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226 of 245 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
The Etrex 20 is a nice step up from the Legend H. Satellite reception is very sensitive. I compared the Etrex 20 head to head with the Magellan GC...The Etrex 20 locked on to 18 satellites under a sky with no obstacles vs. the 5 locked on by the Magellan GC. The Etrex was showing an accuracy of 7 feet (Glonass satellite constellation added to U.S. + WAAS and European...
Published on October 22, 2011 by LaredoHeat

198 of 237 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Initial Opinion
I bought this for backpacking in the Rockies and doing fieldwork in Texas. This review is only based on initial familiarization and I have yet to use it much. I'm a little underwhelmed so far, but hopefully will like it more later. PROS: Nice size and good light weight for backpacking. Seems well made and durable. The controls and user interface are fairly easy to figure...
Published on January 23, 2012 by Texas Hiker

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226 of 245 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, October 22, 2011
The Etrex 20 is a nice step up from the Legend H. Satellite reception is very sensitive. I compared the Etrex 20 head to head with the Magellan GC...The Etrex 20 locked on to 18 satellites under a sky with no obstacles vs. the 5 locked on by the Magellan GC. The Etrex was showing an accuracy of 7 feet (Glonass satellite constellation added to U.S. + WAAS and European satellites allows for this type of accuracy) while the Magellan GC was showing 56 feet. Inside a building next to a window, the Etrex 20 found 14 satellites. The Magellan GC was unable to find any satellites.

The aquisition of satellites is quite fast. From a cold start out of the box, the Etrex 20 found my location in about 30 seconds. Once the unit has found it's location, subsequent aquisition times (given that one hasn't traveled several hundred miles since last turning it on) is almost immediate.

Garmin tech on the phone helped me put my identification on the start up screen.

The unit allows for one to choose the order that screens come up... I liked the Legend H's progression of boot up screen into satellite screen into map screen...I have set my unit to power up on the satellite screen, and then when I am satisfied with the satellites that have been found, pressing the back button puts me into the map screen. Pushing back again gets me into the menu screen.

The basemap is worldwide in scope for major highways (the Legend covered North and South America as far as major highways are concerned. The rest of the world consisted of primitive outlines of countries, no highways, only capital cities), and the coverage of towns and cities around the world is impressive. I looked for the little city of Turfan in the Gobi Desert of northwest China on the old silk route and found it! The world basemap actually shows more towns when on the 5 or 3 mile scale than my New York Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World in the U.S. and around the world (even more towns than the NYT Atlas in Mali!). If a dot is not labeled, you can move the arrow to the dot, and the display will identify the town (highways can similarly be identified). One can seach for worldwide cities by direct spelling...the Etrex usually comes up with the intended choice before one spells out all of the letters of the name. When the town is found, the user is free to examine the map for the found town's setting. This is neat for looking up a town that comes up in conversation or on the news! The Magellan has street level coverage within the U.S. The Etrex 20 does not include this. That said, downloading and SD cards with street level mapping inside and beyond the U.S. is available from Garmin as well as topographical maps. The Magellan GC does not have downloading or SD's available.

The color screen is actually quite readable without use of backlighting when in a lit environment (backlight can be lowered to none if one wishes to make the batteries last 25 hours). The color screen shows the physical relief of a region at the 3 mile scale and above (white background for 2 miles or less). I like the daytime screen much better than the nighttime screen. I went into settings and made the daytime screen the default screen at all times.

I found that I could go to the trip computer option, and change one of the fields to display battery condition. I have made this a page now...unit now powers onto the satellite page, pressing "back" takes me to map, pressing back takes me to trip computer, and pressing back again gets me to the main menu. Great stuff!

I'm thrilled with this unit.

Updated by internet to version 2.4

Got the North America has every road in the U.S and Canada, and most in Mexico. The unit allows one to search for an address anywhere in the will prompt for state (or province), city, house (business) number, and finally street. The unit often comes up with a list of choices before entire entry is fully typed in. You can then see a map of the selected address (and zoom in and out and pan), and if desired, ask it to navigate to the spot. If you wish to search for places of interest such as restaurants in a city far away, go to settings,system, then select the satellite listing and place the unit in demo and exit out . Then select "Where to", find "city", and select move to city. Now you can search for places of interest in the chosen city, and if desired, navigate to it. Remember to go back and activate the satellites, and WAAS. When on a scale of 300' or less, the unit displays points of interest, often with business logos! (update Dec 4...this works on the recreational profile. On the automotive profile, one cannot move location to the city of interest. In the automotive profile, the emphasis is on navigating to the city of interest)

I have no interest in geocaches, and cannot comment on how the unit does with this!

Update 11-24...

At or above the 20 mile zoom, especially 30 miles and up, the topographical detail shown on the physical relief map is quite vivid. Below that zoom level (12 miles or less...and at the higher 20+ mile zooms when there is little in the way of relief to display), I prefer the blank white background allowing for the roadway networks to be highly visible. I just realized that the settings/map menu choice offers the option to not display physical relief at any zoom scale! Until now, I was disappointed to have the blank background only at the 2 mile zoom or less. Nice! I do wish that the option to display highest density of towns/data allowed for even more towns to be displayed in rural areas where towns are far apart.

Update 12-02...

Tech support helped solve the density of towns shown not being as full as I expected when unit is set to display "most" (as in most towns that the unit will display). I was operating the unit in the recreational profile. On the automotive profile, the map will show all of the towns in the data base on the map on the 3 mile scale choice (or dots that the curser can be moved over to call up an id if the map is too crowded), and a good many towns at the 5 mile scale.

Update 06-11-12...

