Garmin eTrex or Garmin Foretrex 101?

I’ve gotten serious enough in my kayaking (and 75% of the time I’m solo) that it’s time to spring for a GPS unit & a VHF radio.

My company has a rewards catalogue and I’ve accumulated enough points to get either a Garmin eTrex (the yellow basic version) or a Garmin Foretrex 101 for free basically.

Can anyone shed some light on which is the better option? The Foretrex looks like it can go on your wrist, but that looks like it could be annoying at times.

I don’t need the latest and greatest…I just need something that can clock my speed and that has the track back feature so I can retrace my route and get home if I lose my bearings.


which GPS?

– Last Updated: Jan-23-09 11:10 PM EST –

I've got a Garmin eTrex and have been very happy with it's performance while kayaking, hiking, and driving. It's very basic, but should more than cover the needs you have described.

I do not have any experience with the Foretrex 101, but it seems to have most of the same basic functions of the eTrex in a somewhat smaller package that is wrist mounted.

I would not opt for the Foretrex 101 for several reasons (I bang watches a lot, find the Foretrex 101 too bulky, not suitable for driving, etc.), but that's just my opinion. You might find the Foretrex 101 just the thing for you.

I loop the eTrex lanyard through a bungy and then slip the unit under an adjacent bungy on the front deck of my kayak. This allows my to peek at the GPS while still paddling. You could do this with a wrist mounted GPS, but it would be more difficult in my opinion and annoying to me. Again, just my 2 cents worth, you may disagree.

For driving, I carved out a small foam block to accept the eTrex and prop it up between the dash and windshield. I can plug in the DC adapter and not worry about running down the batteries on the GPS. The eTrex does not have maps or any other fancy features, but it gets the job done for me and has been very versatile.

I've been very pleased with Garmin products so far. They seem well built and fairly rugged. Be warned though that any electronic equipment needs to be handled with some care.

Dan - Question on E-trex use in car
How/for what do you use the E-trex in your car? I am assuming since it has no mapping that it will not do turn by turn directions. Is that correct? If not for that what functions do you use it? I have a similar basic GPS and have not really figured out much use for it in the car.


Get Something Waterproof

I have the eTrex Legend HCx . . .
. . . and use it with a suction cup RAM mount on the foredeck. Works very well. The same RAM mount works in the cars on the windshield.

The basic eTrex will give you speed as well as actual distance you have paddled in addition to you position.

eTrex in the car? - waterproof?
Mark wrote:

How/for what do you use the E-trex in your car? I am assuming since it has no mapping that it will not do turn by turn directions. Is that correct? If not for that what functions do you use it? I have a similar basic GPS and have not really figured out much use for it in the car.

That is correct. I mainly use my eTrex in the car for GeoCaching. Find out more about GeoCaching here:

This means that I have a predetermined location that I have entered into the eTrex. I then just follow the eTrex navigation screen, which points in the direction of my chosen predetermined location and tells me how far away from it I am. If I have the information for other locations, such as river access points, camp grounds, etc., I can use it in the car to help find those locations as well. It could also be handy for the track back feature, which I have only used once while hiking, but you could use it in the car as well. These units, the eTrex and the Foretrex 101, are both very basic GPS units and have a limited use for most people. If you are looking for turn by turn directions, full color maps, or other fancy features; these GPS units are probably not for you. I’m the basic macho guy when it comes to driving directions. I like to use a map, but I will only stop and ask for directions as a last resort. I’ve only had to ask for directions twice in my lifetime. A basic GPS unit like the eTrex suits me just fine whether I’m on the river, the trail, or the highway.

BTW, both of the GPS units discussed here are somewhat water proof ( splash proof? ). I’ve dunked my eTrex several times with no ill effects. True waterproof units will cost a lot more. The way you care for and handle your GPS unit will go a long way towards insuring it’s continued operation.

Both Good Basci Units
I own both and use the 101 while kayaking. I put it on the foredeck bungies as opposed to wearing on wrist. The only negative with the 101 is the rubber plug for the cable socket is not the most secure or waterproof design around. The socket will not let water into the unit, but corrosion can affect data transfers. I like its small size, is easy to read, and provides all the info I want from a GPS unit. For curiosity I enjoy knowing speed and distance on occasion, and it does provide all the info I need when navigating in the fog. The ETrex is fine too as a basic model and the cable connection is more secure and waterproof. Plus it is not a socket so corrosion less of an issue. It is bigger and not as easy to have on foredeck. You can upload and download info with both which I find useful.

I know others really like units that have color and charts, etc.; but I prefer the small, simple approach.

If I paddled on lakes and rivers where finding your way among many inlets, etc. was an issue or wanted a unit for the car; then one of the units with charts would be better.

Two versions of eTrex

– Last Updated: Jan-26-09 11:34 AM EST –

It's a very basic, no frills unit, with good battery life. Own both an old original version and the newer higher sensitivity model - use the second pre-programmed unit as a back up and keep it in a dry bag.

Paddle in freshwater; keep unit mostly off and in a PFD pocket. Ocassionally turn unit on and sneak a peek for a bearing or for distance info.

No problems with water coming over the boat or the ocassional dunking. Have had first unit for about five years.

