I bought the ETrex 30 to replace my Vista HCx that is getting frayed around the edges. So, I naturally compared this to the Vista.
The ETrex 30 is a worthy replacement to the Vista. It has a different menu system, so it is not initially intuitive for those who have used earlier ETrex models. Now that I've learned the new menus, I think they are an improvement and are easier to use.
The ETrex 30 has an astonishingly short start up time (once it has initialized and knows where it is at). It is the first GPS I've owned that seems to be ready immediately after pushing the power on button. Garmin says this is the first GPS they've produced that looks at the traditional USA satellites, and also the Russian GLONASS satellites. Maybe this helps. In any case, start-up is rapid.
During a recent trip to southern Utah, the ETrex 30 was able to receive signals in the Zion Park Virgin River narrows and other slot canyons. It easily gets signals indoors including buildings that have metal frameworks. I have not experienced signal loss, except in automobile tunnels through mountains.
The ETrex 30 has a profile system that is new to ETrex (but has appeared on other Garmin products). The profiles enable you to customize the ETrex 30 for different uses. I've set mine up for Auto, Hiking, and Bicycling. Each profile uses its own settings on menus and settings, so you don't see irrelevant screens and data. Data accumulation is shared, however. I do wish that the data accumulation was separate for each profile so that the trip computer was separate for each profile -- Auto, Hiking, and Bicycling.
The ETrex 30 has a good amount of internal memory and can also acccept an SD memory card. This can be useful for storing more than one map type. I downloaded topo maps to the internal memory, inserted a Garmin North American NT map card into the SD socket, and have both highway and topo maps installed. My profiles are set up to display the topo maps in the Hiking profile and the highway maps in the Auto profile. Pretty nice...
The User Guide is similar to the Nuvi guides -- simple and less than complete. A User Guide for dummies. I wish that it came with the comprehensive guide that earlier ETrex models provided. I called Garmin support several times to get questions answered that I think should have been in the User Guide. Example: How many archived tracks will the ETrex save?
In all, this is a great GPS. It is so good that my Nuvi will probably see limited use in the future. Why carry two GPS units when one (the ETrex 30) can do it all???
I have gone through several GPS units (Magellan Meridian, Garmin Vista, etc and of all of them this has been the best in terms of a balance of fuctions and features. Garmin still needs to put some polish on the basemap as even at a 10' accuracy the points on the basemap are as much as 800' off...so you MUST either buy Garmin maps or find free (there are ways to do it) maps to load to the unit. Once you do that, it is SWEET. Takes less than 15 seconds to boot, locks in to a 10-20' accuracy in about 60 seconds or less, has more features that I typically need or use, the interface can be customized with changes to the order of icons for the applets, profiles, map and screen data, etc. If you are a geocacher, then you will love the easy sync with gpx or sites that have the Garmin plugin support setup or just send them via the USB. Batter live with standard alki batteries has been 18-35 hours total use and i have litiums and after 20+ hours so far they are only 1 level down on the meter....all in all this is and will be my favorite GPS for a long time to come.
Great GPS, need add'l software
I bought the eTrex to get to pre-selected field sites (conducting environmental surveys).
Good Stuff: The hardware is great- it is easy to use and has lots of useful features. It is small, has great battery life, and the 'joy stick' is easy to use. It picks up satellites very quickly (less than 1 min if at a similar location).
Bad Stuff: The screen scratched more easily than I would like. The biggest problem I encountered was uploading a list of waypoints (survey sites) from a spreadsheet. There is no way to do that with the provided software. You can purchase software online, but it can get pricey. There is free ware out there called gpsbabel, but I struggled to get that to work. If you are not computer savey, and have a lot of way points to upload on a regular basis, plan on spending a bit more.
Just what I wanted
This GPS is perfect for my needs. I work as a wildlife biologist, so I need something dependable and that can quickly save waypoints while keeping an accurate track log of my off-trail hiking. This GPS is small enough to fit in my front pocket, or belt pocket on my backpack, to keep it accessible and not in the way. You can customize the menus to display the information you want, and even what pages are displayed. The color screen is easy to read, and the I would highly recommend the TOPO maps you can buy separately. Also, I've had problems with GPS's eating up batteries too quickly. With regular alkaline batteries, I can use the GPS all day long for several days and not have it run out of juice. I'm sure lithium would give an even better longevity of power. In any case, this GPS is great!
I picked up an eTrex 30 just before a weeklong backcountry trip in the Eastern Sierra. The unit is very easy to set up with a laptop, and amazingly accurate. This unit receives both US GPS and the Russian Glonass satellite signals, so satellite acquisition is blazingly fast. Using Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries, I ran the unit 6-8 hours daily for a week and still had plenty of battery life left, which was a pleasant surprise.
I've owned 7+ GPS units over the past 15 years, and this is, by far, the best unit I have owned.
The 100k built-in map won't do you any good. You will need to purchase the 24K topo map set - get the DVD, as it covers more territory than the preloaded micro-SD
Great for the price
I am a biologist and needed a basic GPS unit to record where I collect my samples. This did the job. It is usually very quick to find satellites and records accurate data points within about 30 seconds or so.
The menu interface is very easy to understand and easy to navigate using the joystick. I haven't had any problems seeing the screen. Occasionally, the sun makes a glare but if I put my hand over the unit as shade, I can see fine.
I have yet to take it out on any backcountry adventures, but I will try to update this with that info in the future.
This model is an improved version of the Garmin Vista. The accuracy, including the altimeter, is great. The manual is definitely lacking, but by reading the professional reviews and experimenting, you can figure it out. The map which comes loaded on the unit is pathetic (missing major highways)but there are terrific free maps available for download that work with Base Camp which you download free from Garmin. I use my GPS mostly for work. I really like the Base Camp feature that links my data right up with Google Earth.
Easy To operate
Great to find tree stands in the dark, hiking and not getting lost, the older gps system would only tell me my position, if i didn't have a target area plugged in my navigation was limited. The built in road map assures my direction of travel, even in the woods.
I love it!!!!
It is big surprise to me showing all the map in the world.
Though it is not so precise but it is almost usable for travel by automobile in Japan. I don't feel any wish to purchase another detail map for my lovely eTrex 30.
Best GSP so far.
My wife and I used the GPS system at the Grand Canyon and it worked great. We hiked using the GPS to get us back to camp with NO problem, even my wife was able to use it.