Version 2.80 made a huge difference on the response of the unit when traveling at a walking speed. I would imagine that folks that use this for geocaching will find this latest version a great improvement. Previously, (even after allowing the unit to get a solid lock on all available satellites with an estimated 1 standard deviation radius of 9' or less) when navigating the last several dozen feet to a target, the unit would lag behind. I might walk 10-15 feet before it would impact the remaining distance/bearing to the target. The lag would also result in overshooting the target. The new upgrade makes the unit respond almost instantly and smoothly, and allows me to "softly land" upon the target down to the last foot! I also notice now that after the unit has locked in on the available satellites with most reception bars showing "d" as in good lock, the etrex will discern the elevation difference between being held at eye level vs. being placed at groud level, and then back to eye level. Outstanding!
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205 of 231 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Garmin Etrex 20, October 5, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I ordered this unit just as it became available on Amazon after conducting assessments of several units. Works just as expected. It takes a little getting used to the menu system, but after playing with it on two different occasions for about an hour total, I've figured out the more advanced items. Worked great right out of the box, quickly acquiring a full complement of satellites while I sat inside the house (accuracy within 10-14 feet inside). Screen has good color and is clear to read. I like the paperless feature and easily loaded a gpx file from I find the the ability to read all of the logs very helpful. UPDATE: Used it to search and find severla nearby caches, and it worked great! It was very accurate and brought me to within a few feet of each cache. The receiver allows me to mark a cache found and to include comments. When I returned home, I easily uploadedd my finds and comments to I am very pleased with my purchase.
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101 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the new eTrex Vista HCx, October 22, 2011
Rodolfo Q. Z "roqz" (Heredia, Costa Rica) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Garmin eTrex 30 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator (Electronics)
I have just received my eTrex 30 unit, and so far it is perfect and a great improvement over the still amazing eTrex Vista HCx.

The eTrex 30 is for all purposes, the new Vista HCx, both have barometric altimeters and both have compasses, however, the 30 has a tri-axis compass that allow to look at the unit perpendicularly to the ground and it will still mark to the north.

Among the improvements are of course the new hi-color screen (Allows BirdsEye maps, like having a Google Earth in your pocket on the trail!). Wireless transmission of data via ANT+ that also works with heart rate and cadence monitors. And the most important geek factor, the reception of GLONASS signals!

One of the new things that I like a lot is that everything now is a file, on the Vista HCx to download the files it was necessary to use the Garmin serial protocol, now with the 30, only with connecting the unit to a USB port in the computer it is possible to get all the captured data in standard-compliant GPX files. This also means that there is a 2GB (1.7GB usable) flash storage device in the unit.

Placing GPX files in the correct folders in the unit also displays the information within those in the unit, like waypoints or tracks. It is much easier now. In Linux I use gpsbabel to convert back and forth from many formats, in particular I enjoy exploring my trips again with Google Earth and it requires KML files, gpsbabel helps to do that precisely.

Also, there is an Alarm Clock on the unit, I just tested it a 4:30am and it woke me at about 2 meters from my bed. This is something I really wanted to have in my Vista HCx, as my traveling wristwatch isn't that loud, and I had to use a Casio traveling clock just for that. One less device to carry!

Loading maps is now way more faster than with the Vista HCx, having both one for Europe and another locally, takes a few seconds, while before it took minutes

As always, a GPS unit like this, now with a GLONASS receiver, will beat any smartphone on trails and while traveling abroad. Here in the tropics close to the Equator I got a fix pretty quick, but not with as many GLONASS satellites as I wished, that is because that GNSS constellation is best used way up in the north hemisphere.

The User Interface looks better, with antialiased fonts and pretty icons, it is now more like a Windows XP UI, while in the Vista HCx with its limited color palette, was like a Windows 3.1 UI. The on-screen keyboard seems to be easier to use, and looks like a miniature version of those included in smartphones.

Physically, the unit is lighter, more compact (A few millimeters more bulky in depth), easier to handle in your hand, the rocker is in the right side now, good for right handed, but my muscular memory keeps moving my thumb to the previous rocker position in the Vista HCx. The infamous rubber band used in the Vista HCx that unglued so easily with time seems to be substituted with a more solid rubber sides, now attached with screws. The micro SD card is placed like a SIM card in a phone, under the batteries.

Now, this is something I have always wanted that was NOT added... An option to LOCK THE BUTTONS! Neither unit has the option to avoid the buttons to be pressed while having the unit on a backpack or in a holster. I would really like an option like in the mobile phones to do that ("Press such and such buttons to unlock"). Many times I have put my units in a bag to later retrieve them in a weird configuration screen and with a track erased or so.
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214 of 243 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overall much improved but lost a bit in the process, October 7, 2011
Presumably atypically I use eTrex units nearly exclusively for road navigation and often calculate long routes.

I've used a Legend Cx extensively and it's showing its age so I was glad to see the introduction of the 20. I toyed with buying a Nuvi but don't care for the design as it lacks configurability and water resistance, uses a touchscreen, doesn't lend itself well to a motorcycle or kayak or walking when you want to walk.

The Legend Cx routinely takes several minutes to calculate in addition to slow map `drawing' times and I'm pleased to note Garmin improved calculating speed significantly. I used the two side by side for quite a while and the 20 calculates in roughly 1/3 the time (still noticeably slower than the Nuvis I've used). Additionally the map drawing time is much reduced.

Satellite acquisition and retention is quite a bit better: if you turn on both simultaneously the 20 will acquire enough signal to navigate in a fraction of the time; if you compare the 'Satellite' pages there are usually at least half again as many 'bars' on the 20 (and that's all before the GLONASS thingy is turned on).

