While GPS receivers are becoming quite commonplace in vehicles and their value is widely recognized, many people do not realize that it is becoming the new utility for the outdoorsman.In order to understand why GPS is so important to the outdoorsman, it is important to understand exactly what GPS is and how it works. The Global Positioning System, or GPS as it is widely known, is a navigation system originally developed by the US military which continues its’ maintenance today. It is an integrated system of 24 satellites that orbit the earth and through the navigational process of triangulation can pinpoint a position anywhere on earth where a GPS receiver is located. During the 1980’s the government opened up the use of the GPS to the private sector. It is widely expected to become the next personal utility in the same way that cellular phones have over the past couple of decades.The GPS used by an outdoor enthusiast varies significantly from that used in most automobiles. Rather than giving turn by turn directions as do GPS receivers designed for cars, those designed with the adventurer in mind will provide location and distances between two locations as well as charting or plotting capabilities. Many have additional features tailored to the specific needs of the purchaser. When choosing a GPS for your outdoor activities do your homework and choose the one that will best help you in your specific activities.For the sailor or fisherman there are GPS equipped with depth sounders and fish finders as well as charting capabilities. For the boating enthusiast a GPS will serve many functions in addition to keeping one from getting lost. For example one can make note of a favorite anchorage or a location where the fish were plentiful and with the help of their GPS be able to return to that exact location.If you are a long distance runner, plan on hiking, or backpacking and camping off the beaten path there are several features one should consider. First since you will be carrying the GPS on your person, weight and size must be a consideration. Also since it will be exposed to the elements make sure that the unit you purchase is weatherproof. It is also important to purchase a system that has multiple channels – I would recommend a minimum of 12 channels for outdoors use. Remember that the entire concept of the GPS is based on the theory of triangulation and if your unit cannot communicate with any of the satellites it will not be able to locate your position.The multiple channels will allow your system to work even though some of the signals may be blocked by the terrain or trees if you are in a heavily wooded area. Make sure that the system is also equipped with WAAS (Wise Area Augmentation System). WAAS will provide greater accuracy in pinpointing your location, generally within a few feet. This is much more important if you are in the wilderness than if you are cruising down and Interstate in your car. I would also recommend features such as backtracking and topographical mapping.Today one can hardly turn on the TV or pick up the newspaper without hearing of someone lost in a remote area. With a handheld GPS, they would be able to find their way back to their start point or some other destination – depending on the elements and food supply this could be a matter of life and death. Don’t head into the wilderness without your GPS.