Garmin eTrex Vista C

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Garmin eTrex Vista C

The Garmin eTrex Vista C is such an impressive GPS receiver, you may start planning trips, just so you can use it. It not only has better-than-normal navigation accuracy with its built-in altimeter and compass, but it's also made to function under any conditions you might face. With an operating temperature range of 5°F to 158°F, and a waterproof case, it can take the summer heat or winter cold equally well.

If you ever want to measure your speed or distance vertically instead of just horizontally, you'll be glad the Garmin eTrex Vista C has a barometric altimeter. The altimeter gives elevation measurements with about half the error produced by using GPS. And with the Altimeter Page screen display, there's more to see than just your elevation. You can plot elevation changes over distance or time, or air pressure changes over time. Your rate of ascent/descent is also shown and there are two data fields to show additional information of your choice.

Although the electronic compass may not always be more accurate than using GPS to determine headings, it's always ready with a reading. Since GPS can't show your direction unless you're moving, the compass built into the eTrex Vista C solves this basic problem. So whether you're moving or standing still, the Compass Page display can show both your present heading and the direction to your destination. You also have a choice for displaying three or four data fields with user-selected information.

For the impatient types who want to use the Garmin eTrex Vista C right out of the box, it comes with a general features basemap (North and South America for the U.S. version). With its automatic routing ability, once you pick starting and ending locations, it calculates the path to your destination. While the basemap is good for getting from city to city or out to a river or lake, there's 24 MB of available memory for storing more detailed maps. You have a choice of adding city, fishing and marine, topographic, and world maps. Included with the receiver is an interface cable to make the map data transfer from a PC.

On the Map Page display, is shown your location, the route to your destination and up to four optional data fields. The map scale for the eTrex Vista C is adjustable, to show just the area and amount of detail you want. There's also pan control to let you see what's further ahead. Optional driving instructions can be displayed at the top of the screen just for following a route, or all the time.

To make sure you don't miss any map details, the Garmin eTrex Vista C has a 256-color LCD screen. The 1.3" W x 1.7" H (2.0" diagonally), display has adjustable backlighting to handle any light situation. And the color scheme may be changed to have different colors for day and night.

Most of the time, the receiver's regular accuracy of under 15 meters is all you need. But the eTrex Vista C is Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) enabled to produce position readings accurate to within three meters. And if you want an estimate of the current position error, you can check the Satellite Page. It shows an image of the relative locations for the GPS satellites being tracked, their signal strengths, and your location coordinates along with the error estimate.

Even though the Garmin eTrex Vista C has to supply power to three instruments and the display, it's not a battery hog. The two AA batteries (about the only things not included with the receiver) can last up to 20 hours of normal use. And no battery power is required to save the up to 500 waypoints with name and symbol, 50 reversible routes and 20 tracks. But if you get hooked on any of its six video games, carry extra batteries.