The former mushiness of the perimeter buttons has been replaced by buttons which 'click' and the notorious rubber gasket (prone to eventual loosening) is gone.

The various menu screens are changed: previously you had 12 options to select on the `Find' page - now there are 6. They are more legible and you can arrange them in the order you prefer.

I'm still disappointed Garmin makes you cough up $80ish for a functional (read: turn by turn directions) road map but they're making progress on that front - you can now buy `lifetime' maps instead of having to purchase `updates'. And I guess I can't blame them for capitalizing on what they can capitalize on, while they can.

Plus I have to admit: Garmin's phone customer service is usually well above average (thanks, Rocky!) and that costs something.

They changed the mounting connector design so you can no longer use your old car/bike/whatever mount. The new design is an improvement, though: more secure and not a piece you have to screw on.

And they took the `Exits' category out of the `Find' menu: why, Garmin? Such a useful tool it was.

To sum: if you're an eTrex fan this incarnation is IMO an impressive advance RE processing and map drawing speed. The maps more closely resemble the Nuvis.

I have no reason to believe it won't be as reliable (IME close to bulletproof) as previous units. And the rustish/red/orange color is cool.

I like mine a lot.


Update: one VERY useful feature for travellers the old eTrex units didn't have is now you can 'Search Near' a 'A Recent Find'.

I also discovered if you 'Review Point' the phone number if available is provided - nice, although the microscopic font errs on the side of 'white space'. :)

It crashes occasionally (I reckon I'm asking more of it than it was designed for); less often after I updated the software but there's no apparent rhyme or reason.

Still and all after using mine for many scores of thousands of miles I remain well pleased with the improvements.


Another update: after spending some time (Garmin's customer service came through again) downloading NT South America City Navigator and flying to Chile my 20 has been indispensable: it would be virtually impossible for me (ignorante el norte Americano) to navigate around Santiago specifically and the country generally without electronic help from the sky.
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64 of 71 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You can try BaseCamp on your PC before buying, December 3, 2012
Etrex 20

Have had this unit less than a week and wrote a review that turned out to be 3x this long. Even to provide only some short and sweet of it, it's still long! But potential buyers need to know a few things before pulling the trigger! This review might seem to bleed over to other areas not specific to the unit itself, but are essential to getting the most out of it. I have not addressed many issues that can be resolved with the owner's manual or a search engine.

I suggest that before saying yea or nay on the Etrex 20, download the BaseCamp software (includes MapInstaller) plus at least 3 topo maps (free) from GPSFileDepot to your PC (or Mac) and experiment with the setup. I used the maps on a netbook in the woods, Grand Canyon, Zion and other places while cross referencing to Microsoft Streets & Trips with its hockey puck GPS for months before warming to the notion of the Etrex 20. Even lacking another GPS, you can still use the maps much the same way as you would a paper map. You can print them, too.

If you like what you see after using BaseCamp on your computer, then learn how to install maps directly to a microSD card (or a plain SD for now) inserted into a computer by renaming the gmapsupp.img on the card to a name that reflects the one installed there. The new map you download will be named the Garmin default map name "gmapsupp.img". If you don't rename it, the map you download will overwrite the map you should have renamed! This has to be done each time a new map is downloaded. You don't have to rename the same map in BaseCamp. The BaseCamp filename will remain as it was downloaded. You can do all this before buying the GPS.

I created a README.TXT file on the microSD card to keep track of the last map installed (have installed 12), so I'd know what to rename gmapsupp.img to when adding maps months later (sounds confusing, I know, but ANY (GPSFileDepot only?) map written to the card directly via PC with MapInstaller is written with the filename gmapsupp.img! You can find out more about it online. I don't want to go too much further into the issue here.)

Once you get the PC-to-microSD loading technique down, the Etrex 20 recognizes ALL maps installed with no issue at all and you'll likely be OK with it. You may even come to prefer it. Kind of like learning to drive a stick shift car. I don't know that it's easier with other GPSs. Somebody out there might know.

You can install maps much easier with the Etrex 20 connected to USB (NOT described in my owner's manual, but a nice tutorial available at GPSFileDepot). It will just be VERY slow as mentioned later. MapInstaller (with BaseCamp) provides a very friendly user interface to select/deselect maps you have downloaded to BaseCamp. Also know that if you DESELECT a map it will be UNINSTALLED and if you leave an already installed map selected, it will be REINSTALLED along with any new maps, racking up progressively longer installation times as you add maps. Using this interface with a direct PC-to-microSD card permits only 1 map to be installed at a time and overwrites any previously installed map each time with the gmapsupp.img filename. Hence, the necessity to become familiar with that renaming thing for direct PC-to-microSD transfer. It just sounds a lot more cumbersome than it really is.

When downloading and installing GPSFileDepot maps to BaseCamp, note that there is an issue with the 64-bit installer used in the PC version of some of the mapsets. For the first mapset you are installing on a Windows 7 64 bit PC, you will need to FIRST install a mapset which used a 32-bit installer. You will find this out when you go to download the map and a 32 bit mapset of "My Trails" will be recommended. After that, installation for future GPSFileDepot maps should go smoothly. I took the same precaution with Vista 64 bit. Because high quality topo maps are available at no cost for this device, I see no reason to mark it down for having only a basic map. You should only have to buy maps if you are headed someplace not covered by GPSFileDepot.

