The Garmin eTrex 30 is the top of the line model in the new eTrex series, which brings a long-awaited update to this popular line. It offers paperless geocaching, new customization options and BirdsEye aerial imagery capability.
I’ll get into all the details in a moment, but first let’s look at what separates the eTrex 30 from the other models in the series…
- Drop down to the eTrex 20 and you’ll lose the 30’s tri-axial electronic compass, barometric altimeter, wireless data sharing and Garmin chirp compatibility
- The entry level eTrex 10 has a monochrome screen and no ability to add maps
- To see how the eTrex 30 stacks up against other models, check out my Garmin handheld GPS comparison chart
Garmin eTrex 30 hardware
There are six buttons on the eTrex, three on the left, two on the right and one on the front (see image at top of page):
- Zoom in and zoom out buttons – These are on the left and can also be used to navigate menu lists a page at a time
- Menu button – (Also on the left side) Brings up a context sensitive menu; double-tap to access the main menu; press and hold to bring up the Find menu
- Back – On the right side; moves you back a step in the menu structure
- Power/Light – (Also on the right side) A short tap brings brings up a screen with date/time, battery and GPS status; additional short taps toggle between 0, 50 and 100% backlight; press and hold to power down
- Thumb stick – Located on the front of the device, you can toggle it side to side or up and down to navigate menus and pan the map; press down to enter a menu command or select a map point; press and hold to mark a waypoint
The eTrex 30 has a bright but small display that is easily visible in sunlight or with the backlight engaged.
Garmin eTrex 30 interface
When you power up the eTrex 30, you’re taken to the Main Menu (below at left). You can change the order of items by pressing the menu button. If you select another screen (e.g., map) and then press the menu button, you’ll find a context-sensitive menu (shown below at right).
The one item found on the new eTrex series missing from all other Garmin units is the ability to use GLONASS as well as GPS satellites. There is an option to use GPS only, but no option for GLONASS only. Theoretically, GLONASS will improve accuracy. This may be especially true at northerly latitudes and in urban (and natural) canyons. I’ll talk about this a bit more in the performance section of this review.
More new features for the eTrex series
Many of the features found on higher-end Garmin handhelds are now available on the eTrex 30. These include…
Garmin custom maps
Now that we have BirdsEye Topo, there isn’t as much need for custom maps, but hey, you can put a PDF park map on your eTrex, and that’s pretty sweet.
The Calendar displays dates when waypoints and tracks are saved, and it also displays geocaches that you’ve logged.
Profiles allow you to save different groups of settings; you can have one for geocaching, one for mountain biking, one for road riding, etc. These are discussed more below under “Customizing the Garmin eTrex 30.”
More eTrex 30 features of note
Route, Track and Waypoint management
The eTrex 30 has excellent route, track and waypoint management tools, including:
- Waypoints – The ability to project a waypoint, average location, set proximity alerts, and to reposition a waypoint at your current location
- Tracks – You can choose to hide or show multiple tracks on the map, view an elevation plot, and give them a custom color (17 colors are available); the color of the active track may also be changed
- Routes – You can view a map of the entire route, edit the route, reverse it and view an elevation plot