The optics giant Bushnell had a rough start with its Google Earth-like Onix GPS unit — one of its first forays into the hand-held GPS unit market in a consumer world saturated with such gadgets.

But a couple years after the Onix was overshadowed by more functional smartphones with embedded Google Maps, the company took several steps back and made a product that’s simpler, cheaper and more appealing than yet another mapping unit.

The¬†BackTrack was well under $100 when it was introduced and simply allowed users to pinpoint where they were, keep track of where they were going and have the unit walk them back to their original destination. Not much for finding this ridgeline or patrolling¬†up that draw, but if you got your squad turned around in the back streets of Ramadi, this little device would help you get back to the COP sure as shootin’.

Well, Bushnell has updated the BackTrack, offering two models with just enough added features to make them attractive, but still keeping the price below $100. The BackTrack 3 and BackTrack 5 have added waypoint capability and a new design that’ll surely appeal to Joes and Grunts who have less and less room to carry added tech.

Like the original BackTrack, the Point 3 allows users to mark up to three separate locations or waypoints. In compass mode the arrow points north and displays the direction you are facing in degrees.

The BackTrack Point 5 can store up to five separate locations. It has an integrated digital compass that resembles an actual compass. The Point 5 also includes latitude and longitude coordinates when in compass mode. It displays time, temperature and altitude as well, giving the user a wealth of valuable information for their hike or trip.

Both units display an arrow pointing in the direction of the marked waypoint with the distance to the destination. They have a backlit screen feature for low light conditions. The auto off feature turns the units off 5 minutes after the last button is pushed to conserve battery life. Measurement readings can be changed from U.S. to metric and the clock on the Point 5 can be set for civilian or military time.

The BT 3 comes in at a bantum $69 and the BT 5 is $89. So all you friends and family of troopers heading to the box in the near term, here’s a perfect piece of kit that’ll help them find their way back from deployment.

{ 2 comments }

markm August 5, 2010 at 9:03 am

I've got a 1Gen before last years hunting season and found it excellent at doing exactly what it was made to do. I was inexpensive, accurately pointed the way, and gave the direction we needed to keep on the route through some very flat trackless woodland while deer hunting.

Having been over that ground without a compass, I knew exactly where the deceptive terrain would lead astray, and with the unit in hand for reference, we could focus on our hunt instead of wondering where we'd come out. Switching to other waypoints gave us an idea of just where we were. My estimate of how far we were from home was off, 26.4 miles as the crow flies nailed it right down. It works both ways, it measures the same distance from either of two opposite points down to the last few yards. It's not lightning fast, it must be held level, but it's not $500 either. It works.

Having the temp, different measurements to match maps, and both time displays would have made perimeter patrolling in the box at Ft Polk a breeze instead of an uncoordinated clown parade. Sometimes the Army will send you out of the wire with no map or having any previous walk over the ground, just "Get out there and don't get hurt." With a point of reference and 5 mins in Tac Ops a team can at least keep away far enough to actually patrol without tripping their own EWS.

Mine runs on two AAA rechargeables, which are a good cheap power source to use in the field. No mention here, but the shape looks like they kept them. For those who need to tone down the unit's reflective screen, use matte PDA screen protectors, which will kill most flash. They work well on any glass surface, including watch faces, and don't reduce the effectiveness of touch screens.

The Army does understand the soldier would be well served by a device like this, but building it into a single unit with a cell phone and secure link won't get them in the field very quickly. This unit now is far better than a compass – which is still a necessary backup just like iron sights.

joe September 3, 2010 at 9:04 am

Made in the USA?

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