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I'm in the market for a new GPS device. I have a Garmin eTrex Vista HCx. When travelling I like to have a GPS device on all the time storing and recording location, so I can make maps later. The Garmin is fine, but is several years old. What's the state of the art now? My budget is a few hundred euro.

Things I care about/would like:

  • Good battery life. The Garmin gets about ~3 or 4 days (if I turn it off at night). I'd like that.
  • Good GPS reciever. I want something that'll quickly get a GPS lock and won't lose it if I keep the GPS in my bag.
  • Size. Smaller is better, but anything the size of a standard phone is fine.
  • Chargable by something sensible like USB.
  • Ability to store months of data. (tracklogs are small, so anything'll store that)
  • Ability to get the tracklogs in a sensible open data file format (GPX/NMEA/etc.) Something gpsbabel can convert.

Things I don't care about:

  • Directions / voice commands. I want a logger, not a satnav to give me directions in the car
  • Can it store offline maps. I have a phone, which I load OpenStreetMap on to, so I don't care about if it has global coverage.
  • Online web sharing analyse service. I will be looking at the data myself.

Pluses:

  • Manually enter lat/lons with a simple "Direction & distance" to where the thing is. Very basic 'help you not get lost'
  • Ability to store OpenStreetMap maps. Not a deal breaker, but would be a plus.
  • Storing more than just lat/lon/time, some gps loggers store elevation, accuracy of GPS lock etc.
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    If you have a phone (which presumably has GPS too), can you explain why the phone with suitable software wouldn't work for this purpose? Is it just the required battery life? – Greg Hewgill Jul 3 '14 at 22:10
  • "Ability to store months of data" forget about any Garmin, even the newest products has very limited track data space (in my last trip to Iceland it got stuck after 9 days of tracking even with 2 gb of free space in the memory card). – Ivan Jul 3 '14 at 22:49
  • @GregHewgill Yes, battery life. – Rory Jul 4 '14 at 13:32
  • Have you considered using an external rechargeable battery pack with your phone? – Greg Hewgill Jul 4 '14 at 22:00
  • I have Garmin eTrex 30. In addition to storing tracks in BaseCamp, when it is connected my Mac sees it as just another USB drive. So it is trivial for me to make an extra copy of tracks and remove the old ones from the device. And it is definitely more accurate than the iPhone, although both of them have the nasty habit of tracking me as taking a diagonal shortcut when the trail or road makes a sharp turn.. – WGroleau Mar 14 '17 at 23:30
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A few years is quite a recent as for GPS device, which are designed to last for years, and not 1-2 years like smartphones... I've bought Garmin Etrex 20, which has similar capabilities to yours, but you'll want probably a bit more.

As for tracking, Etrex may be too little. I don't know how it is with tracks, it has the ability to 'archive' them, but it has performance problems after loading more than 2000 geocaches, so storing months of tracking data could be an issue on that device. But more advanced devices from Oregon series can store many thousends of geocaches, I suppose month of tracking data would be no isssue either.

As for maps, I have old, 2GB microSD card from old phone, so I must switch maps when I go to the other countries. With newer device and bigger SD card you should be able even to store the whole world map. That wiki page claims, you can have whole world map on devices like Garmin Dakota 300 (sorry, German only).

As for charging, I don't know if USB is really so sensible. I prefer to have many spare AA rechargable batteries, I can buy unrechargeable AA batteries in any newspaper show. But there are USB AA chargers.

All Garmins, from what I know, store tracks in GPX format. For sure it's the case of my Etrex.

Bags are no problem for GPS signal for recent Garmins. Buses or trains are, especially by cloudy weather.

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I agree with Lukasz, gps units can last decades. Like you I own a Garmin eTrex Vista HCx and I love it. Even to the extent that I now use it as satnav in my car,since upgrading the Vista with road changes and directions is free with Open Street maps, whereas the car satnav systems typically charge you quite some fees. It is far superior then the satnav sold for cars specifically, at least in my opinion and if you can deal with beeps the Vista HCx uses to indicate a nearby change of direction.

Just last week I reviewed quite some of the recent replacement of the Vista and actually the only function I would consider a valid reason for upgrading the Vista is for a more convenient integration of geocaching. Currently miss the descriptions, but for the rest after 7 years of using the Garmin Etrix Vista HCx is can only conclude that it still remains the best in the market.

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