Comparing Garmin GPS Trackers

I don’t know why it’s so hard to get all this information in one chart, including the relative physical sizes of the trackers, but here it is:

  Garmin 1030 PlusGarmin  1030Garmin ExploreGarmin 830Garmin 530Garmin 130 PlusGarmin  130
Price 599 499 249 399 299 199 169
Dimensions (mm)114x58x19114x58x19105x55x22  82x50x20 82x50x20 63x41x16 63x41x16
Weight (grams) 124 123  116  79.1  75.8 33 33 
Touchscreen YYYYNNN
Screen Size (Diagonal, in.)3.53.532.62.61.81.8
Resolution282×470282×470240 x 400246 x 322246 x 322303×230303×230
Color Display YYYYYNN
Battery Life (Hours) ~24~20~12~20~20 ~12~15
Can Import Maps YYYYYNN
Has Base Maps YYYYYNN
Storage 32 GB16 GB + microSD16 GB + microSD16 GB16 GBn/an/a
Waypoints/favorites/locations 200200200200200?100
Routes 100 100 100 100 100 30 15
Activity History (Hours) 200 200 200 200 200 100 100 
GPS  Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
GLONASS Y Y N Y Y Y Y
GALILEO Y Y N Y Y Y Y
Barometric Altimeter Y Y N Y Y Y Y
Accelerometer Y Y Y Y Y N N
Wireless Connectability ANT+, Bluetooth, Wi-fiANT+, Bluetooth, Wi-fiANT+, BluetoothANT+, Bluetooth, BLE, Wi-fiANT+, Bluetooth, Wi-fiANT+, BluetoothANT+, Bluetooth 
VIRB® Control Y Y N Y Y N  N
Calories Burned Calculation Y Y N Y Y Y  N
Interval Training Y Y N Y Y N N
Advanced Training Sessions Y Y N Y Y Y N
Estimation Of O2 Consumption Y Y N Y Y Y Y
Aerobic Training Y Y N Y Y N N
Virtual Partner Y Y N Y Y Y Y (On a path)
Virtual Racer™ Y Y N Y Y Y N
Time/Distance Alerts Y Y Y Y Y ? Y
Garmin Cycle Map (turn-by-turn, directions) Y Y N YYNN
Works With Power MetersYYNYYYY
Smart Trainer Control YYn/aYYYn/a

My own choice among these remains the same as it was several years ago. I went from the Edge 500 over to the Edge 130 and have stayed there.

  • It’s just as accurate of a time/location/distance recorder as all the others.
  • It weighs less than half of the 530.
  • It can be seen in all weather conditions, including pitch black.
  • It can be operated even while wearing thick gloves.
  • The battery lasts 15 hours.
  • The power consumption is so tiny I can fully charge it from the generator in my hub by riding for less than half an hour.

The only downside for me is that I can’t upload offline maps to it (though I can upload my own pre-made routes).

Iceland retrospective

Bilbo never set foot in Bag End again. Neither did I.

When I got back to the Bay Area I moved my possessions into a sublet — a second-story victorian flat with lots of windows, only a few blocks from my house. The tenants I’d rented my place to carried right on renting it. I really didn’t want to move back in there.

I pictured myself, walking into the bedroom of that old apartment at the end of the first day, laying down – probably on my unrolled sleeping bag – and looking at the ceiling, and being seized with a gut-wrenching mixture of panic and disgust, as all the old memories of being in that place crowded forward from my past and trampled on my wonderful memories of Iceland, crushing the life out of them. I was determined to avoid that.

It was a very good decision. As I write this, the sublet has been running for six months, and one month remains. I’ve been working, writing, re-assessing the long-term view of my life, and also hosting my eldest nephew as he lives away from his parents for the first time. I’ve reconnected with family and most of my friends, and done a lot of dating — carefully at first, then with increasing confidence. And that has led to a good place as well.

I made a presentation of my Iceland journey at work, which was fun. I put together a slide show, and now I bust that out whenever a friend or relative wants to hear the story. They often comment on how green and fresh the countryside looks. They also like the sheep and birds and horses.

Life is good for an Icelandic horse.

Lookin' for snacks

Every time I go through the slideshow I re-live the trip a little. I remember how the people were kind and gracious, the air was clean, and every day led to a new discovery. But … six months later, you know what I miss most about Iceland? The fish.

