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on 31 March 2012
Ok I have had Garmins for as long as I can remember. My trusty old Etrex Hcx is still going strong and my wife has an Oregon 450T, which is a great piece of kit. Yes, the base map supplied sucks, so shop around on certain internet auction sites for a cheap Garmin Discoverer. The Etrex 20 needs a few things to make it a 5 star rating.
1:- The screen is flush with the body, not recessed so its likely to be damaged (a screen protector could help with this)or scratched.
2:- No lock button so there is a danger you could knock the little joystick on the front and add waypoints or do something you wouldn't expect and run the batteries down.
3:- Sticky!!! Its probably best to search on You Tube for "garmin sticky" for an excellent demo on this problem, which is yet to be addressed fully by garmin, basically the unit may not register distances under certain speeds when navigating(geocaching etc)

Hope this helps
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on 30 March 2012
I have given Garmin a quite a bit of money over the years, therefore I am entitled to lead my review with something negative. Yes, the build and the reliability of their handheld models (of all colours) keeps me coming back (this is my third different model), but why, why, why do they decide that the unit basemaps should always be so rubbish?

Turn on the machine and not only do you get a crude drawing of the major routes around about (in other words, NOT what is on the box cover!) but it can't even get the name of the nearby river right (The Ouse not The Swale)! No matter indicating where I might cross without getting wet! Like buying a new luxury car with a warped steering wheel and a sticky gearbox and being told items which works properly are extra!

(So Garmin do the right thing - give us a free decent map for the price (or ten quid more) and stop being so penny pinching. Also put the first set of batteries in the box too. I've bought a five pound clock that bundled them!)

Negatives (which I knew in advance) out of the way you have a good piece of kit in the eTrex 20. Good hard-knock protected case and a healthy signal that hasn't failed me in any outdoor location. Locks on satellites before you even leave the house (well for me anyway). Will work even deep in a bag and new batteries last all day. Indeed, if you search out the free maps on the internet and download them - a very improved piece of kit over previous models.

(I personally employ some second-hand card Garmin maps which I got on the cheap. I'd buy new card maps if I went on holiday somewhere. Note the mini-SD goes under the batteries which needs to be slide locked.)

Not new to Garmin sat navs so I can't describe them for a total novice - but the basics are pretty easy to use out of the box. How to delete waypoints threw me a bit (edit waypoints - select waypoint - left button click for extra menu) - but I worked it out in the end. Printed manual is only a skimpy starters guide. The full one is on the device proper and can be read attached to a computer via the included (for a change) mini USB.

(Where all the files are available to tamper with and/or backed up. Due care and attention taken as read, although you cannot overwrite the unit basemap - although maybe you should be able to!)

What is not in any manual is that you can use it with Google maps and go freely back and forth between the two. You need a Google account and a free file transfer site. I use [...]. This means that I can create a route on my computer - transfer from extension KML to GPX and zoom it across. Or go the other way to see where you have been. Google will keep a copy for you on your account. Also lets you zoom through where you have been (or going) on Google Earth. Impressive stuff. Actually easier to route plan here than do it on the device proper - although it can be done.

There are various tools which only half work. One of these is the on-the-fly distance measuring tool. Only as-the-crow-flies and while handy for open moorland is very misleading for city life. The journey (even at its shortest) could be twice the distance given and let us not forget the rivers (or other) which you might not be able to cross anywhere near where you would like. Big problem around here. Which makes Google prep (with satellite views) extra useful on virgin soil.

Breadcrumb tracking (even on a more basic model) is a real boon. Always find the car or the railway station even if it is now dark and mist has fallen. No harm in adding the odd Waypoint either. This (and the speed - miles/Km's covered data) is the real meat and potatoes of the unit. The compass is bang-on - even when not holding it straight.

There is lots more to this unit (there doesn't seem a stat you can't have), but I have covered the major facilities. There may well be times when mountain biking or hiking/walking where you are going to have to/want to ad-lib and home-in rather than taking a more strict route. Without the extra detail of the optional extra maps this become a bit more of a risk.

Indeed, if the maps were as good as shown on the box cover I would be happy to give five stars.
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on 31 August 2012
(+) This is my first portable GPS (other than car sat-navs)hence not an expert at all.
Finds and locks on satellite signal pretty quickly, even deep inside my bungalow and away from windows.

It also functions very well as a SATNAV for cycling.
The hardware is robust, and waterproof, so it can be used in the elements with no worries. It's specified to survive submerged in water up to 1m for 30 mins, so it's pretty water resistant. The screen is not touch screen, which is a plus. You get much more accurate pinpointing operation with its joystick control. You can even get a print-screen and then upload it to your computer via USB connection. The viewing of the screen is comfortable both in day light and in the dark.

