Garmin eTrex 32x Review: Is It the best Hiking Navigation?

If reliable navigation is what you’re after, look no further than a handheld GPS device. These handy gadgets are easy to use, built to be rugged, and will last for many years. The Garmin eTrex 32x, an upgraded version of the eTrex 22x, promises not to lead you astray.

The Garmin eTrex 32x improves upon the 22x thanks to its more accurate 3-axis tilt compensated compass, wireless connectivity with ANT+ technology, and inclusion of a barometric altimeter for more reliable altitude tracking.

Other standout features of the 32x include a long battery life with easily replaceable batteries, easy-to-read screen, and rugged design.

Garmin is well-renowned for designing trustworthy, effective navigational devices that you can take anywhere, whether you’re backpacking in the wilderness, running along the trails, or taking a long road trip across the countryside. No matter the destination, you can feel confident that Garmin will get you where you need to go.

Pros of the Garmin eTrex 32x:

  • Small size and lightweight, easy to carry with built-in belt clip
  • Rugged body style and IPX7 waterproofing
  • Sunlight-readable screen
  • Long 25-hour battery life (and easy to replace batteries)
  • Accuracy: GPS + GLONASS, 3-axis tilt-compensated compass, barometric altimeter for tracking altitude, preloaded topographic maps, and custom maps
  • ANT+ connectivity

Cons of the Garmin eTrex 32x:

  • Outdated interface: no touchscreen (uses thumbstick/joystick and back/menu buttons, which may be more cumbersome than a touchscreen)
  • No smart features
  • Only takes replaceable batteries

For a complete discussion of all its features, read on for our full Garmin eTrex 32x review below.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Handheld GPS Device

Garmin eTrex 32x
259 Reviews
Garmin eTrex 32x
  • Explore confidently with the reliable handheld GPS
  • 2.2” sunlight-readable color display with 240 x 320 display pixels for improved readability
  • Preloaded with Topo Active maps with routable roads and trails for cycling and hiking
  • Support for GPS and GLONASS satellite systems allows for tracking in more challenging environments than GPS alone
  • 8 GB of internal memory for map downloads plus a micro SD card slot

Before buying a handheld GPS device, consider its interface and screen. For a device that will be used outdoors, you want to make sure that you can easily read the display even in direct sunlight. Devices with transflective displays, including the Garmin eTrex 32x, have readable screens that don’t wash out in the sun.

As for the device’s interface, touchscreens are easy to use but may be more challenging for some with limited dexterity. If this is the case, a device without a touchscreen, such as the Garmin eTrex 32x, maybe more up your alley. Keep in mind that using a non-touchscreen device may feel, at times, a little old-school and less responsive.

To move around on the screen of the Garmin eTrex 32x, you will use a multi-directional thumbstick that also acts as a button when pressed. The device also features a menu button, back button, and up and down arrows for zooming in or out of your maps when navigating.

Also, consider whether or not the device has a waterproof rating. Thankfully, the Garmin eTrex 32x features IPX7 waterproofing, which means it will stay functional even after being submerged in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes.

As for battery life, the Garmin eTrex 32x is powered only by two AA batteries rather than charging via cable. The batteries are very simple to replace, though. The device claims 25 hours of battery life per set of batteries.

There are various global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) that a device can interact with to find your exact location quickly and accurately. GPS is the GNSS belonging to the United States, while GLONASS is Russia’s system. The Garmin eTrex 32x can interface with both of these. Some devices can also interact with Galileo, which is the GNSS belonging to Europe.

You should also consider whether you want the device to track your altitude. If you are an avid backpacker in the mountainous regions, this may be one of your priorities. Devices that are equipped with a barometric altimeter will be the most accurate. The Garmin eTrex 32x does feature a barometric altimeter for ultimate altitude tracking.

The 32x also boasts a 3-axis electronic compass with built-in tilt compensation, which means that the device can lead the way even if it’s tilted at an angle. This makes it much easier to use and more reliable to follow. The compass can also be calibrated for an even higher degree of accuracy.

Features & Benefits

Weight and Size

Weight and Size

Weighing in at only 5 ounces, the Garmin eTrex 32x would be nearly unnoticeable in your pocket, if it weren’t for its width (which is much wider than your average smartphone these days). However, the device overall is rather compact with overall dimensions of just 2.1 x 4 x 1.3 inches.