I read somewhere that Garmin still uses the old USB 1.1 standard. It took 1 hour 45 minutes to load 2GB of maps with the BaseCamp/MapInstaller software with the microSD card installed in the GPS. Put that card in a PC however, and I loaded 2.3GB of data to the card in less than 5 minutes! If you don't want to buy a microSD card right away, you can load maps up to the 1.7GB Garmin internal storage limit (also at the slower speed). The Garmin internal storage is good for quite a few states. I keep 2 of my most used states in the Garmin internal memory and 10 other states on the microSD card. With the microSD card installed in the GPS, all installations default to the card. With the microSD removed, installations can go only to the internal Garmin storage.

When updating the Etrex 20 software, you'll want to be reasonably sure the computer, the GPS and the network can run for the duration of downloading and installing the update. If power fails, you could brick the GPS. There is a point in the process where you will be instructed to disconnect. Be sure to do it with "Safely Remove Hardware" (or the Mac equivalent). When you restart the GPS, the installation progress of the update will be shown on the GPS screen. Let it finish the installation and boot to the menu, then reconnect as instructed in the online popup. (Garmin doesn't mention anything about the installation continuing on the GPS. You have to INFER that.)

On the toggle-- I tried to duplicate issues described where bumping it could cause screens/modes to change drastically and unexpectedly. I bumped it, stuffed it in my pocket and couldn't get the toggle to cause any problem that pressing the "Back" button only once didn't fix. For me, the toggle issue is really no issue at all.

On the small display-- It's the about the same area as the Camo but squared a bit more. It uses less power and the range of backlighting makes the display easily adjusted for high visibility even in bright sunlight. I carry a Senior Pass for our National Parks and need glasses indoors for reading, but I can use this GPS outdoors without glasses.

My old Etrex Camo lasted 10 years with heavy use. One day this past summer, the batteries depleted while it was running. Replacing the batteries always brought it back up, except this last time. It was hard to bid the Camo farewell, but the Etrex 20 is a worthy successor. Noteworthy is that both are able to run for HOURS on (alkaline) batteries that have been depleted to the point where they won't run anything else we own. Those batteries live out the rest of their days in my Etrex 20.

If you are looking for a mapping GPS that has everything you need and little you don't, in my opinion, the Etrex 20 works. I recommend it for someone new to GPS or even somebody experienced who doesn't want cameras, compasses, larger displays and altimeters hogging power. There ARE some issues with documentation and loading maps directly to the microSD card from a PC. While the answers may not always be in the owner's manual, resources are available to assist. You'll be much happier if you take advantage of those downloads I mentioned earlier before buying.

While Garmin user documentation can be very weak, you should at least be able to hit the trail out of the box and know where you are and find your way back. Just know that you are going to have to do some digging to use ALL of the functionality of the Etrex 20. The Etrex 20 can be powered from an external source, but didn't find out how to do that in the owner's manual. Maybe you don't need to know unless you buy an external power cable? While updating, I left the Etrex 20 in the "Garmin" USB Mode (I thought that was how either the microSD or Garmin storage was selected). It asked if I wanted to go to "Mass Storage" (thinking microSD). I answered "No". When I disconnected, it asked if I wanted to continue on battery power. In the Garmin Mode, it had been powered by the PC USB port. Sometimes "Owner's Manuals" don't supply the same level of instruction as a "User Guide". Maybe that's what I need to be looking for.

Scrolling the map past a screen's width can be slow, almost like a slow internet connection loading a web page. But in use, there is no issue keeping track of my position even when in a car. Slow scrolling (e.g., to another state) can be alleviated somewhat by zooming out and moving the arrow cursor to where you want to scroll. The map will recenter to where the arrow cursor is when you zoom back in. Manageable.

I also have to say that working with Garmin Product Support has been a pleasure, which appears to be diametrically opposed to the experience many others have had. In Garmin's reply informing me that my 10 year old Camo couldn't be fixed, they offered a courtesy exchange refurbished Etrex H at a reduced cost. An RMA was initiated for the exchange and I provided billing information. Before sending the Camo back, I emailed asking about the Etrex 20 instead. I received an email a few days later consenting to a refurbished Etrex 20 without having to return the Camo. They even supplied a USB cable, but I had to download a PDF owner's manual. In the course of working through this with several email exchanges, I worked with a different rep each time. Continuity and response time for my issue was excellent. A courteous approach begets a courteous response? Maybe so.

The Etrex 20 is powerful and relatively easy to learn, but am stuck at 4 stars for the weak documentation and the PC-to-microSD idiosyncrasy. If this device used at least the USB 2.0 standard, there would likely be little reason to fiddle with renaming that gmapsupp.img file for direct PC to microSD map loading. Even with the renaming snag, loading a lot of maps at once can be much faster directly to the microSD than trying to push it all through the slow USB connection, but the slower way virtually eliminates the chances for making a mistake renaming a map.

To keep it shorter, I tried to focus this review where the biggest headaches are likely to occur. Will try to monitor this review for a while and answer any questions that might pop up as time permits. Now I have to go edit that README.TXT file before I forget the filename of the last map loaded to gmapsupp.img!
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109 of 126 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great mid-level handheld, September 23, 2011
The first review of this unit lamented that, while listed on Amazon, it wasn't actually available yet. That has changed. It's now available, and I have it within arm's reach as I'm typing this.

I liked the features listed for the eTrex 20, and awaited the late September release date before upgrading from my old Magellan handheld GPS. The eTrex 20 has so far proven to be everything it was advertised to be - lightweight, easy to use, and with a sensitive receiver. One of the factors that motivated me to upgrade was how fast the Garmins that my wife and son have were to lock on to the satellites, versus how much longer it took the old Magellan - this one took less than a minute to find, lock-on, and determine position, while the older unit would still have been searching for satellites.

