Garmin Oregon 600

Garmin Oregon 600

A Workable Touchscreen Trail GPS!

While touch screens work well on street GPS receivers, I've always preferred trail receivers with buttons. I've found touch screen trail GPS units to be unresponsive, hard to see in bright sun, and completely unusable with gloves. Marking my current position as a waypoint, which I'm constantly doing as I map trails, is a pain on older touchscreens. In the past I haven't been a believer in touchscreen trail GPS receivers. The new Garmin Oregon 600 is making a dent in that belief.

I just received the new Garmin Oregon 600 touchscreen GPS to test. (I buy test units at retail, by the way.) The 600's screen is bright, sharp and has good contrast, even in bright sun. The screen is made of the same crystal clear hard plastic as the 62 series and new eTrex series, instead of having a fuzzy plastic protective layer like the Oregon 400 series. There's a customizable user button that marks waypoints by default and can programmed to select three different actions when single-clicked, double-clicked, or held. The power button can also be programmed when single or double-clicked. (Holding the power button turns the Oregon on or off.)

Like most Garmin trail GPS receivers, the Oregon 600's screens are very customizable. You can choose from pre-configured "profiles" such as recreational, geocaching, marine, fitness, etc. You can even choose "classic" if you want to make the 600 work like the 400 (yuck). Then you can change individual screens to customize the current profile, and you can create and name new profiles.

The multi-touch screen is snappy and responsive, and quickly changes orientation from portrait to landscape when you rotate the unit. By the way, it will do landscape both ways, but portrait only in the upright position. Pinch-zooming is supported on maps, as is two-fingered rotation. The screen is responsive when wearing thin-ish liner gloves, such as you'd wear in cool conditions or under warmer gloves or mittens on cold conditions. You can't use it with heavy gloves, however.

Like the new eTrex series (10, 20, and 30), the Oregon 400-series uses the Russian GLONASS satellites as well as the FAA's Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS). While this does improve accuracy, the main benefit is having 12 more satellite channels (for a total of 24) that can be received simultaneously. In difficult conditions such as heavy forest or deep canyons, this could mean the difference between having a navigation lock or not. At the moment, I have the Oregon 600, eTrex 30, and 62s running on my desk. Under the wooden roof of my house, which seems to be a pretty good approximation of moderate forest cover, the 62s is locked onto 6 satellites, is not receiving WAAS signals, and claims accuracy of about 40 feet. The eTrex 30 is locked onto 11 GPS satellites, 10 GLONASS satellites, is receiving WAAS, and claims about 30 feet. The Oregon 4600 is receiving 5 GPS satellites, 6 GLONASS satellites, is receiving WAAS, and also claims about 30 feet.

Of course, the Oregon 600 has a tilt-compensated magnetic compass which works when you're standing still, as well as a barometric altimeter. Geocachers will like the fact that the number of paperless geocaching files is limited only by the available memory, which can be expanded with microSD cards.

All right, I will admit that I still like the button interface on the 62 series for its usability in all conditions, but I look forward to putting the Oregon 400 through its paces in the field. If you prefer a touchscreen trail GPS, you will like the Oregon 400.

The Oregon 650 adds a camera and more memory to the 600, while the 600t and 650t add pre-loaded topographic maps. I recommend the models without pre-loaded topo maps because you can get better maps for free from

There are many other new features, especially for track management and for geocachers, than I have space to cover here. Please see the detailed review at GPS Tracklog: for much more information.

Order from Amazon: Garmin Oregon 600 3-Inch Worldwide Handheld GPS



In my initial tests so far, 6 hours on the Oregon 600 drops the battery indicator to one bar, but after the same time my 62s shows four bars. This is using fully charged and fresh NiMH cells, both units set to NiMH batteries, battery save off, WAAS on, and on the Oregon 600, GLONASS on. It's tempting to blame the shorter battery life on the GLONASS receiver, which the 62s doesn't have, but the eTrex 30 has GLONASS as well as WAAS and it's battery life is even better than the 62s.

Further testing has been even more dismaying. After 6 hours under the same test conditions except with battery saver turned on (this causes the display to go blank after a few seconds of non-use. The display is restored by pressing any key.), the 62s still shows 4 bars, or 75 to 100% charge. The Oregon 600, on the other hand, was down to 2 bars, or 25 to 50% charge. This raises serious doubts as to whether to Oregon 600 will last a full day of hiking and track recording. I used the 62s extensively to map trails last winter in Arizona's Superstition Mountains and it showed two to three bars after 10 hours of operation, which included saving waypoints frequently and referring to rhe map screen- a more severe test than just leaving the unit on and undisturbed.

Wondering if the battery charge indicator on the Oregon 600 is showing less charge than actually remains, I ran another test on both units with battery saver off. Starting with freshly charged NiMH batteries, I left both units on overnight. After 10 hours, the Low Battery warning screen was up on the Oregon 600 and the battery indicator was down to zero bars. The 62s still showed two bars. The NiMH cells in the Oregon 600 measured 1.14 v, consistent with fully discharged cells. The 62s measured 1.22 v, consistent with low but not fully discharged state. Hopefully the Oregon 600's short battery life is a firmware issue that will be corrected in the near future. Right now, it's certainly not getting the claimed 16 hours life.

In this test of GPS receivers while geocaching in the rain, the author reports that his Garmin 650 was difficult to use with raindrops on the screen. I'll have to run some tests.