Garmin eTrex 20x Review

Garmin eTrex 20x GPS Handheld Review: Is It The Best

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When you're out and about in the wilderness, a quality GPS is an indispensable tool. In addition to a map and compass, a GPS can allow you to quickly and easily pinpoint your exact location. Give you your current elevation, and store waypoints for future use.

But, with so many different handheld GPS units out there, how can you possibly choose just one to accompany you on all of your different adventures. I understand how difficult it can be to choose a GPS, which is why I'm here to give you an in-depth look at one excellent GPS unit with this Garmin eTrex 20x Review.

Coming up, we'll take a look at some of the great features that the Garmin eTrex 20x has to offer and look at where it falls short. We'll discuss who the Garmin eTrex 20x is best suited for and what people have to say about the device.

Let's get to it!

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The Garmin eTrex 20x
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The Garmin eTrex 20x
  • UPGRADED DISPLAY - Features a 2.2” 65K color sunglight readable display offering increased resolution (240 x 320 pixels)
  • LOAD MORE MAPS - Large 3.7 GB of internal memory and microSD card slot lets you load a variety of maps, including TOPO 24K, HuntView, BlueChart g2, City Navigator NT and BirdsEye Satellite Imagery (subscription required)
  • PRELOADED BASEMAP - Includes a worldwide basemap with shaded relief. Display size:1.4 x 1.7 inches
  • KEEP YOUR FIX - With its high-sensitivity, WAAS-enabled GPS receiver, HotFix satellite prediction and GLONASS support, eTrex locates your position quickly and precisely and maintains its location even in heavy cover and deep canyons

The Garmin eTrex 20x

At a Glance

A reliable, all-around handheld GPS without all of the fancy bells and whistles found on more expensive alternatives, the Garmin eTrex 20x is a budget-friendly device for the everyday adventurer. Complete with all of the functions that you'd expect in a GPS, the Garmin eTrex 20x has the basics of what you need for a hiking day. So you can spend less time playing with it and more time enjoying the views.

Behind the Scenes at Garmin

Garmin is known for making GPS units of the highest caliber for nearly any application you can think of. Whether it's a car GPS or a bike-mounted navigation device, Kansas-based Garmin has been making some of the best navigation units in the world since 1989. They sold one of the first portable marine GPS units, ProNav, for a cool $2,500 a pop.

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These days, Garmin has been uber-successful, selling well over 3 million individual GPS units in over 100 countries. In the last decade, Garmin has started to expand its product line, purchasing the satellite communication company, DeLorme, and producing an innovative line of wearable technology.

Garmin has a solid track history of producing some of the best products in the world of portable GPS technology, making it a great brand to choose for your next GPS.

Who is the Garmin eTrex 20x for?

The Garmin eTrex 20x is an affordable handheld GPS option for outdoor enthusiasts who don't need all of the latest fads in their technology. Garmin eTrex 20x built for ease-of-use and durability instead of for a flashy appearance. The Garmin eTrex 20x works well for non-tech-savvy, as well anyone who likes to keep it simple in the backcountry, on the water, or while biking on city streets.

If you want high-end graphics and plenty of extra features, the Garmin eTrex 20x Hiking GPS might not be for you. But, if you're looking for a cheap Garmin GPS that gets the job done, look no further than the eTrex 20x.

Garmin eTrex 20x Specs

The Garmin eTrex 20x is a powerful handheld navigation device that's built to withstand the rigors of your outdoor adventures. Here are some of the device's specs to give you a complete understanding of the eTrex 20x's potential.

Specification Details

​Type

​​Details

​Physical Size

​2.1" x 4.0" x 1.3" (5.4 x 10.3 x 3.3 cm)

​Display Size

​1.4" x 1.7" (3.5 x 4.4 cm); 2.2" diag (5.6 cm)

​Display Resolution

​240 x 320 pixels

​Display Type

​2.2" transflective, 65K color TFT

Weight

5 oz (141.7 g) with batteries

Battery Type

​2 AA batteries (not included); NiMH or Lithium recommended

​Battery Life

​25 hours

​Waterproof Rating

​IPX7

Memory Capacity

3.7GB

​Tracklog

​10,000 points, 200 saved tracks

​Geocache Friendly?

​Yes

​Automatic Routing?

​Yes (with optional mapping for detailed roads)

​Custom maps compatible?

