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  1. #1
    Air
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    The Garmin eTrex Vista Thread

    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:

    General:
    - 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
    - Metroguide
    - 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.


    Pros:
    - 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.

    Cons:
    - 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.


    Wishlist:
    - 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.
    Last edited by Air; 01-31-08 at 10:46 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member socalrider's Avatar
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    The basemaps are pretty useless. I bought my Etrex Vista HCX a week ago, so I am still figuring all the little details out.. The person I spoke to at REI was very helpful with the extra maps...

    The topo maps also comes with all the detailed street maps for entire usa.. This is what I bought because I wanted to have trail maps for MTB rides and street maps for road riding / touring..

    The city navigator NT has a ridiculous amount of POI and will even give you all the starbucks in the usa.. This was detail I felt I did not need..

    I also went with the 2gb card to save all my rides. I have been using duracell nimh and have been getting good runtimes, better than my garmin 305..

    what I find strange is that it does track a bit north of my location, about 50-100 feet off, but when I upload the gpx file to motionbased, the gps tracks spot on based on there maps..

    Thanks for all the links above..

  3. #3
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    The screen is way too small on the Vista to be useful for mapping IMHO. It 60 and 76 series have a screen size that is barely usable. I'd like to see a larger screen than on the 60 and 76 series.



    Another useful link is www.geodude.nl. They have free software that will allow routing of Metroguide mpas for all of those that still have the old Metroguide maps.
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

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  4. #4
    Slow and Steady ClanLee's Avatar
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    Air,

    Thanks for the links.

    Quote Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
    The screen is way too small on the Vista to be useful for mapping IMHO. It 60 and 76 series have a screen size that is barely usable. I'd like to see a larger screen than on the 60 and 76 series. Another useful link is www.geodude.nl. They have free software that will allow routing of Metroguide mpas for all of those that still have the old Metroguide maps.
    I disagree, I have the Vista Cx and I find that mapping feature very useful (in the small screen). Granted, you can't look at it too closely riding at 10+ mph, but if you stop and take a look, it's more than adequate.

  5. #5
    Air
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    Sure thing!

    Few questions for current users:

    - Every day I use it it saves a track log to the 2G card. If I don't actually hit 'Save' I can't seem to bring those tracking points back up. Am I doing something wrong or if you don't save them they're gone (say if you clear it)? They're still listed on the card though which is weird; just can't figure out a way of retrieving them.

    - Is there an easy way to show and hide groups of POIs? Say I want to see all gas stations that I have loaded in as POI data. Right now it seems I have to show ALL my POIs in order to find gas stations instead of just saying, "Show Gas Stations."

    - There are a few different ways to determine 'North' - true, magnetic, etc... What do you guys have it set to?

    Thanks!

  6. #6
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    I traveled all over Italy approx. 400 miles (2 weeks) and did not loose any trackpoints on my 76C. Though the GPS is 99% full. What do you have your interval set to on the trackpoint settings? What is the record method set to?

    You should be able to use Mapsource to download a view the tracks. There is other software too but you should have MapSource. Google Earth Plus should read tracks or you can use G7ToWin and import the data from the GPX file into regular Google Earth


    Set the GPS to magnetic. That way you can use it along with a compass. But unless you go off road, it really does not matter.
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

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  7. #7
    Air
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    Quote Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
    I traveled all over Italy approx. 400 miles (2 weeks) and did not loose any trackpoints on my 76C. Though the GPS is 99% full. What do you have your interval set to on the trackpoint settings? What is the record method set to?
    It's not the individual points - it's the entire track. I set the trackpoints between More Often and Most Often. Say I rode around, then cleared the memory (resetting my speed, odometer, etc... to 0 ). If I go to Menu-->Tracks-->Setup-->Data Card Setup there's a list of recorded track data by date. How does one go back and retrieve those? I realize that if I hit Save then I can recall it easily; but if I didn't (since there's just 20 you can save) how can I retrieve these track logs? I didn't see them in Mapsource, I tried downloading it (in storage device mode) but they won't open up in MapSource. [Edit - sorry, I can bring them back up in Mapsource but looking to recall it on the actual unit]

    Also, how can I retrieve Trip Computer data from trips past?


    Quote Originally Posted by .
    Set the GPS to magnetic. That way you can use it along with a compass. But unless you go off road, it really does not matter.
    Cool - I thought so but wasn't sure.

    Thanks!
    Last edited by Air; 01-15-08 at 03:25 PM.

  8. #8
    d_D
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    Stick the garmin in USB mass storage mode (setup -> interface on my venture) and it will behave like a card reader allowing you to get at the files on the sd card. Or just take the sd card out and stick it in a card reader.

  9. #9
    Air
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    But there's no way of recalling them on the actual unit?

