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Owners of eTrex Vista GPS

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I'm about ready to buy a GPS unit. I think I'm going to get the eTrex Vista model since I want the altimeter and barometer functions on a GPS. Does the altimeter work well? Does the functionality of the Vista model warrant it's higher price? Any opinions on this model (good or bad) would be appreciated. Thanks.

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I love my Vista. I have only played with the alt a little, no real need yet, but it seems to work well. I really like the electronic compass, will still point the way to the cache when stopped, dont have to move like other GPS units without one in it. I have also had a Legend, a yellow etrex (still have this one), an Eagle Explorer and have used a Garmin 3+. The Vista is my fav of all of these. The legend was very nice, but the compass, alt, and additional memory make it worth the extra $$. Things I dont like about the Vista: i dont like the battery cover design, just seems cheap, but no trouble with it yet, you have to recalibrate the compass every time you change batteries, easy, but a pain, and the biggest dislike is no external antena. I have roads and rec for software, but I am going to buy the new metroguide when it comes out. Overall, it is a great unit. As for accessories, I have a combo data/power cable to hook up a lap top, power cable, data cable, handle bar mounts and a suction cup windshield mount. Probably the best advice is to read the manual completely when you get the unit, lots to learn, but is pretty easy.


It's not a sport unless there is something dead in the back of the truck when you get home.

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I have had a Vista for a couple of months now, and have found a number of caches with it. The barometric altimeter is pretty good (there is a page on the GPS that can show trends in elevation or barometric pressure, along with the current elevation, ambient pressure, and pressure adjusted for altitude).


However, if you are going to rely on the barometric altimeter for elevation, then you will need to make sure you can get a good 3-D location fix for a fairly long time. The Vista will auto-calibrate the altimeter based on GPS elevation readings, but this takes a while...so don't be surprised if the first time you switch to the barometric altimeter that it seems to be way off. It will tend to get better the longer the GPS is turned on. You can manually calibrate the altimeter if needed, but I find that the automatic calibration is fine.


A friend of mine has the Garmin V, and while it is very cool (especially since it can do routing) I really like my Vista. It is compact, doesn't hit the batteries too hard (12 hours on a set of AA's, and I just got a NiMH charger at Sam's Club with four 1850mAh AA's for $30), and I don't think twice about taking it out in the rain. The compass is wonderful for homing in on caches. Overall, it's pretty rugged, but I'd recommend getting a cover for it (they make ones that allow you to use the GPS with the cover on) to save the display from scratches.


The 24MB of map data is pretty nice, as well. It is enough to store about five major cities and all of the smaller cities within 60 miles of them, in my experience (your mileage may vary, but I can get Sacramento, Denver, Houston, Tampa, and Orlando all at once, plus a lot of outlying areas).


The only real downside of the Vista is that it does not have a big antenna (which I only notice because my friend with the Garmin V seems to get better position fixes under tree cover). I don't really notice this, though (it causes an increase in error, but not by more than 10-20 feet under heavy tree cover, and out in the open, it's right on). If you are particularly paranoid about being able to get a good signal in a car or something, there are repeating antennas you can buy that will put a stronger signal next to your GPS anyway.


Overall, I'm quite happy with mine. I spent $350 on it at Best Buy, and have probably put 50 or 60 hours on it already.

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I've had mine for over a year, picked it up on an ecost special for $280. I picked this one because it was everything I wanted. The only thing that bothers me is the smaller screen and the antenna. I'd love it if Garmin merged the Vista's functionality with a powerful antenna into a pocketpc device. I almost have that now with my Axim and my vista, but other than that, the vista rocks plain and simple. I hope garmin updates the etrex line with some improvements like a color screen and an external antenna. The Vista has 24M of data for maps, which is kinda small. In my own unrealistic and extensive use of my handheld, I'd like to be able to load a couple of states into the vista, or have the vista use a SD or flash card. Yeah, I've read about the ique3600 from Garmin, but I'm really not interested unless it turn out to have AWESOME performance where I JUST HAVE TO HAVE ONE OR I'LL DIE!!! I don't think that will be the case. It's pretty hard to beat the Vista's features (and it has a lot of them)! Dollar for dollar, it's probably one of the top 3-5 handheld GPS units to get. Mine easily has a couple hundred hours of run time. I use it for auto, hiking, cycling, geocaching, and for when I get lost doing any of things mentioned. It's also been a serious trooper and has been through a lot. Good money spent!



Team Coordinated

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I just upgraded from the Venture. I also teach a Navigation/Search and Rescue class for Raytheon Polar services, and they use a Garmin 12. I also use some magellans in the training. A student brought a Vista to the class one morning, and after I saw the electronic compass, and expanded memory, I knew the upgrade would happen soon after. Bought it at Amazon.com for $283.00, and right now Garmin has a $50.00 rebate deal going on, you can download the coupon from the Garmin website.

I haven't used the altimeter much, but I like it and it's functions are easy to understand. I live at sea level, so it's easy to calibrate at home.

Can't wait to load local topo's.

As far as cover affecting the antenna, yea it's an issue in heavy cover. But if satellites are overhead, patience generally rewards with a fix. I live in S.E. Alaska, a temperate rainforest, and I rely on mine when hunting in heavy wet cover. Hasn't failed to get me back to the boat yet.

Good luck.



"There's no need to be afraid of strange noises in the night. Anything that intends you harm will stalk you silently."

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Originally posted by The name is McGarrett & the title is Mr.:

I'm about ready to buy a GPS unit. I think I'm going to get the eTrex Vista model since I want the altimeter and barometer functions on a GPS. Does the altimeter work well? Does the functionality of the Vista model warrant it's higher price? Any opinions on this model (good or bad) would be appreciated. Thanks.