​Yes

​Sun and moon information?

​​Yes

Key Features and Benefits​​​​

?The Garmin eTrex 20x

The Garmin eTrex 20x is a popular handheld GPS unit with a variety of different useful features for the everyday adventurer. Whether you're a GPS fanatic or a cautious user, the eTrex 20x has something for everyone. Let's check out some of the device's key features:

Quality Resolution

The Garmin eTrex 20x is a simple, yet quality device when it comes to displaying resolution. With a 240 x 320 display pixel ratio, it's easy enough to read, without being over-the-top. Plus, the 2.2-inch color is sunlight-readable, and display features 65K color technology for a more modern experience.

Water-Resistant Protection

Unlike many GPS units, the Garmin eTrex 20x is a highly water-resistant device that can withstand the rigors of outdoor adventure. Boasting an impressive IPX7 rating, the eTrex 20x is a water-resistant GPS that can handle dust, dirt, humidity, and light rain.

While the Garmin eTrex 20x isn't fully waterproof (so we don't recommend taking it for a spin), it's no wimp in the rain, either. When cared for appropriately, the Garmin eTrex 20x can be taken out in light rain, making it a true all-weather GPS.

Global Compatibility

Thanks to Garmin's advanced technology, the eTrex 20x is one of the first-ever consumer GPS devices that can connect to both GPS and GLONASS satellites. This provides an unparalleled level of accuracy. When the eTrex 20x connects to GLONASS satellites, the device can pinpoint your location up to 20% faster than when using GPS signals.

Plus, the eTrex 20x can connect to both GPS and GLONASS satellites at the same time, allowing the device to connect to 24 more signals than on GPS alone. This means better accuracy, faster readings, and improved user experience.

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Customize Your Maps

If land-based topo maps aren't enough for your adventures, the Garmin eTrex 20x allows users to upload their maps for an enhanced navigational experience. Thanks to the eTrex 20x's microSD card slot and3.7 GB of memory, the device allows you to input preloaded memory cards with an additional array of maps.

Garmin sells a variety of microSD card map sets, including those for city biking, marine navigation, and more precise topographic maps. You can even get Garmin's own BirdsEye Satellite Imagery system. This allows you to download satellite images and integrate them into your map for added information.

Geocache in the Wilderness

Whether you're new to geocaching, or you're a geocaching veteran, the Garmin eTrex 20x is here to support your passion. With support for geocaching GPX files, the Garmin eTrex 20x allows you to download geocaches and detailed to the device for a paperless experience.

The eTrex 20 can store and display geocache information, including terrain, difficulty, hints, and location, so you don't have to enter coordinates and carry around paper printouts. Load the eTrex 20x with your GPX files before you leave the house, and you'll be ready to search for those caches!

Top-of-the-line Receiver

Garmin's eTrex 20x features a high-sensitivity WAAS-enabled GPS receiver to help you quickly get a precise GPS location in the mountains. Plus, with HotFix satellite prediction, the eTrex 20x can find your position even in heavy tree cover or in the heart of deep canyons. What's not to love?

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BaseCamp Software Compatibility

If all of these features weren't good enough, the eTrex 20x handheld GPS unit is also compatible with Garmin's proprietary BaseCamp software, which allows you to view and organize your maps, waypoints, and routes. With this free software, you can quickly and easily plan future adventures or share your past experiences with friends and family.

Thanks to BaseCamp's topographic map capabilities, you can display a 2D or 3D map on a computer screen, complete with contour lines and elevation profiles for a great viewing experience.

​Pros and Cons

​Pros

  • ​Can connect with both GPS and GLONASS satellites at the same time
  • ​Battery can last up to 25 hours
  • ​Supports paperless geocaching
  • ​Waterproof rating of IPX7 for protection against splashes, dust, and dirt
  • ​Affordable
  • ​High-quality, no-frills screen
  • ​Buttons work reliably
  • ​Can add custom maps through the MicroSD port
  • ​Can be used in cold weather
  • ​Good size for hiking and traveling
  • ​Can quickly pick up a signal

​Cons

  • ​Doesn't have an electronic compass
  • ​Built-in basemap options are limited
  • ​The screen is relatively small
  • ​Can support a limited, yet still sizeable, number of waypoints

Alternative GPS Options

When buying a new GPS unit, it's always worth checking out how a given product compares with other available options. When it comes to the Garmin eTrex 20x Hiking GPS, there are three main alternatives that you could choose from. Let's take a look at how the eTrex 20x stacks up to its competitors:

Garmin eTrex 20x vs. Garmin GPSMAP 66st

The Garmin GPSMAP 66st is a super reliable and accurate GPS unit that's loaded up with features for someone who puts precision in navigation above all else. The GPSMAP 66st connects quickly and reliably with satellites, has easy-to-use buttons, a big screen, and is capable of connecting with your smartphone to provide you with weather updates.

