An indepth review of the Garmin GPS (Oregon 400t) handheld GPS device. This GPS device has it all, routes, tracks, easy interface, rugged, waterproof, reliable, good battey life, GeoCaching, Off road maps and many other great features.
I have just bought the Oregon Garmin GPS 400t handheld system to help me find my way around the countryside wilderness. This came about by walking up Scarfell Pike with my son on holiday in the Lake District – and getting very lost in the thick fog and mists! I realised at the time how good it would have been to have a handheld device that actually showed me the way home and even told me when I was getting lost.
Whilst I can find my way around a OS (Ordnance Survey) map with a good and trusty compass – there are times when you are totally LOST! You just need to find your way out of a mess. The Garmin GPS Oregon 400t is loaded up with full treking maps. The Garmin GPS Oregon 400t stores information on the device as well as an SD card that can store new maps. The device is really easy to use and completely waterproof (when you drop it in that stream by mistake).
The Oregon 400t – Garmin GPS has so many facilities I wont list them all here; it’s really a computer dedicated to maps and off-road trekking. I found many open source and free software applications that work really well with this device. The Oregon 400t comes with a USB interface cable that connects to a PC. That’s not all. The Garmin GPS Oregon 400t will upload and download routes and tracks to and from the PC. I have found this really useful to create routes using free applications and then upload the walks to the device. This way I can work out how far the walk is, how long it will take and what the terrain will be (really useful if your walking with kids!).
Free software I’ve found that is REALLY useful with the Garmin Oregon 400t:
A free web application. Plot your route on a Google Map scene by drawing waypoints. The waypoints are joined together for you to form a route. The final walk (route) is then shown in GPX format. GPX files are a format that the Garmin GPS Oregon 400t fully understands, the files describe the information needed to create the route in an XML format. The saved GPX file can be saved onto your Garmin GPS Oregon 400t. All you have to do is walk the route!
Another free web application. OK, so you’ve walked the walk and got back home. NOW you need to copy the route from the Garmin GPS Oregon 400t that you actually walked (track) to the PC and then upload to this online web application. GpsVisualizer will then draw you a nice map of “where” you walked. In practice I found the combination of the above two tools perfect. I could display both the ‘route’ and the ‘track’ with this one application to see where I should of walked and where I actually did walk! Almost everything you need to use the Garmin GPS Oregon 400t in one place.
So, you’ve planned the walk. Now you need to persuade the kids that this will actually do them some good… Yep, a hard task indeed. Well geocaching.com could be the answer. This website allows you to search your area (postcode/Zipcode) or your planned walk (see above!) for geocaches. Geocaches are locations on maps where people hide little stashes. The Garmin GPS Oregon 400t fully supports GeoCaching and will show you the nearest GeoCache wherever you happen to be. It couldn’t be simpler to download the GeoCache information onto the Garmin GPS Oregon 400t either. The hidden cache (usually a small box hidden in the countryside somewhere) normally contains a guest book and a few goodies. Great fun for the kids. If you are lucky enough to find one of these GeoCaches, you can sign the book and even take something from the cache – AS LONG AS YOU REPLACE IT WITH SOMETHING ELSE! Anyway GREAT for the kids (and adults), and they don’t realise they are getting excercise.
If you’re pressed for time and don’t fancy plotting your own route before thw walk, why not pop over to everytrail.com and pop in your location, it will show you all the walks other people have uploaded for the area selected. NOT ONLY THAT! you can download the walks in (yes you guessed it…) in GPX format. The format that you can upload directly onto your Garmin GPS Oregon 400t.
Other features found on the Garmin Oregon 400t Handheld GPS with European Maps include:
- Automatic routing with optional mapping for detailed roads
- Electronic compass
- Barometric altimeter
- Outdoor GPS games
- Hunt/fish calendar
- Sun and moon information
- Tide tables
- Area calculation
- Custom POIs (ability to add additional points of interest)
- Unit-to-unit transfer (shares data wirelessly with similar units)
- Picture viewer
- Product Dimensions: 11.4 x 5.8 x 3.5 cm ; 191 g
- Boxed-product Weight: 908 g
Anyway, if you’re interested in buying one of these why not pop over to Amazon – The Garmin Oregon 400t Handheld GPS with European Maps – a great Christmas or Birthday gift for the outdoors.
