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Garmin eTrex H Handheld Hiking / Geocaching GPS Review

The Big G's Entry Level Sat Nav Gets A High-Sensitivity Receiver That Should Help Hikers and Geocachers Not Lose Satellite Lock...

Garmin eTrex hI have to admit I'm not a big hiker, but I do like Geocaching, and today I thought we'd look at the new version of the eTrex Garmin have just released, the eTrex H.

A criticism of the earlier eTrex model is it's inability to hold a decent satellite lock under dense tree cover, between tall buildings or in canyons, so you would lose reception (and your location) altogether, or the accuracy would start to become very poor.

This is especially a problem for Geocachers, as caches are often hidden in woods or areas where 360 degrees of the sky isn't visible, so as you can imagine you need your device to be as accurate as possible.

In real world terms the change to a high-sensitivity aerial makes the eTrex h much more accurate. The old etrex was rated (by Garmin) to as being accurate to more than 15 metres with 95% Satellite Reception, whereas the new H model is accurate to more than 10 metres. Cold-start times are improved too, with the new model taking on average about 39 seconds to get a Satellite Lock.

This whole issue of GPS sensitivity doesn't of course address the problems that geocachers face about the fact that you don't know how accurate the Sat Nav of the person who placed the cache was. You might have the most accurate Sat Nav in the world, but if the one they were using was out by a few metres then you'd never know. (That's why I always print out any clues and take them with us on our geocaching days out ;-) ).

Being available from Amazon for about £65, you don't get many accessories in the box, just the unit itself, a wrist strap, quick start guide and owners manual. Although being waterproof you'll want to get a case for it (about £10) to protect from drops and knocks, and if you'll want to connect it to your pc you'll need the serial interface cable (about £25) and a usb-serial converter if you don't have a serial plug on your pc (£3). You'll also need to download some software to transfer way points from your pc to the Garmin (many available free on web) unless you want to enter them all manually - not recommended for lots! Finally you'll need two AA batteries to power the device, which should last about 20 hours depending on the quality you buy.

The eTrex H does not have the ability to use or store maps - it's a point to point GPS that will also record a track-log as you go along. Simply enter your waypoints, go to the Pointer Page and start walking. You need to be moving because this unit has no built in compass, it works out the required bearing by working out which direction you are walking in, then you just follow the arrow on the compass.

The etrex H can find your nearest waypoints, or you can plan a route between them in the order you specify. The usual trip information is here too, with distance, time moving, time stopped, max speed and average speed. A handy little map screen shows the location of your recorded track and your way points too. (But no real map details as explained before.) Because the etrex starts recording a track as soon as it gets a Satellite fix, once you've got to your destination you can save it, then choose to reverse the route or perhaps use it for next time.

So as we've discussed the Garmin eTrex H is a great little entry-level hiking or Geocaching Sat Nav, as long as you understand its limitations. No maps or POI's. Limited memory. Black and white screen. No pc interface cable in the box. Fiddly to use if you're going to enter all of your data manually.

Those points aside I guess it's the price that will really shift these units - under £70 - and the rugged build quality means it should last you for years.

Comments / Questions:


Hi, How do do I set this up to take a uk grid ref, or can I only enter Degrees etc. There are a lot of options in the unit that are` not explained in the manual

Thanking you in anticipation. Mal.

Check out this link.

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