GPS technology has come a long way over the last few years, making it virtually impossible to get lost whether you're driving, boating, or flying. Now, Garmin takes it another step further with its latest offering, the eTrex Summit. Dubbed the hiking companion, this little device is just that. The next time somebody tells you to take a hike, bring the eTrex Summit along with you.
Built like its predecessor the eTrex, the Garmin eTrex Summit is for the outdoor types. Weighing a mere 5.3 ounces, the device features a 12-channel GPS receiver, an electronic compass, and a barometric altimeter. Adding to the Summit's sleek design is a built-in antenna and a large (2.1 by 1.1 inches), backlit display, which you can view in any light just by adjusting the contrast. However, we noticed that the battery life decreases significantly when the eTrex Summit is in backlit mode, although you can set a timer to avoid overuse and save power.
The eTrex Summit can store up to 500 waypoints, including 29 different icons to mark coordinates, so handheld navigation is a snap. The Garmin automatically creates track logs as you navigate, storing vital information such as position, elevation, and time. You can store up to 10 tracks, then use them to TrackBack (follow your exact trail back to your starting point or any other marked point along the way). You can also create routes on your PC with the optional MapSource software, then upload them to the eTrex Summit. The unit automatically guides you from point to point until you've reached your final destination.
There's more. Not only is the eTrex Summit waterproof, it includes a trip and elevation computer that provides statistics such as current and average speed, trip time and distance, current and total elevation rate, and total and average rate of ascent and descent. You can even get the time of sunrise and sunset at your present location. Every aspect of your hike is logged for current and future use.
Once you've calibrated, planned your route, and strapped on your backpack, you're ready to hit the trail. You can easily access all of the eTrex Summit's features via the five multifunction buttons located on either side of the unit.
You can scroll through five main pages to get imperative GPS information, including satellite, map, pointer, elevation, and menu screens. Through these pages, you can see the unit locking on to the satellite signals and their strength; the process usually requires between 15 to 35 seconds. The map page indicates where you are and where you've been, and you'll be able to view your location accuracy in feet. You can also set your course or change the display to show data such as speed, while the elevation page includes the option of altering a profile over different periods of time, tracking pressure changes, and viewing waypoints over the shifting profile. This comes in handy when planning the uphill/downhill activity of a hike.
All and all, it's hard to find fault with this unit. However, we would have given this product an Editors' Choice if it had built-in maps that displayed known trails and navigation points. We also would have liked an audible low-battery warning. But despite these minor flaws, the eTrex Summit truly is a worthy hiking companion.