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Very disappointed with Etrex 30x

Hi there,

I'm new here, and I'm looking for some answers to some very irritating GPS issues. I'm sure I've found the right place...

For about a decade, I've been using a Garmin Geko 301. I draw the precise path that I want to follow on Google Earth, convert to GPX, send to the Geko as a saved track and then navigate, with turn-by-turn directions. This device has no colour screen and no maps but it's taken me on some good drives, hikes and rides.

The display has broken on my Geko, so I recently bought an Etrex 30x. To my disbelief, I've discovered that it can't navigate a track! Seriously?! All I want to do is draw a path on Google Earth and then follow it. This should be one of the most basic of GPS functions. From the reading I've done about this, it seems I'm not the only one with this problem, and trying to find a way around it. Okay, so I could constantly watch the map and ensure I don't miss a turn, but there is no indication of the direction and distance of the next turn. The compass display gives no warning of the next turn either; it just instantly flips the pointer 90 degrees if I pass a turn. I tried the "Distance to next" data field, but that shows the distance to arbitrary waypoints which the track coincidentally crosses and may have nothing to do with my planned trip.

The Etrex 30x seems to want to use maps for any kind of proper navigation. I prefer to use my device with all maps disabled. Is there any way to have turn-by-turn navigation of a path I've created on this device?

I have converted one of my saved tracks to a route, but now the GPS has created about 80 waypoints along the line, all overlapping each other on the screen, and they can't be made invisible or deleted. Irritating! I haven't tried navigating the route yet, but I'm not expecting any luck.

Have GPS receivers changed over the past decade, or is this just a flaw with the Etrex series? And why would anyone have a use for a route over a track? (And I don't mean a "breadcrumb" trail; I mean a track created on a PC.)

Thanks in advance


  • sussamb 813 Points
    edited October 2015
    Well I think there may be a bit of confusion over names here. Your Etrex can cope with both a track and a route. Personally I prefer routes, but that's my choice. You can create a track on your PC, send it to your Etrex then follow it if that's what you wish to do.

    Note though to get turn by turn directions you need the appropriate map and need to use routes. How your previous GPS managed that without a map I have no idea, unless it was simply navigating you from one waypoint on the route to the next waypoint via a direct line.
  • sussamb said:

    How your previous GPS managed that without a map I have no idea.

    My old GPS managed that very easily, and I'm sure the current monochrome "mapless" Garmins can also do it. I guess the device just looks at a line and warns you when you're nearing a corner in the line. I can't imagine why any device would need a map to do that.

    Why is it that you prefer routes? I think I'm missing something about routes, because I don't see the purpose of them. To me, they seem the same as tracks except that they require waypoints along the way.

  • sussamb 813 Points
    edited October 2015
    Tracks are simply lines on a map, or on the screen if there is no map. Routes are comprised of waypoints and viapoints, and if using a routeable map will follow tracks/trails/roads between waypoints/viapoints.
  • Boyd 1985 Points
    edited October 2015
    I am not all that clear on what you are trying to do or what you expect since I don't use my own devices this way. But have you tried the advanced track navigation feature? I believe it is available on the new eTrex models. See this old article:
  • I want to follow a line that I've drawn on Google Earth. Simple. Yes, I can do this with the Etrex, but there is no indication of the direction of the next turn in the track, nor the distance to the next turn.
    There is no advanced track navigation feature. It seems the only way to get proper turn-by-turn navigation for a track would be to use the Tracback feature, but this is only available for the current track (breadcrumb trail), not saved tracks.
    The 2010 article seems to be describing the feature that I have on my 2003 GPS.
    Here's a picture of the Geko 301's screen. The number at the top is the remaining distance to a turn in a track, and the arrow shows the degree and direction of the turn. No maps or waypoints or routes are involved.
    I guess I can live with the limited capabilities of the Etrex in this area, but it does seem like the technology has taken a step backwards.
    I know the difference between tracks and routes, but what are the advantages of routes? Why would it be better to navigate by straight lines between waypoints rather than just following a track which goes exactly where you want it? There must be something I'm not understanding here. Can someone explain it, please? Thanks!
  • sussamb 813 Points
    edited October 2015
    A route will follow where you want to go too if you've planned it correctly. If you have a track and you're happy to follow it then I'd do so, and many prefer tracks. Some advantages of routes is that you have a few more options with regards to data and can amend them more easily when away from your PC.