(-)A lot of the device experience depends on the map software loaded. Disappointingly it only comes with a very generic map which is useless. Because Garmin expect you to splash out an extra £ 70.00 -if not more!- to buy segments of the UK maps. They may be very good maps, but at the asking price of the eTrex-20, the map should have been bundled. At the time of writing (end of August 2012) there is no detailed map loaded on the device.

Would have returned the eTrex20 for a refund therefore, if I hadn't found on eBay "GPS Topo maps of UK. Compatible with Garmin 60 csx 62 s Edge, etrex oregon". It's a pretty satisfactory map -loaded on micro SD card, for much less.. You may like to try it and if you don't like it, return for refund.

If you want a good handlebar base for very little money, (£ 9.99 inclusive of shipping from HongKong) look up on ebay "Bike Motorcycle Handlebar Mount for Garmin GPS eTrex Dakota 10 20 30 New". It's even got a ball adjustment mechanism, very good value for money!

Other than this gripe (no loaded functional map), etrex-20 is a joy to use. Even used it on a motorcycle and at speeds of up to 40 mph it would function fine as a sat-nav. At higher speeds, although it quite accurately measures speed, and distance, the refresh rate of the map won't keep up. Fair enough, it's not meant to be used on vehicles. But for cycling, trekking, walks it is a joy.

A dedicated screen indicates the road route, giving you visual AND audio guidance turn-by-turn, though this depends on the programme loaded. Has taken me reliably to many rides, it will last many days on two AA batteries, provided you don't have the brightness setting full up and for my cycling it's very helpful as it includes cycle lanes and cycle routes, with elevation, distance covered, distance remaining, speed.
I want to ride to Brighton? I find Brighton on its map, (or if I want a specific address too!) and set this as a "waypoint". Then select "Go", and it plots the route in a blink. It's that easy. And it will give you audio beep alarms to warn you of upcoming change of direction, etc.

These are my first impressions after operating the gadget for about 14 days.

Don't miss having a look at these links, eye-opening.

1) How to get free routable maps into Garmin eTrex 20 -->

2) Manual

3) Quick Start Manual

4) Interesting review

review image review image
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on 5 April 2012
If the Garmin eTrex Series of GPS's had been capable of displaying OS Mapping before now I would never have purchased any other GPS handheld as they are superb little devices.

Because of this previous lack of mapping capability I purchased a Satmap Active 10 and later a Garmin GPSMAP 62S.

Both units were capable of displaying OS Maps, and each had its merits.

Unfortunately the Active 10 was useless in bright sunlight, and needed constant access to a Nuclear Power Station in order to provide the energy to run it, while the GPSMAP 62S was the size and weight of a house brick.

What I needed was a GPS that combined the following:

1. Compact and lightweight design
2. Screen clarity in bright sunlight
3. Low battery consumption
4. Ability to display OS Mapping

I purchased the eTrex 20 a few days ago, and after taking it out of the box my initial thought was that it was a toy - based purely on the weight of it compared to my GPSMAP62S.

After that ridiculous assumption I really scrutinised the new gps.

The build quality is truly superb. The casing did not creak when I pressed the power on button, as it does on my GPSMAP62S. Aesthetically and ergonomically it really does take some beating. All the edges are rubberised, making for very secure handling. It is so well designed that you really can operate it with one hand.

The menu structure is intuitive, and within thirty minutes you should have a good understanding of how the unit operates.

The eTrex 20 not only uses the American GPS Satellite System but also the Russian `GLONASS' system, which logs your location very quickly.

It is also EGNOS enabled.

Wasn't he that kid on Britain's Got Talent?

At this point let me dispel a couple of myths that I have seen on various reviews regarding the eTrex 20.

If you purchase any Garmin maps on an sd card the mapping is locked to the card and not to the unit. It is only locked to the unit if you acquire your mapping by other means - download from Garmin, DVD etc.

I took my Garmin all GB Discoverer mapping sd card from my GPSMAP 62S unit and it worked fine in the new eTrex 20, with no issues.

The moral here, when wishing to transfer your OS mapping between Garmin units, is to purchase it on SD CARD ONLY!

Another myth is that you can only measure distance as the crow flies; in reality you can achieve very accurate measurement of distance by doing the following:

From the map page press the submenu button on the left hand side of the unit beneath the zoom buttons. From the resulting popup menu select Measure Distance. Another little popup appears in the bottom right hand corner, which displays a cumulative total.

