May 19, 2009 Garmin's latest handheld GPS offering for explorers who like to hit the open road - as well as veer completely off it on foot - crams a 3-axis compass, 850MB of on-board memory and a 3.2 megapixel, 4X optical zoom digital camera into a 6.8 oz., water and weatherproof package with a 3-inch touchscreen interface.

The Oregon 550 and Oregon 550t models include geotagging functionality so you can find your way back to the same spot on future treks and the internal memory of 850MB is expandable via a microSD slot.

The Oregon 550 comes with a preloaded worldwide map with shaded relief, and should the user require even more detail, microSD cards such as MapSource for land and BlueChart for water can be utilized for more comprehensive coverage. The 500t goes one further with additional topographic maps of the entire United States featuring details like trails, rivers and points of interest all inclusive.

The 3-axis built in compass is “tilt compensated” to work even when not being held level and the 3-inch touch screen is designed to be readable even in direct sunlight. Ensuring that everyone from the weekend warrior to the serious mountaineer are catered for, five customizable profiles are available - automotive, marine, recreation, fitness or geocaching.

The systems run on two rechargeable AA NiMH batteries, with 16 hours of use from a charge. The Garmin Oregon 550 is due to retail for USD$499.99 with the 550t is set at USD$599.99. The units are expected to be available mid – July.

Mick Webb

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