Garmin eTrex 20 Review

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.

Shonky Maps

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:

"Shonky Map" overview of the walk
“Shonky Map” overview of the walk

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.

10 thoughts on “Garmin eTrex 20 Review”

  1. Hello, I’m thinking of getting a Garmin Etrex 20x. However, which do you think is better, Magellan 510 ($209) or the Etrex 20x ($220). With the Magellan, is it hard to get free maps? Appreciate any thoughts! Ty

    1. Hey Isaac,

      I’ve never used Magellan – always Garmin. It’s not to say that Magellan is bad or anything, I just don’t have any experience with their products.

      I can only say that I’ve been really happy with the eTrex. When I use it for walking, I get about three days full-time day usage with it (ie, logging every step I take while I walk) on 2xAA batteries. And you can get maps with it too, for free, via ShonkyMaps (see my other posts). You might be able to do this with the Magellan too, but I just don’t know.

      That said, I’ve found that even with the free maps on the GPS I always prefer using paper-based ones anyway. The unit spits out a grid reference which corresponds to the grid on the map, so it’s quick to find where you are. Also maps don’t need batteries πŸ™‚

      $220 sounds like a great price. I got mine through Johnny Appleseed (they price match) https://www.ja-gps.com.au/Garmin/etrex-20x-gps/

      But check out YouTube for reviews on both and go with that. Worth getting something that you like!

  2. Wow, thanks so much for the quick reply! Is there a reason most people are using Garmin over Magellan? I agree that paper maps are still the best option πŸ™‚ Also, the Magellen comes with detailed street maps built in (but I think it’s not topo, just streets. If I use shonky maps, will I be able to get maps with all the street names and POIs onto the Etrex 20x for Australia? I will also use the Etrex for trekking, so if I get free topo maps online, will they have stuff like trail names and contours?

    1. I don’t think Shonky comes with street names, or many POIs. Just topo stuff. That’s how I have mine setup anyway.

      The Shonky topos have some trails, but it’s often not entirely accurate (30-60m out) and it doesn’t have them all. I’ve been investigating seeing if I can get the OpenStreetMaps onto it. They have more trails, from people that have uploaded them.

  3. Hi I have recently downloaded Shonkymaps to a laptop which runs Windows10. I then installed and ran setup. Having done this I find the programme will not run.
    My first question, is the programme compatible with Windows10 ? Can you suggest anything I can try?

  4. Hi I am thinking of getting a etrex20 for geocaching here and in Europe in 2018. Would you know if it’s ok for caching there? UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy.

    1. Hugely late reply, I’m sorry.

      Yep the eTrex20 would be great for Geocaching. Shouldn’t matter where you use it. The only thing you really need to check is that geocaches are available to find (which you’ll be able to see on various geocaching websites)

  5. Hi Will.
    I tried downloading the shonkymaps img for my new e Trex 20x, but my windows 10 says the file is corrupted.
    Any thoughts on this ? Regards.

  6. Hi Will, Update on my previous comment.
    Even though my windows 10 said the files were corrupted, I’ve successfully installed the Shonky maps on my e Trex 20x and they are working perfectly.
    Thanks for the info Will and please keep up the good work. Regards Phil.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *