The Garmin eTrex series is the
newest updated version in Garmin's venerable small handheld line.
It replaces the popular Legend and Vista HCx models and the eTrex
series is now listed by number. There is the eTrex 10, the eTrex
20 and the eTrex 30. The eTrex 10 is the basic model ($119) that
does not have any mapping capability beyond the built in simple basemap. The eTrex 20 ($199) adds
the mapping option, while the eTrex 30 is the top of the line in this series
($299), sporting an electronic compass, barometric altimeter and the
ability to wirelessly share waypoints and tracks with compatible Garmin
units. The new eTrex series includes all of the recent
improvments to Garmin units, such as the Oregon, Dakota and 62/78
series. (Paperless geocaching, multiple mapsets, Garmin's
BirdsEye imagery, Garmin Custom Maps) A new feature in the eTrex
is the ability to receive GLONASS satellite signals (the Russian
version of GPS), which gives users more satellites to acquire data
from. This can improve satellite reception, especially in canyons
and under heavy tree cover. The eTrex is the first Garmin unit with this capability. You can check discount prices here.
(L-R Montana 650t, GPSMAP 62s, Oregon 550, eTrex
Legend, Dakota 20, eTrex 30)
The eTrex 20/30 package includes the unit and a quick start guide,
Unfortunately no caribiner clip is included, even though the back cover
includes a mounting spine. The actual user manual is found in the
memory of the unit itself as a .pdf file, in a folder labeled
"Documents" or can be found on Garmin's Website by following this link.
The eTrex 20 and 30 operate on two AA batteries and both support a microSD slot for additional
mapping or BirdsEye imagery. There is already 1.7 GB of built in
memory for maps and imagery. There is no high speed USB 2.0
connection, so loading data does take longer than the premium Garmin
handhelds. NOTE: The USB connection is at the top on the back side of the unit, under a weather cover.
As a longtime user of the eTrex series, the first thing I noticed is
that the joystick is moved from the left side, to the right, which
takes some getting use to, but is easier to use if you are right handed. Previous users of the Legend or Vista
will quickly be able to navigate around the new eTrex units as the
buttons are the same and in the same place. A major improvement
is that the unit is all in a hard plastic case, without the rubber
seal, which often had trouble becoming loose, especially if the unit
was left in the sun. The eTrex 30 and Vista HCx are almost
identical in size, shape, and screen area.
eTrex Legend and eTrex 30
the larger 62 series, the eTrex does not have a touchscreen, but the
visibility outside is obviously
much better than the Oregon / Dakota touch screens, with lower
resolution than the Oregons. The screen size is somewhat small,
2.2 inches, but for people with good vision, is easy to see. One
nice feature is that terrain shading is supported, but in the sunlight,
the dark contrast can make it harder to see. You can easily
switch off the
terrain shading, if the map is too dark. The map redrawing speed
while panning and viewing the map appears to be slow. Not sure if
this is a software glitch or slow processor. However, the unit
has no trouble drawing the map while you are moving, either hiking, or
Dakota 20 and eTrex 30
The eTrex has a high sensitive receiver. It is also the first
Garmin unit to receive signals from the Russian GPS system GLONASS,
which will give you more satellites in view and thus makes it easier to
acquire a signal and then keep it. I was able to get 23
satellites in view at once. 12 GPS and 11 GLONASS. This
doesn't necessarily always improve accuracy, but does help with overall
reception. I have had very good reception, even while hiking along trails and in tree cover.
Select between GPS only or
The eTrex has a 2.2 inch diagonally measured screen and
is listed as a 65K TFT Transflective, with 176X220 pixel.
It seems a little small, after using an Oregon and 62s, but if your
eyesight is average, will work fine. Some users have complained
in the forums that the screen is harder to read, but from my
perspective it is the same as the previous eTrex units.
The eTrex 20/30 includes the basic basemap for the U.S. and has a color
screen, and supports terrain shading and
autorouting with compatible maps, including CityNavigator and the
Garmin TOPO maps. You can either add the regional 24K maps that
can be purchased from Garmin.com or the US TOPO 100K product.
There are also several free or shareware maps available.
gpsfiledepot.com is a good place to start. The eTrex 20/30 both
support Garmin's aerial image product BirdsEye and along with Garmin custom maps,
where you can take a paper map or other map and georeference it.
We have found an easier way to do this is with the newest version of ExpertGPS.
geocache showing terrain
blue tracklog & magenta goto
Waypoint & BirdsEye Imagery
The new eTrex fully supports paperless Geocaching and Garmin's version,
Opencaching. Descripton, hints, logs, etc can all be viewed
in the unit. It also supports field notes, which will allow
you to upload your finds back into the websites as you log
online. Only the eTrex 30 supports the Chirp feature in geocaching.
Cache with difficulty/terrain
Chirp Data eTrex 30 only
There is the profiles option, which allows you to switch the settings
instantly, depending on your activity or mapset you want to use.
