Garmin Montana 650t 2011

The Garmin Montana 650t is designed to be rugged, portable and versatile so it can be used in the hand, on a bike and in a car as a conventional satnav system. But for hillwalkers the main appeal is the huge 4-inch colour screen as it allows the user to clearly see around 6 square kilometres of OS 1:50k mapping without the need to scroll.
It’s a touch-screen device, which does work well on a decent day; but with gloves, even just to zoom in closer to the map is a hit-and-miss process that I soon became annoyed with. The operating system and functionality are good and intuitive, although the in-car performance is not as impressive as a dedicated vehicle satnav such as those in the Garmin Nuvi range.
At £550, the price is pretty steep, especially when you add on OS mapping at around £200 for the whole of Britain at 1:50k.
There’s an option to save some cash by choosing the Montana 600 instead at £430, which has no camera and lacks a world base map, but it’s still very expensive.
Overall, the Garmin Montana 650t puts in a top performance with bare hands, but this is compromised when you need your gloves on.

Software OS 1:50k GB mapping £200
Weight 310g
Size 14.5x7.5x3.5cm
Display 9x4cm colour touch-screen
Power 3 x AA batteries / lithium rechargeable
Battery life 16 hours (lithium); 22 hours (AA)
Electronic compass yes
Camera 5Mp

The Garmin Montana 650t offers great performance generally, although the touch-screen isn’t ideal with gloves and the price is definitely chilling.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine October 2011

Garmin Vista HCX

Without a doubt the best of the GPS units that can’t display Ordnance Survey maps on their screens. The Vista is compact and light, and offers just about all the features a walker could want with the exception of OS mapping. It picks up a fix in seconds and is robust enough and sufficiently waterproof to use anywhere at any time. It’s simple to set up, and if you’re planning your walk on a PC then data transfer could not be easier. Manual waypoint input isn’t too painful either. In the hills, the compass page points the way with a clear Direction of Travel arrow, and if your walk is particularly complex, you may even want to try the Highway page – a basic 3D representation of your route which shows all the twists and turns as you go. Battery life is absolutely superb, over three days out of a single set of lithium batteries. And it has an electronic compass and a barometric altimeter – really useful in the mountains. The buttons are easy to operate, with a simple, single button press to input a waypoint that can then be used as a Go-To or to mark the spot where you are stood.

: 5.6x10.7x3cm
Weight: 156g
Routes/waypoints: 50 routes; 1,000 waypoints
WAAS/EGNOS-enabled: Yes
PC/Mac-compatible: Both
Works with: Most software including Memory-Map
Features: Electronic compass, barometric altimeter
Battery type/claimed life: 2xAA/14hrs
Contact: 0808 238 0000;

Garmin Oregon 450T

A sleek and lightweight receiver that comes with the benefit of optional Ordnance Survey mapping (£130 for a national park at 1:25000 or £80 for all national parks at 1:50000). All the functions are operated by the touch-screen, which keeps it simple and works well, even with gloves, and as usual for Garmin, the transfer of data is incredibly simple. The screen is large and easy to read, even in sunlight, and finding and then following a route is a cinch: the route is shown as a pink line superimposed over the OS mapping, with a Direction of Travel arrow showing your position relative to the next waypoint. Battery life proved exceptional – well over 12 hours of constant use in the battery-saving mode. Overall a superb bit of kit, but expensive, especially when you add mapping.

Size: 5.8x11.4x3.5cm
Weight: 192g
Routes/waypoints: 200 routes; 2,000 waypoints
WAAS/EGNOS-enabled: Yes
PC/Mac-compatible: Both
Works with: Most software including Memory-Map
Features: Barometric altimeter, OS mapping (optional extra)
Battery type/claimed life: 2xAA/16hrs
Contact: 0808 238 0000;

Garmin Etrex H

A ‘get out of jail free’ device that doesn’t cost much, doesn’t weigh much, yet will give you an exact grid reference if you’re lost, and in conjunction with a paper map will point you towards an escape route if you find yourself in the mountains in poor visibility. It will exchange data with a PC if you do your planning this way, but the connection cable needs to be bought separately. Battery life is superb and not an issue at all if you are only planning to use it occasionally on a walk; and it’s tough and weatherproof, so there’s no need to worry about it in the bottom of your pack. The screen is small, and monochrome, and not as clear as the more expensive units, but odds are you’ll only be following the Direction of Travel arrow or checking for a grid reference so this shouldn’t really be a problem.


