Garmin eTrex 20 Review
I picked up my eTrex 20 several months ago, with the aim of using it for a bit of geocaching and for bushwalking. I really love the GPS system, and I try to track as many things as I can – just for funsies.
I decided to go for the eTrex 20 because you can load maps onto it. You can’t load maps onto the lower model eTrex 10 (which is cheaper). You can also load maps onto the higher model the eTrex 30 (is more expensive). The eTrex 20 seems like a good middle point. Yes there are more features on the eTrex 30, but you pay more for it. It really comes down to personal preference.
Finding good maps to load onto the device though, is hard. I didn’t really want to splurge and speculate on Garmin’s maps. They are expensive, and don’t really seem suited to anything specific that I do. But, if you’re in Australia, you’re in luck. I talk about Australian specific (and free!) maps in detail down the page (see Shonky Maps, below).
I haven’t yet had to *navigate* in the bush with the eTrex 20. I have used it to find geocaches and it’s spot on. Mostly I’ve used the unit it for tracking routes and marking waypoints.
It uses GPS and GLONASS, which is using the global positioning satellites of the Americans and the Ruskies. I find this works really well, and the unit locks onto various satellites quickly and stays locked on. The eTrex 20 says it’s got a 3m accuracy most of the time. It doesn’t seem to go below that, so I suppose I’m either unlucky or that’s the best it does.
The eTrex 10, 20 and 30 supersede the other eTrexes, and one annoying thing is the new ones have a new mounting system. That means purchasing new bits of plastic so you can connect the device to things like cars, boats, bikes, backpacks, etc. eBay hasn’t got any cheaper knockoffs yet (only Garmin sanctioned ones), or at least I can’t find them.
I use a mac, and putting waypoints onto the device with the Garmin BaseCamp software isn’t much fun. It’s okay, but not as easy as I would like. There was an update to BaseCamp the other day which improved things, so I’m hopeful Garmin is continuing development of the platform. You can load on maps, waypoints, and routes (and take them off). Though the software is *much* better to load things on that doing it with the device itself. Manually adding things is cumbersome to say the least. But what can you do? It’s a small unit; I hardly expect a pullout keyboard.
Overall, I quite like the eTrex 20. It’s basic and simple. Not too expensive either. I did a lot of my research via Amazon’s review page, which is always a good place to start.
Don’t worry about the name, Shonky Maps are wonderful. I think the maps have been taken from GeoSciences Australia, so they’re highly accurate too. Combine the Shonky Maps with 5m contours and you’re laughing.
They’re also free! So don’t buy the maps on eBay.
Here’s how the creator of the wonderful maps describes Shonky Maps:
Shonkymaps are a set of unofficial Garmin compatible topographic maps that cover the whole of Australia. The author was not satisfied with the Garmin base map that came with the Garmin gps, and at the time there were no other topographic products either official or unofficial. He created his own set of downloadable topographic maps as a hobby/labour of love. The data is the 250k scale set from Geoscience Australia and is licensed for non-commercial use.
This is a screenshot (from my mac) of one of the “Shonky Maps” from my latest bushwalk:
eTrex 20 specifications:
Weighs: 136 grams
Power: 2AA batteries
Taking the eTrex 20 for a bit of a spin
Check it out at Amazon.com
Ethics notice: If you buy it from Amazon, I’ll get a small referral. It won’t make it any more expensive for you.