    Are you sure there is no advanced track navigation feature? It should happen automatically when you select a track and hit Go.
  • Boyd 1985 Points
    edited October 2015
    FWIW, there is also a review of the eTrex 30 at GPSTracklog which says it includes the advanced track navigation feature. I wouldn't think they'd change that on the 30x, but who knows?
  • sussamb 813 Points
    edited October 2015
    Yep, AFAIK all the current crop of Garmin GPS use advanced track navigation, more here on it
  • Boyd 1985 Points
    That's the same link I already posted above. :))
  • sussamb 813 Points
    Ah I didn't go that far back in the thread, you mentioned the review on the 30 ... didn't see that earlier you'd also included the link to the gpstracklog article ;)
  • Hmm... So it does have advanced track navigation. I noticed that it does give an accurate distance to the end of the track, not as-the-crow-flies as the article says. And the article also mentions that waypoints along the track are used to create a route - that's why "Distance to next" counts down to the next waypoint on or near the track. The pointer on the compass lets me know if I'm off course, but it is not useable in any practical way to know when to turn. For that, I have to keep an eye on the map. So it's just not as good at navigating tracks as my 12-year-old geko! But maybe all my problems are coming from my lack of routable maps on the device. Maybe the Etrex is designed to work optimally when routable maps are installed, whereas the geko was never designed for maps.

    I tried to follow a route today while cycling. The compass screen was still of no help because it gave no information about upcoming turns. But I was getting beeps from the device. These didn't help much either because they seemed to come at random times - it seemed to be either 10-20 seconds before the turn or 80 -100m before the turn. And, of course, there were beeps when there was no turn at all, due to all the waypoints necessary just to make the route follow the road. So I just watched the map, but it looked cluttered with all the waypoints at every turn. Aaagh! It's all so complicated! I should have rather bought a Fenix watch - expensive though.

    Thanks everyone for the input.

    Sussamb and Boyd, may I ask how exactly you use your devices? How do you plan trips and get them onto your device, etc.?
  • Boyd 1985 Points
    edited October 2015
    93RyanB said:

    Sussamb and Boyd, may I ask how exactly you use your devices? How do you plan trips and get them onto your device, etc.?

    Nobody should use me as an example because my use of GPS is unusual. I make my own maps so for me it's all about the map. That's why I have a Montana with the big 4" screen and use either the 7" dezl or 8" Android tablet in the car. I generally just want to see my position on the map and drag the map around to "explore". In other words, I use it like I used a paper map.

    Sometimes I will record a track or make an old one visible on the screen as a reference. I almost never plan trips, I prefer the spontaneous approach. :)
  • DaveM 159 Points
    As you have found track navigation on the eTrex is not very good for use on a bike. Also the route navigation on an eTrex is not very good on a bike as it will change the route. When I was using my eTrex 20 on my bike I would display a track on the screen and then use A route (requires A routeable map) for navigation. I would then look at the screen now and then and if the route was different than the track I would know that the eTrex changed the route. I would then need to follow the track.

    I now use my GPSMAP 64s as I can set it to not recalculate the route. It works out a lot better then the eTrex.

    See for more comets on useing an eTrex on a bike.
  • Well yesterday I followed a 40km track that I created on Google Earth and it was quite easy. I put the map in "Automotive mode" which made it possible to clearly see upcoming turns. I don't have any routable maps, so there was no re-calculating going on. Also, because it was a track and not a route, my screen wasn't full of temporary waypoints. With my old GPS, I could ride while using the compass screen - that's the only thing I'll have to live without now.

    I read that article before I joined here. It's strange how - in the particular area of navigating a track - the technology seems to have taken a step backwards.
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