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An Excellent All Purpose GPS Unit

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My wife bought me a Garmin etrex Vista GPS for Christmas 2007 and I have found it to be most versatile. To begin with, the only other GPS I had was a portable unit for aviation. I use it when I rent airplanes as we travel. For aviation purposes, it can't be beat.

The Garmin etrex Vista is a portable GPS with a 1.375 x 1.75 inch screen - so not a huge display. The etrex Vista can use road maps from all over the US and Canada. The unit came with topographic maps for the US. I immediately ordered the road maps for US & Canada as well as the topographic maps for Canada.

Clip this unit to your belt and go hiking. You can track your distance traveled and location. Mark where you parked the car and it will show you how far it is back to the car. Lost? Just ask it to find the way point at the car and it will lead you right back to the car. The topographic maps aren't highly detailed but will give you an idea of elevation changes to expect on a hike.

I use the GPS to map my favorite golf courses. The first time I use it I mark the center of each green as a waypoint. Then I put these together into a route, one for the front nine and one for the back nine. As I play each hole I can determine the distance to the center of the green and select the appropriate club. Download the route to your computer and then view it on Google Earth! You can even see your track that shows where you were on the golf course, off in the rough here, down the fairway there. Yep, that was me circling that lake looking for my golf ball! What a hoot!!! Yes there are dedicated golf GPS units that don't require you to map a course to use it but they don't show you where you have been and won't do you any good when driving the car.

The unit has a mounting which can be used with a handlebar mount ordered separately. Put the etrex on the bicycle and you know how fast you are going and how far you have ridden. It will show you how long you have ridden, how much time is moving and how much stopped. It shows maximum speed, moving average speed or just average speed. All these features can be used when hiking or in the car. Used with the road maps you can use it to navigate just as in the car. It leaves "bread crumbs", a track that shows your route of travel. Retracing your travel is easy.

Garmin has a "sandbag" that will sit on your dashboard and holds the unit in a convenient location for viewing while traveling. You can also purchase adhesive mounts to hold the GPS anywhere you want to stick it. Plug it into the 12V power source and use it just like any road GPS. We use it in the RV when relocating from one place to another. When the RV is parked we use it in the car. No need to learn several different systems when moving from the RV to the toad. The more you use it, the easier it becomes. This GPS doesn't talk to you, it beeps several times as you approach each turn. It also shows you the upcoming turn, auto zooming to give you the detail you need to see. Looking for a parking spot for the night, it gives you distance and direction to the nearest Wal-Mart. It also locates thousands of other businesses by name or category. Select grocery stores and it lists them in order from the nearest on as far as you want to go. Want to find the nearest Safeway, enter the name and search for the nearest. Pick from the list it gives you and tell it to go to it. Then all you have to do is follow its directions! Select foods and then nearest containing ice cream and there are the directions to a nearby ice cream shop. This is a real time saver when you are in a new location and don't know your way around. Men, you may never have to stop to ask directions again!!!

I even take this GPS along on commercial air flights so I can look out the window and know what city that is or the name of that lake or river. I can tell how fast the airplane is going and how far it is to our destination. On a recent SW Airlines flight to Denver I enjoyed watching the miles click off every 8 or 9 seconds! Now that is moving.

The etrex isn't perfect, no GPS is these days but it is a very handy device for those of us who are frequently in locations that are not familiar to us. One GPS I can use everywhere is the main strength of this unit.

It does leave one dilemma. Where do I go when my wife says straight ahead and the GPS wants me to go left??? Well, most husbands know the answer to that one. I don't sleep with the GPS at night!

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