I'm thinking of buying Garmin Etrex 20 (or 30) for geocaching purposes. I've read reviews in internet, and after that the issues with ergonomics and stability makes me worry, if that device will be good enough for geocaching.

I'm geocaching so, that I load caches for large region, but I don't plan exactly which caches will I search. Therefore, it's important for me to be able to relatively quick view the descriptions of the nearby caches. On Android, opening single cache and navigating to spoiler text + short description takes about 15 seconds. How much would it take on Etrex, where no touch screen is available? About a minute or more?

Many people in reviews in Amazon site complain about software unstability - the upgrades that breaks more things than repair, or cause the internal memory to be overfilled etc. Is the software for that device stable yet?

2 Answers 2


I have the Garmin Etrex 20 and I use it for everything from geocaching, to wilderness and kayaking navigation. Obviously this answer is just based on my personal experience with the device, I can't speak for anybody else.

Loading, displaying, and entering in new caches or locations doesn't take very long at all. After I learned where all the menus and sub-menus were located, it only took me a matter of seconds to enter information. In fact, in some ways, I find it easier than using a touchscreen because you don't have to take off and gloves or remove it from its protective case.

I have never had the GPS "crash" or freeze up or anything and have been using it fairly regularly for about a year. I've updated the GPS a couple of times and haven't had any problems at all. The Basecamp software that Garmin uses on the computer is rather badly thought-out and the user-experience isn't great, but once you learn how to use it, it's not bad. Also, the Basecamp software isn't 100% necessary to use with the GPS.

I've found the ergonomics to be good. Using the "thumbstick" has never been tiring for me, even after manually entering many geocache coordinates. It fits well in my hand and the rubberized coating keeps it from slipping. I would recommend getting a protective case for it, one that you can clip to your backpack or belt.

  • Are there any videos showing someone reading caches on that device? I don't think I can try it in shop because it would have to have cache descriptions loaded.... Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 21:05
  • I'm not sure if there are any videos on it or not. I'm sure it would be easy enough to search for videos of it online though.
    – Blackbear
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 13:05

I have an Etrex 30. My experience has been similar to but different from Blackbear's summary.

Caches work well, that is what I primarily use it for. Since it is a small screen and low power device, it is not so good for browsing cache information. In my experience, it is a bit slow opening cache details and logs. Closer to 15 seconds than a minute, but a bit annoying. However, that could just be due to the number of caches I have on it (a lot) or the way I added them (exported from the Android c:geo app). I generally look up cache details at home or on my Android, and then navigate with the GPS once I have an idea of which caches are which. Either device can perform both roles if needed.

I have had the GPS freeze up a couple of times, but that over a lot of usage. I read that evidently the earlier incarnation of the software was not very stable, but the updates have really improved it. Other than a couple instances it has been very stable with no glitches. I agree that the Basecamp software isn't the best, but it is functional and I don't use it often (only to manage maps and waypoints/tracks).

Here is a video of the Etrex 30 I found on YouTube. The actual caching features are in the second half. My device is a bit slower than the one in the video.

The compass/altimeter needs to be recalibrated sometimes, depending on conditions, but not that often. I have not regretted getting the Etrex 30 with the compass, since it makes direction finding much easier.

I agree that the ergonomics are good. Easy to use with one hand. There is an attachment on the bottom for a clip which I use with a carabiner. I put on a screen protector, and that works fine for me. It's had a few tumbles and encounters with water and is still in great shape.

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