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294 of 307 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent upgrade from etrex vista hCX
After losing a Garmin etrex vista hCX which I loved, I decided to go with the Dakota 20 (D20). I will be comparing the two in the review.

Maps and Storage:

The D20 comes loaded with a basemap, which has most major highways, but no streets. So for your purpose, you can choose City Navigator (required for auto navigation to work), or Topo 2008 (shows...
Published on October 11, 2009 by Mark Witt

versus
173 of 191 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great concept, horrendous reliability, poor accuracy.
Before I even start: A lot of times when one reads a critical review they try to dismiss it; the reviewer is an idiot, just had bad luck, has an axe to grind with the company, or just likes writing negative reviews. I can assure you that this is the first seriously negative review I've ever written in my life and I've been around for a while. It actually pains me to have...
Published on August 6, 2010 by M. Saunders


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294 of 307 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent upgrade from etrex vista hCX, October 11, 2009
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Garmin Dakota 20 Waterproof Hiking GPS (Electronics)
After losing a Garmin etrex vista hCX which I loved, I decided to go with the Dakota 20 (D20). I will be comparing the two in the review.

Maps and Storage:

The D20 comes loaded with a basemap, which has most major highways, but no streets. So for your purpose, you can choose City Navigator (required for auto navigation to work), or Topo 2008 (shows mountain countours & most lakes). Luckily, I had both Topo and City Nav on my computer.

Since the D20 comes with 850mb of internal memory, it's enough for self selected regions in Topo 2008 and/or Inland Lakes map, but not for City Nav. I put in a 4gb microSDHC card, which handled the 1.2gb .IMG file of the city navigator map. What might trouble some is that the D20 does not come with Mapsource(a great program for making custom maps, and upload trails and routes) or any kind of software. The hCX comes bundled with Mapsource. Although if you purchase the City Navigator, it comes with Mapsource.

When combining multiple maps onto the device, the D20 is much more convenient as you simply add the .IMG files (must have different file names) into the Garmin folder. D20 will automatically detect the maps and enable them. In the hCX, you had to merge all of the .IMG files into one or use seperate microSD cards, which was a toll. The D20 stores the saved tracks individually as .GPX files, whereas the hcx clumps all the trails into one file(named by date).

Auto Navigation:

I didn't find much info about Auto Navigation for the D20 before purchased, so I wasn't sure what to expect. After trying it a few times, it's definitely a step up from the hCX. There's an Automobile mode for navigation, where the map is tilted so you can see the turn coming from farther ahead. The directions text is noticeably smaller on the D20, which might be hard for some to read, but luckily you can adjust the text size of the directions. You can also customize what information you want to see (i.e-distance to destination, odometer, etc.). The D20 gives almost the same beep as the hCX when turns are approaching(no voice of course). The D20 navigation overall is more pleasing to the eye.

Battery Life:

The hCX wins on battery life 25 hrs vs 20 hours on the D20. There is a battery save mode on the D20 that definitely improves battery life. How it works is the screen will turn off in about 15 idle seconds to save power, and you simply touch the screen to see again. On D20's regular battery mode, I noticed the battery drains very quickly -definitely less than 20 hours. Recharcheable NiMH AA batteries are a must since you'll be going through them quickly. I use Sanyo Eneloop and Rayovac Hybrid. Be sure to change the Battery type under Setup>System to get the correct battery meter.

Visibility:

This has been the biggest complain by some, but I found the visibility/brightness on the D20 to be suitable for most types of lighting, including in the sun and in the dark. You can adjust the backlight (although brighter means less battery life). I'll admit it can be harder to see in certain angles of sunlight, but this hasn't been a problem during auto nav or regular use. The hCX is slightly brighter, but it's not a significant difference.

Accuracy:

During initial use, the satelites weren't detected on the D20. I had to walk outside before the Satelites could lock on. The D20 has three modes for Satellite: Normal, WAAS, and Demo. I've had the most accurate luck with WAAS as i'm assuming it's using the new satelite technology. On the D20 i've gotten accuracy as close as 10 ft, whereas on the hCX 20ft was usually the closest it would ever get. In general though, the satelite signal on the D20 is about the same as the hCX.