Some days when I’ve been exercising and I feel a bit hungry, my stomach stomps upstairs into my brain and bellows, “MORE OF THAT ICELANDIC FISH. WHERE IS IT?

I’m trying to save money for the next trip, which is coming soon, and I’m struggling with that because there are taxes to pay and lots of house projects to do. Icelandair keeps sending me emails with promotional prices for flights to Iceland, and whenever I see one, my stomach says, “Forget about saving! Just go back there and stuff me full of that fish!!”

It’s very silly. Half of the appeal of that fish was due to the exercise I was getting, and the calorie and protein deficit I ran every day. I know that abstractly. But my stomach is too dumb.

The Gear

Looking back there isn’t a single thing I would change about the gear I brought. It was fantastic, especially the inflatable tent. I set it up and took it down around two dozen times, often in bad lighting conditions, and it was effortless and quick. It stood up in the wind, it didn’t leak, it didn’t get too hot or cold, and it didn’t weigh much more than a tent of similar size.

Tent all spread out, ready to inflate.
Tent inflated, with bicycle stowed under attached tarp. That red mark is the taillight, visible through the fabric.
Tent inflated, with bicycle stowed under, from a different angle.
You can see my hack job here, where I ziptied a tarp to the side of the tent. From a distance it almost looks like it was designed this way...
Set up in less than 5 minutes, and ready for snoozles!
Another fine setup, tucked into a corner.
Set up in the corner of the campground, for maximum wind blockage.
Had to pitch on a bit of an incline to avoid the mud, but the night only cost 6 dollars.
The tent, tucked into a nice corner of the Búðardalur campground.
Striking camp. Takes about five minutes!
I do enjoy being able to keep the bike out of the rain.
Snug as a bug.
Gotta have my morning music!

Starting with the tent in a compression sack, I could get it staked down and inflated, then get my gear inside and the bike covered, in about five minutes. I sometimes daydream about going on another bicycle camping trip just so I can use that tent.

Here’s a short list of problems I had on past trips but didn’t have to worry about this time:

  • Non-waterproof bags soak up rainwater which adds a massive amount of dead weight to your bike until they dry.
  • Generators can charge devices but it’s always slower than you’d like. Their true utility is in removing headlights entirely from the power equation, and making it so your headlights never die. This may save your life, several times over.
  • Braking with V-brakes and hitting a pothole at the same time on a heavily loaded bike can crack your rim. With disc brakes this is not an issue.
  • In a high wind, your bike may pitch over while you’re camping. If your bike is covered this isn’t a problem. You can also tie it upright with a guyline and a few stakes. A velcro strap is also handy for holding down one of your brake handles so the bike doesn’t roll. (Don’t use a tightly wound rope or a rubber band, or the high pressure will rapidly stretch your brake cables.)
  • A partially broken rack or a rack with one bolt missing is repairable if you detect it quickly. If you don’t, you will soon discover a completely broken rack, which is not repairable. Inspect your rack at least every other day. If the bolt ends stick out far enough, consider putting lock nuts on them so they don’t unwind on the road.

Clothing

I was also pleased with the clothing I packed for this trip. Here’s a short list:

  • One pair of jeans
  • A swimsuit
  • One pair of sweats
  • Four pieces of underwear
  • Three pairs of wool socks
  • Two short-sleeved shirts
  • Two long-sleeved shirts
  • A thick wool sweater
  • Some pajamas (wool top, cotton pants, thin socks)
  • A Hawaiian shirt (for fun)
  • Two thick bandanas
  • A wool cap
  • A cotton bucket hat

For rain I packed:

  • A pair of waterproof socks
  • “Gore Tex” rain pants
  • A “Gore Tex Pro” jacket
  • A waterproof rain hood
  • Thick waster resistant gloves
  • A waterproof balaclava

When I could find a clothes washer (almost impossible on this trip) I washed everything cold in one load, with the exception of the wool sweater and the rain gear. Usually I had to wash clothes in the shower or the sink of a hotel room, then hang them to dry near the radiator. That worked pretty well in the dry Iceland air. No issues with mold.

And of course I can’t forget the bike, Valoria.

Pausing on an uphill

Yeah, I spend a lot of time spinning on hills rather than powering up them like some cycle tourists do. But the comfort! The panoramas! The safety of never going over the handlebars! The dashboard!

All in all it was a massive success and I’m excited for the next adventure. Onward!

Ortlieb Recumbent bags on a Bacchetta Giro bike

Without bags attached.

