Help with Garmin eTrex 30x

I was gifted this GPS for xmas. It came with TOPO maps but I haven’t installed it yet. I mostly want to use it to plot my put-in, take-out, and campsites in between. With analog maps I have a terrible time figuring out where I am on the river so I don’t know how far I’ve gone/have to go. I’ve never used a GPS other than my phone before and I’m pretty confused with it. I’m sure it’ll just take some getting used to, but I was wondering if someone could point me in the direction of decent instructions…the stuff that came with the unit is garbage. I did a few google searches and even what I’m coming across is a bit over my head, since it’s so different from what I’m used to. I’m going to check out the tutorials on Garmins website.

Buy a box to fit with a wee bit left over.tach with parachute cord or 1/8th shock cord. I tape seams with 3M 33 electrical after a wipe down with isopropyl.

Use lithium batteries….carry spares in the clear lid box.

If Garmin is unintelligibabble try utube or download the pdf instructions.

Garmin will reply to emails.

Try to pin down what 30 storage is used for transferring maps off the PC to the 30.

The unit needs be held level for maintaining compass and position, a thwart or bilge.

Google Maps gives coordinates when the point is tapped. Pressing the map button twice or holding it down brings up that now position. If the waypoint area is entered in the now page, the GooMaps waypoint can be entered there with the keyboard.

A 76/78 works this way does that go with a 30 ?

Google Earth give coordinates. Rivers can be run onscreen with GooEarth many viewed at low water showing right left center for rapids.

Basecamp and Geocaching
I don’t have that model - I currently use an Oregon 450 - but here are some thought for getting used to the user interface.

  1. Download BaseCamp from Garmin. It’s free and will connect to your unit through the usb cable. You will be able to see your track later and also any waypoints that you mark.

  2. Start geocaching ( Playing electronic hide-and-seek will really help you get used to using your unit. also, it’s fun and can get you to paces that you never knew were there. Be careful though, for some it can turn into an obsession. I’m safe from that, but I know others …

    In general though, you should have a button to mark where your are (a waypoint), and a way to enter a set of coordinates. It should also record your track while it is turned on. For your use case that you mentioned, just turn it on when you start and mark waypoints as you desire. You do need to carry enough batteries (or a solar charger) to cover the time you will be out. I will usually get 6 - 8 hours from freshly charged ni-cads depending on temperature & how often I look at the screen.

    Oh and don’t get put off by all of the grid & datum options. one form of latitude/longitude (degrees/minutes/seconds) is good to start. I’d pick one that matches with the Geocaching default to start. You will need to get a basic understanding of UTM when you start working with topo maps.

pages of
map sites and info. There’s a chart person under every rock. The Government does this…

a 78 converts UTM to Decimal degrees. Decimal degrees is common and dissed by map people for another system I have blanked out…

for example

Get a good book on use of map and gps
In my opinion the way to use the gps on a river trip is to take the UTM coordinates from the gps (ignore the mapping feature, just get UTM coordinates, not lat lon) and then plot them on a good paper topo map. This will place your location on a paper map. From the paper map location you can sort out how much ground you have covered and how much is left.

This is the book
I have

But in honesty it is pretty intuitive. I found the best way to learn was to just get out and use it.


Try Geocaching

– Last Updated: Dec-27-15 11:06 PM EST –

Garmin units are pretty intuitive if you've ever used a GPS before. If you haven't then they can seem pretty daunting, but the basic element is using the GPS to navigate to known waypoints (i.e. coordinates).

Those waypoints can be provided by you (as in marking the waypoint of your car or your launch site) or from outside websites where they can be downloaded (via GPX files). Waypoints could be launch sites, campsites on a wilderness river or anything (even a local pub or gas station).

Another nice feature is "breadcrumbs", known on the GPS as "tracks". You can use tracks to follow your route back to your original starting point.

Maps are useful, but I find the compass feature to be the most useful. If you are navigating to a known waypoint the compass feature will point you there and count down the distance to it within a few feet.

Try marking a waypoint in your neighborhood a few hundred yards away, then use the compass page to navigate to it. Your basic owners manual should tell you how to mark a waypoint.

A waypoint is essentially any place on the planet that is referenced by coordinates, which means everywhere. I've marked the waypoint of my car in a shopping mall to find my way back to it.

The 30 is a good unit and has an internal magnetic compass. You will need to calibrate it if you change batteries or haven't used it in a while. Your manual should tell you how to do that, or at least give you instructions about how to find the calibration feature on your unit. The 30 will actually walk you through the calibration procedure.