View other great GPS devices that may interest you here
Links of interest for the Garmin Oregon 400t GPS device (updated 9/1/2010)
Web Sites with interesting information
Free GPS Maps
By hook or by crook we’ve got the SD card mounted as a drive. Now, before going further, a quick warning: Before copying your first map up, you probably want to copy down the existing map before you overwrite it! The map is a file called GMAPSUPP.IMG and it lives in the \Garmin folder. You can ignore any other files that may be present.
1: Copy the existing GMAPSUPP, your old map, to your PC so you don’t lose it. Stick it in a folder with a sensible name!
2: Delete the GMAPSUPP on the SD card / mounted GPS.
3: Copy your new map IMG up to the card/GPS’s \Garmin folder.
4: If it’s not called GMAPSUPP.IMG, rename it now.
OpenStreetMap is a free editable map of the whole world. It is made by people like you.
OpenStreetMap allows you to view, edit and use geographical data in a collaborative way from anywhere on Earth.
TopoFusion is GPS Mapping software for Windows. It downloads maps (Topo, Aerial Photo and Satellite) automatically from several public map servers
Routable Maps for Garmin Devices. These pages are providing experimental routable maps for Garmin devices. The sources for the maps have been taken from Openstreetmap (OSM),www.openstreetmap.org and underlying the ,Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license
The maps are generated with mkgmap http://www.mkgmap.org.uk and the used TYP-File is a selfcreation, which is based on Computerteddys typ file. http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/index.php/User:Computerteddy For each map package a MapSource integration is availabe. The necessary registry file is included in each package file.
Other Free GPX map resources
redtrails.com – Free GPX files and guidebook info with a nice MS virtual earth map interface
bikepacking.net – GPX files and route info for long distance bikepacking trails
Travel by GPS – Very high quality GPX data and info for all types of adventures
Singletracks.com – One of the best sources for quality GPX files, especially if you are a mountain biker.
Trailregistry.com – A user submitted database of GPX files.
TopoShare.org – User submitted tracklogs with google maps interface
CrankFire.com – User submitted bike GPS files in Conneticut
Salt Lake Cycling – Road bike routes around SLC in GPX format.
Water Trails – User-edited water trails for kayaks and canoes in the San Francisco Bay Area
Mountain Bike Directory – check the GPS / Mapping category
Info about the Oregon
Choices on the setup button offer options for the system and display
that can extend battery life (such as choosing a backlight timeout period
and battery save option if desired). Under setup>display, there is even
a screen capture choice that saves a file you can print out or email whatever
is displayed on the screen – cool!
Batteries – unless one reviewer selected the “stays on” option for backlighting,
bad batteries are the only thing that can explain really poor battery life.
Per the “garminoregon.wikispaces.com” web site, I’m using version 2.85beta
and together with Powerex 2700mAh batteries, have gotten around 20 hours of
battery life (battery type needs to be specified in system settings). It was
a Garmin rep. I spoke with at a local REI that told me a university field
tested high capacity NIMH batteries and that is the way to go for the Oregon.
Condition batteries first and consider the Maha MH-C9000 charger which conditions
the batteries – they have truly impressed me over previous Energizer and
Sanyo AA NIMH batteries I’ve tried. In comparison, with the same 30 second
backlight period and Energizer batteries, I saw only one full day – near the
rated 16 hour time worth before the repeated low batt. warnings. This is in real
use geocaching two days for most of the day, hooking the Oregon to a laptop and
reviewing/downloading waypoints and tracks, and over 3 hours a third day downloading
648 MB of Roads & Recreation maps to the Kingston 4 GB micro SDHC card (also from
Amazon.com) I added. I purchased the 4 GB card to also, one day, load City Navigator
NT onto it. You need a high capacity reader or you have to transfer data via the
USB cable connected to the Oregon otherwise – above 2GB is considered high capacity
I found out.