How To Use Garmin eTrex GPS

by Adrian Grahams

The Garmin eTrex is a rugged handheld GPS satellite navigation device designed for outdoor use by trekkers, cyclists, campers and anyone who wants to keep track of their location. The device pinpoints your exact position and tracks your progress, creating an electronic trail map that you can view on the device's LCD screen along with information from the built-in trip computer. Unlike more advanced in-car and handheld GPS systems, the Garmin eTrex doesn't include touchscreen technology. Instead, you can operate the device with the five rubberized buttons on either side of the unit.

Understanding Satellite Information

The Garmin eTrex uses an integrated 12-channel GPS antenna that locks on to multiple orbiting satellites to triangulate and pinpoint your exact location. When you first switch on the device, the eTrex takes a few minutes to scan the sky and locate available navigation satellites. Like all GPS systems, the Garmin needs to find multiple satellites to provide an accurate location. The eTrex displays the "Locating Satellites" and then "Ready to Navigate" onscreen messages along with the accuracy range of your location when it has found enough satellites to work reliably.

Map and Navigation Basics

The Garmin eTrex display screen doesn't offer a detailed graphical map-based interface but shows your position in longitude and latitude coordinates that you can use to find your location on a regular map. The eTrex also shows your elevation above sea level, which is a useful feature when trekking over hilly or mountainous country. The default screen displays a directional compass that works like a standard magnetic compass; you can use this to get your bearings and navigate with a map. From the home screen, you can also access the trip computer that shows how long you've been traveling and your average speed.

Operating the Garmin ETrex

The eTrex is designed for easy use with just one hand and you can access all the main function pages with the "Up," "Down," "Page" and "Enter" buttons. The fifth button is the "Power" button for switching the device on and off and activating or disabling the backlight. Use the "Up" and "Down" buttons to select options on menu and pages, zoom in and out of a trail map, adjust the display contrast and cycle through trip data. Use the "Enter" button to confirm menu selections and display options on main pages. The "Page" button switches between pages. With these buttons, you can access all the main pages and features, including the trail map page, satellite view function, navigation screen and main menu.

Setting a Waypoint

One of the most useful features on the Garmin eTrex is the waypoint function that allows you to record your position and then navigate back to this position. To set a waypoint on the eTrex, press and hold the “Page” button on the right side of the device until the Menu page opens. Press the "Down" button to select the "Mark" option, then press the "Enter" button to open the "Mark Waypoint" page. Press "Enter" again to record the waypoint on the device. You can also name the waypoint from the advanced menu. To navigate back to a waypoint, select the waypoint from the Menu screen.


About the Author

Adrian Grahams began writing professionally in 1989 after training as a newspaper reporter. His work has been published online and in various newspapers, including "The Cornish Times" and "The Sunday Independent." Grahams specializes in technology and communications. He holds a Bachelor of Science, postgraduate diplomas in journalism and website design and is studying for an MBA.

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