I have had the Vsita for about a month also and just love it! I bought mine through offroute.com which helps support this site (link on the main page) and with the rebate brought the price down to less than $250. I thought that was a good deal.

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We've had one for several months and like it a a lot.


I guess I need to update my cache finds.


If it ain't small then its not coming with me. Sometimes I have a hard time distinguishing my cellphone, gps-r, digi-cam in my pockets cause they're all about the same size and weight!!


The only complaint would be reception. But then again I've never owned any other gps-r other than a eTrex yellow and when reception starts getting bad, I go out into a good area, take a rough estimate of the distance, find something stationary that is roughly that far away, and follow the electric compass (i.e. the same as you'd do if you had an analog (paper) map and an analog (magnetic needle) compass, right?). icon_biggrin.gif


Opinions based on experiences with eTrex Vista...

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At the risk of this becoming a Vista group hug, I'll chime in with my own 'got it/like it'.


As with most folks who contemplate laying down a few hundred dollars of their hard earned cash, I did as much pre-purchase research as I could (using as many different information sources as possible) before I settled on buying a Vista early last summer. Rather than go on about why I arrived at choosing this particular unit, I think it's probably more helpful to simply acknowledge that no single model of GPSr (Vista included) can be considered a 'best choice' for every user. As important as doing your pre-purchase 'spec by spec'/'price by price' homework is, taking the time to objectively consider 'what you need' and 'how you'll use it' is just as critical. One trap that you should try to avoid is placing too much value on biased owner comments; as well intentioned as they are, most people tend to become enamoured with their own choice of GPSr and - at times - can lose their objectivity. Not to suggest that the comments in this and other forums can't be useful, but - if it were me - I'd be filtering them with information that was more objective from other sources before making my final choice.


Good luck!



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Glad to see all the good comments on the Vista; I just ordered one and it should arrive on Wednesday or Thursday of this week. Once I have some time to play with it and learn its capabilities, it should be one good investment.


I had considered a StreetPilot III or a GPS V, but they seemed a bit bulky to carry around. The routing capabilities of those units did look good, though. One of the reasons that I considered them was to possibly (partially) replace the TripMate/ThinkPad setup, but the ThinkPad display still has me hooked. The bad news is that the IBM cannot be used on the motorcycle icon_frown.gif.


I ordered the Garmin mapping CD and dtat/power cable so I can use the Vista for some simpler mapping tasks, so I am eager to see how it works for me.


More details (and hopefully another good review) after the package arrives.......

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I too am another more than satisfied Vista owner.


It boiled down to upgrading due to lack of features and map download ability on my GPS III. Plus, the size was also a factor in that the current design is just a bit too bulky to be stuffed in a pocked when some rock crawling is required. With the neoprene case and belt clip, it can hang just about anywhere while I seek out another location to grab it again.


The 24MB of memory is adequate enough for my needs, with no question. I can get about 85-90% of Arizona downloaded, which is more than I will usually ever need, but more is always better (I'm a geek, what did ya expect?).


With the rebate, the price is excellent. It's quite a bang for the buck.



Team A.I.

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I've used my Vista for 15 months and around 600 cache finds. Works great; the software upgrades continue to make the Vista an even better tool.


I use the electronic compass and barometric altimeter very often. After you have used the altimeter a few times, you will know the elevation of your home or regular starting point and can manually calibrate the altimeter before setting out, if necessary. Remember that rapidly changing weather systems will affect the accuracy of the altimeter, so do leave it on "auto-calibrate." You can also compare the barometric elevation to the gps elevation easily ... they typically indicate within 25 feet on my Vista.


Other suggestions:


Invest in the power cord ($14.95 from the gpsgeek on eBay) for the car; save your batteries for the hike.


Leave WAAS disabled most of the time; use it mostly for placing caches. WAAS doesn't really help much when searching for caches, and it eats batteries. It also causes the Vista to update slower.


Incidentally, Mr. McGarrett, is "Mr." a title or an honorific? icon_wink.gif

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don't forget the windshield suction mount as a MUST HAVE accessory. Bottom line, you are limited to where you can place the dash mount, and it isn't always in the best position for driving vision or the occasional glance to the unit when commuting. With the windshield mount, you can place it anywhere, not only to obtain the greatest sat signal (won't work as well for you metalized window people), but you can locate it within your direct eyesight but out of the way as not to obstruct your view of the road.


I have mine placed in what would otherwise be a vision blindspot anyways, about 5" below eye level, and it's perfect in that place for me to grab a peek while I'm moving and not cause issues.



Team A.I.

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I mount mine near the front of the driver's side window, nearly in line with the side view mirror. Reception is good and I can glance at it periodically in a similar to manner checking the mirror. I rarely drive without it. The more I use it, the easier and more natural it becomes.

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icon_biggrin.gif Absolutely a Vista fan ... had mine since they were first available. Have had it in some of the God awful spots in the world ... from the mountains and valleys of South America to mainland China ... never had a problem ... till now ... a display problem. So for about $150 sending back to Garmin for a rebirth. Can't do without it. I did however just purchase it's big brother ... the 76S. Something I've wanted since last year. I LOVE IT TOO. The reception is much faster and cleaner than my little vista under tree cover ... but it is bigger. So ... I'll keep using the vista for travel and backpacking but probably use the 76S more for geocaching and some traveling.



Co-founder of the "NC/VA GEO-HOG ASSOCIATION"

... when you absolutely have to find it first!

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