GPS Interface:

This is where the D20 far outshines the hCX. You navigate through all of the menus by touch. This is such a relief from using hCX's mini joystick and side buttons. What's nice about the D20 is you can move the map around by sliding your finger on it, whereas on the hCX joystick you have to sluggishly go at an angle. The D20 works much faster in operation. For example, it refreshes the maps considerably faster than the hCX. This equals less headaches when trying to pinpoint a location.

The layout on the D20 is very straight forward. The main menu contains all of the icons (Map, Where to, Track Manager, Setup, etc.) and you can scroll through all of the features by the arrows on the bottom corners. The hCX has a higher learning curve as you have to manipulate multiple buttons to get somewhere.

GPS Use:

I use the D20 for fitness activities: kayaking, jogging, cycling, and hiking. I can easily plot my map with distance and tracks(breadcrumb trails) onto websites that map .GPX files(Mapmyfitness, Motionbased). I use it too, of course, for auto navigation. The hCX is capable of doing all these things as well, but its not nearly as modern and simple as the D20. Resetting the track took me a few minutes to figure out, but it's simply Setup>Reset>Reset Trip Data. You have to use this command right before you go jogging, biking, rowing, etc. -otherwise your new track will mix in with the prior/current track. It'd be nice to have shortcuts on the D20, but no biggie.

Profiles and Customizing:

A nice feature on the D20 is the ability to create profiles. I have a profile for driving, and one for exercising. It keeps the settings and maps you want selected automatically saved into the profile (i.e- City Nav for auto, Topo for exercising). You can also rearrange or get rid of buttons in the main menu, specifically for each profile. This is extremely useful in having all the features you need in one or two screens. With the hCX, you can customize the features, although it is not nearly as simple to rearrange as the D20. The hCX does not have profiles.

Overall:

While it was quite unfortunate I dropped the hCX in the lake, the D20 has proven to be a suitable upgrade and replacement. The D20 and hCX both have their strengths and weaknesses, but i'm definitely enjoying the experience of the user friendly D20. I have yet to determine it's true ruggedness, but will post updates if anything else should be mentioned.
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132 of 136 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Easiest to use handheld yet, December 13, 2009
I recently decided to start spending some time geocaching with my son. I finally settled on either the Geomate, Jr., the Garmin Dakota, Garmin Oregon or DeLorme PN-40. I asked questions at forums, looked at on-line reviews, checked out the ones I could find in stores (Oregon and PN-20) and finally decided on either the Dakota 10 (a great price on a bundle was the big attraction at the time) or the Oregon 300. The Geomate got great reviews and the most reasonably priced of the group, but it's only good for one thing, geocaching, tho it does it well. The PN-40 also got pretty good reviews, but the screen is smaller than the Oregon's, the computer software is in addition to the device purchase and an annual subscription (at a very fair price tho) is needed for all the available advertised map features. It's also a device with a pretty steep learning curve, especially on the trip planning side. That left the Dakota and Oregon. My two concerns on the Dakota 10 was lack of an SD slot, and a lower resolution screen than the Oregon. But for $100 savings I took a gamble and ordered the Dakota geocache and hike bundle. Turns out my worries were all for naught.

This little navigator has been a pleasant surprise. Dead simple to use, the menus made sense right out of the box, screen sensitively is excellent, even text-entry on the touch-screen is surprisingly easy and accurate. The bundle included the 100K US maps on DVD, which while very good were not as detailed as I had hoped. Not to worry. FREE user-contributed maps are available and many are very good to absolutely excellent. The Florida 24K topo I found at GPSFileDepot was in the latter category. Bathyspheric data, roads, trails, poi's, extended text descriptions of land features like springs, waterways, landmarks, historical features. All I could ask for, no added charge. No other manufacturer has a following creating compatible maps like Garmin's. And a recent Garmin application update has even added the ability to easily import and use raster maps(ie, paper maps, attractions maps, etc) in your Dakota. I'm actually working on adding an early 1900's Central Florida railroad map that I can overlay on my 24K topo for searching out old railway junctions and stations. With any luck I might dig up a little Florida history.

