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Garmin eTrex

rated 4.5 of 5 stars

The eTrex has been discontinued. If you're looking for something new, check out the best handheld gps receivers for 2024.

photo: Garmin eTrex handheld gps receiver

Great little GPS.


  • Small
  • Lightweight
  • Yellow


  • Black and white screen
  • Gets lost in thick canopy cover

This little GPS does what you need—it gets you there and back. I have had this eTrex since sometime in the early 2000s. The screens are basic and so is the operation of the unit. It can be used one-handed without any problems. I can plug in my coordinates and be gone before my son can using his phone app.  

It's pretty well shock proof, water/dust proof and never fails to navigate me where I'm going. The battery life is amazing also. Besides backpacking I also geocache so I have used it quite a bit in the great outdoors.

The most interesting time I used it was in the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Katrina. I was base camped at a chemical plant and was asked to check on all the employees of the chemical company. The hurricane had washed away all the street signs so using a topo map of the area and plugging in the coordinates I was able to locate all 150 employees' homes (or what was left of them) and offer assistance as needed.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: Many years ago and I don't remember.

I have used this product extensively for three years in all weather and terrain conditions. I can honestly give eTrex 5 stars. It has given me the ability to travel in the backcountry with confidence. You don't need color displays (increased battery drain) or built in maps.

I use the unit in combination with a paper topographic map and compass. Here is one tip that will save you time, frustration, and batteries. Forget about following the arrow to navigate to a waypoint while hiking. All GPS units have to be moving to provide a constant arrow direction. Instead, obtain the bearing to your waypoint from the main menu on the GPS. Set this bearing on your compass and turn off the GPS. Navigate using your compass and obtain bearing updates from your GPS as needed. It will reboot very fast after being turned on and will track the satellites in about 30 seconds.

Durability - 5 Stars

No problems in three years. It has been used in winter, summer, and wet conditions.

Tracking Satellites - 5 Stars

Used in deep canopy cover with no problems.

Size - 5 Stars

This is where a small size counts. It is no good if the unit is left home because of weight. It fits perfectly in a small camera case on my belt.

Price - 5 Stars

At today's price it is a steal.

Ease of Use - 4 Stars

It can be operated with one hand. But, you will have to practice with the buttons to operate the unit with confidence.

Enjoy navigating in the backcountry!

Price Paid: $200 Canadian - 3 Years Ago

Still one of the best lightweight 12-channel GPS receivers on the market. Ideal for go-lite hikers that can read a map and plot coordinates. It's extremely light, compact, waterproof, and still has one of the best energy use rates on the market (22.5 hours in energy-save mode on a single pair of AA batts - I've verified this). I use it for desert hiking as it works best in open sky (thick forest overhead canopy can sometimes affect ability to get a sat lock).

It doesn't have a built-in map or other battery-wasting accessories like an electronic compass (does anyone actually use those when you can get a more reliable and accurate magnetic baseplate compass for $20?), but I have little use for such items. Map displays on GPS receivers as small as the eTrex seem especially useless to me. While my friends painstakingly page through their bulky GPS units, zooming in and out between scales, I've already marked my position on the paper map and am on my way.

Some people prefer state-of-the-art GPS receivers that cost many times as much. That's fine if that's what you want to spend your money on, but end up being the company's technological guinea pig when glitches occur. Meanwhile, my old yellow eTrex keeps on going. Given the build quality of today's electronics, that virtue alone has made it a wise purchase.

Price Paid: $75

This little unit does what it is designed to do so resoundingly well. I beleive it will be around for quite some time. I give this product five stars not because it has the most features, but because it does what they say it will do.

No, this little unit does not have a built-in hunting and fishing forcaster like some of the other units do, but if you need to rely on satellites to tell you when it is good to hunt or fish you have no business doing either. This little unit has consistently provided acurracy less than 25 feet for me everywhere I have gone camping or hunting, including in the middle of dense evergreen stands. Even under heavy cloud cover I have had little problems with it. I without reservation would trust my life to this unit and frankly have had to before.

No, this unit does not store maps in memory and has a limited track log, but you really shouldn't need a large track log. You should be fairly familiar with where you are going and this unit should be used to suppliment your navigation along with a paper map. This is a basic unit that works wonderfully. You can't regret your purchase of it unless your camping skills are in need of the extra features provided by more sophisticated models.

Price Paid: $119

For the money I invested in this little GPSR, I truly love it. It is a great little navigation tool when combined with a topo map and UTM grid.

Down side: It doesn't track satellites real quick, it loses its signal when carried in a vertical position and it's only accurate to about 75 feet depending on weather conditions.

The most annoying thing about the eTrex is if you're following the directional arrow on the screen, the eTrex will send you in the wrong direction until you have been moving for a while. One needs to carry a compass and use the bearing setting the eTrex gives you until the eTrex's signal catches up with you.

Many a time I have walked in circles waiting for it to give me an accurate reading.

Price Paid: $48.99

Excellent small, lightweight, sturdy GPS receiver. Until the eTrex arrived on the scene, most portable GPS units were either too large, too heavy, not waterproof, or too power-hungry. Still one of the most economical GPS receivers available in terms of battery usage. An excellent choice for desert hikers or those in open country.

The downside includes a small memory, single track log capability and an antenna that doesn't work too well under heavy forest canopy. No built-in map or compass capability, so you won't be tempted to leave your paper topos or baseplate compass behind (a bad idea in any case).

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Price Historic Range: $55.85-$114.95
Reviewers Paid: $48.99-$119.00
Weight 5.3 oz / 150 g with batteries
Dimensions 2.0 in x 4.4 in x 1.2 in / 5.1 cm x 11.2 cm x 3.0 cm
Display Size 1.1 in x 2.1 in / 2.8 cm x 5.4 cm

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