I know a bunch of people are using the handhelds for their bikes and touring, thought it might be useful to pull all questions in one place for this one.
Some Resources for those looking:
- The 'x' for all Garmins denotes the ability to have a removable memory card - HIGHLY recommended. Get the 2G.
- The basemaps are crap - plan on getting either the Topo, the City Navigator, or a shareware version (below)
- http://www8.garmin.com/manuals/eTrex...nersManual.pdf - HCx Manual
- http://www8.garmin.com/manuals/eTrex...nersManual.pdf - Cx Manual, much more detailed than the HCx and covers the same material.
- http://www.gpsinformation.org/dale/secret.htm - Secret startup sequences...use with caution!
- http://www.nfinity.com/~exile/howhigh.htm - How to determine your altitude using the barometer for calibration
- http://freegeographytools.com/2007/g...sd-card-tricks - Some simple tricks
- New firmware was released in December - you'll want to download that if you've gotten one in the last 6 months.
Discussions and threads on other forums devoted to the Garmin HCx (I know, bad form but useful information):
- https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?cID=145 - Comparison of Garmin products by Garmin
- http://forums.groundspeak.com/GC/ind...owtopic=168173 - Good Review
- http://ksguy.com/geo/07rv.html - Another great review.
- http://gpsinformation.biz/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=4872 - Odometer not accurate
- http://forums.groundspeak.com/GC/ind...owtopic=178214 - known bug while tracking under 2.2 mph
- http://forums.groundspeak.com/GC/ind...owtopic=170878 - more on the under 2.2 mph tracking bug
- http://gpsinformation.biz/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=1672 - Nroute questions (using the GPS with your laptop for real time navigation)
Open Map/Shareware Sources:
- http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/index.php/Mkgmap - Converting OpenStreetMap data into a map readable by Garmin. Links to OpenStreetMap included
- http://gpstracklog.typepad.com/gps_t...tutorial-.html - Creating your own maps
- http://www.geopainting.com/en/ - Geopainting; create your own maps
- http://www.smellybiker.com/maps/ - Wanderlust Opensource world map
- http://freegeographytools.com/2007/c...rmin-gps-units - Wanderlust Worldmap (another opensource map).
- http://freegeographytools.com/2007/a...s-to-mapsource - Importing .img Map Files to Mapsource
Point of Interest (POI) data and converters:
- http://www.geotourguide.com/node/98 - Talks about Garmin's POI Loader
- http://www.gpsinformation.org/penrod...poiloader.html - Intro to Garmin's POI Loader but
- http://forums.groundspeak.com/GC/lof...p?t124504.html - Using GPXTOPOI to convert .gpx files to .csv and back.
- http://www.masterclass.com/gpxtopoi/download/ - GPXtoPOI converter
- http://www.gps-data-team.com/gps-poi-GPX.php - Read tracks and wapoints with Google Maps
- http://garmin.gps-data-team.com/ - POI data
Just got mine for Christmas. Out of the box not too difficult to do some simple things with (hey look - there's a map and there I am!). Was able to tell where I was inside the house with no windows in site. The basemaps are crap so you'll have to install other maps (see above for alternatives). I learned a LOT more by reading the CX (not HCx) manual so I'd recommend that.
First time I tried it was on a train and it did pretty good in following the train tracks on the basemap while on the train.
In the city there are some definite flubs. The buildings are notorious for bending the signal - when I looked at the tracks there were some points that were a few hundred feet away (one was 15 blocks!) then came right back to where it was. In the Mapsource software you can delete some track points to clean up your route which I found useful.
Reading other reviews many people notice a significant performance jump in terms of the high sensitive receiver on this unit. I haven't compared so I'm not sure but I couldn't imagine a worse reception to be useful.
What I have:
- Garmin eTrex Vista HCx
- Foarm Military grade carrying case - for when I throw it in my bag
- Bike Mount (Note - you only need the mount, not the extra battery back. The belt clip doubles for what clips onto the mount. Yeah, it would be nice if they said that a bit more prominently).
- Waterproof floating case for when I go kayaking (the unit does NOT float by itself but is waterproof for up to 3 feet)
- Topo maps (they're OK. I agree with one reviewer who wished Garmin outsourced their software because it's all pretty crappy). They are cheaper though than the navigator and have most city roads. For NYC I haven't seen any trails though - was hoping some of the bike trails would be on it. It also has the tide data (or you can download it through Garmin) - you have to load it like a POI though is also clunky to use.
- 2G card.
- For me it's perfect for biking and navigating which is what I wanted it for.
- Very close to what my bike computer says (I run both). I'm not that concerned if I've gone 30.2 miles vs 29.9 though so that may be a sticking point with some people. Also altitude can throw it off (a steep incline has little horizontal movement).
- Very bright and sharp screen (though that sucks battery life).
- Works in a bag.
- 'Light' If you have a CF bike and don't like to carry tubes because of the weight you wouldn't be thrilled with this.
- Most data fields on the unit can be edited - great for a custom experience if you need certain data sometimes but not others.
- Sometimes tracks in weird ways; some points can be a few hundred feet off. I read reviews about being off by 30 feet and I wish it was off by that little at times. That probably has more to do with the skyscrapers in the city rather than the unit to be fair. It may also be the Topo maps, sometimes going up one road it thinks it's halfway between two other blocks so the map may be off rather than the GPS data. I haven't gotten close to 'lost' because of that though.
- Battery life indicator misleading. I'd leave and it would say 2/3rds of life but as soon as it started tracking it shut off. New batteries fixed that but if I'm doing a century ride I'll probably put in fresh batteries. Looks like I may get some rechargeables (it has a setting to adjust to the type of battery input). This guy measured the draw for certain configurations, great read.
- Software is super clunky. You can't install it anywhere except for C:\ which is so outdated it's embarrassing.
- Electronic compass not that accurate if you're near metal.
- The Barometer is very dependent on weather so if the pressure changes while you're riding the altitude will be thrown off - not useful if you're depending on it. Needs to be calibrated each time you use it so make sure you know your altitude starting off.
- I wish I could tell it to stop recording under a certain speed. Say under 5 mph for when I'm just walking the bike to a banister. If you're standing still it thinks you're jumping around so that can screw with your data.
- The software has me hitting my head against a wall - especially after using Google Maps for a few years now. It's a bit behind Mapquest when it first came out in usability to give you an idea.