Size: 11.2x5.1x3cm

Weight: 150g

Routes/waypoints: 20 routes; 500 waypoints

WAAS/EGNOS-enabled: Yes

PC/Mac-compatible: Both

Works with: Most software including Memory-Map

Features: None

Battery type/claimed life: 2xAA/17hrs

Contact: 0808 238 0000;


Garmin Dakota 20

Billed by Garmin as an entry-level GPS, the Dakota is actually incredibly functional; and it’s also very small and very light. But the £290 price tag might put a lot of first-time buyers off, especially as they may need to spend another £100+ on mapping. It’s small, but has the benefit of displaying optional Ordnance Survey mapping on its screen (£130 for a national park at 1:25000 or £80 for all national parks at 1:50000). It relies on touch-screen for all functions, and again this works well even in gloves. And the data transfer is even easier. Following a route proved simple and the battery life was excellent – helped no doubt by the excellent battery-saving mode that switches the screen off after a preset time. A great device but a lot of money, especially when compared to some.

Size: 5.5x10x3.3cm
Weight: 150g
Routes/waypoints: 50 routes; 1,000 waypoints
WAAS/EGNOS-enabled: Yes
PC/Mac-compatible: Both
Works with: Most software including Memory-Map
Features: Electronic compass, barometric altimeter, OS mapping (optional extra)
Battery type/claimed life: 2xAA/20hrs
Contact: 0808 238 0000;

Garmin GPSmap 62st 2010

Garmin has been at the forefront of GPS (Global Positioning System) technology since the early Nineties. However, the company’s recent touchscreen Oregon series was perhaps a low point compared to some more dedicated outdoor GPS receivers. But Garmin could be back on course with the latest GPSmap 62st, which promises much greater performance while displaying the now obligatory OS mapping in full colour on-screen.
The Garmin GPSmap 62st is clearly a development of the GPSmap 60 that won Trail’s ‘Best in Test’ back in June 2006, which was just before OS mapping made its appearance on the screens of GPS receivers. So you get a waterproof and rubberised housing with good-sized buttons and an antenna projecting from the top. The screen is similar to most GPS receivers in terms of size, but it is not a touchscreen unit like the Oregon series and the result is clearer detail. The main difficulty I had with the Oregon was the slow on-screen map regeneration, but that problem has been swept aside on the GPSmap 62st as the OS maps rebuild very quickly when scrolling.
Garmin has always had the best GPS receiver operating systems in my view, but they have notched the standard up another level with this receiver, which just makes it easier and quicker to get to the functions you need. On-screen route creation is very easy too.
There are a host of other features that make this attractive to a wide variety of users. However the one drawback is that compared to a Satmap Active 10 the screen is smaller. It is perfectly useable of course and it is actually big enough most of the time in my view. But perhaps you can never have a big enough screen when you are planning routes or when you are trying to navigate in the wind and rain?

Price £400 for GPSmap 62st including worldwide base map and European recreational mapping with street-level detail (excluding OS mapping); £200 Garmin GB Discoverer 1:50,000 Ordnance Survey Mapping All of Great Britain (smaller areas available for less); coming soon: £400 Garmin GPSmap 62s (does not have European recreational mapping) bundled with Garmin GB Discoverer 1:50,000 Ordnance Survey Mapping
Size 15.5x6.8x3.5cm
Display 3.6x5.4cm colour
Power 2 x AA batteries
Memory MicroSD cards
Computer interface USB port
Weight 218g (inc batteries)
Made in Taiwan
Stockist details – tel. 0808 238 0000;

The clear OS on-screen mapping coupled with a great operating system and navigational performance make the Garmin GPSmap 62st an excellent choice for hill-walkers.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine September 2010

Garmin Oregon 550t 2010

During 2009 Garmin introduced a range of GPS receivers that feature OS mapping and touch-screen operation. The Garmin 550t boasts a 3.2 megapixel camera with geo-tagging so you can easily locate exactly where a photo was taken. The unit can be loaded with OS mapping via an SD card.

