Garmin eTrex Touch

Garmin has brought touchscreens to the eTrex line with the eTrex Touch 25, 25, and 35t. All three units have the same color screen, 1.43 x 2.15 inches (160x240 pixels), which is slightly smaller than the Oregon 600. The smaller screen is appropriate for the smaller size and lighter weight of the eTrex series. This is the same size screen used on the non-touch GPSMAP 64 series, by the way.

I have to be upfront here- I've never been a fan of the eTrex user interface- I've always preferred the interface on the non-touch units, such as the current 64 series. But I admit that I like the touch screen and the interface on the Oregon 600 series. In their favor, the eTrex units are the lightest trail GPS receivers from Garmin and they do everything that's essential in a trail GPS, so if you're a serious backpacker where weight is a concern, they're worth a close look.

All three eTrex Touch receivers weigh 5.6 ounces, have up to 16 hour battery life, use field-replaceable AA batteries, meet the IPX7 waterproof standard, have high-sensitivity receiver chips that receive GLONASS satellites as well as GPS, have a standard mini-USB interface, preloaded base maps, the ability to add both Garmin and custom maps, a microSD card slot to expand storage, built in storage for more track points, waypoints, and routes than you'll ever use, paperless geocaching, preloaded geocaches from, and a tilt-compensated electronic compass.

I should note that this is the first time that the low-end unit in any Garmin trail GPS line has included an electronic compass. I appluade Garmin for doing so, because I think the compass screen on trail GPS receivers is a major source of confusion for users. Without an electronic compass, the compass screen can only show directions correctly while you are moving, because it's actually not a compass. The GPS receiver uses successive position fixes to determine the direction you're traveling, then aligns the compass screen. When you're stopped, the compass screen is meaningless. But it's all too easy to forget this, especially in the stress of a backcountry situation such as trying to find your vehicle as darkness falls. (There should be a warning flag across the screen in this situation, as in aircraft instruments.) The electronic compass in all the eTrex Touch units, and most other GPS receivers currently on the market, detects the Earth's magnetic field just like a traditional handheld compass. This means that it always displays correct bearings even when you're stopped.

The eTrex Touch 35 and 35t add a barometric altimeter, which is much more accurate than GPS altitude if periodically set to known elevation or pressure.

Finally, the 35t adds preloaded Garmin 100K topo maps.

However, unless weight is your primary concern, I still recommend the Oregon 600 over the eTrex Touch. The eTrex Touch 35 is 1.8 ounces lighter than the Oregon 600, but the Oregon has a larger screen, 1.5x2.5 inches, as opposed to the 1.43x2.15-inch screen on the eTrex Touch. And on touch screen devices, screen size makes a big difference. The price for either unit on Amazon is the same, at the moment.

If screen size is your primary concern, the largest screens are found on the Garmin Montana and Monterra models, but you'll pay serious weight and cost penalties- these units are twice the weight of the eTrex Touch series and the Monterra is more than twice the price.

Of the three eTrex Touch models, I recommend the eTrex Touch 35. Since you can add custom maps, you can easily install free and open-source maps from sites such as The site includes US state collections of 1:24000 topo maps updated for trails and recreation sites, hunting unit maps, land ownership maps, world maps, and much more.