With Ortlieb recumbent bags attached, using strap and carabiner-style clip.

It’s easy to do, and works well. In fact, since the bags can be tucked closer together on a narrow rack behind the seat, it’s more aerodynamic.

Plus the top of the rack remains clear, and there is plenty of room for bags on an under-seat rack as well.

You need two items. A good-sized aluminum carabiner-style clip, and a luggage strap.

Just a basic aluminum carabiner-style clip.

A stout luggage strap, of the non-stretchy variety.

If you can’t find these exact items, don’t worry. Cruise around on Amazon and you’ll find lots of similar options.

It's a medium-sized clip.

The luggage strap rolled up for storage.

Clip the carabiner onto the lower rib of your seat where it’s accessible on the back.

Looking down at the carabiner-style clip, through the open top of the mesh seat.

This is roughly how the Ortlieb bag hangs.

Adjust your recumbent bags so that the retention hook grabs onto the seat strut like so:

The bag hook can rest directly on the seat strut, or just hold it, as shown here.

Then put both bags on the rack.

Thread the luggage strap through these.

You’re going to thread the luggage strap through these clips. Squat on one side of the bike and pass the strap through the carabiner, then down through the far clip, then back through the carabiner, then up through the near clip, making a loop. Then thread the strap into the buckle on its other end, and tighten it down a bit.

Tighten the strap to pull the two bags into alignment, transferring their weight onto the clip.

Note how the carabiner lets the strap rest evenly.

If you’re doing this with full bags, you’ll notice that the carabiner takes on a good amount of the weight of both bags, and even provides a little bit of a suspension.

The strap should pass through the carabiner twice, not just once.

I attached six add-on bags to these panniers: Four mesh bags and two pocket bags. The weight hangs nice and low. Then I took this setup on hundreds of miles of bumpy road. No leaks, no breakage.

I’ve got so much volume for carrying that I don’t bother to compress my sleeping bag or pillow each day. I just push them into these panniers and take off.

Well done, Ortlieb!

Iceland gear and packing

For my own reference, here is the overwhelming amount of gear I packed for my Iceland tour, and how I arranged it.

This is what everything looks like packed onto the bike:

Here are the bags without the bicycle:

In the back: Two Ortlieb sport packer plus bags, each with an add-on net pocket and an add-on large roll-top pocket.

In the middle: Two ortlieb recumbent bags. The one on the left has three net bags attached to its underside in a row. The one on the right has a net bag, and then two small roll-top bags attached below, since it hangs over the drivetrain of the bike.

In the foreground: A Kelty Redwing backpack. On the loaded bike, this is placed sideways on top of the recumbent bags, where it fits nicely behind the seat, and is held down with two bungee cords.

This is all the gear that’s held in the Kelty backpack and the recumbent bags, or in the add-on bags attached to the recumbent bags.

The sleeping bag, with an inflatable insert and an extra liner included, is kept inside the large cotton sack which is then stuffed into the right-side recumbent bag and takes up all the space. The blue bag of rain gear goes into the net bag on that side, along with the raincoat, and the small add-on bags that hang over the drivetrain carry the bicycle lock and the drone.

The recumbent bag on the left side of the bike carries the tent, the stakes, and the pump. Suspended in the net bags beneath it are the blue sack with hiking shoes inside, and the red sack with pants, swimsuit, and other off-bike clothing. The net bag on the rear carries the big wool sweater. The yellow sack of sleeping gear and the other bags go into the backpack.

All this stuff goes into the sport packer bags, along with the laptop and the camera which are not pictured.

This is the charging gear for both the drone and the laptop, with a Y-connector so that they can both be run from one power cord with one international adapter. Between the two charging bricks, six USB devices can be charged at the same time.

These are the portable speakers, adapted to attach to the handlebars of the bike. There’s also an old iPod mini in here, for playing bedtime music. An iPod shuffle is not suitable for this purpose since it has no ability to stop playing! It will always repeat the current playlist forever or until it runs out of power! How silly. Not that it matters, since all iPods have been discontinued and will soon die out, and we will all be locked into digital subscription services and completely abandon the whole idea of controlling what we listen to without it being mediated from one minute to the next by a jealous corporate overlord in the sky.

This is a kit of spare music hardware. None of it is essential; it’s just here to give me options, or in case something breaks. Spare headphones, a spare microphone wire, airpods, a bluetooth transmitter, et cetera.