The tip of the little blue triangle is the first point of reference, and as your move the joystick a white arrow appears with what looks like a piece of string connecting them. Move the white arrow and place it just before the first `bend' in the road or path you wish to measure, then `click' the joystick. Follow the contour of the bend, clicking several times to match the shape of it. Carry on by clicking the joystick just before the next bend - this will have measured the `straight' section between the bends, and you can then follow the contour of the next. Do this to the end of the road or path and you will see a very accurate total distance displayed in the bottom right hand corner.

I would never review a gps unless I had tested it thoroughly in the field first, which is what I did yesterday on a very cold and wet, twelve mile walk.

The eTrex 20 performed exceptionally well in all aspects of gps navigation. Having clipped it to the chest strap of my rucksack it was subjected to continual driving rain. After six hours the battery life indicator had not moved at all. I measured sections of path, cleared the track log, and then set off along those measured sections. The distance logged by the unit was very close to the distance that I had measured.

Before setting out I had downloaded to the unit two geocache locations (I am not into that sort of thing but wished to test it) and found both of them with no problems. Paperless geocaching was effortless.

Some would say that the small screen size of the eTrex 20 is not conducive to the using of OS Mapping - rubbish!

When walking in Shropshire I do not wish to be able to see The North York Moors as well. If you need a wider view zoom out; if you need more clarity zoom in.

As with some other Garmin units the eTrex 20 has a fixing spine on the back - you slide onto this an attachment with a connected carabiner or a round nodule that slots into a belt or chest clip. Despite my GPSMAP62S being a lot bigger than the eTrex the sliding attachment appeared to be the same size. I was surprised when I found how `tight' this attachment was on the smaller unit - you really have to push quite hard to attach it to the fixing spine.

Many people have made comments about the old and the newer eTrex gps devices; stating that you could accidentally move the joystick when the unit was placed in the pocket. To avoid anything happening as a result of this, first select the 'satellite' page then set the backlight to zero - this acts as a 'virtual' joystick lock!

If you are looking for a mid-priced OS Mapping enabled gps buy the eTrex 20 because this little gem is destined for `classic' status.


I have been asked to add a footnote.

After using the eTrex 20 on three occasions I found myself inserting my GB OS Mapping card into my Garmin GPSMAP 62s because of its larger screen size. This might seem at odds with the comments made previously by me, but given time you do realise the limitations of using OS Maps on a small screen.

However, if you start off by using an eTrex 20 such things will not be an issue.

I still rate this little unit, and stand by my comment that it will in time attain 'classic' status.
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on 5 July 2012
This is my first GPS, that I bought seven months ago. I use the eTrex 20 for cycling, geocoding photos and geocaching. I used an iPhone for these things before. I generally like the GPS - it has a good screen, that is often usable without the backlight, and the geocaching functionality is ok. Unfortunately, there are some problems that make daily use annoying:

* The GPS is slow to render maps. This is especially obvious during panning and zooming, which I ended up doing a lot in practice (since zooming out gives little detail, zooming in requires a lot of panning). Sometimes I have to wait seconds to view the full map.

* It does not have a USB 2.0 interface, which makes transferring maps to the GPS slow. New maps are often one or two gigabytes, transferring an updated map image often literally takes hours. Updating maps is something you have to schedule. Garmin's maps are not updated that often, but if you want to upgrade OSM maps monthly, beware!

* The joystick is nice for controlling the GPS. But when you put the device in your pocket, it's often pressured too much, resulting in random actions.

* The base map is crude and limited. It only serves as a demonstration and a global overview. Other than that it's unusable for any hiking or cycling. Garmin's maps usually come at 100 or 200 Euro a pop per country. If you live in Euro, one can easily spend hundreds of Euros to get the topo maps for hiking. Luckily, there is Openstreetmap, which can be downloaded freely. But coverage and detail differs per country and region.

* The user interface is confusing. It's better than most other brands of GPSes that I tried. But it's still not as good as it could be.

All in all, I have learnt to live with the warts, and the price of the eTrex 20 is acceptable. If I had to make the decision again, I'd probably have bought a GPSMAP 62s, which does not have some of these problems. But compared to the technology packed in modern smartphones, the 62s is expensive.
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on 6 April 2012
I got my eTrex20 last month just before going on holiday to Gran Canaria -- I downloaded the City Navigator maps for Western Europe (and put them on a micro SD card into the eTrex's card slot) before I went and all the GeoCaches (from for the island.

The device is easy to use and great for recording field notes which you can then edit before publishing to when you get home. It recorded all the tracks I made during a 2 week holiday (some by bus too) and transferred them to the Mac Compass application. recognises it and can upload field notes for your finds or "not founds". Also can run queries on to get a gpx file of full details of a group of caches which I used Compass to upload to the eTrex20.