Here's the best part, and something I didn't know about in advance. Garmin's "Profiles" is a powerful menu feature. Out of the box, the menus are customized/organized for specific uses like Geocaching, Recreational, Marine and Automotive. I modified my Automotive to use Garmin's City Navigator (2009) map, Florida section only, with my 24K topographic maps disabled. I moved "Active Route" and "Route Planner" to the first page and customized the data I wanted displayed on my trip computer and compass pages, then saved it. Now when I tap Change Profile>Automotive, all my settings are ready to go. I customized Geocaching in the same manner, disabling road maps and enabling topo's, even disabling "ground cover" display so the map screen is even easier to see. What other device other than Garmin's Oregon series is this easy to use and set-up for your specific needs? Nothing that I've seen.

My only complaint, and it's not even a serious issue, is screen readability. It seems all the newer high-resolution handheld screens suffer screen legibilty issues compared to the older devices like the tried-and-true 60CSx. So far no one has come up with a solution. The Dakota is certainly more readable than the Oregon, even tho the backlight is not as strong. I haven't yet found a lighting condition that rendered the screen unreadable, unlike the Oregon I looked at side by side with it. Even the Oregon only needed to be turned a bit to see in light shade, a problematic light. Even when used tie-wrapped to my bike I never found the Dakota completely unreadable. But as mentioned by others, there's room for improvement. For now it's just a necessary trade-off for the better graphics and detail and easier use on these new off-road devices.

My concern on the lack of additional SD storage for maps was unwarranted. Loading the 24K map for the entire State of Florida, routable City Navigator road maps for all of Florida, 100K topos for Georgia and Alabama and a hundred or so geocache locations with details (gpx files) took less than 300MB of the available 850MB+ of on board storage. I don't think I'm going to run out of space for hundred's more geocache locations, waypoints, routes or even additional maps if needed. The Dakota 10 also lacks the tri-axial compass and barometric altimeter of the Dakota 20 (and Oregons), but I can't see any situations where I would need those. The compass on the Dakota 10 is fine for almost all my uses and I have no need for the altimeter anyway, especially in Florida.

So all in all, I really have only a single complaint. Screen brightness in certain specific lighting conditions could be improved. But in MOST sun and shade conditions it's not any problem whatsoever. My 14 year old son used it all day yesterday as both a highway navigator, calling out turns to me to an EarthCache, and a geocaching device once we got there with not a single complaint. Why is that important? He's never used a handheld before. I only pointed out the "Profiles" feature and a one-minute tutorial on getting to and reading the road map screen. The rest he figured out on his own. That's how simple it is to use. I honestly can't think of anything I missed out on by passing up the Delorme PN-40 or even Garmin's Oregon.

I recommend the Dakota highly.
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173 of 191 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great concept, horrendous reliability, poor accuracy., August 6, 2010
By 
M. Saunders (Hermitage, TN United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Garmin Dakota 20 Waterproof Hiking GPS (Electronics)
Before I even start: A lot of times when one reads a critical review they try to dismiss it; the reviewer is an idiot, just had bad luck, has an axe to grind with the company, or just likes writing negative reviews. I can assure you that this is the first seriously negative review I've ever written in my life and I've been around for a while. It actually pains me to have to slam a product so hard, but in this case I honestly feel it's justified and I seriously implore any potential buyer to think long and hard about what I write before choosing this unit.

The Garmin Dakota 20 is a great idea; it's a very small, very portable unit with a lot of features that fits easily in a backpack, jacket pocket, camera bag, purse or what have you. While the screen isn't the brightest I've ever seen, it's workable even in sunlight, and the user interface has a nice feel. The GPS receiver picks up satellites reasonably (but not amazingly) quickly. Lots of stuff for a reasonable (although not bargain) price. When I first bought it, my hopes were very high and my initial impression good.

The pre-installed basemap isn't serious enough for any real hiking; you're best to get one of the 24k or 100k topousa maps and install what you need. That being said, the map/GPS relationship isn't very accurate - my home location is reported the same in terms of GPS position by the Dakota 20 and both of my Garmin automotive GPS units, but on the map the Dakota 20 reports my position approximately 1/4 mile away from where I actually am while the auto GPS units are within 15 feet. That's not good. I'd almost say that's laughably bad.

