Using the Garmin GPS 60

SED, the School of Environment and Development, has a number of Garmin GPS 60 devices (among various other GPS equipment). All university staff and students can borrow one of the devices. This is a quick start guide for collecting data with this  device.

Before you start

Get a Garmin GPS 60

Please note that occasionally all units are needed for teaching or fieldwork, so plan bit in advance. To borrow a GPS device see the geography lab staff (Artur Lewis Building ground floor, Tel. 53663).

Garmin GPS 60
Figure 1: Garmin GPS 60

Switch the GPS on and off

  1. Switch the device on by pressing the power key on top of it.
  2. To switch the device off, press and hold the power key until the display clears. When you switch the device off, previously recorded data will be preserved.


Take the device outside where it has a clear view of the sky and switch it on.

The GPS automatically looks for satellite signals (Acquiring Satellites message). This should take a couple of minutes at most. The bottom of the screen displays the signal strength for each satellite.

Watch the satellite symbol on top of the display:

  • garminGPS60Sats Empty – signals are too weak to determine your location
  • 2D – signals are sufficient to determine X/Y coordinates
  • 3D – signals are sufficient to determine X/Y coordinates and altitude

Once the GPS finds sufficient satellite signals to determine your location, your current coordinates appear at the top of the screen. The coordinates are displayed in BNG coordinates (British National Grid) or another coordinate system, depending on the device settings.

The Display

Switch the GPS device on. It displays the Satellite Page. Press the Page key multiple times to cycle through various display pages:

Display pages
Figure 2: Display pages

When you switch to a page, its title is displayed on top of the screen for a couple of seconds. Then the title is replaced by the battery and satellite symbols, allowing you a quick view at the most essential information.

We will refer to these pages later in the guide. For now, press the Page key until you come back to the initial Satellite Page.

If you find it hard to read the pages, adjust the display settings: Press the Power key, this shows the display settings. Use the Rocker key to adjust brightness (up/down) and contrast (left/right). Usually both should be set to a medium value.

Check and change batteries

  • Check the battery status on the top left of the screen. A brindled battery symbol  indicates full batteries; a hollow symbol  indicates empty batteries. Full batteries should last for about a day of continuous operation, but battery life depends on how you use the GPS device. To be on the safe side, always take spares with you.
  • When you remove the batteries, stored data will be preserved.
  • The GPS 60 operates on two M batteries. Alkaline (disposable) or NiMH (rechargable) batteries may be used, but do not mix Alkaline and NiMH batteries.
  • When replacing batteries, use only new or fully charged batteries.
  • Use rechargeable batteries if possible. These do not last as long as disposable batteries but are less harmful to the environment.

To change batteries:

  1. Switch the device off by pressing and holding the power key until the display clears.
  2. On the back of the device, lift the D-ring, turn it 1/4 turn counter clockwise, and then pull the battery cover away.
  3. Remove the old batteries.
  4. Insert the new batteries, observing the proper polarity as indicated inside the battery compartment.
  5. Reinstall the battery cover by connecting the bottom of the cover to the bottom of the device. Make sure the tab on the cover fits into the slot on the device. Press the cover closed and turn the D-ring clockwise to lock.
  6. Recycle empty batteries. There are battery recycling containers all over campus.

Clear old data

The previous user might have left data on the device. To delete old data follow this procedure:

  1. Press the Page key until the Trip Computer page is displayed.
  2. Press the MENU key.
  3. With Reset… selected, press the ENTR key.
  4. Use the Rocker key to highlight Select All.
  5. Press the ENTR key.
  6. Use the Rocker key to highlight Apply.
  7. Press the ENTR key.
  8. To confirm, use the Rocker key to highlight OK.
  9. Press the ENTR key.
  10. The device deletes the old track data and returns to the Trip Computer page.
  11. Pressing the Page key, flip through the pages until you come back to the Satellite Page.

Collecting data in the field

The GPS device lets you collect

  • Tracks, these are recorded automatically as you move
  • Waypoints, these are points of interest that you record manually, e.g. soil sample locations

In addition to these recording functions, the GPS 60 can be used for routing (directing you to predefined places or along predefined routes). Routing functions are not covered here, for more information on routing see the GPS60 manual.

Recording a track log

Whenever the GPS device is powered up and has a sufficient satellite signal, it automatically and continuously records a track log.

  1. Switch the GPS device on and make sure it receives a good enough signal (Satellites page).
  2. Press the Page key to flip through the pages until you come to the Map page.
  3. Walk around for a couple of minutes. As you move, the GPS device automatically and continuously records a series of points along the way and displays them on the Map page as in Figure 3. This series of points is called a Track Log.

    Figure 3: Track recording
    Figure 3: Track recording
  4. Use the IN and OUT keys to zoom the display and the Rocker key to centre it.

The GPS device will record your track log until you switch it off. After switching it on again, it will continue recording.