While all of this might sound grand, it's important to note that these features come at a price. The Garmin GPSMAP 66st is, on average, $200 more expensive than the Garmin eTrex 20x. So any would-be purchaser of the device needs to take the time to reflect on whether or not these added features are worth it to them.

For many of us, these advanced features wouldn't enhance our experience or our navigation abilities. So they probably aren't worth the investment as well as the added weight and bulk. However, if you need and want a super high-powered GPS unit for precision navigation, the GPSMAP 66st might be worth a shot.

Garmin eTrex 20x vs. Garmin eTrex 10

When compared to the Garmin eTrex 20x, the eTrex 10 is an incredibly simple unit with very few features. Lightweight, affordable, and with the same great 25-hour battery life, the Garmin eTrex 10 is a less featured alternative to the eTrex 20x.

The Garmin eTrex 10 doesn't have a color display or an expandable memory, so if you want these features, you'll have to look elsewhere. But, at just 5 ounces and with an IPX7 waterproof rating, the eTrex is a small and durable alternative for people looking to keep things simple.

Plus, the eTrex 10 is, on average, $100 less expensive than the eTrex 20x, so if you're looking to save some money, the eTrex 10 might be the way to go. On the other hand, if you want a durable GPS with some quality features, it'd be worth investing in the eTrex 20x.

You can find more details about eTrex 10 in our Garmin eTrex 10 Review

Garmin eTrex 20x vs. Garmin inReach Explorer+

While the Garmin eTrex 20x is a quality handheld GPS unit, there's one thing it can't do: send and receive messages. Thankfully, the Garmin inReach Explorer+ offers the many of the same great GPS features as the eTrex 20x with some awesome satellite messaging capabilities.

A fully-featured GPS unit, the inReach Explorer+ can help you navigate effectively, while also having the added bonus of offering two-way messaging as well as an SOS feature for emergencies. Thanks to Garmin's Iridium satellite messenger, the inReach Explorer+ can work anywhere in the world, allowing you to stay connected, wherever life takes you.

The inReach Explorer+ is much larger and heavier than the eTrex 20x. Plus, the inReach Explorer+ requires a monthly service plan to operate, so some might not want to shoulder that cost.

So, if you want messaging capabilities, the Garmin inReach Explorer+ combines the best of a GPS unit with a satellite communication device. But, if all you need is a GPS unit, the eTrex 20x might be the better option.

Customer Reviews

The Garmin eTrex 20x is one of the most popular handheld GPS units in Garmin's line-up, so there's no shortage of opinions on it in the outdoor world. Thus, we can use a lot of this information to help us decide whether or not the eTrex 20x is right for us.

For the most part, outdoor enthusiasts find that the eTrex 20x is an affordable GPS unit that's both durable and reliable. However, many people suggest acquiring the extra customizable maps for the device as a GPS is only as useful for direct navigation purposes as the maps it's loaded with.

That being said, some people do express frustration over how long it can take the device to sync and update through Garmin's computer program. So be sure to leave plenty of time for this activity before you head out into the backcountry.

The Final Verdict

Ultimately, after our Garmin eTrex 20x review, we can conclude that the device is a reliable, durable, high-quality handheld GPS unit for everyday use. Whether you're out on a bike ride around town, out for a day on the water, or exploring in the backcountry on an extended expedition, the eTrex 20x is a solid option for an affordable GPS with plenty of great features.

garmin 20x handheld GPS

About the Author Tim Fox

Since the age of 10, Tim, a writer at Outdoor With J, has enjoyed camping in the great outdoors. Although he loves the peace and quiet of the outdoors, he also likes his creature comforts. Tim’s mission is to make camping a fun and comfortable experience for all. You can find more about him here

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