The most serious problem with the Dakota 20 is simply one of reliability. My first unit went dead as a brick within one week of ownership; it didn't even have an aggregate of 5 hours use on it. I'm technically competent and tried all the stuff on the garmin (and other) forums, to no avail. Back it went. The second unit worked when I got it, then it sat around a few weeks until I took it on vacation to test drive it. It worked fine there. Back home, still within 30 days of purchase, the unit once again is dead as a brick; power switch doesn't turn it on, and that's with fresh batteries, and once again, I might have maybe 7 total hours on the unit. Went back through all the steps, googled all the Dakota 20 problems in the forums, all of that - once again, to no avail.

Bottom line is simply this: the unit is crap - having two units turn into non functional bricks within the span of two months is unacceptable - one I might understand, but two I can not tolerate - and I'm far from the only person who has had one die. It is, without question, the worst single piece of consumer electronics I've experienced in my 49 years on the planet, and this is coming from someone who rarely returns equipment or has issues with electronics in general - I am far from the usual complainer-on-the-forums kind of guy who hates everything. It is supremely frustrating, because I so *want* to like this unit; but there is no way I can. Two bricks plus pathetic map accuracy a happy customer do not make.

Seriously and strongly not recommended. This unit is a disgrace to a GPS firm (Garmin) that in the past has done much better. Avoid the Dakota like the plague.
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58 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outdoors, Training and Road/Track navigation - In both wet and cold conditions!, December 23, 2010
This review is from: Garmin Dakota 20 Waterproof Hiking GPS (Electronics)
EDIT / New Information August 18. 2012 (read addition).

GREAT FOR:
Any type of tracking or traveling (including motorcycles, bicycles) where you want the security of an accurate, reliable and highly water resistant GPS unit. Always ready to work thanks to the vast availability of AA-batteries, and a good range of quality maps (TOPO, Street etc.).

HIGHLIGHTS:
- Easy-to-use and reliable touchscreen (even for big fingers/hands).
- Good "Classic" color LCD screen (Can be watched with no back-light). Many other units turns the screen off after a certain time which could be frustrating during some activities, like when hiking small tracks or motorcycling.
- Uses two (2) AA-batteries. Very practical for those who travel, and the batteries can be gotten everywhere.
- Waterproof/resistant. When the USB-flap is tightly shut and the unit's new or haven't been too much in the sun or in the dry, it has been quite waterproof/resistant.
- Maps. Everything from small Norwegian hiking tracks, city-center maps to typical road/street maps with navigation (no sound though). Garmin has a lot of maps to choose from, and they're EXPENSIVE!

REMEMBER that you can't get those special lithium batteries that is required by other GPS units (or phones) everywhere, and sometimes you can even have problems charging them for many reasons (camping, wrong voltage, forgotten cable, dead battery...). In a bad case scenario, this could make you stranded somewhere...

After a few years of service now, my Dakota 20 is still doing it's job. Perfect for the tracking, bicycling, motorcycling (motorcycle) and other activities I have used it for. After my now long experience with Dakota 20, I still recommend it, with two notes regarding the reliability; The USB cover (flap) should be improved as it can leak in some circumstances. As I mention later in my review, I now use a bit of DuctTape to cover the USB flap. The memory-card holder also need some work (the Memory Card come loose after some travel on bumpy roads.

PREVENT POSSIBLE WATER DAMAGE
First I open the USB flap and battery lid. I remove any dirt and dust with a hot wet cloth. I don't use strong chemicals or anything with alcohol to prevent the rubber and the sealing to dry out. The mini USB on the top (backside) is covered by a flap that is not locked, or are in any other way protected from opening. The USB-flap is made of a soft material who may harden after a while, something I have witnessed the beginning of allready (because of long exposures to the sun, I guess). I simply use tape (duct tape) to cover the flap and hold it in place. The battery lid is equipped with both a rubber sealing and a lock, so here I just have to check the sealing (easy when changing batteries). This should hold the water or dust out.

New info is added to the review: Durability, road maps and a few overall comments.

