Recent developments in Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers have focused on developing colour touch screens that put digital Ordnance Survey (OS) mapping at your fingertips. But while the latest high-tech GPS receivers offer almost everything a hillwalker wants, they carry high price tags and perhaps offer more than most hillwalkers actually need.
The yellow Garmin eTrex first appeared in outdoor stores in 1998 and back then it was one of the most popular gadgets for hillwalkers. Over the years improvements in receiver sensitivity, as well as the development of colour screens and better mapping facilities, means that the original eTrex may now be fighting for a place in the pockets of hillwalkers. But there is one thing you cannot take away from the eTrex, and that is the price tag: as at around £100 it is clearly one of the most affordable GPS receivers on the market.
The new Garmin eTrex 10 takes everything that was great about the original but places it into a new housing with a better screen and better functionality. It’s still a greyscale device without the facility to display colour OS mapping, so you have to input your waypoints either directly via the digital keypad or download them into the device via computer software such as Garmin’s BaseCamp. Also you can visit Garmin’s OpenCaching.com to download geocaches and the device will display information such as full descriptions that include terrain, hints and difficulty.
Operation of the device is very simple, thanks to a clear screen that points you towards your chosen destination waypoint. There is a joystick that helps guide you around menu functions, and when pressed this selects the function. A ‘back’ button is ideal for retracing progress through menus and screens. Like all modern GPS receivers the unit is very fast and accurate when it comes to tracking satellites and finding its position, even indoors! If you want to pay more you can get the eTrex 20 (£180), which can display colour OS mapping; or the eTrex 30 (£230), which can display OS colour mapping and has a compass and a barometric altimeter on board. But actually the eTrex 10 is all you often need, for most of the time your paper map can provide the big picture and the eTrex is perfectly capable of telling you where you are as a grid reference and it can point you in the right direction to reach your destination.
I really enjoyed returning to a more basic form of navigation; and with most people not wishing to burn cash unnecessarily the eTrex 10 is really all most walkers will need, plus a trusty paper map and compass of course!
The Garmin eTrex was a classic GPS, and thanks to a facelift the Garmin eTrex 10 looks set to become just as legendary as its predecessor.
Screen 4.3x3.6cm greyscale
Batteries 2 x AA
Battery life 24 hours
Route storage 50
Waypoint storage 1,000
Stockist details www.garmin.com/uk
Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine February 2012