Garmin eTrex 20 Hiking GPS Review

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If you’re a hiker, a hunter, geocacher, or camper, there’s really no reason to venture out into the woods without a GPS navigation device any longer. GPS units are getting smaller and more powerful every year while the price continues to plunge, so satellite location devices are well within even the most modest budgets. The Garmin eTrex 20 isn’t the least expensive version of Garmin’s small handheld line, but it’s the biggest seller. It has a full color screen and powerful and accurate navigation technology that millions depend upon daily to help them find their way out, and back, safely.

The eTrex 20 is based on the same shell as the eTrex 10, but the full color screen is much easier to read in both bright sunshine and shade. In addition to full color, it has more pixels that make reading even tiny text easy. Because of its more powerful processor and better display, the eTrex 20 can show the same kind of richly detailed topographical maps that much more expensive handheld units employ. Like its more expensive cousins, the eTrex 20 uses both GPS and GLONASS technology to make navigation information as reliable and accurate as can be.

Garmin eTrex 20 Hiking GPS

Garmin eTrex 20 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator

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  • Handheld GPS navigation device
  • 2.1 inches by 4.0 inches by 1.3 inches thick
  • 1.4-inch by 1.7-inch full-color display
  • 176 x 220 pixel TFT display
  • Weighs 5 ounces with batteries installed
  • Battery life is approximately 25 hours
  • Waterproof to IPX7 standard
  • USB connectivity
  • Uses two AA batteries
  • Accepts microSD memory cards
  • Remembers 200 routes
  • Logs up to 10,000 waypoints and 200 tracks
  • Paperless geocaching enabled
  • Garmin Connect compatible
  • 1-year limited manufacturer’s warranty


The eTrex 20 is tiny, but it’s powerful. If you desire, you can load land, water, and road maps into the unit and use it for driving, boating, hiking, biking, walking or any other activity that requires a map and tracking capabilities. The unit’s small size can be considered either a plus or a minus depending on what you’re using it for. With its carabiner attached, you can hang the tough case of the eTrex 20 from a jacket pocket zipper or a backpack strap and not worry about it until you need it. The unit is ruggedized and waterproof, so if you’re out in the rain or tramping over rough terrain you don’t have to worry about the device like you would if you were using apps on a smartphone in place of a standalone GPS device. Unlike smartphones, the eTrex 20 doesn’t care how far you stray from cellphone towers, so you’ll rarely find yourself outside the range of its satellites.

Locks on Fast, Stays in Contact Well

The eTrex 20 locks on to satellite signals as quickly as any small GPS device on the market, and performs well even in cloudy conditions or in light forest canopy. If you’re planning on being out all day, or for several days, you’ll like the easy battery change the eTrex offers. Just pop off the back and pop in two AA batteries, and carry spares for when those run out. Avoiding rechargeable battery packs saves weight and expense, and you’re unlikely to be able to find a place to recharge a device like a GPS unit out in the wilderness anyway.

There are six buttons on the outside of the eTrex 20. They zoom in and out on the screen and navigate menus, bring up the main menu, act as a back button to bring up the last application or screen, turn the unit on and activate the backlight, and act as a joystick for navigating a map or menus and selecting items or choosing waypoints.

Sophisticated Functions for an Entry-Level Unit

If you’re familiar with the features available on higher-priced models of Garmin GPS devices, you’ll recognize many of the functions that are appearing on inexpensive units like the eTrex 20 now. Paperless geocaching has never been easier, and the eTrex 20 has the same descriptions, hints, logs, and other information that you find on much bigger handhelds. Read this if you want to know what geocaching is. The bird’s eye aerial maps are terrific for figuring out exactly where you are when you can’t see landmarks because of obstructions or heavy weather.

The eTrex 20 has advance track navigation that offers the best of both worlds by suggesting exact routes for your treks, but still letting you choose your own waypoints and detours as well. The maps are much more detailed than you’d expect on such a small device, and the topographic information is a boon for a device that doesn’t have an altimeter on board. You can load custom maps from Garmin into your eTrex 20, too, which expands its usefulness even further.


  • Bright, easy-to-read color display
  • Small size is easy to carry
  • Almost indestructible
  • Has both GPS and GLONASS connectivity for excellent accuracy and few dead spots
  • Great for paperless geocaching
  • Long battery life
  • Bird’s eye aerial image makes figuring out exactly where you are easier
  • Easily customizable menus and functions
  • Can use Garmin custom maps
  • Advanced track navigation make staying on course easy


  • Somewhat small display compared to larger handhelds

Final Verdict

Garmin eTrex 20

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The eTrex 20 is Garmin’s best selling handheld GPS device, and users and reviewers say there are many good reasons why it should be. While it’s not the cheapest form of GPS hiking handheld, it’s still very inexpensive and almost anyone can afford one.

Users love how easy it is to use, and how effective and accurate it is for getting you to your location, no matter how out-of-the way it might be. Users report that the eTrex 20 is so reliable that it makes them more adventurous because they’re always certain that they’ll be able to find their way home.

Users also report that they take the Garmin eTrex on trips that they might not have bothered to bring a GPS on because the unit is so small that it’s no bother to carry, and the proximity alarms and overhead maps make arrivals at any destination more enjoyable. Over 65 percent of reviewers give the eTrex 20 four or more stars, and millions of people have voted with their money and purchased one already. It’s highly recommended.