These are camera accessories. A macro attachment (not very useful but very lightweight, so might as well bring it), a wireless camera control that pairs with an iPhone app, an external IR focus-assist lamp, a tripod collar, and a smaller tripod for the iPhone.

Camera and drone charging stuff, plus an extra cable.

Lens and laptop cleaning cloths, plus a set of spare blades for the drone.

A collection of media cards, holding music, audiobooks, photo archives, and other stuff that’s non-essential and can be deleted as necessary to make room for photos. All formated APFS with encryption on, for the heck of it.

Micro-USB charging cables, a camera card reader, an add-on hub for the laptop, and various small adapters to extend the utility of the micro-USB cables.

A boom microphone for calling up friends and for video conferencing in strange places. The strangest place I’ve used this so far is by the side of the road next to a geothermal power plant in the middle of Iceland. The boom snaps into place on the side of my headphones, using a small stick-on magnet. It works with the laptop and the iPhone lightning adapter, and it sounds far better than anything else I’ve tried.

The travel toolkit. This is kept in the bag under the seat, along with a small tire pump and an emergency spoke repair wire.

The kit contains everything I need to disassemble the bike and put it back together, including removing the pedals and seat. I can repair chain, fix a flat, replace broken cables, patch wires, adjust brakes and shifters, and also prepare food and trim my nails and mustache. Each of these tools has had a lot of thought put into it.

The rest of the space on the bike is occupied by myself, two large water sacks, and whatever food I happen to be carrying at the time.

Comparison of three Heimplanet tents

Small tent (The Fistral)

  • About 2 minutes to inflate with small pump.
  • Makes its full shape only after using at least two guy lines.
  • Great for single-night stays and time spent mostly on the bike in unpopulated areas.
  • More risky because far more equipment needs to stay outside under the tent flaps.
  • Not good for remaining indoors during rainy days, due to low ceiling and lack of room.
  • Great weight-to-space ratio.
  • Not great for rain or snow.
  • Line of pockets at front is good for small items but additional after-market hanging storage should be added.

Medium tent (The Cave)

  • About 3 minutes to inflate with small pump. Can easily be inflated and then staked down after.
  • Least reliant on guy lines, keeps its full shape without any.
  • Easy to move and reposition even for one person.
  • Four pockets, two on each side, make a division between sleep gear and outside gear.
  • Poor weight-to-space ratio. Almost twice as heavy as Fistral with 2x the space.
  • Single round door is small and very awkward to use.
  • Relatively poor ventilation.
  • Vestibule area is relatively small but reasonably secure from rain.
  • Good in rain and wind and snow without using guy lines.
  • Extremely good performance in high wind when staked down.

Large tent (The Backdoor)

  • About 3.5 minutes to inflate with small pump.
  • Decent weight-to-space ratio. Twice as heavy as Fistral with 3x the space and a higher ceiling.
  • Pocket arrangement has indoor/outdoor division, same as Cave.
  • Large enough to deploy a large bed, unpack gear, and comfortably use a chair at the same time.
  • Almost enough vestibule space to enclose an entire bicycle!
  • Semi-reliant on guy lines.
  • Good in rain and wind and snow if guy lines are used.
  • Has a very large footprint:
    • Too large for almost all indoor deployments.
    • So large it may upset other people competing for space.
    • Difficult to find a patch of flat ground this large.
  • Color scheme matches my bike!

Based on the above, it seems to make the most sense to travel with the Fistral through remote areas, use the Cave for more rural camping, and use the Backdoor only when traveling with two or more companions.

This is a little disappointing, since the Backdoor is luxurious to use. Lots of ventilation, tons of space, room to work inside, a giant vestibule for cooking… It’s too bad it weighs so much, because if I’m going to be living in a tent for months at a time, I’m going to need a place that can feel like a home.

Since my first few rounds of using the Fistral I’ve discovered that it’s possible to clip a small lightweight tarp to one side of it and use the tarp to cover a bicycle parked parallel to the tent. By tying down the tarp on the opposite side of the bike, it creates a large semi-indoor area safe from rain that is easily accessible through one of the doors in the tent.

It also conceals gear a little better, and is still ventilated enough for cooking. Plus, with the bicycle visibly concealed and staked down it is far less likely to be snatched by thieves. With the tarp attached, the Fistral is basically a good-sized one-man tent with a rear vestibule that’s larger than the living space — just what a cyclist needs.