  10. #10
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Air View Post
    It's not the individual points - it's the entire track. I set the trackpoints between More Often and Most Often. Say I rode around, then cleared the memory (resetting my speed, odometer, etc... to 0 ). If I go to Menu-->Tracks-->Setup-->Data Card Setup there's a list of recorded track data by date. How does one go back and retrieve those? I realize that if I hit Save then I can recall it easily; but if I didn't (since there's just 20 you can save) how can I retrieve these track logs? I didn't see them in Mapsource, I tried downloading it (in storage device mode) but they won't open up in MapSource. [Edit - sorry, I can bring them back up in Mapsource but looking to recall it on the actual unit]

    Also, how can I retrieve Trip Computer data from trips past?




    Cool - I thought so but wasn't sure.

    Thanks!


    You don't need to have the Tracj Interval set to anything above Normal You are moving pretty slowly there is no need for that much detail I think I might experiment with Less Often or Least Often.


    To view on the device, I think you need to save the current track, select it from the track list and then select Map.
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

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  11. #11
    Air
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    Quote Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
    To view on the device, I think you need to save the current track, select it from the track list and then select Map.
    So if you've already cleared it but forgot to save it then you'd have to bring it into Mapsource, save it as a track and then send it back to the unit? Seems unfortunate that all the data's there but you just-can't-quite-get it.

  12. #12
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    If you cleared without saving then it is gone. You can save the current track right on the GPS (assuming you have not cleared it), no need for Mapsource.
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

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  13. #13
    Thread Killer evblazer's Avatar
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    I have a few questions the Vista as it seems to currently be a decently priced well featured unit. However from a cyclist perpective I don't think I have seen the following answered with enough clarity for my brain at least.
    Does it interfere with HRM say a Polar?
    If you get the autoroute maps can you disable certain streets one by one? Around the big D it isn't just highways and interstates we'd want to avoid.
    Can you get stuff from mapmyride or bikely onto the vista? I think bikely export .GPX

    My wife and I usually go for a sunday ride and she rides before work during the week. Having turn by turn directions nearly failed us again this sunday when we found 6 miles of our route was pretty much closed to bicycle because of construction. Maps (of the 4-5 counties we ride in) would make a good backup but I'd really like a GPS like we have in the car when we do travel.

  14. #14
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by evblazer View Post
    I have a few questions the Vista as it seems to currently be a decently priced well featured unit. However from a cyclist perpective I don't think I have seen the following answered with enough clarity for my brain at least.
    Does it interfere with HRM say a Polar?
    Maybe, maybe not. My GPS would interfere with my wireless computer but only if you placed them next to one another. If you wear the HRM receiver, on your wrist then you should not have a problem. But you really need to nest it to be sure.

    Quote Originally Posted by evblazer View Post
    If you get the autoroute maps can you disable certain streets one by one? Around the big D it isn't just highways and interstates we'd want to avoid.
    Easy to do on the computer but not so easy on GPS. You can select bicycle mode which may or may not avoid some of the roads you want to avoid. Sometimes, it does too good of a job taking you far out of your way to avoid a road it "thinks" is busy when it may not be that bad a road after all.

    Quote Originally Posted by evblazer View Post
    Can you get stuff from mapmyride or bikely onto the vista? I think bikely export .GPX

    You could but I am not sure you would want to. Services like this download in trackpoints. Very detailed if there is no road but a waste of GPS memory if there is a road. You would be best to view the route on GPS then plot it as a route in Mapsource and download that to your GPS. The advantage is that you could add waypoints (water sources, lunch stops, restaurants, hotels etc.)



    Quote Originally Posted by evblazer View Post
    My wife and I usually go for a sunday ride and she rides before work during the week. Having turn by turn directions nearly failed us again this sunday when we found 6 miles of our route was pretty much closed to bicycle because of construction. Maps (of the 4-5 counties we ride in) would make a good backup but I'd really like a GPS like we have in the car when we do travel.
    Not too much you are going to do anything about that for the bike. What you can dop is to look at the GPS and figure another way around. A larger paper map will help to make that job easier.
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

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  15. #15
    Craig A. Lebowitz lebowitz's Avatar
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    How about the mount that Garmin sells? I heard in several places that the Vista Hcx does not work with the mount and in others that it will work (one mentioning a small modification).

    Any experiences to share? I think putting it on the handlebars would make it a lot more useful

  16. #16
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    I can't speak to the Etrex but Garmin's mount for GpsMap 76 for the handle bars is pretty cheap. The clips on mine broke on tour last year and I had to fix it with a small bungy. I can see where it can be easily destroyed all together.

    You might be better off with a Ram Mount a little more expensive but looks like it would save on handlebar "real estate". The 76 is fairly wide and the Garmin mount, mounts it pretty much flush to the bar.
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

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  17. #17
    GeoBiker / Mapper gps_dr's Avatar
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    The little clip supplied with the Etrex color units slides into the Garmin mounts.
    I've used Garmin mounts before - They aren't designed to be hit by anything.
    I currently use Ram-mounts on my mountain bike - lifetime warranty -
    cradles for almost anything so I can use different units easily.

    Regarding the eTrex shutting off with 2/3 life left - You probably did not tell the GPS what type of battery you are using it with.