One of the first things I noticed when using the eTrex 20, was the number of satellites it tracked. This new eTrex series has incorporated the Russian GLONASS system, along with the current GPS satellites. By tracking both systems, the device has more points of data to better calculate position.

The micro SD slot is a nice feature, giving the user the ability to expand the memory, although the built-in 1.7 Gb is nothing to sneeze at. For about ten bucks, enough memory can be added to store more than enough waypoints for an extended trip away from the computer. The micro SD slot is located under the batteries, and thereby protected from the elements.

I'm still learning all the features, and looking forward to putting it through some paces on our next Geocaching adventure. The only drawback I've found so far is that this model line is so new, that GSAK (a utility program used for Geocaching) doesn't have a specific protocol for interfacing with it. This is a relatively minor inconvenience, and one I suspect will be remedied in one of the next revisions of GSAK. Until then, I can load Cache information a couple of other ways.

For a bit more money, you can get the eTrex 30 with more features, or for less, you can buy the base-model eTrex 10. The 20 is a nice balance between them, and I think it's going to suit my needs quite nicely.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars (Ab)using the Garmin eTrex 20 as a bicycle GPS plus vs the Legend, June 6, 2012
This is an upgrade from my old Garmin eTrex Legend (the blue one). I'd fire up the Legend when I got extra lost on the bicycle, when trying to navigate while traveling for work or pleasure, and to navigate the routes on long, organized, timed bicycle rides (brevets). GPX support is a requirement.

I've tried several GPS units before this one, so this review is from the reference point of the Legend and other newer units. I had no love for the Legend (oh, and let me tell you about that), so I was extremely reluctant to buy another Garmin unit.

On the Legend, it is completely impossible to figure out where a downloaded GPX route goes as it's indistinguishable on the screen from the road, so I'd throw it in my jersey pocket, fish it out, then hold it right in front of my face and squint at it. The only way to work that is to zoom out far enough that it stops drawing the road that you're on, then if there are still markings there, you know you're on a GPX route. But then if you are zoomed that far out, you can't tell if the turn is the one you're currently at, the one you just passed, the next one up, or the one after it. It was maddening.

The Legend only has 8 megs of flash memory for maps, not expandable, requires a serial port for transfer of routes and maps, has poor battery life, takes forever to get a fix when it isn't moving and has a perfect view of the sky, and never gets a fix if there are any obstructions or you're moving at even a walking pace. Sometimes, it doesn't get a fix before it drains a fresh set of batteries even with a clear view of the sky sitting still, and that's with it prompting you for a hint as to where it's at and going through the routine where you tell the GPS where it is by scrolling over to your location on a map with the control nubbie. The Legend was a GPS that couldn't figure out where it was even when you told it. It loses the fix and then can't get it back again. I have OpenStreetMaps for almost all of Phoenix loaded onto the Legend, but that doesn't do me much good when I'm traveling and only state highways and Interstates are in the "basemaps". I can't fault it for the limited memory and serial interface, but I know from experience that if I ask my friends to wait while I my GPS tries to get a fix that they'll lose patience and leave before it does... and that I probably will too. Mostly it lived in the pannier as an emergency crutch. I had to be pretty desperate before I would let the thing go through its elaborate, losing game of peek-a-boo with the GPS satellite constellation ("I can't see yooou! Nope, still no satellites in the sky. Nope, still can't see any! Not a one!" for 15 minutes or more). This allowed lots of time for elaborate fantasies about how it could only pick up a satellite if it was directly, exactly, dab smack overhead at the exact instant that it went to look for that one. I can't imagine how a device with a "12 channel receiver" takes 15 minutes before it finds one satellite. Anyway, moving on.

Onto the Garmin eTrex 20: It pulled a signal right away. In the house. Just like that. Bam. I stuck in a micro-SD card with OpenStreetMaps for the US on it in a Garmin folder (3.3 gigs) and bam, detailed maps.

Like the Legend, as a GPS intended primarily for hiking, it ships with only very rough maps that includes state highways and Interstates. That requires some commentary: Garmin sells detailed street maps, along with various topo and other sorts of maps. Their car nav style GPSes come with the detailed street maps, but this doesn't. OpenStreetMaps is wonderful and I love it, but some users may opt to buy maps from Garmin to have a level of assurance of correctness that OpenStreetMaps, with its user sourced data, can't guarantee. Kudos to Garmin for letting people easily load their own maps even at the risk of losing some sales on their maps. Most people will opt to buy street maps if they want them, hobbyists will load their own, and everyone is happy.

Other reviews describe it as being "tiny". It has the same size screen as the Legend but has less extra body extending above it and isn't any thinner, so I don't agree with that. The 4" screen is smaller than ideal for mounting on handlebars or using for carn av style applications. The polycarbonate window in front of the screen isn't as thick as the Legend's, but all in all, it looks pretty solid and well armoured. I'm thrilled to see car nav style features included, but the form factor is handheld unit.

If you load routable maps on it (including the ones Garmin sells), it'll beep to tell you when to turn and give you on-screen navigation instructions. You can set the map to give a car nav style quasi-first-person view. It has a bicycle mode, which made me really happy, even if just as a tip of the hat. The OpenStreetMaps maps support routing, but using that, it did a poor job of picking bicycle friendly roads. I don't know how much of that is related to the Garmin unit and how much is related to lack of good information in the OSM maps, but at least one other reviewer reported braindead bicycle routing with Garmin's street maps.