Navigational Technologies



As mentioned earlier, the Garmin eTrex 32x can interact with two separate navigation systems (GPS and GLONASS) for a higher degree of accuracy and speed in finding your exact coordinates than devices that only interact with one system.

The device promises to find your location even in places where lower signals may otherwise be expected, such as busy cities with tall buildings or in the middle of “nowhere.”

3-Axis, Tilt Compensated Compass

3-Axis, Tilt Compensated Compass

As it features a compass with tilt compensation, the Garmin eTrex 32x can keep you on track even if the device is tilted to the side. This makes it much easier to use. This way, you won’t have to worry about keeping the device level at all times when using the compass to navigate.

More: Garmin Montana 680t Review: Worth Buying as Hiking GPS?

Keep in mind that you can calibrate the compass for more accuracy and speed.

Here is a video demonstrating how to calibrate the device’s compass. Note that this video shows the Garmin eTrex 30x, but the same instructions apply to the 32x:

Barometric Altimeter

The Garmin eTrex 32x also boasts a barometric altimeter. This way, you can track your altitude more accurately than devices that simply use your GPS signal. Barometric altimeters are also useful for watching the weather, as weather changes are sensitive to changes in atmospheric pressure.

Software and Storage


BaseCamp Software

The included BaseCamp Software is the perfect way to store and organize all of your maps and trails in one easy-to-use place, including the custom ones you have uploaded. BaseCamp is an easy way to plan your upcoming trips by sharing maps and routes with other users as well.

More: Garmin inReach Explorer+ Review: Your Companion for a Wonderful Expedition

Preloaded Maps and Storage Space

The preloaded topographic maps on the Garmin eTrex 32x are incredibly detailed, showing natural landmarks, roads, buildings, bodies of water, elevations, points of interest, shops, hotels, and much more so that you can explore everywhere with ease.

The Garmin eTrex 32x features 8 GB of internal storage space as well as a microSD card slot for expanded storage up to 32 GB. With all of this storage, you can upload plenty of maps and routes for your future adventures. In all, the Garmin eTrex 32x can store up to 3,000 map segments, 2,000 waypoints and locations, 200 routes, 200 tracks, and 10,000 track logs.

Also, with a BirdsEye subscription, you can add up to 250 satellite images into your maps for more details to remember your favorite spots.

The device also features automatic routing, meaning that it can give you turn-by-turn driving directions via the included City Navigator software.


The Garmin eTrex 32x is an excellent device if geocaching is your main goal. You can upload GPX files from your computer to the device using the included USB cable. The 32x will also conveniently show any terrain or hints that you input from as well.

More: Is the Garmin GPSMAP 66i Worth Buying? In-depth Review



The Garmin eTrex 32x has an IPX7 waterproof rating. This means it can be submerged in water up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes without sustaining damage. Overall, the 32x is a great device if you plan to travel in snow, rain, or near bodies of water.

Battery Life

As it does not feature a built-in rechargeable battery and can’t be charged by a cable, the Garmin eTrex 32x must be powered on by standard replaceable batteries. In this case, the eTrex 32x uses two AA batteries, which are very easy to remove and insert. The device overall promises a 25-hour battery life, which is respectable.

For a demonstration of how easy it is to replace the batteries in the device, check out this video:

Screen Type and Interface

For outdoor activities, a transflective display is the best bet for preventing the screen from looking too washed out. The Garmin eTrex 32x features a transflective display that remains easy to read in direct sunlight without the need for a battery-hogging backlight.

The eTrex 32x has a relatively small screen measuring 2.2 inches, and its resolution is 240 x 320 pixels. Note that this is a full 64K color screen, compared to other devices which are only black and white.

Rather than a touchscreen, the device’s on-screen interface can be navigated using a multidirectional rotating thumbstick in the upper right hand corner of the device. To select something on-screen, you simply click the thumbstick inwards until it clicks.

There are also up and down arrows for zooming in and out while using maps. The device also features a back button and menu button. Overall, the interface is not difficult to use but maybe cumbersome if you struggle with dexterity or prefer a simpler touchscreen. However, the lack of a touchscreen benefits colder weather when you want to wear gloves.

The image below shows the thumbstick in the upper right corner, as well as the buttons along the sides of the device.