THE SIZE/SCREEN
It uses AA-batteries, meaning the batteries can be replaced wherever you travel to, for the most part. AA-batteries are pretty standard (BIG Plus).
It has a smaller screen than it's big brother Oregon (and others), and the resolution is not the best. When that is said, if you want a better, it most often use more battery power (duration), or it can't be used in daylight without turning the back-light on. The screen also shows all/most of what you need to know I have big hands, and often use gloves when hiking this time at year (December). I have mostly no problems with using the touch screen, mostly because of the big buttons. Even small buttons, when typing addresses etc, aren't smaller than what I'm used to from mobile phones etc. No big problem.

Yes, compared to a mobile phone with the same screen size, this unit could look worse. But is that really a problem?? It's more than good enough to view maps, and everything else that matters, and the colors are good. Actually, I think it's a good idea! This screen requires less battery power, and make it last longer.

One small useful possibility if you are low on batteries; The screen can be watched without the backlit on, but quite weak, of course (I often use it like this).

RELIABILITY
My unite is very rugged. A lot of soft-grip plastic all around, and the screen it self, sits a little lower in front. Nice if you should drop it, would be hard to hit the screen first unless if there was rocks ot other things in the way. Also, the unit is built tightly. The battery lid and the mini-usb flap sits tightly.

GPS-SENSITIVITY/CONNECTION
I must admit that older Garmin models (don't remember their name) was a bit more sensitive. But I have had no problems so far. It locks quite fast to the satellites, and I use EGNOS (for Europe), not WAAS that Americans use. Also no problems in heavy forest or around "tall" buildings (not much of them here in Oslo :) )

WATERPROOF
It says it's waterproof down to one meter. Since I often hike in pretty bad weather, I wanted to test this. After I bought it I turned it on, made sure that everything was fitted tightly, and put it in a bucket of water for 20 minutes. Not a bubble came out of it. Later on, after hikes, I wash the unit in the sink, getting rid of any gravel and dust, and finish with wiping the screen with a quality cloth.

COLD WEATHER
I was a little concerned when it came to a touch screen and cold weather. So far it hasn't been a problem. On one hike the temperature was minus -22 degrees Celcius (about -7.6 Fahrenheit), but since it was windy effective temperature propably was around -25 Celcius (-13 Fahrenheit). It can be A LOT colder her in Norway, but this is was the temperature I tested it in (using gloves). No problems. Just removed some ice and fog from the screen and it was ready to go. BTW, I was carrying it on my backpack, so it hadn't been in an warm environment before I used it. But,I guess there is a limit to what a touchscreen and the LCD technology can handle, so take that into account.

MAPS
One thing is for sure; Garmin/Navteq maps are expensive! It comes with a basemap, but isn't that useful for almost anything. Luckily, you can get free and legal maps from the web (often based on OpenStreetMaps, and others, incuding Topo-maps), making it quite good for most people. On the other hand, some of the Garmin maps are just fantastic! Here in Norway, there are maps called TOPO Premium-series. For the Oslo region (Norway is split in A LOT of regions), it's in 1:20000, extremely detailed, and can be routed (small hiking tracks for example). Fantastic. Here it cost about $260 US for this single map...

MENUS
Easy to use, and you can set different profile-menus for different types of tasks, like hiking, geocaching, boating, training etc.

TRAINING
Dakota 20 can receive signals from supported puls belts and cadens (cycle) sensors. This works well and can in many situations replace a typical pulse/training watch. Everything (puls and its percentage) can be uploaded to Garmin Connect. Nice feature.

COMPARED WITH OREGON 550t
I compared this unit (the Dakota 20) with the big brother Oregon 550t. The Oregon had a bigger screen, a camera and pre-installed TOPO-maps of Norway (but not the "good"/high quality TOPO-maps I wanted). Also, on paper it had about 4 hours less battery life. Even though the sceen was bigger, I found that the Dakota 20 was easier to read in direct sunlight (seems to be a problem withe the Oregon-series). So, all-in-all, I chose the Dakota because of the better screen (not bigger), much longer battery life, and that it was smaller (not taking to much space), and it was easy to use even with my big hands. Since I had to buy maps that fitted my needs (better ones than fitted on the Oregon, the price became almost the same. I didn't need the camere on the Oregon since I almost always bring a better camera on hikes (I just record the position).