Perhaps you should try geocaching ( Nothing will make you familiar with your GPS unit faster than using it for geocaching for a few days. There are a gazillion tutorials on Youtube, some specific to your 30 that will instruct you how to do that.

You have a very nice unit and once you get used to it you will find it to be an essential addition to your outdoors equipment.

Navitating to a waypoint

– Last Updated: Dec-27-15 11:45 PM EST –

This is a really good video that shows how to use a GPS (The Aussies and Brits call them SatNavs). It uses an old Garmin eTrex so the screens will not be the same as yours, but the idea is the same.

On a down river trip there is zero
need for a gps to navigate. You just go downstream. It is useful to put yourself on a map and sort out how far you have come and how far you have to go. Also, if you are on a salt water trip or confusing/foggy flatwater somewhere yes a gps can be useful to navigate, but be careful that you know how to get yourself out of the place you are in without the gps because it could fail. You really should learn to navigate with map and compass first, then for convenience maybe add a gps. Without that skill you are asking for trouble.

More Burch

My Suggestions
My two cents …

A “waypoint” is a location on the planet.

A waypoint is defined on a GPS using a pair of coordinates (picture a grid structure).

There are multiple types of coordinates, but the two most common kind are Latitude/Longitude and Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM). Lat/Long are easiest to enter into a GPS, but UTM work better with paper maps.

Lat/Long can take on several formats:

Degrees, Minutes, & Seconds (dd mm ss):

N 40 29 42, W 74 02 52

Degrees & Minutes (dd

N 40 29.700, W 74 02.871

Degrees (ddd.ddddd)

N 40.495004, W 74.047852

40.495004, -74.047852

Sometimes the North or East (N/E) is shown as positive and the South or West (S/E) is shown as negative.

My preferred format for entering into a GPS is ddd.ddddd because its fastest.

For finding GPS coordinates I use Google Maps - using either the regular map mode or the Google Earth mode (that shows satellite pics). Find the place you’re interested in and then right-click on it. The drop-down you see will list the GPS coordinates at the bottom. You can select and copy them.

The GPS format used by Google Maps is the +/- ddd.ddddd format. If you set your GPS to taking ddd.ddddd format you can enter waypoints directly by converting the + to N and the - to W (in the U.S.).

I also use a nice web site for converting GPS formats.

For your use I’d suggest using Lat/Long in the ddd.ddddd format.

Before your trip do some research using Google Maps. Find and enter the key waypoints into your GPS.

Just before putting in you can select to “goto” the “next” waypoint that you are headed for. As needed you can turn on the GPS and read the direction and distance from the selected waypoint.

I don’t recommend leaving the GPS on throughout the trip since it will run the batteries down - UNLESS you wish to create a so-called “breadcrumb” trail. This is a continuous capture of GPS location.

Other bits of advice:

Know how to enter waypoints by hand.

Create some in your neighborhood and use your GPS to take a walk and track your progress.

If you want very good low cost ($75) software to plan trips using maps, and export/import and store coordinates look at . It even provides USGS topo maps online and other map & satellite tools.

Even though the GPS is water resistant treat it as if it is not. Stow it in a waterproof case or bag. If you can put a wrist lanyard on it to avoid a drop.

Use lithium batteries (as already suggested) for longer usage life and to avoid risking battery leakage. Lithium batteries are lighter and work better in cold weather.

Bring extra batteries!!

Bring a paper map. Learn to use a map, compass, and GPS together (find a point on the map given a waypoint, and vise versa). UTM coordinates are best for this activity. See

My favorite book on the subject so far is “GPS Land Navigation” by Michael Ferguson. Its a little dated now regarding GPS technology, but very well written on the subject of using maps, compass, coordinates, … It looks to be out of print, but still available via

The best way to avoid being lost is to always know where you are (someone else’s quote - not mine).

Down river

– Last Updated: Dec-28-15 1:26 PM EST –

I find a GPS useful on down river trips to let me know that the takeout is approaching. I've paddled right past too many takeout points in my pre GPS days.

If you are able to get the waypoints, the GPS can warn you of approaching portages and designated campsites.

Lastly, I find the trip data useful. Miles traveled, average speed, top speed. It can tell me that I need to speed things up to reach my destination at the desired time, or conversely, that I can slow down and enjoy the scenery.

Thank you all…
…for your time and responses. I know a GPS is not necessary on a downriver trip, but I reckon it will be a useful tool for the purposes that I stated in my original post. I’m going to play around with the unit tomorrow and take the advice you’ve given me. I really think it’s just a matter of getting used to it. Thanks again. Any additional suggestions are also appreciated!