If you have a choice, get the newer model eTrex; satilite lock on is much quicker with the newer "High Sensitivity" model.


Points vs. $$$
A little off the direct topic, but consider cashing the points and buying from a different source. Not sure if that works for your points, but with mine (from credit cards and hotel stays in the distant past) it works much better this way. The catalogue value of the same product is much higher than the store value. Something that costs $200 in an online store ends-up being $350 worth in points $$$. So instead, I opted to receive gift certificates for my points instead of using the points to get a product directly. The certs for stores like Amazon or Barnes & Noble seemed the best conversion value to me. You can then sell these almost at face value locally (craigslist) or on eBay. Or buy the eTrex or whatever from Amazon.

Sorry, can’t advise on your specific question though…

garmin 78
For kayaking, you need speed and distance on the same screen(takes some screen set up programming) with buttons on front. I love the 78 becuase of big screen. Very reliable, only$100

They don’t make it anymore (instead they do the crappy Forerunner) but the advantages are:

*out of the way on your wrist.


*you can set the screen to whatever you want.

Disadvantages are:

*internal battery that cannot be replaced

*antenna is too small so overcast or trees block the signal.

Still, for the price, I love mine.

And i have a larger back-up in a drypcase and a compass too.

I’d Get the Foretrex 101

– Last Updated: Feb-10-09 3:33 PM EST –

I don't have an Etrex. I was using the Garmin GPS12 (which is larger than the Etrex) when I bought my Foretrex. I love the Foretrex.

For canoeing, I strap it to a thwart. For kayaking, I strap it around my paddle. I do a lot of biking, and I have a handlebar mount. I go snowshoeing frequently, and I mount it around my forearm, almost up to my elbow (on the outside of my jacket).

It comes with a velcro extender. It is accurate, comes with WAAS, and it is nice to have the ability to use regular AAA batteries if desired.

I use rechargeable NiMH batteries, but if you are going to be out for an extended period of time, and don't have access to a charger, you can carry extra batteries with you, just in case. BTW, it doesn't eat batteries. I've never gone from fully charged to dead in a trip, but I am usually only using it for about 6 hours or less, continuously.

Use it with some good topo maps, and it's hard to beat! I print my own using National Geographic Topo. I use the UTM codes on my maps and GPS, and it is always easy to figure out just exactly where you are.

BTW... Garmin does still make the Foretrex 101... and it doesn't use an internal battery, it uses AAA batteries. The 201 was the same unit with an internal battery. REI has the 101 for $130. I've never lost satellite coverage, but I don't go through thick woods in the summer, where the leaves might cause problems. Out on the water, it should be no problem at all.

has sealed in rechargeable batteries where the 101 has a 2 AA compartment that I have heard can have issues, depending upon your immersion level. Haven’t had any problems with the 201.

Good basic unit. I use it on land and water and mine has certainly been above and below water plenty of times.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

ForeTrex 101 issue
I can vouch for the Foretrex 101 unit. I did get water ingress over time. It was replaced by Garmin under warranty, but since then have taken to putting it into a small dry bag with a window.

Beyond that, good basic unit to get simple data (speed, etc.) and to also download your tracks to your computer.

This not what you want to hear but…
Please before you get either, check into the quality and variety of the data that is available and how much it is going to cost you.

And then just take a look at the Delorme PN-40 and notice that while it is pretty expensive up front (street price around $380), for less than $30 per year you get unlimited data downloads. We are talking 3 types of imagery, USGS topo maps (in addition to the Delorme Topo 7 that comes on CD’s with the unit), Coastal waters, harbors charts. There may be more but those are the types I use.

I can personally say, that I have yet to see any fellow paddler with the quality (detail, resolution)of the data I carry in my Delorme and price - well, some are spending hundreds of dollars per year for data.

If you have enought disk space, you could download all the data for the entire country over your first year for $29.95 and not bother with it again.

I literally paddled with someone who spent $85 for data for our one 6 mile paddle. I felt bad for him.

Bill G.

Mt. Pleasant, SC

I would go for the etrex for kayaking, i can’t stand having a watch or anything on my wrist as i paddle, and i think having it on my paddle sliding back and forth, hitting my hands and being extra weight on the paddle would be annoying. I bring my etrex along with me, and have never had any trouble with it getting wet, it is supposed to be waterproof except for the battery compartment, but if you’re worried a small dry case or ziplock bag will keep it dry.

And no, it doesn’t have maps, but google earth will give you lat and long information, so you can easily enter in waypoints before you leave, make a track and follow its directions

Rather than the eTrex, I’d go with the eTrex Venture HC. It’s only a few bucks more ($108 on last I looked), but it comes ready to hook up to your PC.

The eTrex has a serial port so you will need a USB-Serial adapter and the PC cable. Together they will run you $40-$60 and once you consider that you’ve paid well more than you would have for the Venture HC.

And the Venture HC is a better unit. It has mapping capability should you decided to add maps later, has a fast USB connection, a color display and a high sensitivity receiver.

not relavent

– Last Updated: Feb-12-09 6:25 PM EST –

The post above by Guiffb is about maps on the computer, where the original poster was only asking about the GPS' use on water (tracking speed, following a basic map to retrace their way back should they get lost, etc.).