BATTERY LIFE
Great! This unit uses AA batteries (two). Extremely practical since you can get them pretty much anywhere. It runs on alkalines, NiMH rechargeables and lithium AA batteries. My 2800 NiMH has made it last around 21 hours. This is important if you are planning longer trips. I would never have chosen a GPS that only worked on special lithium batteries. Please read my extra added comment regarding NiMH battery chargers so you can get the best performance out of them.

Ok, that was all I could think of when reviewing this little GPS unit. Hope it was useful.

EDIT:
When I mentioned that I had/have gotten 21 hours out of it from two 2700 mAh batteries, I forgot to mention that was in power-save use. Short backlight time, low backlight settings, compass off, often used without the backlight on at all. If I use the unit with high backlight on, for longer time, the battery life is much lower.

EDIT 18. August 2012
I still have it and use it often, sometimes several times a week. Just wanted to add a few more details:

One year ago, I used it on a month-long motorcycle trip to Poland (from Norway). It was placed on top of my gas tank-bag with a cargo strap, meaning it was open for wind, rain and dust at highway speeds (and some). On the way to Poland it experienced very strong rain showers where I constantly had to wipe the screen covered with water. No problems at all. But later, after several days of riding on dusty and bad roads, I found a problem. The USB flap on the back (there is no lock) got loose from the vibrations (just as many bike parts :) ) and dust and water entered into the USB port. I don't know if this has damaged anything. Everything works fine. After that I realized I had to clean the flap of dust to keep water out. Another thing is the quality of this flap. It's made of soft rubber. It has become a little bit harder then it used to be, and don't close as well as before. I guess this is because of the direct sunlight over several days/weeks/months. A piece of tape has solved this for good, but it is a weak point. On the way back to Norway more massive rain was testing the unit, but not a drop was seen inside it. Well, there is one more thing; the memory card holder inside (behind the batteries) don't hold the memory card very well. The card managed to get loose a couple of times when the vibrations was really bad.

I guess that most people won't use this GPS unit the way I have used it (like on top of a motorcycle), making it less likely to experience the problems I had. But the rubber USB-flap is probably a long term weakness as far as I can see (if used in hot environments). But not a big thing.

All in all, I am amazed how much abuse this thing can take without being damaged. Strong cold, heavy showers in highway speeds, strong vibrations, and direct sunlight over long periods. And it is a touch screen... Yes, the screen has gotten a few small scratches (the unit a few dents), but it still works fine. Just a tiny footnote on the screen during winter: last winter the LCD froze (showing "nonsense") when I had left the unit outside in the snow for a while (I guess -25 Celsius). I may have damaged something (?), but after I warmed it up a bit it worked fine, and still does.

THE ROAD MAPS
On my vacation to Poland (through Sweden and Germany) I really got to test the road maps. Visually, they are not as good as "real" car GPS-units. But I guess that is a given because of the screen size and resolution. But again, it worked fine. I found that I didn't need the fancy graphics. As long as you set a good zoom level (important), it will show everything you need in a nice and clear way (remember that I was riding my motorcycle in the rain while using it, with motorcycle gloves). Nice big arrows showing where to turn, and of cource durations. Another good thing about it was (I have mentioned it before) that you don't have to turn the backlight on while using it in daylight, saving a lot of battery. At night I had a long backlight on, which was reactivated by pressing any part of the screen. You select yourself what kind of information you want on the screen when in "driver" mode, like distance left, speed, time, and so on. The European map I used was quite accurate, only a few mistakes was done. The biggest one was made by myself. I had by mistake when I arrived Germany selected that I did not want to drive on highways, which took me on an extremely long and bumpy journey through the German back country :) The addresses/destinations is easy to enter, but maybe a little backwards. Nothing to really complain about. I have entered hundreds of addresses/locations during this trip and up to this day and it finds most of them. But I did miss the voice directions that other GPS'es has, like when I was riding for hours on a highway, and had to regularly had to check visually when the next direction was.

If you have a motorcycle, or a ordinary bike, I recommend this. It has all the important things (not the fancy things) you need, and a really solid waterproof casing. I used my gloves using it when at speed. Only typing addresses was much easier without gloves.