Helpful to switch while either hiking or for geocaching. I also
use profiles to switch between different maps, which is much faster
than changing the maps in the map setup page. You can also
customize data fields, menu order, and colors and really have the eTrex
operate however you want it. Profiles are a major improvement in my mind in the newer Garmin handhelds.
You can create up to 10 profiles and also custom name them.
This is the base
model. It does not have a color screen, but is
monochrome, similar to the original Legend and Vistas. You cannot
add any mapping, but there is a basic basemap. There is no
memory and you can't use a data card. However it does support
paperless geocaching. There is no option to use Custom
Mapping, or Birdseye imagery. We don't suggest this unit for
hiking or hunting, but if your only use is for geocaching, it is a good
basic model to go with.
This is the mid level model, which includes the color screen and full
mapping capability. It fits into the same feature level as the
Legend HCx. This is probably the best value for the money and we
suggest new users go with this unit over the 10, in case you decide you
do want mapping options, as it adds many more uses to your GPSr.
This is the premium eTrex model, similar to the Vista HCx. It has
everything as the 20, but also supports fitness devices, such as the
heart rate monitor and bike cadence sensor. It also supports
Chirp, for Geocaching. Only
the eTrex 30 allows for wireless data transfer of waypoints, routes,
tracks and geocaches, between the
Garmin Colorado, Oregon, Dakota, and 78s models. It also has the
built in 3 axis electronic compass and supports Sight -n- Go, and a
barometric altimeter. You can compare the features of the eTrex 10, 20 and 30 using this link on garmin.com.
The eTrex 20/30 supports the trip computer, track manager, waypoint
manager, route planner, waypoint averaging, man overboard and proximity
The eTrex 20/30 includes all of the previous extra features, such as
sun/moon, hunt/fish, area calculation, stopwatch, calendar, calculator,
and alarm clock.
The eTrex series has the same mounting spine as
Oregon/Colorado/Dakota/62 and is compatible with the caribiner, bike mount, auto
Waypoints, tracks, routes and geocaches are all handled as .gpx
files similar to the Oregon, Dakota, and 62/78 series. You can manage
them with the free BaseCamp program by Garmin,
which will actually make changes to the file in the unit, as you make
them in BaseCamp. Be careful when the unit is in USB mode and do
not delete any folders or files unless it is a .gpx file or file you
are familiar with.
The eTrex 20/30 supports geotagged photos
you load in the memory either from your own photos or Garmin Connect Photos and gives you the ability to navigate to them.
There is also a photo viewer, but the smaller screen size doesn't make it really helpful.
The eTrex weighs 5.5 ounces, and claims up to 25 hours of battery life,
using NiMh or Lithiums. Alkalines for me lasted about 17 hours,
before I started getting a low battery message.
The eTrex 20/30 supports the dashboard feature on the compass, map
and trip computer page, where you can add extra data to the
screen. However, with the smaller screen it is not ideal, as
compared to a 62 or Oregon.
Small and lightweight for hiking, hunting
Full of all of the new features, including terrain shading, paperless geocaching, BirdsEye compatability
Improved case and design
GLONASS Satellite capability
Map drawing slow while panning map
Small screen can be an issue when looking at closeup map detail
No carabiner clip included in package
Compass page doesn't flow like a real compass, but quickly switches to correct direction
Have to purchase detailed Garmin maps
Once again the owner's manual is short on detail-- only very basic information is given.
(You should check out Garmin's TrailTech for several tips, improvements and tricks to this unit)
Slower data entry, compared to the touchscreen input on Oregon/Dakota units.
The eTrex shipped with
software version 2.20, but has been updated to 2.40 as of this
article. A few bugs have been corrected, but I have not
encountered any serious errors in more than two months of use. One
bug involves an issue with BirdsEye mapping and imagery staying the
same (enabled/disabled) across all profiles. Another is that
Custom map images are showing up in the
photo viewer. There have also been reports in the forums about a
problem loading large geocache pocket queries into the eTrex. As
always, Garmin will make firmware improvements and you will want to
occasionally use the Garmin WebUpdater utility to get those updates, or
check Allory's "What's New" page for immediate notification of when those updates are posted. He is also on Twitter: allory_d
The new eTrex series is a
welcome addition to the Garmin handheld line. It offers
everything previous eTrex users have enjoyed, with the latest and
greatest features found in the other Garmin handhelds. The fact
get an eTrex 20 for under $190, with all of the features except the
electronic compass, altimeter and wireless feature, is a great deal,
especially with paperless geocaching. The extra money ($90) for
the eTrex 30 isn't necessary, but is a nice luxury if you really want
those features. The screen size is much smaller than the 62
series, but the eTrex is an affordable alternative. You can learn
more by checking out the official
eTrex product page. There is also a color interactive ad page.
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