There really is no better way to introduce the eTrex 20 than to quote Garmin themselves: “[The] eTrex 20 takes one of the most popular and reliable GPS handhelds and makes it better.”
The eTrex 20 is easily one of the best compromises between entry level and high dollar GPSr units. Coming in at somewhere around $170 at most retailers, this unit will be easier on your wallet than many others, yet it has a lot of the features you would expect from the higher dollar devices such as a color screen and paperless Geocaching.
I purchased mine mostly for Geocaching, with a secondary intent of using it to mark game trails, spots where I’ve scouted animals I want to come back for when hunting season comes and so on.
- 176×220 pixel, transflective 65k color TFT screen, 2.2″ diagonal
- weighs 5 ounces (with batteries)
- USB interface
- basemap preloaded
- 1.7GB internal memory
- MicroSD card expansion slot
- paperless Geocaching
- hunt and fish information
- sun and moon information
- and a whole lot more (see this link for further specs)
The eTrex 20 is a rugged, lightweight device that is perfect for Geocaching, hiking, hunting, trail riding and more. It is waterproof but since it does not float I would recommend attaching a float to it if you are going to use it on the water.
Again, my primary reason for buying this unit was Geocaching. I’ve found about a dozen or so caches with it since I got it last March (ok so I don’t get out Geocaching as much as I should!) and it’s been great. Combining the USB interface and a premium membership at Geocaching.com, I’ve been able to effortlessly move single caches to the device as well as entire lists of caches via pocket query.
The 20 will show you information from the cache listing page and allow you to mark your find or not found directly on the device. You can then later upload a file from the device to Geocaching.com to record your finds, complete with notes. This device is not touch screen enabled so typing is done by way of a multidirectional click-stick. I’ve found it’s easiest to just leave a quick note from the device and log into the website later to edit the log in whatever way is needed.
For Geocaching, I’m not sure I’d change anything about the eTrex 20 at all.
Hunting and Fishing
This model, as well as many other models from Garmin come with a hunt and fish screen that is supposed to let you know if it’s a good day for those activities and when the best times of the day are. So far I’ve not found it to be terribly accurate. I am guessing that this is based on weather data, but we all know that neither wildlife nor the weather are usually ever willing to cooperate.
I have however, found that using a GPSr to mark locations on a map for hunting is beneficial to me. I will mark things like good camping sites, parking spots, game trails, water tanks/ponds, fresh animal sign and more. I can then view these marked locations on a map and plan my hunt based on the data I recorded while scouting.
Now, you can do this with just about any GPSr on the market, but I’ve found that this device has been perfect for this. The screen is easy to see in the sun, marking locations is easy, and it’s lightweight and rugged enough to cart around the Southern Arizona desert with out worry.
One of the really neat features I’ve found is the ability to change the color profile of the menus on the screen. This comes in handy for folks who may be color blind, and also helps adjust the screen for daytime vs. nighttime viewing. It also allows for some aesthetic customization of your unit.
You can also customize your various screens with different dashboards that display information, such as putting your travel speed and ETA in a widget on your map screen.
What I don’t like
The unit does not come with an Electronic Compass. You need to jump up to the eTrex30 for that. I knew this and it was the only reason I considered the 30 when purchasing. The extra cost was just not worth the compass as I have compasses already.
The screen, while easy to see is a bit small and not very high in detail, but let’s be real here – this is a sub $200 unit. For less than 200 bones, it’ll do.
My last gripe is, while the battery life is good, the only way to get extremely good life out of the batteries is to keep the brightness way down. I’ve never had a color GPSr before, but I suspect this might be a common issue with other devices, but I am not sure. I can still get a day of Geocaching in with the brightness up enough that I can see it in the sunlight.
Having come from an old Garmin Rino 130 to this, it was quite a bit of a technological upgrade for me. Some of this information may be old news to some of you, but for anyone looking for the bottom line of my thoughts on this unit: for $170, you can’t go wrong with the eTrex 20.