Just remember that these maps also cost quite a bit. Sad that Garmin maps has to be so expensive.
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great GPS, October 1, 2009
By 
Glenn Gordon (Williamsville, NY USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Garmin Dakota 20 Waterproof Hiking GPS (Electronics)
I had previously owned and lost an eTrex Legend Cx. This is a giant leap forward. Garmin advertises this as their new entry level unit, but its 800 MB internal memory holds all of the topo and street maps for the eastern US. The inability to do street routing without first buying City Navigator® North America NT seems to be an artificial limitation.

The lock in is almost instant when I turn it back on at the same location that I turned it off, and it can pick up a signal from inside my house. I no longer lose the signal when I go under deep forest cover.

The screen is bright, and better than on my old unit. When I first got it, the compass was not functional, but once I updated the unit online, it worked great.

I wholeheartedly recommend this unit.
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82 of 95 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Watch which accessories you buy, January 23, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Garmin Dakota 20 Waterproof Hiking GPS (Electronics)
I just purchased the Dakota 20 along with a few accessories. I read through the user manual on line and reviewed the list of accessories on the Garmin site. I bought a 16GB Micro SD and a Garmin battery charger that connects directly to the unit via USB.

Be aware! The unit will not even read the 16GB card. The most that can be accessed and used is a 4GB card - so don't be fooled (like I was) into thinking you can store a load of data on a bigger card. I complained to Garmin - here is the response I got -

"You are correct that the unit can only use 4GB. Unfortunately, I have never heard of anyone getting a larger microSD card to work. Please try using an actual 4GB microSD card."

Also, DON'T buy the charger!. I complained to Garmin that the charger didn't seem to work. Here is the response I got -

"Unfortunately, the Dakota will not charge batteries while they are in the unit, whether it's plugged into your computer or to an A/C adaptor. To charge the batteries, you'll need to use an external rechargeable battery charger." This response was from Rowdy R Product Support Specialist, 2nd Shift outdoor/Fitness Team Garmin International
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dakota 20 Visibility, February 20, 2010
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Garmin Dakota 20 Waterproof Hiking GPS (Electronics)
When I purchased the Dakota 20 I was somewhat concerned about using it on a bicycle because of mixed reviews (here and elsewhere) on its visibility during the day in various sunny and cloudy conditions. My first bike ride with the Dakota 20 confirmed the visibility problems, especially when not in direct sunlight. Visibility was especially a problem when the sun was on either the right or left side. When the sun is in front I twisted the Dakota until it was horizontal on the handlebars and this worked fine.

Then I decided to test ride the Dakota with sunglasses (polarized clip-ons), thinking if visibility got worse, then I would diffently return the Dakota. I was pleasantly surprized. The Polarized sunglasses greatly improved visibility in all angles of the sun. The reduction in glare from the polarized sunglasses greatly improve the contrast on the Dakota screen. The screen was not brighter, just more distinctively clearer. I repeated the test ride with polarized sunglasses on and off to confirm their effectiveness in improving the screen visibility in all angles of the sun.

The backlight on the Dakota is only effective at night or inside, not in daylight or even in shade.

One note, I loaded the Dakota with Garmin's City Navigator for the test rides. This software map has a white background with varying colored streets and markers. I did not test Topo mapping software on a bike. It may have different results even with polarized sunglasses, but I don't intend to add it to the unit.

