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Garmin Colorado 400t Handheld Color Mapping GPS - REVIEW
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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Garmin Colorado 400t Handheld Color Mapping GPS - REVIEW on 05/20/2008 21:51:55 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Garmin Colorado 400t Handheld Color Mapping GPS - REVIEW

Steve B
(geokite) - F

Locale: Southern California
Good review on 05/21/2008 12:15:43 MDT Print View

Good review. I think that most consumers, before purchasing a Colorado, would want to make sure a 60CSx wouldn't be better for them. A good comparison is at

IMO, the Colorado is very lacking in many areas. If you have a full featured GPS, you will probably see features that you have come to expect that are not available on the Colorado.


James Mills
(jmillsjr) - MLife
Compare to other manufacturers on 05/21/2008 13:23:00 MDT Print View

I'd like to see some suggestions of other manufacturers GPSs. What features are available elsewhere? What may be better for backpacking?

Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
Re: Garmin Colorado 400t Handheld Color Mapping GPS - REVIEW on 05/21/2008 14:11:46 MDT Print View

Is this supposed to be in the G Spot? Shouldn't this be in the Editor's Roundtable forum?

Steven Nelson
(slnsf) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Other GPS units on 05/21/2008 23:50:04 MDT Print View

James - check past articles for additional reviews, and a recent thumbs up recommendation from Alan for the Vista HCx.

I own a GPSMAP 60CSx and find it generally superior to the Colorado for backpacking, though it also is heavy and goes through batteries more quickly than the Vista. The wiki Stephen mentions is excellent.

I hope we'll get in reviews of GPS units from a few other companies - though I think Garmin still is in the lead - and we also hope to do a mapping and route planning software evaluation later this year.

- Steve

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
I own the Garmin Colorado 300 (sob!) on 05/22/2008 00:23:01 MDT Print View

I bought the Colorado 300 & the "Garmin Topo USA 2008" software disc. This is because I wanted the greater internal memory of the 300 than the 400 pre-loaded maps series.

As soon as I called Garmin for help in loading the software they said do NOT use a SanDisc ULTRA II SD card...which, of course, I already had. (Why in Heaven's name don't they put that as a warning label on the GPS box????)

Anyway The Garmin sofware tech (as opposed to a "regular" tech) had me download a NEWER version of Topo USA into my SD card. WELL, it didn't load & now I have to do the entire 45 min. download (all the western USA) again. on the phone W/ a tech ...again, and hope it works...again.

AAAaaarrrgggghhh! Now when i call back tomorrow I'll ALSO ask for the latest firmware download. I don't care if it takes all day, I must get this resolved. I've got solo hikes and backing trips in the Nevada Spring Mountains upcoming.

As for batteries I'm using Lithium batteries for reasonable usage life. Here's hoping firmware updates DO permit longer battery life but I doubt if that is possible unless they find a way to speed things up. I'm carrying 2 spare batteries "just in case".

If Garmin offered a reasonably cheap (under $50.)microprocessor or other hardware replacement I'd probably do it just to get better battery life.


Fred eric
(Fre49) - MLife

Locale: France, vallée de la Loire
still waiting on 05/22/2008 00:35:52 MDT Print View

ill either replace my etrex legend C with
- a GPS allowing easy uploading of scanned maps.
- a watch size GPS that only gives coordinates but with good autonomy.

i dont really have use for anything bewteen those 2 .

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
re: other GPS options on 05/22/2008 01:08:57 MDT Print View

There are fairly compelling rumors that Apple is going to include GPS in the next version of iPhone in June. It would very likely be a high sensitivity receiver like most high-end GPS phones today. And with third party application support coming in June, its only a matter of time before a major topo map company has topo software for the iPhone--especially if it includes GPS. Plus with 16GB (possibly 32GB in June), one could load a substantial number of high quality scanned topo maps at multiple resolutions.

Granted, these are many 'ifs,' but I personally would wait before making a major electronics purchase decision until the end of next month.

And to those who would complain about the lack of a removable battery, there are some lightweight chargers that accept 4 AAA batteries that will charge the iPhone, which could be more convenient than buying several proprietary (read: expensive) removable batteries.

the iPhone isn't ruggedized like the Garmin, but it's one of the most solidly built phones on the market thanks to the lack of physical buttons and candybar-shaped design.

You'd have your GPS, mp3/audiobook player and phone in 1 gadget.

And if the iPhone does not include GPS, the recently announced HTC Diamond will (right now the only contender to compete with the iPhone). This is also a rugged-looking phone, and there is great topo software written for it (Pocket PC).

Edited by jcarter1 on 05/22/2008 01:13:03 MDT.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Garmin Colorado... on 05/22/2008 01:12:19 MDT Print View


Edited by skopeo on 04/25/2015 21:06:23 MDT.

