Review: Bushnell BackTrack

We’ve all done it. We’ve parked our cars and committed details and landmarks to memory, only to draw a blank when it comes time to recall the spot. The Bushnell BackTrack aims to counteract these Memento-esque lapses in short-term memory by pairing a digital compass with a high sensitivity SIRF Star III GPS receiver. The BackTrack, once set with any of three location modes will guide you back to a marked spot with directional arrows and distance estimations as your guide.

Largely marketed as a camping and hiking device, the BackTrack seems a little too simple at first glance. There are no fancy maps, no turn-by-turn directions, and no eerie robot voices. Just an interface that looks something like a compass with a groovy blue backlight attached to a somewhat (very) nerdy lanyard.

I got to know the BackTrack firsthand when parking a car in Golden Gate Park for the Outside Lands music festival. On day one of the event, I didn’t bother using the BackTrack. Sure enough, when it came time to return to my vehicle, I led three friends around in the dark on a 45-minute wild car chase.

On day two of the festival, I decided to see if the BackTrack would let me find my car any faster. I set my location when I parked in the morning. I recalled the spot later that night and Voila! The BackTrack lead me back to my vehicle in less than ten minutes.

A lot of people will say, “Well why don’t you just get a GPS navigator or even a cell phone for situations like this?” They’re right — you can use both of those devices in similar ways. But here’s the thing about the BackTrack: it’s smaller than any GPS unit and gets reception better than any cell phone. If you find yourself getting lost easily, and don’t mind porting around an extra gadget, then give the BackTrack a tryout — the only thing you really have to lose is your sense of direction. And your car. 

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