How to Use an eTrex GPS

Written by mike frees
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How to Use an eTrex GPS
Your Garmin eTrex will help you find your way in the wilderness. (ecran de gps image by cris13 from

The Garmin eTrex series of GPS receivers is designed for off-road use while hiking, camping, hunting and exploring wilderness areas. Garmin eTrex models range from inexpensive basic receivers suitable for storing waypoints and point-to-point navigation, to more sophisticated versions with built-in topographic maps, colour screens and expansion capabilities for additional maps and features. This article will teach you the basic functions common to all models.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Garmin eTrex GPS receiver with installed batteries

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  1. 1

    Go outdoors into an area with a clear view of the sky and turn on the eTrex GPS. A welcome screen will appear, followed by the SkyView page, which will indicate that the receiver is searching for satellite signals. This process make take several minutes when the unit is first turned on in a new area; after that it should lock onto the signals within a minute. A “Ready to Navigate” message will appear when a minimum of three satellites are being tracked.

  2. 2

    Start by marking your current location as your first waypoint. You would typically do this at a trailhead before starting a hike, or at a dock before casting off in a boat. Press and hold the "Enter" key to open the Mark Waypoint page. Select "OK" and press "Enter" to accept the waypoint. If you wish, you may edit the name of the waypoint, giving it a meaningful name such as “Camp,” “Dock,” “Car,” etc. You may also change the symbol given to the waypoint, selecting a symbol such as a tent, house, car, etc. Mark additional waypoints as you travel to indicate points of interest, in case you want to return to them later.

  3. 3

    Add additional waypoints either by entering the latitude and longitude position directly in the Mark Waypoint page, or by downloading waypoints from a computer. This is particularly useful for geocaching, a popular worldwide activity that uses a GPS device to locate hidden “caches” in interesting locations. For more information on geocaching, check out the Geocaching website. (See Resources.)

  4. 4

    Instruct the eTrex to guide you to one of your stored waypoints by pressing the "Page" button to switch to the menu page; select "Waypoints" and press "Enter." Select the waypoint you wish to go to and press "Enter." Then select "GoTo" and press "Enter" again. The screen will switch to the Pointer page, a compass rose with an arrow pointing in the direction you should travel to reach your waypoint. Begin moving in the direction indicated by the arrow. When you are moving directly toward the waypoint, the arrow will be pointing directly at the top of the screen. The readout will give you the distance and time to the destination.

  5. 5

    Learn to use the Track Log function of your eTrex. The GPS stores information about the track you are following as you move; you can view this track on the Map page. If you have navigated along a route you may wish to repeat later, you can save the track log by pressing "Page" to reach the menu page, select "Tracks" and press "Enter," then select "Save" and "Enter." You can later select a saved track, then select "TracBack" and press "Enter." The menu will give you the option of following the track from the beginning or the end.

Tips and warnings

  • More advanced models of the eTrex feature magnetic compasses, fully detailed maps, altimeters and geocaching-friendly features. All models support customisation of time zone, units of measure and other preferences. Consult your owner’s manual for complete information. (See Resources for Garmin models and select your specific eTrex.)
  • Never depend solely on your GPS to find your way in the wilderness. Carry a map, food and water, and inform friends or family about where you are going.

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