Monday, April 22, 2013

My Experience Using Garmin eTrex 20

I bought a Garmin after a long wait for the right price. Two to three years back, I asked at Low Yat Plaza in Kuala Lumpur for a Garmin hand-held GPS. No, they didn't sell hand held GPS unit. What they had were for the roads.

When the latest Garmin models in the eTrex series 10, 20 and 30 came out and the prices look right, I decided to get one from Singapore. It was a waste of time trying to get it in Kuala Lumpur.

My intention of getting a GPS was to help me with my poor navigation skills. I get lost easily. I thought a GPS unit would help me navigate around any location and I was sure I could rely on Malsingmaps for my mapping needs.

After I got the eTrex 20 on 28 February 2012, I was disappointed because I could not find the maps I needed. On Malsingmaps, eTrex 20 was not listed as being compatible with its maps.

I had to create my own maps. There were tutorials on how to create maps but they were too complicated for me. However, I found an article on how to create Google Earth kml and kmz maps. Unfortunately, the partial Chengdu maps I created could not display on my eTrex 20. It was a failure and I put the eTrex 20 away.

Two months before my vacation to Sichuan, I did another search on the internet to look for maps and help on using eTrex 20. I was hoping that after a few months' hiatus, there would be maps for eTrex 20 that I needed on the web. Thanks to Almost A Technocrat blog, I found OpenStreetMap. Finally, I found a site that provides free img maps for Garmin, including Chengdu. Everything was great.

Customised Google Earth kmz map and OSM img map on the screen
Motivated, I continued trolling the web for more maps. I found and downloaded MalaysiaFreeMaps which was referenced by the same blogger and Malsingmaps and both maps displayed nicely on the eTrex 20.

A post from Almost A Technocrat
For the first time, I have a few working maps I needed on my eTrex 20. This motivated me to play around with my eTrex 20 and my skills in using it kept improving day by day.

The newer Garmin models like eTrex 20 allow for multiple maps to be installed
When I brought the eTrex 20 to Chengdu, I had actually not mastered the device yet for navigation. I tested out eTrex 20 on the street of Chengdu on my way back to Traffic Inn from People's Park on 23 October 2012. I deliberately strolled around Chengdu to get myself lost and to use eTrex 20 to find my direction back. I made it! It was not that difficult because the route shown on the GPS screen would continuously change and display the updated directions to my destination. I only needed to follow the directions.

On 26 October 2012, on the bus ride back to Chengdu from Huanglongxi Ancient Town, the unit was turned on as usual and kept in my pouch to map out the track from Huanglongxi to Chengdu. When the bus was in Chengdu but before arriving at Xinnanmen Bus Station, I found that the unit had turned off. Strange! The batteries would usually power the unit for a day. I thought it had run out of power this time. I changed the batteries. It turned on momentarily and then went blank. I tried and tried and it still failed. Just as I had learnt to use it and finding it so useful, it gave up on me.

On 29 October 2012, half way through the journey from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou, I took out my Garmin from my pouch and turned it on, hoping it would work again. It did.

Since then, I found the unit working at times and failing to work properly at other times.