Most cyclists will happily add a couple of miles to their trip to minimize time spent on major roads (45+) that lack bike lanes. Google Maps does an okay-ish job of bike directions but I find that I always want to tweak them, and I'm pretty happy to do that then copy them over to the GPS, which is a simple case of plugging in the thing and then saving the gpx file in the Garmin/GPX folder. Google adds more steps, having you save the route to "My Google Maps", create a new map, then export as GPX. Many riders prefer to just start with their own knowledge of the area and make a route from scratch with or or one of those,a nd those also make it easier to export GPX, and then from there, it's a matter of saving it in the correct folder in the unit. I absolutely adore the fact that I don't have to launch some clunky app that probably doesn't support my platform very well in order to convert GPX to whatever and then download it -- it just goes straight onto the GPS. Garmin wins here.

Also from the car nav department, it has lists of POIs near you, including other towns, businesses, parks, airports, and landmarks, and you can set it to navigate to them. Since I have the direction sense of a drunken earthworm (I can usually pick out "up" and "down", but beyond that, all bets are off), I'm stoked about that.

I'm also really happy about the alarm clock feature, silly as that is. Some of these long rides involve short, strategic sleep stops, and that's one fewer device to potentially forget to leave behind in my exhausted, grogged out state.

The map config has an extra-high detail level that draws in all of the little residential streets even when zoomed far out. I'm stoked about that. That lets me figure out at a glance if I can take a neighborhood route, making it possible to eyeball routes at a high level.

It draws a lot more quickly than the Legand, even with far more roads drawn on the screen.

Compared to the Legend, where it's impossible to the see a GPX route you've marked up, this thing lets you pick different colors for different ones, which I'm thrilled about. I have several routes up just as reference points for ways through that I know and I'm probably going to go nuts with that. I don't know what the eTrex 10 does for this. Hopefully they've fixed the can't-see-the-route-over-the-road problem. Anyway, this is an area where cross breeding car nav features with hiking features makes for a spectacular cycling GPS.

I'd rather have a black and white screen which is a lot easier to read in various lighting conditions (bright sun of Arizona, low light without a backlight on, etc), but the eTrex 10 seems to be a completely different beast, lacking the car nav like features, not having expandable memory, and not having the two gigs built in that the 20 and 30 have. If the 10 was the same software and hardware as the 20 and 30 minus the color screen, I would have gone for that out of preference. With the backlight on on the 20, the LCD panel quality looks kind of poor, having bland colors and not great contrast, but I suspect that this just a problem with the "transflective" LCD. Under bright daylight conditions, rather than the screen washing out and being an unviewable murk, the daylight is reflected back out and lights the display, albeit with poor colors. So, the transflective screen is reasonably serviceable, but not as good for all conditions viewing as a black and white screen with a backlight available.

I think I'm going to be doing a lot of riding with this in my jersey pocket, beeping to indicate turns, and me maybe pulling it out if I'm not sure which way to go. I might try the handlebar mount. Reading about that, it sounds like the zip ties method is a lost cause, so you really need to buy two things -- the backplate and the handlebar clamp. Anyone who has tried to zip tie a water bottle cage to an old frame knows better than to try to mount things that way.

I miss being able to cycle through informational screens with one button press, which was replaced with a master menu that you have to navigate through. The menu of stuff was one of several screens you could cycle through on the Legend, but that's not a big deal. With the 10 being hobbled, I kind of feel like the color screen was forced on me but I'm glad that it works as well as it does. I'd love to see an e-ink version. I kind of wish I could give it a half of a star fewer for 4.5 stars over the cycling directions which is the only thing that isn't stellar, but route finding is a bonus feature for me over what I was looking for (OpenStreetMaps and GPX), and all of the other bonus features work great. I can't fault it for the relatively small screen size since I could have paid more for the Oregon or Colorado. I think I may have finally found a GPS I don't hate.
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158 of 188 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good choice, October 11, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Garmin eTrex 30 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator (Electronics)
My 30 arrived a few hours ago.

As you read this review, note that Rocker refers to what Garmin has now renamed the Thumb Stick.


o The on-screen keyboard is much better designed than the old eTrex (and this issue was important enough to me to pay for a 450 last year):

.....o Stays in upper case (hallelujah) rather than, with the old eTrex, the first alpha triggering the on-screen keyboard to change to lower case and special characters, which then necessitated navigating to the shift character to restore the keyboard to upper case and numbers.

.....o DONE is easier to access as are cursor left and cursor right.

.....o Can use the Zoom keys (top left side of GPS) to switch between the three keyboards: alpha and numbers, special characters; numbers.

o The display is nice and crisp.

o Can load maps to internal memory without using an SD card (56MB of maps tested leaves 1.68GB of internal memory). The old eTrex required an SD card .

o A distance proximity alert can be created on the 30 using any waypoint or POI as a source (more info below).

o Can load maps, waypoints, and routes from MapSource (see Bugs below).

o Smaller than the eTrex Legend HCx.

o Includes place to affix a lanyard (but a lanyard is not included).

o Garmin tech support was excellent. Michael spent and hour and a half as we researched four issues including the bugs mentioned below.

o As mentioned by other reviewers, satellite acquisition is fast: first power on to location: 45 seconds.


o The new interface seems cumbersome when compared to the old eTrex. The old interface was quicker to navigate with more data being displayed on menu screens, but maybe it will get better with more hands-on time. The new interface seems to have been designed for a touch screen, which the 30 is not. On some screens, such as the Map Information page there is a lot of wasted empty space. Tip : Use Setup > Page Sequence to add pages that you want to quickly access using the Back button; those pages will then disappear from the Main Menu.

