Customer Review

67 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Destined for classic status, 5 April 2012
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This review is from: Garmin eTrex 20 Outdoor Handheld GPS Unit (Electronics)
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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Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 May 2012 22:32:19 BDT
Hi Col,
Great review :)
I've always used a map and compass but I'm now considering a GPS as a safety backup. The three I had in mind appear to be the three you have some experience with: Satmap Active 10, eTrex20/30 and the Garmin 62s. After over a week I'm still debating which one to get!

I'm leaning toward the 62s, but when I look at the specs and compare it with the eTrex 30 there doesn't seem to be any significant difference! What advantages - if any - does the 62s have over the 30? Does it render raster maps faster? Does it have a better screen, better user interface or perhaps a better antenna?

Any insight into your observations with regard to these two products would be well appreciated.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 May 2012 10:07:59 BDT
Col says:
Hi, Rob

thanks for your comments.

As regards to which gps you choose you must ask yourself whether you want a compact device? If you do, go for eTrex 20/30. If size and weight are not an issue then go for the GPSMAP 62s.

You mention the Satmap Active 10 - a brilliant gps but with drawbacks. Ergonomics not good; batttery life poor and screen clarity awful in bright sunlight - but OS Mapping reders instantaneously when panning!

I think I allowed myself to be seduced by the eTrex 20/30. While I stand by my comments that they will become 'classics', limitations have now manifest themselves with continued use and I have found myself falling back on 'old faithful' the GPSMAP 62s.

It is all to do with screen size in relation to panning.

As I said in my original review you can zoom in and out for clarity, but with the larger screen size of the 62s it requires less panning by virtue of the fact that you can see more map at any given time.

Although it is a larger and heavier unit, my advice to you would be to purchase the GPSMAP 62s, because it is a cracking gps. My only issues with my unit have been the casing creaks when you power up; and its weight and size.

Having said that, I now find myself using the etrex 20 as the 'backup' unit, because the 62s is just so good at what it does and is 100% reliable.

Go for the 62s, Rob, and purchase All GB 1:50 OS Mapping to go with it. There is something very reassuring about having a reliable gps in the palm of your hand containing every path and bridleway in the UK.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 May 2012 11:09:49 BDT
Hi Col,
Thanks for the quick reply. I have now ordered the 62s - it should be with me by the end of the week.

The Satmap seriously interested me, but in the end it was the fact that one cannot place their own custom maps on it, the battery life and its alleged lack of waterproofness.

At the moment I primarily use map and compass - but decided to go for a gps for those occasions where the weather comes in. Plus I like the idea of being able to record my footsteps :)

Thanks for the useful information it is much appreciated!

In reply to an earlier post on 2 May 2012 20:12:28 BDT
Last edited by the author on 2 May 2012 20:18:16 BDT
Col says:
Hi again, Rob

you will not be disappointed with your new purchase - the Garmin GPSMAP 62s is possibly the best all-round gps you can buy. I have worn it on the chest strap of my rucksack during torrential downpours with no ill effects, and I have never lost the satellite link no matter what the terrain.

My issue has only ever been with its size and weight, but with hindsight those bigger dimensions accommodate a larger, crystal clear screen.

It will not be long before your 'paper' map becomes the backup!

Enjoy your walking, mate.

Posted on 22 May 2012 07:53:37 BDT
Last edited by the author on 22 May 2012 10:35:09 BDT
JD says:
Hi Col - I was drawn by your review of the eTrex 20 but think it would be a good idea to add a footnote to it saying that you now recommend another device. I only read the comments section by chance and after reading your glowing report on the eTrex 20, I think potential purchasers would be interested to hear about your change of mind to what is a considerably more expensive piece of kit.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 May 2012 12:54:13 BDT
Col says:
Hi, JD

It is not a question of no longer recommending the eTrex 20 - if you are looking for a quality mid-range gps you will not do better than this unit.

It is easy to use and very reliable!

My initial euphoria has given way to the realisation that to have gone from a GPSMAP 62s to an eTrex 20 was a retrograde step for me personally.

If you start off using an eTrex 20 with OS Mapping you will probably be more than happy with it - unless you have used a bigger screen model prior to it, you will not notice its limitations.

Make no mistake, the eTrex 20 is a superb little device, and well worth investing your money in.

It just didn't work out for me.

All the best mate

Posted on 22 May 2012 13:09:58 BDT
JD says:
Well, that's reassuring. I was seriously considering the 62s but couldn't justify the cost. Anyhow, I've ordered an eTrex 20 so I guess your comments must have had an effect :D

In reply to an earlier post on 22 May 2012 19:14:56 BDT
Col says:
Hi again, JD

You will be more than happy with your purchase.

If you need any help with anything just post a comment here - I am always checking.

Best of regards

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Jun 2012 11:07:41 BDT
I. Harper says:
Col - I find myself in a very similar position, slightly dissatisfied with the 62s and weighing up whether to keep the OS mapping card and transfer it to this new unit. My main gripe with the 62s (apart from its rather cumbersome size) is the rate at which it updates/re-draws the OS maps when you're panning around away from your current location. Sometimes this can be annoyingly slow. I think I could live with a smaller screen size, but not if the eTrex has the same issues with slowness in updating / re-drawing. Based on your experience, I was wondering if you could shed any light on this?

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Jun 2012 22:10:02 BDT
Col says:
the rendering of the mapping when panning is just as bad on the eTrex 20 - hence my comment that you are better off with the 62s, as the bigger screen size allows you to see more map at any given time.

Believe me the smaller screen of the eTrex 20 will soon have you going back to the 62s.

My advice to you, my friend, is to stick with what you have.
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