Garmin eTrex 30

2 reviews
5-star:   1
4-star:   0
3-star:   1
2-star:   0
1-star:   0


Weight 5 oz / 141.7 g with batteries
Dimensions 2.1 in x 4.0 in x 1.3 in / 5.4 cm x 10.3 cm x 3.3 cm
Display Size 1.4 in x 1.7 in / 3.5 cm x 4.4 cm, 2.2 in diag / 5.6 cm



The Garmin eTrex 30 is a versatile, featured loaded,…

Rating: rated 5 of 5 stars
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $250


The Garmin eTrex 30 is a versatile, featured loaded, budget friendly GPS. It has many of the bells and whistles of the nicer models, but with a much better price.


  • Feature loaded
  • Rugged
  • Easy to use
  • Budget friendly
  • Good battery life
  • Free maps available


  • Small screen
  • Pre-loaded with poor base map

I've been using some form of the Garmin eTrex series for many years, according to my geocaching account I've been a member there since 2005, which is around the same time I received my first Garmin eTrex Legend.  Since that time I have been a huge fan of the eTrex series, owning the original Legend, a Legend H, Venture Cx, Legend HCx, a 20, and now the 30, as well as other makes and models.

The Garmin eTrex 30 is a color screen geocaching friendly unit, displaying info for paperless caching.  Including a list of the geocaches, types, difficulty and terrain ratings, descriptions, recent log entries, hints, and you can log whether you found it or not and a short description of your found/not found to upload later when you get back to your computer.  This feature works with the more popular site, as well as Garmin's own website.

Premium features of the Garmin eTrex 30 include a barometric altimiter, tri-axial compass, wireless sharing, ability to add a heart rate monitor, speed/cadence sensor, tempe sensor, and can work with the Garmin Chirp technology. If these features aren't of interest to you, you can save even more cash (about $75 - $100) by dropping down to the eTrex 20.

Other features include Auto-Routing with additional maps, which cost an additional fee to purchase and are limited to one unit.  There are some free option out there as well.  I don't use my eTrex for Auto-Routing though, so I can't really comment on that.  I do know that it is not a voice read auto-route, you only receive a beep and on screen message.

You will also find options to save or follow a track using the GPS.  A track is essentially a way for the GPS to save or follow "bread crumbs" so you can know where you have been or where you are going along a trail.  Save features for this include automatic, time, and distance.  So, when you aren't using the auto-save option you can program is to save a point ever x number of seconds, or after every x number of feet down to 0.01 miles (about 53 feet).  Garmin claims the GPS can handle 200 saved tracks with 10,000 points each.

It also includes several waypoint options as well.  You can save a waypoint, either by quick saving with a push and hold of the joystick on the front of the GPS, average the waypoint for a more accurate location fix, or project a waypoint to another location.  You can also load and navigate to a waypoint by either manually inputting the point in by hand, or by transferring the information from Garmin's Free BaseCamp software available on their website.  You can also use the GPS to view and navigate to photos that have been geotagged with GPS coordinate information, so someone can send you directly to that beautiful view they photographed and you're dying to see in person.  

The eTrex 30 can find and maintain an accurate location due to it being able to calculate positions from both US based NAVSTAR satellites, as well as the Russion based GLONASS satellites.  This gives the GPS several more satellites to choose from when calculating a position, so it will almost always have a good number of satellites overhead to pick from.  The GPS also picks up the Wide Area Augmentation System or WAAS, a correction issued to reduce inaccuracies caused by atmospheric interference.  

The included base map that comes with the GPS is pretty useless however.  Luckily, Garmin does sell several different maps including 100k and 24k topographic maps that can be loaded directly to the GPS, as well as street maps like you find on the Nuvi Car Navigation units.  Those of course are at an additional cost.  Even luckier for us, there are actually many great FREE maps available from site like  I have downloaded the free 24k topographic maps from that site and easily loaded them to my GPS using the Garmin BaseCamp software.  As I mentioned earlier, there are also free street maps on the internet at other sites that will allow you to do automatic street routing, but I have not used those maps and do not know how accurate they may be.

I have used the eTrex 30 for about a year now, and a year prior to that I used the eTrex 20.  I use GPS units fairly often for both hobby and work.  I've been using the eTrex series for several years now and I have never been let down.  I believe they are a great reliable GPS unit.  The size makes them easy to fit in your hand, and with additional mounts available (caribiner clip that slips on the back, bike mount, marine mount, Auto-Friction Mount, after market RAM mount) it can be carried almost anywhere on any vehicle or backpack.  

I would and have recommended this GPS to several of my friends.  If you are looking for more bells and whistles, Garmin makes other GPS's with nicer items, such as pre-loaded topo maps and built in cameras.  Those of course cost a bit more.  Also, if you want a nice GPS and want to spend less they have the eTrex 10 (black and white) and eTrex 20 models.  Both great GPS's.  



Reliable route finding GPS with great graphics, however…

Rating: rated 3 of 5 stars
Source: received it as a personal gift


Reliable route finding GPS with great graphics, however its weight and limited battery life make it better for geocaching than backpacking.


  • Accuracy
  • Garmin map graphics are very good
  • Water resistant
  • Lots of extra features besides route finding
  • Tough


  • Expensive
  • Difficult to transfer non-Garmin maps
  • Additional maps are costly

This was given to me as a gift and I was very excited since I'm a big fan of Garmin's Zumo motorcycle GPS. In spite of some great features, I'm glad I didn't spend $300 USD on it.

I've found the accuracy to be good in the backcountry, and the track back feature works flawlessly. I also like the setting that automatically inserts way points into your route as you travel.

I've had the eTrex soaked in a rainstorm without any damage so while it may not be waterproof, it is water resistent.  It's also tough — I've dropped it on a steep, rocky trail with no damage other than a few scratches and nicks.

I have not been able to successfully installed maps from other providers without losing important data such as trail numbers, graphics, and waypoints. I'll gladly admit that it might be a user error, but spending 2 hours plus trying to load a non-Garmin map only to have missing data doesn't speak highly of how easy it is to use.

The preloaded base map is fine for navigating highways, but it isn't going to do you any good in the backcountry.  Unfortunately, Garmin offers only two trail maps under $25 USD and neither of them are for hiking (one is equestrian and the other is whitewater).  Garmin's trail maps are accurate but expensive.

Finally, the eTrex is too heavy for backpacking, especially if you have to carry extra batteries for extended trips.  I would suggest brushing up on your backcounry map reading and navigation skills and carry a paper TOPO map and a compass.  If you're base camping and venturing off trail in the backcountry, you could also use a much smaller, lighter, and inexpensive track-back device.  You'll lose graphics but it will get you back to camp.