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Old 07-26-2011, 02:29 AM
2,186 posts, read 7,870,345 times


Garmin eTrex Vista HCx

garmin-etrex-vista-hcx photo
Rating: 4 out of 5
  • Currently 4.0/5.0

I recently took up the pastime of geocaching, an outdoor sport that invites participants to either hide or attempt to locate a small cache of items and prizes hidden in various locations via GPS coordinates posted online. The fun of the sport is that you never know where you will find yourself, only that entering in the coordinates to a GPS and following where the arrow points can lead you to places you never knew existed, the fun of which is doubled by the excitement of locating where the cache is hidden. In order to engage in this activity, a good GPS unit is a must. However, most of the GPS units on the market these days are not entirely suitable for geocaching. It rather kills the sport of the thing by having devices preloaded with road maps telling you exactly where to go turn for turn, or, in many cases, when the hunt takes you off the road, the road map GPS devices are often at a loss for data on the location and can leave you somewhat lost.

Rather, a good hiking GPS is needed for geocaching, and Garmin, the trusted maker of GPS devices for years, not only puts out wonderful devices such as the Nuvi for vehicles, but also makes a line of GPS units that are more suited for outdoor activity such as hiking. The Garmin eTrex line is perfect for outdoor activity of this kind. I considered getting one of the higher end models of eTrex that could have maps loaded onto them, but I was adamant that, if I did get the higher end device for geocaching, in which surprise of location makes the activity more fun, the model should allow for a setting where you only see an arrow pointing out direction and an estimation of distance to location, would suffice. I purchased a Garmin eTrex Vista model for $250 from Wal-Mart.

The unit is the size of one of the old Nokia cell phones, and rounded with a compact design that fits easily in a pocket or on a wrist lanyard. It is solidly built and glaring yellow which makes it easy to find if dropped in the foliage, as well as waterproof, which makes crossing streams with it less harrowing. I found the reception to satellites was fairly good even in wooded areas with a lot of tree cover, but tended to lose reception in canyons or in valleys with dense foliage. Satellite acquisition can also take a certain amount of time depending on location and how overcast the sky is. This could require a bit more patience than the user might be willing to spend. The device operates on AA batteries, which can be used up fairly quickly, so I'd recommend getting a good pair of rechargeable batteries for it. The device is not heavily laden with features as other GPS models can be, though it can be updated with downloaded location data and can save several waypoint. One good feature is the TrackBack feature, which allows the user to reverse the trail he has walked, which comes in handy when hiking in an unfamiliar location and you are uncertain in which direction you left your car. It is one of the best GPS units I have seen, and functionally is quite competitive with other models.

Review by professional reviewer, Sep. 1, 2010
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