Bottomline: I'm keeping the Dakota 20. I like the ease of using the touch screen and many of the other features, including the possibility of adding a heart rate monitor and cadance option. I just wanted to mention the use of polarized sunglasses (either green or brown)to improve visibility, because nowhere, in any of the reviews that have I read, has anyone identified this solution to the visibility issue.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Wanted to Love It, August 2, 2010
This review is from: Garmin Dakota 20 Waterproof Hiking GPS (Electronics)
I bought the Dakota 20 expecting to love it. It had been released by Garmin about a year before so I thought all of the "teething" problems would be resolved by now. Apparently not. At first things were great. This was my first hand held GPS and there was a lot to learn. I had a great time discovering the features and available maps. I even tried some geocaching. One of my first caches the Dakota reported that I was 286 feet away when I was standing on top of it. Not so good. I liked the form factor a lot but then realized that the touchscreen is bit small and my fingers are a bit big. I had trouble getting my fingers to hit the exact point on the screen that I wanted. Then the real kicker: it just stopped working after 3.5 weeks. I could not get it to power on even with new batteries. When I connected it to the computer it was not recognized. It was just dead. I called Garmin and they told me it was my fault for installing non-Garmin maps (even though it worked fine after the maps were installed). I returned it and got a brand new Dakota 20. I installed the same maps and this one died after 4 days. There are many non-Garmin maps available on the web and, if they can damage the Dakota, then it sounds to me like a Garmin design problem. At least I should be able to reset it back to factory defaults. So, I returned it again and bought a Garmin Oregon 450. I again installed the same maps. Now the screen is a bit bigger so I don't have the finger/touchscreen issues. The form factor is a little larger but I am getting used to it. I went back to that same cache and the Oregon reported that I was at the cache when I was less than 10 feet away (much better). I have now had the Oregon for a month and have had no issues with it. I would not recommend the Dakota 20. I would recommend the Oregon 450.
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53 of 63 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Garmin Dakota Pros and Cons, July 27, 2009
First Impressions: This unit has some nice features but the one thing it does NOT have is a "sunlight readable" screen, all Garmin "touch screen" models are much harder to read in the sun compared to the eTrex or 60Csx type models (regretfully these models are also very complex to use).

The main advantage of this Dakota unit is that it is better for paperless geocaching because it does display tips. The main disadvantage for geocachers, other than you can't see the screen in sunlight, is that this unit does NOT offer "proximity alerts" like the 60CSx, this means you have to hold the unit in your hands constantly and with the screen set at its brightest setting to find the nearest cache, this is not only cumbersome but it also drains your batteries much, much faster. Any GPS without proximity alert is as close to useless as it gets.

Beware of the claim that Garmin makes about included maps, the maps that come built-in are pretty much useless, you will need to spend another $100 to buy a map that works.

A more detailed review coming soon.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not great, April 9, 2010
By 
Amazon Customer (Annandale, VA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Garmin Dakota 20 Waterproof Hiking GPS (Electronics)
After reading many positive reviews about the features and ease of the touchscreen but also about the visibility problems with the screen, I decided to take a chance and upgrade my aging monochrome eTrex Legend. After years of fumbling around with the tiny joystick and sidebuttons on the Legend, the touchscreen is a welcome change. If you're familiar with the iPod touch, iPhone, or Garmin's Nuvi automotive GPS units, then you'll like the Dakota's touch screen. It's especially practical for typing names and coordinates. The screen redraws itself significantly faster than panning on my old Legend. I really like all the features. The 3 axis compass works very well. I didn't think I needed that feature, but it's turned out to be something I really like. I also like the profiles feature that lets you have a variety of settings for muliple activities. The geocaching feature is fun and easy. I take my kids "treasure hunting," and they love how easy it is to use. All I have to do is download Geocache coordinates and the arrow points the direction to follow.

If many of you are like me, this would be a no brainer except for the visibility issues I kept reading about. There's no question that the visibility is not as bright as I think it should be. However, I don't think this issue should be a show stopper for many people. In direct sunlight I think the readability of the screen is good. Sometimes you have to tilt it slightly for the best visibility angle. However, the backlight is extremely weak, and here is where I see the problem. In night time lighting situations the backlight is adequate to see the screen. It's those low light daytime areas, such as after the sun sets but before it gets dark, or under heavy tree cover in mid-day, where the sun isn't there to illuminate the screen and the backlight isn't powerful enough to brighten the screen that it becomes an issue. Because most people don't hike much at night this isn't really all that helpful. However, at no point is the screen unreadable, it's just harder to see. I use my Dakota primarily for hiking, so I'm not constantly looking at it. Most of the time I can glance at it and read the maps or info quickly.

For me, the ease of the touchscreen outweighed the visibility concerns. It is disappointing that Garmin can't or won't fix this. I have two Nuvi units and neither of them have any visibility issues, so obviously it's possible. Overall I'm happy with the purchase and don't regret buying the Dakota, but if a bright display is paramount then you may want to look at other units.
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Garmin Dakota 20 Waterproof Hiking GPS
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