The smooth, curvy housing sits easily in the hand with just one button on the side that turns the device on and off. The back can be removed to fit the batteries as well as the SD memory card that contains the OS mapping, which has to be purchased at extra expense. The camera lens is also in the back of the camera. Slots in the back allow the unit to be fitted to a karabiner clip, so it can be attached to a rucksack for example. Like all Garmin GPS receivers the operation system is very intuitive and is driven by clear icons on a touch-sensitive screen.

On the hill
The unit located itself in the Peak District extremely quickly and soon pinpointed my position on screen. The operating system is extremely easy to navigate thanks to the large graphic buttons, which allow the user to effortlessly flick between functions by tapping the screen. The +/- on-screen buttons allowed me to easily zoom in and out of the map. However the screen does not regenerate the area of mapping as rapidly as some other units, which was frustrating. The maps can also be moved by pressing and moving your finger across the screen. Again, it was slow to regenerate the mapping compared to other units. Like the other touch-screen designs, a stylus would be useful to allow accurate route creation for example, but the way routes are created is extremely user-friendly and intuitive. The slow regeneration of maps on screen is frustrating when creating a route though. But the screen gives a clear view of the maps, although as the on-screen graphic buttons are quite large a bigger screen would be of benefit for this choice of interface.
The unit comes with a UK base map but you have to fit SD cards behind the batteries to load more detailed OS maps –not a problem, but a little more fiddly than other designs. There are lots of extras like a 3D view, elevation plots and an automotive mode that gives next-turn on-screen info.

Price £480 for GPS receiver plus OS mapping £120; titles include 1:50k National Parks of UK,1:25k National Parks and Trails, 1:5k GB in four regions, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Midlands, Southern England and Wales; Garmin Topo mapping is available for Europe and many other countries worldwide
Size 11x5.8x3cm
Display 7x4cm, colour touch-screen
Power 2xAA batteries
Memory MicroSD cards
Computer interface USB port
Weight 198g (including batteries)
Made in China
Stockist details – tel. 0808 238 0000;

The Garmin Oregon 550t is waterproof; touch-screen; superb intuitive interface.
But the touch-screen is not as easy to use as buttons; relatively small screen; slow map regeneration. It’s a superb user interface but map regeneration is irritatingly slow.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine January 2010

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

Garmin Colorado 300*

Thanks to an easy PC interface, downloading routes and uploading tracklogs is a cinch. However, rather annoyingly the unit locks itself when connected to the PC (meaning you can’t carry out other tasks) and switches off when it’s disconnected. The new iPod-style scroll wheel takes getting used to but works well, even with gloves, making navigation through the pages easy. However, the screen is dark and difficult to see in full daylight, and adjusting it is fiddly. Lovely to hold and very functional with an electronic compass and barometric altimeter. Routes are fairly easy to follow via the map or compass pages, or the very graphic 3D page (only available with the optional Topo mapping).

Size: 13.9 x 6 x 3.5cm
Weight: 207g (including batteries)
Screen: Transflective colour TFT, 240 x 400 pixels
Battery life: Up to 15 hours (recommended for use with NiMH batteries)
Routes/waypoints: 50 routes/1,000 waypoints
Works with: Most mapping software; WAAS/EGNOS-enabled
Contact: 02380 524000,
Verdict: Bristles with features and works well enough on the hill. A ready winner in this category.