o Testing indicates that proximity alerts for POI's loaded using the POI loader do not work. On the old eTrex Legend HCx, POI's containing speed or distance proximity alerts could be loaded using the POI Loader and the Legend HCx would issue the appropriate alerts. The POI Loader works with the 30, but testing indicates that the alert is not issued. This test was for a distance, not speed, alert (speed alerts are of no interest to me, so I'll leave that testing to someone who wants that functionality). On the other hand, proximity alerts can be manually created on the 30 using waypoints or POI's as sources. This is definitely a big Pro and is listed in the Pros above. When the user creates a proximity alert from a POI, a waypoint is created with the same name with a "1" appended at the end of the name. So, it appears that to mass load distance proximity alerts onto the 30 will require loading them as waypoints with the proximity distance set, rather than loading them as POI's. And, it appears that waypoints only support distance alerts, not speed alerts, in the 30, MapSource, and BaseCamp. A minor point: while MapSource can maintain a waypoint's proximity in miles to 3 decimal digits (0.000), the 30 supports only editing to 2 decimal digits (0.00). And, as we all know, 0.01 mile is approximately 53 feet so this is probably a non-issue for most applications.

.....o To compound the problem of not supporting proximity alerts for POI's and forcing the use of waypoints instead, Garmin has removed the capability to delete waypoints by symbol, leaving only the choices to (a) delete all waypoints or (b) delete waypoints individually. This means that if I assign special symbols to the waypoints which I want to retain permanently on the GPS while letting temporary waypoints have the default (blue flag) symbol, I cannot delete just the temporary waypoints en masse -- as the old eTrex would have supported. In order to retain the waypoints which I want permanently on the GPS, I will be forced to either a) delete the temporary waypoints individually in the field if I forget to do it at home, (b) remember to delete them in BaseCamp before departing for the outdoors, (c) remember to delete the \Garmin\GPS\Waypoints_dd-mmm-yy.gpx file before departing for the outdoors, or (d) remember to delete all waypoints and then reload all of the permanent waypoints before departing for the outdoors. (I did not realize this until after my initial review submission. I would now give a 4-star rating, rather than 5, because of this whole POI proximity alert issue and the lack of delete-waypoints-by-symbol.)

.....o Note that some of the newer Garmin GPS's (e.g., 450) say they support proximity alerts, but the functionality is limited to when a waypoint is on the route being navigated. This is a major difference from the old eTrex Legend HCx, where simply being the appropriate distance from a POI was sufficient to trigger the proximity alert - even when not navigating. In the case of the 30, proximity alerts also work when not navigating (like the old eTrex Legend HCx) but the proximity alert must be for a waypoint and not a POI.

o Another new mounting system to purchase mounts for.


o Cannot transfer tracks and waypoints directly from the 30 to MapSource as was supported for the old eTrex. In USB Mass Storage mode (Setup > System > USB Mode > Mass Storage) only the current track, not waypoints or archived tracks are transferred. In Garmin mode (Setup > System > USB Mode > Garmin), the current track and all archived tracks are transferred but the waypoint checkbox is greyed out in the MapSource dialog box (meaning that MapSource probably does not recognize the waypoint file on the 30). One approach for merging a single waypoint .gpx file and multiple track .gpx files is to drag and drop each .gpx file onto a separate MapSource session then copy/paste into a single MapSource session. For this to work, you would use USB Mass Storage mode. (Note that trying to drag and drop into a single MapSource session results in only the data from the last drag-and-drop being present in MapSource; it assumes replace rather than add and does not issue an error message.) Garmin indicates that BaseCamp is the future and this problem with MapSource will probably not be fixed.

o If you download maps to the GPS, the Map Information page will display one of your maps plus the two basemaps which come with the GPS. The Map Information page will not scroll beyond those three maps so you are unable to disable any maps beyond those three. My testing indicates that, regardless, all of the downloaded maps are on the GPS and the maps display correctly; the testing by the Garmin tech support person indicates that the maps were not being displayed properly on his 30 - so we have two conflicting stories. The Map Information page is accessed either by (a) Map > Menu > Setup Map > Map Information or (b) Setup > Map > Map Information. Garmin is working on a fix. Hopefully, all of the parties involved are communicating clearly but I am unsure because Garmin's suggested interim fix did not resolve the problem. The fix was to rename Garmin\gmapsupp.img (the downloaded maps) to any other name, e.g., Wyoming.img. After renaming, the Map Information page continued to display only 3 maps, but rather than displaying the name of a map segment (an area of a larger map set) it was now (after the rename) displaying the name of the map set. Given that I had downloaded 42 map segments from two different map sets, the 30 should be displaying more than one of my maps - regardless of whether it is showing map segments (as the old eTrex Legend HCx does and the 30 did prior to the rename) or map sets (as the 450 does and the 30 did after the rename).

o While in USB Mass Storage mode, performing an Eject on Win7 64-bit generates a dialog box: "An error occurred while ejecting ...". So, the 30 does not power down (as the Oregon does) and leaves the GPS's display showing the USB-connected icon. This makes me nervous about whether all files have been properly closed or whether there is potential corruption. This problem did not go away after updating the 30 firmware and rebooting the computer. No other devices are encountering this error. Garmin has no other reported incidents of this problem. I tried different cables (including the included cable), different ports, and three Win7 64-bit computers but the error message always appears. All three computers are running the latest version of BaseCamp (3.2.2), which means the computers have the latest Garmin drivers (


o Just like the old eTrex Legend HCx, press and hold Rocker to Mark Waypoint.

o Just like the old eTrex Legend HCx, pressing the Power button cycles the brightness: medium > high > off. The user manual just describes pressing the Power button once then using the Rocker to fine tune the brightness level.)

o Just like the old eTrex Legend HCx, Menu > Menu will return to the Main Menu.

o Just like the old eTrex Legend HCx, pressing and holding the Menu button will open the Find page.

o When you first get the 30, back up all of the files on the GPS to a hard drive.

o Sometimes it is desirable to display the current time to the second rather than just hours:minutes. This can be useful when setting a camera's time for later automated synchronization of photos to tracks or waypoints. To display the current time including seconds on the 30:

.....o Alternative A: Compass > Menu > Change Dashboard > Large Data Field. The time including seconds will appear at the top of the Compass display.