    I prefer a larger screen as on the 60, 76 or Colorado units.
    Have a Colorado 400t on order from Garmin with a heart rate monitor.
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    http://Geobiking.org Network >2,000 miles Colorado Front Range GPS enabled bicycle trails. GPS map overlays & data, pics, info etc.

  18. #18
    Air
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    Quote Originally Posted by lebowitz View Post
    How about the mount that Garmin sells? I heard in several places that the Vista Hcx does not work with the mount and in others that it will work (one mentioning a small modification).
    No, that's the result of crappy directions and lazy end users.

    There's a belt clip that screws onto the back of the Vista. THAT clip then clips into the bike/car mounts.

    The bike mount comes with an alternative battery pack for a few other models but you'll find it doesn't fit the Vista HCx. It's useless for that model but probably not for others. So people try to file a small divit to make room for it.

    In terms of it breaking off I have the lanyard tied around my handlebars *just in case* the mount breaks. It's a semi heavy unit so I could see it breaking at some point - but then again most plastic will after time. You could just throw it in your bag though if you're just concerned with tracking (navigation wouldn't be as useful though). Yay for the better antenna

  19. #19
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Air View Post
    No, that's the result of crappy directions and lazy end users.



    In terms of it breaking off I have the lanyard tied around my handlebars *just in case* the mount breaks. It's a semi heavy unit so I could see it breaking at some point - but then again most plastic will after time. You could just throw it in your bag though if you're just concerned with tracking (navigation wouldn't be as useful though). Yay for the better antenna
    My 76 has gone flying across the road a couple of times, because I did not clip it in properly. ,

    Now that my clip is broken I bungee it down so I doubt it will go anywhere no matter what.
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

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  20. #20
    urban biker
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    Quote Originally Posted by evblazer View Post
    I have a few questions the Vista as it seems to currently be a decently priced well featured unit. However from a cyclist perpective I don't think I have seen the following answered with enough clarity for my brain at least.
    Does it interfere with HRM say a Polar?
    No interference. I use the Polar on the right side and the Vista on the left and I've never had a problem

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    I know bumping a thread from a really long time ago is dumb but I'm having an annoying problem with routing on my HCx.

    Whenever I try to tell my Vista HCx to go to Newport RI from Ipswich MA it keeps telling me to take this incredibly roundabout route that is about 100 miles longer than it should be that winds through New Hampshire. What the hell is that about? I have routing set to "Bicycle" with it set to avoid highways, unpaved roads, and toll roads. Why is it dead set on making me go another 80 miles I don't need to?
    Last edited by monsieuroctagon; 06-27-09 at 07:43 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by monsieuroctagon View Post
    I know bumping a thread from a really long time ago is dumb but I'm having an annoying problem with routing on my HCx.

    Whenever I try to tell my Vista HCx to go to Newport RI from Ipswich MA it keeps telling me to take this incredibly roundabout route that is about 100 miles longer than it should be that winds through New Hampshire. What the hell is that about? I have routing set to "Bicycle" with it set to avoid highways, unpaved roads, and toll roads. Why is it dead set on making me go another 80 miles I don't need to?
    Probably because of all the roads you told it to avoid. Try "shorter distance" in the preferences.

    As an aside, wrt the mount breaking: I notice the mount has some sloppiness when clipped in. I added a couple layers of electrical tape on the inside of the handlebar mount. The Vista takes a little more effort to slide on, but it certainly feels more secure. I don't know if this sloppiness is contributing to the breakage people are speaking of, but it's worth a try. Also, I too, use the lanyard as a "safety" should the unspeakable happens.

  23. #23
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    Bad news - it got dropped today and the screen is ruined. I was riding along and that damn handlebar mount snapped. Now, I thought it'd be fine what with the lanyard I kept on it, but the super-weak plastic piece that the lanyard loops through didn't do a thing and just snapped instantly. It got thrown to the ground and the screen had two ominous purple scars across it suddenly.

    Now I'm not sure what to do. Garmin says that they don't accept auctioned items, but I got this new on ebay from someone who was selling 10 at a time. The unit itself came in a sealed baggie. If they're going to refuse to repair it, what can I expect to pay to get it fixed?

  24. #24
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    I am on the verge of purchasing an ETREX for navigation and touring. One huge obstacle is that routes are limited to a mere 50 waypoints!!

    I created a simple short distance route through Trimble Outdoors new google mapping program online through Bicycling.com. It was way over 100 waypoints.

    Anyone else run into this issue? Can't seem to get any info anywhere.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by ssava View Post
    I am on the verge of purchasing an ETREX for navigation and touring. One huge obstacle is that routes are limited to a mere 50 waypoints!!

    I created a simple short distance route through Trimble Outdoors new google mapping program online through Bicycling.com. It was way over 100 waypoints.

    Anyone else run into this issue? Can't seem to get any info anywhere.
    It's a Garmin thing. All you can do is break it up into smaller routes upload them to the eTrex, and load them one at a time. Just finished doing that a few minutes ago for a brevet this weekend.

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