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Reviews > Navigation and Map Gear > GPS > Garmin eTrex H > Owner Review by Erin Marie Hedden

March 05, 2011


NAME: Erin M. Hedden
AGE: 32
LOCATION: Southeastern Colorado U.S.A.
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 153 lb (69.40 kg)

Backpacking Background: I have been backpacking since 4 years of age, taking week long trips into the mountains with my family. I hike various terrains ranging from mountains and plateaus to grasslands and prairies. My excursions can be a simple day hike with a light-weight waist pack, a loop trail requiring up to 4 nights and 5 days on which I keep my pack as light-weight as possible, or an in-and-out trip for a night or two where my pack can be quite heavy. Slow and steady is my pace and I use a tent or a hammock depending on weather and terrain.


Manufacturer: Garmin
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: Garmin
MSRP: $99.99 USD
Listed Weight: 5.3 oz (150 g)
Measured Weight: 5.5 oz (156 g)
Measured Weight With 2 AA Batteries: 7.7 oz (218 g)
Unit dimensions, WxHxD: 4.4" x 2.0" x 1.2" (11.2 x 5.1 x 3.0 cm)
Display size, WxH: 1.1" x 2.1" (2.8 x 5.4 cm)
Display resolution, WxH: 64 x 128 pixels
Display type: 4 level gray LCD
PC Interface: USB (sold separately)


Areas including New Mexico, Kansas, South Dakota and of course Colorado were covered, all with various terrains including city streets and parks, grasslands, canyons, foothills, mountain passes, sub alpine forest and prairie. The Garmin eTrex H was used more than several dozen times while hiking on and off trail, while traveling winding paths atop a mountain bike as well as in the hands of a passenger navigator in a vehicle while trying to find particular coordinates for otherwise unmarked roads or other points of interest. The unit gets used regularly and had never gone more than 2 weeks solid without being used on a hike, a drive, a hunt or trip into new territory for a fishing or camping trip.


Being put to use in the hot, dry canyons of southeast Colorado the Garmin eTrex H withstood temperatures in excess of 118 F (48 C) for prolonged periods of time without any problems, though I did note that battery life seemed slightly shorter while using the unit during these periods of high heat. Several severe thunderstorms, including one which produced a tornado 15 miles (24 km) southeast of my position at that time, gave the eTrex H a proper soaking as well as a good beating with high winds and a little hail. During the winter it was used to find my way back to my car after 8 inches (20 cm) of snowfall concealed my path while the temperature dropped to -3 F (-19 C). If the unit was turned on at extremely cold temperatures it would take a little more time than usual to acquire satellite signals and refresh its information but if it was kept warm under my jacket, near my body, these problems were easily enough solved. I have had the unit drenched in rains, as have I dropped it in snow and slush and never had the unit quit working on me or experience any problems with the way that it functioned.


The Garmin eTrex H is a handheld GPS system that is made for the trail. The manufacturer website says that it is, "perfect for outdoor enthusiasts on a budget" costing $99.99 MSRP and it is said to be a "high-sensitivity GPS receiver that locks onto satellite signals quickly and maintains accuracy".


There are 5 buttons on this unit and they are as follows:
On the left side of the unit there are 3 buttons listed top to bottom.
Page Up - Select options on pages and menus, adjusts display contrast on satellite page, zooms in on the map page and cycles through trip data on the navigation page.
Page Down - Select options on pages and menus, adjusts display contrast on satellite page, zooms out on the map page and cycles through tip data on the navigation page.
Enter - Confirms data entry or menu selection, displays options on the main page and pressing and holding the ENTER button will activate the Mark Waypoint page.
On the right hand side of the unit there are 2 buttons listed top to bottom.
Page - Switches between pages and moves out of pages.
Power - Turns the GPS unit on and off and it also turns the displays backlight on and off.


Satellite Page:Satellite Page
This page shows the unit gathering the necessary satellite information it needs in order for the unit to function correctly. There are 2 specific views to the page which are the normal skyview that shows the satellites, their signal strength as well as the estimated location accuracy. Then there is the advanced skyview which displays the numbered satellites that the unit is using as well as their proximity to the current position and their individual signal strength.

Map Page:Map Page
The map page will display the location of the device as an animated figure like a stick man and if the device is moving it will provide a picture of which direction in which it is going as the stick man walks or jogs. The stick man will leave a "trail" otherwise known as a track log. Waypoints and symbols are also shown on the map.

Navigation Page:Compass
Shows the direction in which the device is moving and at what speed. If the device is moving towards a specific waypoint it will reflect that here by marking it on the compass face.
By pressing the UP or DOWN buttons the unit will cycle through other trip information such as a maximum speed, an average speed, moving direction, bearing, position coordinates, elevation, time of the sunrise or sunset, a trip timer and a trip odometer.

Main Menu:Menu
This is where the more advanced features such as creating waypoints, creating routes, viewing track logs or accessing the system setup features can be found.
As Seen In Manual
As seen in the users manual


The H connotes that the eTrex H has the Garmin high-sensitivity receiver in the unit. I have never experienced the loss of signal or been dropped by a satellite even in the densely wooded areas throughout Colorado's Rocky Mountains, not even winding up Pikes Peak in a vehicle have I lost signal or been dropped. However, acquiring signal inside buildings did prove to take longer if an adequate connection could be made at all without first having to move outdoors to make the connection first before reentering the building, in which case a signal could then be maintained while moving through the buildings area and floors.

Screen Legibility
The simple LCD display screen proves to be easy enough to read with a little adjustment to its color and contrast because factory settings are a little dim. With the backlight on it lights up orange and is easy to read both in pitch black darkness and during the twilight hours.

Battery LifeBattery Casing
Using regular Energizer Industrial batteries the life of the unit lasts significantly less than when Energizer Lithium batteries are in use. I have not done an in depth study of the approximate number of hours of use each set were able to sustain battery life for but overall I count 9-13 uses on Energizer Industrial and 17-19 uses with lithium batteries, each use no less than 1 hour and no more than 6 hours.

Startup Time
8 s to "Acquiring Satellites"
17 s to satellite acquisition
Regardless of sky covering or signal strength these times have proved consistent by my stopwatch measurements.

The eTrex H leaves "breadcrumbs" that log the trip and this can be used to backtrack to the start point using the exact same path taken to the spot where there had to be a turnaround. It proves to be quite an accurate and useful tool in case something was dropped along the way and it was necessary to go back for whatever was lost or dropped, or in case a wrong turn was taken back along the way.

Marking waypoints along the trail is easy enough and you can log them as numbered points or customize the waypoints name. Using the "Go To" feature of the eTrex H to find previously marked waypoints is quite handy and easy enough to manage since the menu is laid out simply enough.

Entering in a route is also simple enough to accomplish and follow.


Overall the Garmin eTrex H has proven to be simple enough to use and understand for a first time handheld GPS unit user such as myself and it has stood up to the test of durability since it has been dropped numerous times and the only thing that broke on the unit was the small peg for the lanyard attachment, but other than that it has come out of some pretty tough tumbles without as much as a scratch. I found it a good choice for me for both its low cost and ease of use.


1. Low-cost
2. Waterproof
3. Receiver sensitivity
4. Fair memory capability
5. Moderate weight
6. Ease of use
7. Durability
8. Bright backlight
9. Easy to read LCD screen


1. Low battery life in comparison to other units on the market.
2. There is no slot for extra memory from a MicroSD card.
3. There is no included software with the unit for PC interface.
4. PC interface cords are not included but are sold separately.
5. No base map capabilities.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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