Saving a track

Save the contents of the track log in a Track file:

  1. After you finished a track, go to the Main Menu page.
  2. With Tracks selected, press the ENTR key.
  3. Use the Rocker key to highlight Save and press the ENTR key.
  4. When asked if you want to save the entire track, highlight Yes and press the ENTR key.
  5. By default the track is named by the current date. Enter your own name for your track: use the Rocker key to highlight the Name field and press ENTR. A keypad is displayed. Use the Rocker key to highlight characters, pressing ENTR after every character. When you have entered the track name, highlight OK and press ENTR.
  6. Leave all other settings for the track as they are, navigate to OK and press the ENTR key. This copies the current track log to a track file with the name you just set.
  7. Press the QUIT key to return to the Main Menu page.

This procedure copies the current track log to a file. It does not clear the log, so future recordings will still be appended to the current log.

If you want to start a new track log, you need to clear the track log first:

  1. Go to the Main Menu page.
  2. With Tracks selected, press the ENTR key.
  3. Use the Rocker key to highlight Clear and press the ENTR key.
  4. When asked if you really want to delete the log, highlight Yes and press the ENTR key.

This procedure only clears the log. It does not delete the saved track files.

Recording Waypoints

While the track log is great way of recording where you were, in many cases you want to record specific points rather than a whole track. These can be soil sample locations, landmarks, etc. These points are called Waypoints. Waypoints need to be recorded manually.

To mark a waypoint at your current location:

  1. Go to the Map page.
  2. Press the MARK key. The Mark Waypointpage appears (Figure 4).

    Figure 4: Mark a waypoint
    Figure 4: Mark a waypoint
  3. Use the Rocker key to highlight the Name field and press the ENTR key.
  4. By default the waypoints are named with consecutive numbers. Write down the waypoint number, e.g. 001, along with other data you are collecting at this location, e.g. a location name and sample values.
  5. Leave all other settings for the waypoint as they are. Navigate to OK and press the ENTR key to save the waypoint. The display reverts to the Map page, displaying the waypoint.

Managing Waypoints

You can edit your waypoints, view them on the map or have the GPS direct you to a previously recorded waypoint.

  1. Press the FIND key.
  2. With Waypoints selected, press the ENTR key.
  3. A list of previously recorded waypoints is displayed (Figure 5).
    Figure 5: Waypoint list
    Figure 5: Waypoint list

    Highlight one of them and press ENTR.

  4. To edit a waypoint, use the Rocker key to flip through the fields. In the field you want to edit, press ENTR and change it as described above, e.g. add a note to the waypoint.
  5. To delete a waypoint, highlight Delete and press ENTR.
  6. To show a waypoint on the Map page, highlight Map and press ENTR
  7. To have the GPS route you to the waypoint, highlight Go To and press ENTR.

NB: Waypoints are stored separately from tracks. Therefore when you download or delete a track, the waypoints along that track will not be downloaded/deleted automatically.


You can switch the device off and on again during or after recording data. The data you recorded will be preserved.

Further options

See the Garmin GPS60 manual for further options.

Downloading collected data to a PC

Connecting the GPS 60 to a PC

There are two ways to connect the GPS 60 to a PC:

  • Trough a USB port. If you work on a computer running Windows XP you need to install the Garmin USB driver (download from On Windows 7 and later the driver is installed automatically.
  • If you are working on a computer where access to USB is restricted, you can connect through a serial port (COM port).

To actually connect you need a cable, available with the GPS unit. There are two two rubber lids on the back of the GPS 60, underneath there are connectors for a COM and a USB connection. Plug the cable into the corresponding connector and plug the other end of the cable into your PC.

About downloading the data

Downloading the data is a two step process:

  1. The GPS 60 sends the data to the PC, using a special data format (Garmin format via USB, or NMEA format via serial). On the PC some software needs to receive the data.
  2. The software on the PC converts the data to a different format, e.g. to a Shapefile or a MS Excel table, and saves the resulting file.

There are various software tools available for downloading and converting data, the preferred method depends on how you want to process the data. Please see:


After you verified that your data was processed correctly, you can delete the data from the GPS device. To do so, follow the instructions above (“clear old data”).

Always delete your data from the GPS before returning the device .


8 thoughts on “Using the Garmin GPS 60

      1. I have seen the all the things posted here and all are clear. But am facing challenges to connect the GPS 60 with a micro-controller. It has already connected using MAX 232 to the micro-controller but the serial port does not continously give an out put. how can i setup the GPS 60 so that i can get the location out put serially all the time??
        The other question is haw to use the GPS indoor for lab checkup????
        Thank you very much

      2. About the micro-controller, the only thing I can think of is to look into how the GPS sends its data – by default it sends data in the Garmin proprietary binary format. You can change this: press Page repeatedly until you get to the Main Menu page. Go to Setup > Interface and change “Serial Data Format” from GARMIN to NMEA In/NMEA Out (

        How to use the GPS indoors for lab checkup: All functions work indoors, except that you don’t get a GPS signal (and thus no serial data output). You can simulate a signal: Press Page repeatedly until you get to the Main Menu page. Go to Setup > System and change “GPS” from Normal to Demo Mode. This will simulate a GPS signal. Don’t forget to set it back to Normal when you are done with testing.

    1. I am not aware of such a function. You should check the manual though, you’ll find it on the Garmin website.

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