Bushnell BackTrack GPS Personal Location Finder

By Chuck Hawks and Robert Fleck

Yellow/gray BackTrack. Illustration courtesy of Bushnell Outdoor Products.

The Bushnell BackTrack is a compact, simplified GPS unit combined with a self-calibrating digital compass. Its purpose is to allow the user to find his or her way back to their starting point. It can be used to find your way back to your hotel or motel in a strange city, to your car in a stadium or shopping center parking lot, or to your base camp or vehicle in the wilderness. Anytime you need to find your way back to your point of origin, the BackTrack can help. BackTrack's GPS technology is SiRF star III powered and, like so many useful products today, it is made in Red China.

The BackTrack can memorize up to three key locations, identified by icons for "home", "car" and "star" (or other). These icons just represent the three memory locations and they can be used to mark any three chosen locations.

To use the BackTrack, you begin by marking your starting location. Travel wherever you like and when you wish to return to your starting point, the BackTrack points the way and tells you the distance to your objective. In digital compass mode, it provides a compass heading back to your starting point and marks the direction of magnetic north with an arrowhead. The unit works best when held flat (horizontally).

The BackTrack is sufficiently compact to fit in most pockets, measuring about three inches in diameter and 5/8-inch thick. It is made of weather resistant plastic and comes with a lanyard, so you can wear it around your neck. It is powered by two AAA batteries. Turn the unit's back cover clockwise to remove, revealing the battery compartment. Five color schemes are available, including gray/orange, green/yellow, pink/gray, light gray/dark gray and camo. Our sample was the light/dark "Tech Gray" color (Sku #360053), which is restrained and attractive. The 2009 MSRP is only $69.

Its design is simple. At the top right (1:30 position) is the On/Off button and at the top left (10:30 position) is the Mark button. The LCD display shows a small battery indicator at the top left and a satellite indicator at the top right. In the center of the display is the distance (in yards/miles or meters/kilometers) to your starting point in large numerals or, in compass mode, the direction you are facing in degrees (180 degrees is south, etc.). Below the numerical display are symbols for compass (an arrowhead in a circle), home, car and star. Only the symbol currently selected is displayed at any one time. Around the perimeter of the display is an arrowhead that points in the direction of your starting point when in any of the three location modes. In compass mode, the perimeter arrowhead points to magnetic north.

To use the BackTrack, press and hold the power button for two seconds to turn the unit on. The satellite icon at the top right of the display will flash until the unit locks in to a useable GPS signal. When the satellite icon stops blinking the BackTrack is ready to go. The briefly press the power button to select digital compass mode or the home, car or star location icons. For example, if you are out hunting, you might use "home" to mark your camp, "car" to mark where you left your vehicle and "star" to mark a good location for a stand you want to return to later. To mark a location, hold the Mark button down until the distance reads "0." That location is now recorded in the unit's memory.

Here is how the BackTrack might be used in the above scenario. At your base camp, turn the unit on and mark the location of your camp, represented by the Home icon. Drive from camp to the specific area you want to hunt and, before leaving the vicinity of your vehicle, select the Car icon and mark the location of your vehicle. Let's say you still hunt (walk and stalk) two miles from your vehicle, ending at an excellent stand location. Mark the stand using the Star icon.

When it is time to return to your vehicle, simply turn on the BackTrack, select the Car icon and walk in the direction of the arrow. The digital display will tell you the distance (2.0 miles in the case of this example) back to your vehicle. The distance display will decrease as you move toward your vehicle and when you reach it, the distance will be zero and the single direction arrow will be replaced by a circle of arrows all around the perimeter of the display. Once you reach your vehicle, you can find the direction and distance back to camp by selecting the BackTrack's Home icon. Tomorrow, if you want to return to the stand you marked today, you can use the BackTrack's Star icon to guide you right back to the spot you marked.

The BackTrack can display English or Metric units. To change the display, hold down both the Power and Mark buttons in any of the location modes (not digital compass mode) and the display will change from "yd" to "m" and back. You can briefly push the Mark button to turn on the backlight for use in dim or dark conditions. The BackTrack stays on for 10 minutes and then, if no buttons have been pressed, automatically turns itself off. Alternatively, you can turn it off at any time by pressing and holding the Power button. The GPS satellite system is maintained by the US Government and is accurate to a distance of approximately 3-5 yards.

Being as it was late winter, cold, raining and the Western Oregon hunting season was not open when we received the BackTrack for review, Guns and Shooting Online Technical Assistant Bob Fleck checked the BackTrack by driving and walking around Eugene, marking locations and returning to them. The BackTrack worked exactly as advertised and Bob plans to be carrying it this coming hunting season. Even Owner/Managing Editor Chuck Hawks, who is something of a technophobe and gave away his sophisticated, hand held Garmin GPS unit because it was too complicated (for him) to bother with, was able to quickly master the operation and use of the BackTrack.

The only flaw was that the unit's back cover, which sort of "bayonets" into place, has a propensity to fall off, dumping the batteries. This would be a very bad thing in rough country and we suggest securing the back cover by taping it firmly in place. Overall, however, the Bushnell BackTrack is easy to use, inexpensive and works well. We recommend it highly. You can visit the Bushnell Outdoor Products web site at www.bushnell.com

Back to Outdoor Accessories

Copyright 2009, 2014 by chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.