For GeoCaching my only gripe is that you do not get spoiler photographs of caches in the uploads from which meant a couple of caches I wasn't able to do.

When using the device in the field the battery indicator seems to be a bit optimistic as it said it was about 3/4 left 30 minutes before stopping working :-( but I wasn't far from a Spar shop and bought more batteries -- so, if you're going to use it out in the hills, either put new batteries in before you leave or take spares with you :-)

If using with an iMac to geotag your photographs from a GPS track, use the Compass application to do the tagging. You can select all the tracks from a period of time (in my case 2 weeks) and it tags all the photos taken in that period (if you have a corresponding track) Apple's profession photo application Aperture only lets you select one track at a time which is poor.

In summary, an easy to use, feature-laden GPS device with good supporting software. I would recommend it if you want it for GeoCaching and geotagging of photographs. I haven't tried any TOPO maps with it yet but, I did use it to go up a couple of ravines and it served me well of the beaten track.
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on 8 August 2012
I bought my first vehicle satnav many years ago and as a salesman visiting many addresses it transformed my working day. Now retired I motorhome, walk and bike everywhere and once again this satnav has transformed my enjoyment of these activities. It is rugged and very well made and thought through. Having bought it you will need three things.
1. Dowload Garmins Basecamp which is free from their web site and enables you to plan all your trips and visits while you are away and feed them easily and simply into the Etrex.
2. As others have mentioned the maps supplied with the unit are useless. For nothing you can download open source maps from toast website which are street level for the UK and show walking paths which work perfectly for those like myself who do not walk off tracks. If you pay £54 you get street level maps for most of the available world on a mini card which slots into the unit.
3. A £15 bike mount if you cycle.

The Etrex will function as a full satnav for a car and I bought a clamp type universal suction mount from Tesco for £20. Obviously because it was not designed for a car it is not as easy to use as a full widescreen satnav.
You can set way points at the push of a button. So if you are staying on a city break you will always be able to find your way back to your hotel and you can plan your city visit before you go which avoids wasting time trying to get directions to sites, bus stops, train stations etc. Or standing on the street struggling with paper maps.

The software and base camp are very intuitive and easy to use.
Wish I had bought one six years ago when I bought my motorhome.
Once I started using my car satnavs I would not leave home in my car without it.
Now I walk and cycle everywhere I would not leave home without the Etrex.
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on 25 December 2012
I thought it would have come with a few maps already installed for walking but it hasn't. I have to say I am very disappointed .In the past I have always used OS explorer active. They are laminated maps and great for keeping your bum dry when pick nicking. I have found a site called Dash4it who sell these quite cheap. I have around 20 for various areas of the UK
Its looking like I may have to spend a lot of money just to be able to use this thing and I am starting to think I am better off with the proper maps. This is what has put me off buying one of these in the past but because Santa brought me one I will have to use it now or I will get grief from her indoors .

I don't mind spending a few quid but £200 for a bundle is scandalous when all I want is 1 or 2. Infact it is cheaper to actually buy the proper map then it is to buy the download. Now if that's technology..................
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on 28 February 2012
eTrex 20 arrived as expected took a little time to register because it wasn't obvious where the serial number was (left side of the battery compartment). But my immediate disappointment was that the map that comes pre-installed looks nothing like the photograph. The map illustrated is downloadable at an extra £110 pounds for an area such as the South East & Wales. If that was outside of your budget and you were planning on Hiking in Snowdonia you would end up very disappointed.
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on 10 April 2012
This model is the replacement for the eTrex Legend. This model builds on a reliable and tested design while adding a number of useful improvements under the hood. The major improvement is that this model has lots more internal memory which means lots more space for saved tracks and waypoints. It also means there's enough space for maps in the internal memory - useful if you buy a map on memory card and want to add another map to the internal memory.

Other useful changes:

- track and waypoint names are no longer truncated;
- better rendering of Garmin maps;
- you can set the GPS to automatically archive your track at the end of each day;
- you can save maps to the SD card or the internal memory and have a number of map files with different names (previously there was only one map file and alternate maps had to be combined using MapInstall);
- the slot for the SD card has also been reengineered so the card is held more securely and won't get shaken loose.

You could splash out more for a unit with barometric altimeter, but this unit will tell you your altitude - and in my experience it is generally pretty accurate.

A note in reply to some of the other reviews: no it doesn't come with maps (OK it comes with the basemap but that doesn't count), and Amazon should have a caption that says this as the illustration is misleading. However, even if you also buy City Navigator Europe for 50 quid or so this unit is excellent value. You don't *have* to buy any maps - the Open Street Mapping is a pretty good substitute if you are on a tight budget. Personally I'd rather have the choice than be forced to buy bundled mapping that I don't need/want.
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