Garmin eTrex (and other GPS's)

Hi Everyone!
First post here so I’m sorry if it’s been discussed before, but I couldn’t find anything. :slight_smile:

Would love to know what everyone’s take is on the Garmin eTrex range. Looking for something that I can fall back on for the serious thru-hikes, but not break the bank too much. More than keen to hear suggestions for alternatives and what you’ve been using!

Dig the community by the way. :smile:, super friendly.

Hi Macnab
For the serious thru-hikes paper map and compass will always be the most reliable. No batteries to worry about etc.

But as a convenience factor I have been using my GPS watch mainly where I upload maps on there. I plan my routes on Google maps and Movescount and then load the track on my watch. The Etrex units are very similar to this but definitely cheaper so this falls into the category of not breaking the bank compared to the premium GPS watches. It should cover your needs for being able to navigate on the serious hikes.

Hope this helps.

Hi Douweg
Thanks a lot for the input. You’re right. perhaps I should just be investing some more time in my cartography, but wouldn’t mind the convenience. :slight_smile: Will definitely check out Movescount as well. Never heard of it.

I make use of both maps and GPS. I do my until plotting on paper maps and input the waypoints on my etrex. But I tend to use the GPS as a fall back, even if it is just for piece of mind. I have the etrex 20, the only complaint I really have is how small the screen is, but the bigger the screen, the higher the battery usage usually.

Agree with all the above mentioned.
Something that really helped me thus far is to take pictures with my phone (phone is essential gear for me) of the route on Base Camp, Google Earth etc. sometimes even video clips while scrolling the route. This aids the visualization of the route, esp. passes or new unplanned routes.
I only use Lithium batteries in my eTrex, that also helps. :smile:

I have some experience with an eTrex10 and eTrex20. I am not impressed. It is old technology and not user friendly. Very cumbersome to get to the different platforms. Rather invest in something more recent with new technology.

My experience with the Garmins these days has not been the best. It feels like the traditional GPS world is very static at the moment and feels far behind in terms of usability. These days I just combine the GPS on my phone (Viewranger and GPS Essentials for offline maps as my apps of choice in SA) with physical maps where I can get them and carry a small 6000mA USB battery pack as a backup.

If I’m hiking with a group I find almost everyone probably has a phone on them, which means there is a lot of redundancy. Just get them to install the app and download the local maps before you head out. I just keep it in a decent case inside a ziplock somewhere accessible. And I can’t imagine going back from how great that is as an experience to a more traditional GPS. You can get a lot of the Android phones with 4000mA battery, which on aeroplane mode I find will last a good 5 days as a nav device. But having my camera and nav device in one small bundle has worked for me so far.

If I was picking up a separate GPS nowadays it feels like it would need to bring something more. So a Garmin inReach, where I can communicate and deal with emergencies makes sense to me. And a GPS watch like one of the Suuntos or Garmins, as that gives you easy tracking and the nice ability to download detailed hike records latter.

Your millage my vary, but I’m all in on phones with a map/compass backup at this point :grin:

Hey @Jaxz :slight_smile:

Couldn’t agree with you more on how useful a phone can be and @derekrits is right with the old tech. GPS’s have been very static. The more I look around only the devices that are twice the price of my phone show more functionality and I doubt I’d use them half as much. :sweat_smile:
Haven’t gotten terribly lost yet, and GPS’s have some great advantages, but maybe I shouldn’t try to fix what’s been working…
Thanks for the App names btw. Will download and check it out!

Pleasure with the apps, Viewranger is nice for downloading local openstreet maps. Has worked well for me in the Cederberg.

GPS Essentials is a bit fiddly but super powerful. I don’t use it for the actual maps much, but it has a great dashboard feature that you can customize, getting all the information you could imagine at one glance. Is my go to for combining with the Slingsby maps, easily gets you lat/long, altitude, bearing and sunset/rise all in one space.

I have a Garmin GPSMAP 64 and I’m very happy with it. I got it specifically for guiding purposes and because it takes AA batteries, I can carry as many as I need without the fear of running out charging capacity on my powerbank. It’s an older model, so you can pick it up reasonable prices these days, but it’s still quite pricey.

That being said, if you’re happy to rely on your phone, the app Avenza is BRILLIANT! The 1:50,000 maps of the whole country are available for free through the app and it shows you exactly where you are on the map. Fantastic for route planning and navigation. It also has tracking functionality: https://www.avenza.com/avenza-maps/

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+1 for Avenza maps and a smartphone with a dedicated GPS receiver. I have navigated offtrail with a Garmin Etrex in one hand and my smart phone (with Avenza maps) in the other. The smart phone refreshed quicker, showed more details and was a lot more user friendly. The real GPSs may be more reilable / accurate, but the lack of interface and slow refresh times make it hard. With “slow refresh times” I mean, each time you have to take a bearing it takes a few seconds for the “arrow” to point in the correct direction. Making it tedious. Whereas, with the phone the bearing shows instantaneous. You also have all the other functionality e.g. loading GPS tracks created on Google Earth etc. I also use a good compass as a backup (Suunto), and know how to use it.

Last summer i went to the rocky mountains in canada with my garmin etrex. needless to say it performed like a jewel.it was very reliable source for a gps. without garmin it could have been a disaster. a few years ago i used google maps and created a blunder. however you should always update your garmin products to have accurate maps. because of development of areas.
you can update your Garmin device on the garmin express updater site.