Garmin Etrex Vista HCx

A joy to use. PC connectivity is simple and it will readily share data with Memory-Map with no need to use any other software for file conversions. Menus are intuitive and can be easily customised, while swapping between main functions is amazingly easy. The single button press for “Find” and “Mark”, means little time need be wasted on the hill. The new, highly sensitive antenna is lightning-fast to pick up a fix and holds on to it well in cover. Light, compact and comfy, yet rugged, in the hand. An SD card slot makes it easy to run Garmin Topo maps, although at £70 each (with three covering the whole country) this isn’t a cheap option. The “Highway” page – a 3D representation of the route – makes complex navigation simple, while the direction arrow on the compass page works brilliantly for easier route-finding.

Size: 10.7 x 5.6 x 3cm
Weight: 156g (including batteries)
Screen: 256 level colour TFT, 176 x 220 pixels
Battery life: 25 hours on two AAs
Routes/waypoints: 50 routes/1,000 waypoints
Works with: Most mapping software; WAAS/EGNOS-enabled
Contact: 02380 524000,
Verdict: Lacking some of the super hi-tech features of newer top-end units but, at this price, we can’t fault it.

Garmin Colorado 300 GPS (2008)

When it comes to navigating, I’ve always steered clear of GPS. They present two fundamental problems: instructions (which I can’t be bothered to read) and batteries (which I don’t want to buy or carry). Then they have a habit of losing contact with satellites when you need them most.
And, let’s face it, the outdoors is the very place to escape technology – using a map is precisely 23.8 per cent of the fun of getting up a mountain.
So I was unexpectedly excited to get my hands on the Garmin Colorado 300, which is intuitively easy to use and packed with really interesting features.
It’s the large Rock ‘n’ Roller wheel that makes this such a novice-friendly device. Press the top right button and you use the wheel to scroll between different features. Spin to ‘Trip Computer’ and you get stats for your most recent trip. Spin to ‘Compass’ and you get a digital needle to direct you to your next waypoint. Spin to ‘Map’ to see your location and next waypoint.
And with the dial wheel it was easy to whisk through the Colorado’s glut of features. This has functions for geocaching and for sailing. Cyclists can use it to monitor their cadence, runners can measure their heart rate, hippies can check the next full moon, and backcountry types can use it for huntin’ and fishin’. And it offers vision-only satnav in your car. 
My first taste of using it outdoors was on the bike. Garmin describes this as a high-sensitivity receiver, and I was very impressed with how quickly it located my position; but one reviewer on our website was less impressed with both this and the unit’s accuracy (see Clipping it onto my rucksack with its overtly fashionable Garmin karabiner, I could keep an eye on speed, distance covered and elevation.
Out on the hill it works brilliantly. The dial wheel is easy to use even with gloves on, and it’s far less fiddly than devices such as the Road Angel Adventurer 7000. I’d happily use this in winter when functionality and ease of use are vital. But, unlike the Road Angel, Garmin’s GPS doesn’t come with OS mapping. Only a few years ago, GPS units gave you little more than a flashing pixel on a screen; but these days, full colour maps are a minimum requirement. We’d been supplied with an SD card packed with Garmin’s MapSource Topo vector mapping. That means contours, shaded relief and enough features to easily relate to your surroundings. It works fine and uses OS sourced data, but still doesn’t feel quite ‘right’. Still, it’s easy to zoom in and out, using the superb dial wheel.
This device is clearly designed for the US market and will appeal to people who do lots of stuff outdoors. And it’s great for walkers as it’s functional and easy to use. But as a dedicated hill GPS it doesn’t quite match the Satmap Active 10 (£300) for all-out functionality.

Price £400
Receiver high sensitivity receiver
Size 6.0x13.9x3.5 cm
Display 3.8x6.3 cm
Power 2xAA batteries
Battery life up to 15 hours
Computer interface USB
Extra mapping Garmin MapSource Topo on SD cards (not included)
Number of stored waypoints 1,000
Number of routes 50
Weight 207g (with batteries)
Made in Taiwan
Stockists (023) 8052 4000;
Very easy to use. This is a feature-packed device that performed well for us on and off the hill. But vector mapping feels a bit drab; some reviewers on have had issues with its sensitivity. Overall, a great device for all-round outdoors people, but perhaps not the first choice for dedicated hill-walkers.

