Garmin Oregon 300 2009

In-car satnav is now so common that the humble road atlas is more often than not stashed away alongside the spare tyre, the red triangle and the rusty jump leads just in case there’s an emergency. These days a rolling road display with a polite voice instructing the driver when to turn off is how many of us travel the length and breadth of the country as we head to the hills. Of course, once away from the tarmac the map and compass are still the tools of choice for serious mountain navigators. At least that is what I used to think before I tried the latest Garmin GPS receiver...
Unlike most GPS receivers the new Garmin Oregon 300 can be uploaded with OS-quality mapping, so you can see your location on screen in real time, in a similar way to ‘thumbing’ a paper map. The size of the screen compared to a large paper map is still a drawback though of course. The OS maps are stored on micro-SD cards, and have to be purchased separately and loaded behind the batteries at the heart of the unit. Route-planning is extremely easy as you just scroll the on-screen map to the location you want to head for, tap the screen to create a waypoint and then create a route by linking waypoints. You can of course create routes easily on your PC and import them to the GPS receiver or even share routes wirelessly with other Garmin Oregon units. There’s only one button on Garmin Oregon 300 as this unit has a touch-sensitive screen. This is surprisingly easy to use even while wearing thin gloves and I could just about get basic operation while wearing mountain gloves too. Some of the on-screen touch buttons are smaller than others, so a fingernail sometimes works better than a chunky fingertip.
Having planned your route you can select Automotive Mode to calculate a route via roads that displays ‘next turn’ information. Switch to Off Road and you are set up for cross-country routes. Like all GPS receivers there is no On Footpath method of calculating routes so you have to tap in waypoints along your planned footpath route and then link them all together. But this is still easier than typing in waypoint grid references as you need to do with most GPS receivers that lack on-screen mapping.
Having resisted the seduction of GPS receivers for many years, I am finally starting to believe that these electronic boxes are beginning to be very useful pieces of outdoor kit. I won’t be throwing away my map and compass just yet, as we all know that even in-car satnav is far from perfect and batteries can die – but the Garmin Oregon 300 certainly makes navigation in the outdoors easier than ever before.

Price £330 (standard unit); 1:25k OS maps of National Parks and selected trails are £130 each. Also bundled with 1:50k National Parks or selected trails for £360
Sizes 5.8x11.4x3.5cm
Display 3.8x6.3cm colour touch-screen
Batteries 2xAA Battery life 18 hours
Computer interface USB port
Number of stored map routes 50
Number of stored waypoints 1,000
Weight 202g (inc batteries)
Made in Taiwan
Stockist details – tel. (023) 8052 4000;
The Garmin Oregon 300 features touch-screen operation; very easy to use; OS mapping; electronic magnetic compass; extremely sensitive GPS reception. But pricy; touch screen works best with fingernail operation rather than gloved hands; a large paper map is easier to read; a point of interest list of hill names would be useful.
In conclusion, it sets standards for GPS receiver navigation in the future, but doesn’t make a large paper map redundant.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine March 2009