-40 GPS handheld receiver is not only tough, but now I know that it is, indeed, waterproof too!First off, I am not comparing it to other brands here. I have owned both Magellan and Garmin GPS hand-held receivers, and I am not going to say that one brand is better than the others. I just want to share my experience with this specific unit.

Back in December 2012 we were a few guys cross-country skiing at Marble Mountain sno-park, north of Cougar, WA. We skied up close to the tree line on the south side of the Mt St Helens volcano. We were off track, in fresh, powdery snow, heading toward June Lake. The terrain started getting harder to progress on with our skis. Had we had snow shoes, it would have been easier to make it across the hills.

Due to the slow progress, we decided to turn around. A few hundred feet on our way back, I realized that my GPS unit was missing! I turned back to look for it at the spot where it must have fallen, but could not find it. Being bright orange color, it would have been easy to spot in the snow.

I didn’t have much time, so I gave up looking for it, and decided to come back the following weekend.

I went back there the following Saturday, on my skis, carrying my snowshoes on my back. At the location, I put on my snow shoes, and spent more than an hour looking for the GPS unit. I used a saw to cut into the snow, hoping that the GPS unit wasn’t buried too far down in the snow.

But I never found it.

Sking at Mt St HelensI decided that I would wait until spring, when the snow started melting, and go back up there to look for it. But life was busy, and I couldn’t find the time to go back up there.

Then in June 2013, six months after I lost the GPS unit, a Forest Service Ranger called our home phone, telling that they had found my GPS! One of the rangers had been on a routine patrol in the area, and spotted the GPS unit on the ground. He took it to the ranger station, they wiped it dry, and put in fresh batteries. Powering it on, it started right up! Showing my name and phone number, that I had programmed to show at boot-up.

It was unbelievable! Not only the fact that the ranger found my GPS unit, but that it still worked after being buried in snow for 6 months!

 Well, the DeLorme specificatons do say that it is water-proof. Quote from the specs:

  • The PN-40 is waterproof to the IEC 529 IPX7 standard
  • Designed to function in high-humidity environments, including consistent humidity levels over 90%, and in the rain
  • The PN-40 has been rigorously tested to function in high-vibration conditions such as off-road driving
  • Operating temperature range for the PN-40 is -20 degrees C to +75 degrees C. The PN-40 should function in extreme cold as well as rapidly-changing temperature environments

IPX7 means “Protected against water immersion. Immersion for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter” (X stands for mechanical protection).

The GPS unit was buried in the snow not just 30 minutes, but for most of the winter. Of course, it wasn’t in water, but rather in snow. But I am sure any non-waterproof electronic device would have been completely ruined in those conditions in a very short time.

A couple important points: The GPS unit does have a lanyard. I was careless, not using the lanyard. Had I used it, I wouldn’t have lost my GPS unit. The other point is: put your name and phone number or email on your devices, like in my case, you have better chance to get your lost device returned!

It has been about five months since I got my PN-40 back, and it still works! Oh, I should mention, even the data on the SD card was intact, showing the bread-crumb track to the very spot where the unit got lost.