More: Garmin Oregon 600 Review: Is It A Good Hiking GPS

Feature Type Feature Specs What This Means
Weight 5 oz (141.7 g) Lightweight and easy to carry
Size 2.1” x 4” x 1.3” Compact size, but slightly thick (thicker than phone)
Display Transflective 2.2 inch display Not a touchscreen, but easy to read in the sun. Uses thumbstick and buttons for on-screen interface
Waterproofing IPX7 Can be immersed in water of up to 1 meter for 30 minutes without sustaining damage
Navigational tech GPS + GLONASS Quickly and accurately gets your location
Maps Stores up to 3000 map segments, 250 images, 2000 waypoints, 200 tracks, 200 routes, 10000 track logs A lot of storage for maps and tracks
Battery Life Two AA batteries 25 hours battery life Uses standard disposable batteries (does not charge via cable). Easy to replace batteries
Automatic turn-by-turn navigation Yes Gives turn-by-turn navigation directions on the device
Barometric Altimeter Yes Very accurate tracking of altitude (over simply using GPS for altitude)
Compass 3-axis tilt compensated compass Can use compass even if device is tilted. Compass can be calibrated for more accuracy
Retail Price $$$ In The High Range

Social Proof

Once I decided to get a new handheld GPS device, I found myself interested in the Garmin eTrex 32x thanks to its overall accuracy, usefulness, and ruggedness. I scoured the internet and came across some user reviews demonstrating the benefits of this little device.

Here are some of these users’ accounts of using the Garmin eTrex 32x:

Social Proof 1
Social Proof 2
Social Proof 3


Garmin eTrex 32x vs 30x

Garmin eTrex 30x
1,213 Reviews
Garmin eTrex 30x
  • UPGRADED DISPLAY Features a 2.2” 65K color sunglight readable display offering increased resolution (240 x 320 pixels). Physical dimensions: 2.1" x 4.0" x 1.3" (5.4 x 10.3 x 3.3 cm)
  • 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
  • BUILT IN SENSORS eTrex 30x adds a built in 3 axis tilt compensated electronic compass and a barometric altimeter which tracks changes in pressure to pinpoint your precise altitude, and you even can use it to plot barometric pressure over time
  • WIRELESS Wirelessly share your waypoints, tracks, routes and geocaches with other compatible devices simply press “send” to transfer your information also wirelessly connects to compatible Garmin devices, including VIRB and accessory sensors

The Garmin eTrex 30 is a slightly less upgraded device compared to the 32x. These two devices do have some similarities, such as physical size and weight, screen type and size, thumbstick interface, battery life, IPX7 waterproofing, and GPS and GLONASS communications. They also both feature the same 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter.

The eTrex 32x, on the other hand, has more internal storage space (8 GB vs the 30x’s 6 GB). Keep in mind that both devices have expandable memory via a microSD card.

Overall, the maps on the 32x are much more detailed, including features like coastlines, wetlands, streams, state parks, campgrounds, scenic lookouts, local parks, forests, and even picnic areas. The 30x also does not come with any preloaded topographic maps. Check our review of Garmin eTrex 30x here


  • Same size and weight
  • Both are IPX7 waterproof and feature GPS and GLONASS
  • Both have a barometric altimeter and 3-axis compass
  • Neither are touchscreen (both use a thumbstick)
  • Same 25-hour battery life with two AA batteries
  • 32x has more internal space (but both have expandable space using microSD card)
  • 30x has no preloaded topographic maps
  • 32x maps are much more detailed
  • 30x is discontinued

For a very similar device to the Garmin eTrex 32x with nearly all of its features but less detailed maps, lower internal storage, and no preloaded maps, check out the Garmin eTrex 30x.

Garmin eTrex 32x vs GPSMap 64sx

GPSMap 64sx
678 Reviews
GPSMap 64sx
  • Rugged and water-resistant design with button operation and a 2. 6” sunlight-readable color display
  • Preloaded with Topo Active maps (U. S. and Australia only) featuring routable roads and trails for cycling and hiking
  • Know where you’re at with a high-sensitivity receiver with quad helix antenna and multi-GNSS support (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo) and 3-axis compass with barometric altimeter
  • Wireless connectivity via BLUETOOTH technology and ANT+ technology available on GPSMAP 64sx and GPSMAP 64csx models
  • Battery life: up to 16 hours in GPS mode

The Garmin GPSMAP 64sx has a completely different body style than the eTrex. It features a slightly larger 2.6-inch screen, heavier weight, and much taller design with its upgraded antenna sticking out of the top. It also features a button-only interface rather than the thumbstick and buttons found on the eTrex.