Review by Matt Swaine
First published in Trail magazine August 2008

Garmin GPS Map60CS

This GPS receiver is packed with useful features. Firstly it comes built into a very robust rubberised casing that is also waterproof and really built for the rough and tumble of the outdoors. You get easy-to-use buttons and a very large screen that is very easy to read and it is also in colour. To help navigation there is a barometric altimeter for accurate height information and an electronic compass so you know which way to go before you move. Furthermore this unit can be loaded with Garmin Mapsource Topo Great Britain base map , which means you can see contour lines of the mountains, rather than simply walking over a grey space as most GPS receivers indicate. The unit can also be linked to a PC so that routes can be uploaded and downloaded with Garmin or other digital mapping software such as Anquet or Memory Map. This combination of features makes the GPS Map 60CS a really useful piece of kit as it provides virtually everything most hill-walkers will require and means you have one of the most advanced digital navigational systems available. But battery life is better in some other, simpler, units. Some other units have even more map datums. This could of course be important if you are heading for an obscure country. As discussed in Trail May 2006, Garmin MapSource Topo digital mapping still isn’t quite as detailed or as easy to use as the Memory-Map or Anquet mapping options, which means although this is better than no map at all, it isn’t as good as it could be. The GPS receiver has a huge price tag, so don’t lose it or drop it!

Verdict Buy it if you want a robust GPS receiver that is easy to use that can also show colour digital mountain maps on screen and benefits from a digital compass and barometric altimeter.

Receiver 12 channel

Size 610x155x33mm

Weight with batteries 198g

Display 33x43mm; 240x160 pixels, 256 colour

Power 2xAA; 20 hours

Memory 56MB internal

Computer interface yes

No of map datums 110

No of waypoints 1000

No of routes 50

Stores in UK England 220; Wales 16; Scotland 30; Ireland 8

Garmin GPS Map 60Cx

This GPS unit from Garmin is great to use from the off. The actual GPS receiver can be turned off for indoor tasks, such as linking it to a PC. The big colourful screen is very easy to read, the menus intuitive and the pages easy to follow and customise. PC interface is also really simple. It’s superb, whether you’re just checking where you are, or navigating in poor visibility. Optional “Highway” page makes it even easier to follow your route. The magnetic compass and barometric altimeter are spot-on and can be easily disabled to save batteries etc. A little heavy, perhaps.

Verdict: A near-perfect GPS receiver that won’t let you down no matter how you use it. Its easy PC compatibility, excellent choice of pages and simple menus put it in a different league.

Size: 2.4x6.1x1.3in

Weight: 215g

Screen: 3.81x5.6cm full colour high-contrast backlit; 160x240 pixels

Battery life: 18 hours (30 with battery saving) on two AAs

Works with: Most software. WAAS/EGNOS-enabled

Routes/waypoints: 50 routes, 1,000 waypoints

Contact: 0870 850 1241;

Garmin GPS 60

This GPS from Garmin is very easy to use from the box, with a large clear screen and really simple functions, such as “Mark and Find”. A great selection of pages and it’s easy to switch between them, or even change the order, if necessary. Inputting routes or waypoints by hand is a slow process, but can be done quickly and easily via a PC. Slow to get a satellite position and faster than most to lose its reception under tree cover, or in narrow gorges. It is also quite a size to carry, and heavy, too. In its favour, its “Highway” page is really easy to follow and the large screen makes navigation or following a bearing an absolute doddle.

Verdict: An easy-to-use, functional unit with very good PC compatibility at a nice price. However, it doesn’t hold its signal as well as some and is also quite heavy.

Size: 15.5x6.1x3.3cm

Weight: 215g

Screen: 3.8x5.6cm FSTN, 160x240 pixels

Battery life: 28 hours on two AAs

Works with: Most software. WAAS/EGNOS-enabled

Routes/waypoints: 50 routes/500 waypoints

Contact: 0870 850 1242;