Saturday, March 24, 2012

Using the Garmin eTrex 20 GPS.

The last several days gave me some invaluable experience using the Garmin eTrex 20. We have the complete set of ACA maps needed but my plan is to let my wife have those while I used downloaded routes on the eTrex 20. Inital thoughts.
  • The ACA GPX waypoint files may not be completely up to date. The NTR section 11 map 152 routes from Belfast ME to Camden ME via RT 52. The GPX files route via US 1. 
  • Garmin BaseCamp  program has a distinctly 1990's feel to it. has a free and much better interface IMO. 
  • Garmin BaseCamp has a "Bicycling" activity setting but I don't know what the point is since CityNavigator knows zero about bike paths and will go to crazy routing to get around them. 
This is the crazy route around the Brunswick Androscoggin River Bike Path. F0B7M0 is the start of the path that then follows the river past the Rt 196 bridge
  •  The workaround I found was to make a route on on RideWithGPS, download as GPX file. Up load this file to BaseCamp. It is then viewed as a track and will follow the bike path. I did try to convert the track to a route but the same garbage happened. So I just uploaded the track and told the eTrex20 to follow the track. The problem is the eTrex will not "navigate" and give turn data and the like when using tracks. So when entering the route in RideWithGPS I made sure to put waypoints near any turn. Then on the GPS I set one data field to "Distance to Next".  And voila, I know when my next turn is coming up:)
This is the tracks file of the above route. This is then uploaded to the eTrex 20.

This has been a trail and error approach. I've blown past turns and not noticed until miles later. This happened when following US1 near Damarscotta, the track was through town I stayed on US 1. The route did reenter US 1 so no real harm, this time.

Also viewing the eTrex is difficult when the sun is not behind. And for me the magenta track/route color on the GPS is hard to see with sunglasses on. So it would be nice to have routing where it would at least beep when a waypoint is reached. 

But even with all these issues it's still better than using paper maps IMO. And without back lighting the battery run time easily covers a few days of riding. I think I'll do a test with the back lighting on constantly to get an idea of how many hours a day it can be safely used.


  1. Do the ACA POIs show up well on the Garmin? That is to say, do you see the waypoint plus the description such as the name of the campground?

  2. Hi DED, As far as I can tell the ACA POIs are listed as waypoints in Garmin BaseCamp and they can be uploaded to the eTrex 20. However they are generic waypoints. So if an ACA has the little tent symbol for Searsport CS it's listed as F0BHA0 it will not show up in the eTrex search for Camp Ground locations. In the case of Searsport CG the Garmin CityNavigator has it listed and is uploaded to the Garmin when I installed the Maine maps.
    So really unless your looking at the BaseCamp on a computer the ACA POI's aren't much help on the road IMHO.

    If anyone knows how to make the ACA POIs appear as POIs in the Garmin PLEASE let me know because I have found some ACA POI's that are not in CityNavigator. Thanks