There's something on the BPL forums about removing the sim card from your phone if you want to use it for backcountry navigation; that way it won't waste power trying to connect to a phone signal, but will still utilize GPS.
If it's a BlackBerry, that shouldn't be an issue. Turn off the mobile network and wifi and bluetooth. This will allow you to use the GPS function without burning up your battery as your phone searches for cell coverage. Now, you will have to make sure the maps are downloaded to your phone before you leave... I use wifi for this since it's far faster than the 2G/EDGE network where I live.
When I was out last year with my brother and dad, I used the TopoSports app (I have a BB Curve 3G). I like it because it uses the USGS 7.5 minute quads. I have a great paper topo of the area we were in, and I was familiar with it, having been there previously, but I used the app on my phone to tell me precisely where we were. This was helpful because shooting a bearing on a landmark can be tricky in deep forest like that. I wouldn't trust it without the map, but that's because I've been trained to use the map.
I find that if you turn off the radio, power it all the way down if it's going to be more than several hours before you need it again (such as overnight), put it to sleep between uses, and close out the app when putting it to sleep (so it doesn't run in the background), then I get pretty good battery life. I'd have to re-test, but we went two days on that trip and I'd only used about 20% of my battery life.
Also, it depends on your battery. An old battery has shorter life than a new one, and a lot of that has to do with how you charge it. Some rechargables need to be recharged often, even if they're not drained. Others need to be drained all the way before recharging.... and this includes the initial charge when you purchase the battery. I had a cell phone once that I charged before use just like the paper in the box told me to do. It wouldn't keep a charge for more than half a day, and this is brand-spanking-new. So I called AT&T about it, and the tech support rep said that that battery needed to be drained all the way before charging. I told her I'd done what the paper in the box said, and she laughed and said, "Yeah, the paper is wrong. I'll make a note of it and send it along." She sent me a new battery, too. I did what she said, and drained it all out before charging it up and by golly it worked. So check the requirements of your battery (Lithium, NiCad, etc.) to see how to maximize battery life.
"Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls."
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
I'm not familiar with that particular eTrex, but the ones I've used I didn't like a lot. I had an eMap, which came out before the eTrex, and it had a pretty simple and easy to use interface. The mapping eTrex models I've used were kind of confusing to find the feature I wanted.
The eMap also had a bigger screen, and was easier for me to read.
Others here have said they liked them and didn't have any trouble using them, so it's really a personal thing.
When my eMap died I looked for a long time for what I'd replace it with and finally decided on a Oregon 200. It lacks some features I'd like to have, but it has all the features I had to have, like free maps, and being easy to use.
In general, eTrexes are good all-around GPSs--small, rugged and easy to use one-handed. The screen is a little small for map-based navigation, but okay for the actual GPS functions. I'd recommend the Legend over the Vista because it skips the barometric altimeter and compass, simplifying it and extending battery life.
The HCx editions have good processors, so are the best of the old model lineups.
I know nothing about the new eTrex lineup other than the obvious--complete redesign around big screens (are they touchscreens? I can't tell). Unless you can get a screaming deal on an older model, I'd probably consider a new one.
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Ewker, we have what amounts to the same GPS, mine is the marine version so the model number is different, but other than that, I have read they are the same. If you go to www.gpsfiledepot.com you can get free maps that you can download using the Garmin MapSource software and then onto your media card using the cable. The software is free at the Garmin website if you don't have the disk already.
GPSfiledepot has forums and is a great place to ask questions about maps and pretty much anything else. The handbook could be better, but there are plenty of resources online.
Edited by TomD (03/06/1208:49 PM)
Don't get me started, you know how I get.
The 60 CSx is a good unit.. I've been using mine for about 5 years albeit not specifically for backpacking.. more for geocaching.. but I've used it on some day hikes and it's very accurate. The Antenna on these units seem to be more sensitive than other comparable units of the time.
I picked up a non-map model 60 that has a lot of the same functions as the 60CSx, but it is not color and it good for getting you back to where you started. It has no room for internal stuff like basemaps but it reliable as an off the beaten path unit. As long as you mark your starting point, it works good either getting you back, or getting you point to point if you program specific waypoints that you want to get to. I've used the 60 for when I want to measure distance travelled or as a backup unit to my 60csx. The 60 will last a bit longer on batteries since it is just a simple unit. I get 18 hours give or take with the 60 CSx with no backlight active. With backlight active, you can drain the batteries a lot faster.