.....o Alternative B: set the Trip Computer to Big Numbers and set one of the two big number fields to Time of Day (Trip Computer > Menu > Big Numbers > Menu > Change Data Fields > navigate to top or bottom big number field > enter (Rocker) > choose Time of Day from the list > enter (Rocker)).

.....o Alternative C: set the Map to display 1 big number and set that field to Time of Day (Map > Menu > Setup Map > Data Fields > 1 large > Back > Menu > Change Data Fields > enter (Rocker) > choose Time of Day from the list > enter (Rocker)).

.....o Alternative D: use the system information page, but the current time will be displayed in UTC/GMT/Zulu time, rather than local time. Turn off the 30 > hold the enter (Rocker) while pressing the Power button > release the Power button > when the system information page appears, release the Rocker. To exit the system information page, power off the 30 as you normally would.

.....Unfortunately, using the Power button to bring up the backlight display no longer displays time including seconds as it did on the old eTrex.

.....Some of the alternatives above could be implemented using Profiles.

o A firmware update (2.10 -> 2.20) is available for the eTrex 30 using BaseCamp or WebUpdater. The update adds support for advanced geocache logging.

There is more functionality to experiment with (Compass, Altimeter) but that is for another day.
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198 of 237 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Initial Opinion, January 23, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I bought this for backpacking in the Rockies and doing fieldwork in Texas. This review is only based on initial familiarization and I have yet to use it much. I'm a little underwhelmed so far, but hopefully will like it more later. PROS: Nice size and good light weight for backpacking. Seems well made and durable. The controls and user interface are fairly easy to figure out. CONS: The enclosed "Quickstart Guide" is fairly useless. When you go online and actually find the appropriate real User's Manual, it's not much better. The manual for this eTrex20 model is also the manual for the eTrex10 and eTrex30, so some of the features are not applicable and it doesn't tell you this. The documentation also has errors. For example, both guides explained that you need to calibrate the compass. The menus they instruct you to follow do not exist on my model ("compass>menu>calibrate compass>start" vs. "compass>menu> and four other choices, none of which are "calibrate"). So you should expect to fumble around some unless you want to call tech support. Also, Garmin makes a big deal out of this model including their pre-loaded 1:100,000 scale topographic map. Unfortunately, its pretty useless. I don't see how you could use it for any reason. If you want a useful map, you will need to buy their 1:24,000 scale maps at around $100 each. These are not transferable between other devices, so figure the total cost of the GPS and the extra maps you are going to have to buy when you are doing comparisons with other products.

As a minor note, the package does not include a lanyard. Amazon's advertisement says it does, which is an error.
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99 of 118 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars my first review and last Garmin purchase, July 22, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Garmin eTrex 30 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator (Electronics)
This is my first review on Amazon. Normally, I do not take the time to write such reviews. A little background on myself: I am a long-term user of GPS devices. I purchased my first GPS, a Magellan Pioneer, in the late 90's. I've owned multiple GPS devices from Garmin including GPSMap 276, EDGE 500, ForeRunner 305, Forerunner 310XT, and Nuvi.

Garmin just lost a long-term and previously loyal customer. I'd like to explain why:

I'll start with my assessment of the Garmin eTrex 30. The unit itself is fine. I found it to be functional, have good battery life, and it is relatively easy to use. The base device appears to be a good value for the money and competitive with offerings from Magellan, etc.

Now let's get to the features that make this device usable for a power user:

BaseCamp: EPIC FAIL. The base maps have very little detail. You have to purchase additional maps for any useable level of detail. Performance of this product--especially downloading topo or Birdseye maps is incredibly slow. I highly doubt my observations are unique to my configuration. I have the highest end iMac available (i7 hyperthreaded 4-core, 16GB ram, 2GB video) and 30MB internet bandwidth. Every other piece of software (including high-end development tools) work flawlessly on the device.

Maps: Garmin does a bit of bait and switch here. I purchased a Topo map at $100. It took forever to download. Garmin's servers are undersized or they have a serious problem with the BaseCamp desktop software. Other reviewers have noted similar observations on Amazon and similar sites. Viewing the maps on BaseCamp requires that you have your GPS connected.

Garmin email support is an EPIC fail. When I reported that viewing on BaseCamp for the topo maps is slow and unusable, they responded that while this feature is newly available, it is not a 'supported feature'. So, you can view a topo map on BaseCamp but it is not usable.... that's because viewing is supposedly only licensed on the device itself.

Garmin does not provide refunds or exchanges for any of it's mapping products. PERIOD.

Now compare this with my past experience with Magellan. Garmin charges $100 per topo map per region. My past topo map purchase from Magellan was $100 for North America. Their desktop software performed very well and it supported easy viewing both on the desktop as well as downloading to the device. For someone who enjoys hiking and mountain biking across a very wide geography, it would cost me several hundred dollars to cover the area I visit. So, I'm paying several times to Garmin for terrible support and an unusable desktop companion product!!!

Bottom Line: If you only want base device functionality, consider the Garmin. If you are interested in any detailed mapping, including Topo maps, skip Garmin. Make sure you fully understand the total cost of the additional mapping details you are interested in and make sure to pass your feedback along to Garmin if you do not like their pricing and return policies on their mapping products.
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