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Garmin eTrex Vista Mapping Handheld GPS Sat Nav Review

Now we're Getting Serious With Maps On Board...

Garmin eTrex vista The vista version of the popular eTrex range of handheld hiking / biking / marine GPS devices adds extra functionality at a more expensive price point.

What we get for our extra £80 / $100 is a unit that is much more useful on the trail compared with the standard eTrex.

The vista adds an on-board electronic compass, barometric altimeter. Extra memory (24mb) allow the provision for installed base-maps (and ones you can add), 1000 waypoints, and 20 routes.

The standard sun / moon times are included, as well as optimal hunting and fishing times. The unit is waterproof, light, but the time you get from a fresh pair of aa batteries has dropped to 12 hours.

WAAS allows extremely accurate GPS fixes in North America, but it still has a standard sensitivity aerial, so in heavy foliage or deep canyons reception could be a problem.

using the vista is just like any of the Garmin eTrex range. It's small, light, and can be operated with one hand. What makes it really stand out are the included extras of the compass, altimeter and base maps - without a silly price-tag.

Ok, it's lacking a full-colour screen, but do we really need it? The Garmin vista's screen can been seen in most lighting conditions, and it does what it should well.

What is it missing? There is no provision for extra memory via an expansion slot, which is a shame, you've got to pay a bit more and get a Garmin eTrex vista hcx.

If you've read our review of the Garmin eTrex you'll know that the entry level Garmin is a little lacking in specification - so how will the extra features of the vista help us to navigate.

Garmin Vista Electronic Compass First up, lets look at the built in compass and how that will help. As you probably already know, in order navigate using this type of Sat Nav you are basically heading between waypoints as part of a pre-determined route. To decide which direction to walk in between those waypoints, you simply consult the screen of the device. But which way to go? You still need a compass - unless, like the eTrex Vista, it's built in, so the unit will tell you whih way to start hiking! Easy!

Next is the built in altimeter. To be honest I'm not sure how usefull this is to the casual hiker or geocacher, but if you're a climber or very serious about the sport then I'm sure it will be important to you.

It records your progress, highest and lowest points, etc, so you can review how you did at the end of the day. Fascinating.

Garmin eTrex Vista Map Display

Next lets look at the basemaps and how this helps make the eTrex Vista a step up from the cheaper, basic eTrex. Quite simply they enable you to navigate without having to consult your paper maps quite so often - but these are not detailed topographical maps, but you can see impoortant geographical features, points of interest, etc, and you can buy extra maps of different areas. A definite improvement on the base model.

This is especially important for marine users - who can add the Bluechart maps for water-way navigation.

Would I buy a Garmin eTrex Vista? Tricky. It has the extras, but for the purpose of this review I would have to always allow for future expandibility, so I would say that if you're going to pay this much, you might as well put the extra to a system that can handle more maps, with more memory.

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