While the eTrex can communicate with GPS and GLONASS, the GPSMAP 64sx boasts a more upgraded “quad helix” antenna with multi-GNSS support for GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo for ultimate accuracy and speed in determining your precise location.

Also, the GPSMAP 64sx features Bluetooth technology as well as the ANT+ connectivity found on the eTrex. The GPSMAP can receive smart notifications, such as emails and text alerts, directly from your smartphone.

The eTrex 32x, on the other hand, has a higher screen resolution, a more lightweight and compact design, and a lower price point. It also has a longer 25-hour battery life compared to the 16 hours of the GPSMAP.

There are some similarities as well. Both devices feature preloaded TopoActive maps, a built-in 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter, and IPX7 waterproofing. They both have 8 GB onboard memory and a microSD space for expansion.


  • Neither are touchscreen
  • Both have preloaded topographic maps, 3-axis compass, barometric altimeter, IPX7 waterproofing, and 8 GB storage
  • GPSMAP 64sx has more upgraded antennas
  • GPSMAP 64sx has Galileo as well as GPS and GLONASS (more accurate)
  • GPSMAP 64sx has Bluetooth and smartphone notifications
  • GPSMAP 64sx features only button interface (no thumbstick)
  • eTrex 32x is smaller and lighter
  • eTrex 32x has higher screen resolution
  • eTrex 32x has better battery life (25 vs 16 hours)
  • eTrex 32x is less expensive

For a device with all the upgraded antennas, additional Galileo technology for more accurate location, Bluetooth connectivity with smartphone notifications, and a large size, consider the Garmin GPSMAP 64sx.

Garmin eTrex 32x vs 22x

Garmin eTrex 22x
1,052 Reviews
Garmin eTrex 22x
  • Explore confidently with the reliable handheld GPS
  • 2.2" sunlight-readable color display with 240 x 320 display pixels for improved readability
  • Preloaded with Topo Active maps with routable roads and trails for cycling and hiking
  • Support for GPS and GLONASS satellite systems allows for tracking in more challenging environments than GPS alone
  • 8 GB of internal memory for map downloads plus a micro SD card slot.Battery life: up to 25 hours in GPS mode with 2 AA batteries

These are extremely similar devices with the same body size, weight, transflective 2.2-inch screen, and GPS and GLONASS technologies. The two each feature 8 GB internal storage with an expandable microSD card, IPX7 waterproofing, and a 25-hour battery life that runs simply on two easy-to-insert AA batteries. They both lack a touchscreen and feature the thumbstick.

However, the 22x does not feature any wireless connectivity, while the 32x can connect to other ANT+ devices, such as a heart rate monitor or thermometer. The compass in the 22x is based solely on your GPS location, while the 32x has a much more accurate 3-axis tilt compensated compass.

Lastly, the 32x is equipped with the barometric altimeter, which the 22x lacks. This means the 22x has to track your altitude based on the GPS signal alone, which is less accurate.


  • Same size and weight
  • Both have 8 GB storage with expandable storage via microSD
  • Both have GPS and GLONASS
  • Same battery life with two AA batteries
  • Both are IPX7 waterproof
  • Neither are touchscreen (both have thumbstick)
  • 32x has ANT+ connectivity
  • 32x has tilt-compensated 3-axis compass, but 22x has a GPS-based compass
  • 32x has a barometric altimeter
  • 22x is less expensive

If you’re looking for a very similar device that doesn’t boast as many upgraded features, like a 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter but comes in at a lower price point, the Garmin eTrex 22x may be a great choice.


The Garmin eTrex 32x is a full-featured, reliable, rugged navigational device that is a perfect fit for any outdoor adventure or road trip. The eTrex 32x sports a screen that you can read easily in any condition, accurate GPS and GLONASS, expandable storage for all your important maps and routes, and a small, lightweight size that’s easy to carry along with you on all your trips.

If you are looking for a trusty, long-lasting navigational gadget, you can purchase the Garmin eTrex 32x here.

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