Steven Nelson
(slnsf) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Re: re: other GPS options on 05/22/2008 01:23:51 MDT Print View

John - one problem with the current iPhone for field use is its built-in, non-swappable battery. I own an iPhone and enjoy it - but would find it problematic for a multi-day backpacking trip if I were using it as a GPS.

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: re: other GPS options on 05/22/2008 02:36:22 MDT Print View

Here are some of the examples I refer to in paragraph 3. This one accepts 6 AAA batteries:

This one accepts either 2 or 4 AAA batteries:
USB Fever

This one accepts 4 AA batteries:


Sure, these chargers would add some weight, but consider that the Garmin 400t weights 7.5oz with batteries, whereas the current generation iPhone weighs 4.8oz, and you might end up with a lighter system. I would also argue that a AA or AAA charger would be better than a replaceable proprietary battery for thru-hikers.

I won't compare lighter Garmin GPSs because they don't offer the topo mapping feature of the 400t. Am I correct that the 400t cannot import national Geographic 24K maps like the Magellan Triton? GPS cellphones have had 24K scanned maps for years now.

Anyway, so the extended battery problem can be solved at a lighter weight (assuming iPhone v2 weighs the same and these chargers are no more than 2.7 oz). The real question, then, would be which device is more efficient. We'd have to turn off the iPhone radios and run some tests. Even if the iPhone were less efficient, if it replaces other devices you'd be carrying (mp3 player, cellphone), you'd still be lighter.

Oh, and don't forget the current gen. iPhone is $130-$230 cheaper than the Garmin, and the iPhone's screen has approx. twice the resolution.

So back on the main subject, I guess I just get a little worked up when I see Garmin touting these bulky, expensive, proprietary devices with very poor mapping ability and non-intuitive UI, when for years GPS phones have been able to do better. GPS phones were 2 years ahead of Garmin with high sensitivity receivers, 5 years ahead of the 24K topo maps, and are still ahead with the high resolution screens. You can complain that GPS phones aren't as rugged, but then neither is your cuben shelter. I say if you have to have a rugged GPS with long battery life, stick with a Garmin Geko 301. But if you want all the frills of digital color 24K topo maps, don't go spending $630 (the price of a decent laptop these days) on a uni-tasker that will be outdated as fast as a cellphone, when several cellphones have for years been doing better than even Garmin's latest model.

Edited by jcarter1 on 05/22/2008 03:54:44 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: still waiting on 05/22/2008 05:17:51 MDT Print View

> - a GPS allowing easy uploading of scanned maps.
> - a watch size GPS that only gives coordinates but with good autonomy.
Neither is very likely imho.

A scanned map is NOT in a form which the GPS can use. It is just a jpg.

A watch is simply too small for any decent antenna or any decent battery.


Gregg White
(gewhite) - F

Locale: WA State
GPS alternative on 05/22/2008 10:55:31 MDT Print View

Sorry if I am taking this off track. Has anyone considered or used the weatherproof paper on the market, and printed just what they need. that seems pretty light.

Steven Nelson
(slnsf) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: Re: re: other GPS options on 05/22/2008 13:39:41 MDT Print View

John - looks like you added that via edit after I read your first post. Yes, that's a potential solution; do you know the weight of the various options you show? Do they provide instant power, or do they have to charge the internal battery, and if so, how long does that take?

Regarding cost - if you factor in the required phone contract, the iPhone is a lot more money. Also, the Vista, Colorado 300, and GPSMAP series are a good deal less than the price you quote.

Of course, the iPhone does many more things - and I'm completely in agreement on "unitaskers" versus multitaskers. I'd happily carry the iPhone as a single device if the battery and charging options are light enough, it gets a real GPS with reception and tracking that matches the newest Garmins, and it has good software that allows the same manipulation of tracks and routes as a dedicated GPS.

No doubt that is all coming - just hard to say when. It will be interesting to see what's announced next month regarding the 3G iPhone, and what starts to show up on the iTunes app store. Garmin has done some nice software for the Blackberry, and perhaps they or Tom Tom or NG or others will do the same for iPhone.

Edited by slnsf on 05/22/2008 18:18:51 MDT.

Jason Brinkman
(jbrinkmanboi) - MLife

Locale: Idaho
Re: Re: still waiting on 05/29/2008 16:46:29 MDT Print View

The new Garmin Forerunner 405 is a watch size GPS, but it apparently doesn't show coordinates, and the battery life would be difficult to deal with for backpacking purposes.

Steve O
(HechoEnDetroit) - F

Locale: South Kak
Re:Garmin eTrex Vista HCx GPS REVIEW on 06/02/2008 00:35:23 MDT Print View

There is a table in the review that isn't self explanatory:

First Fix Fix at 5 min
GPS Min Acc ft Sat Acc Sat
Garmin Colorado 400t (1) 0:47 200 4 24 8
Garmin Colorado 400t (2) 3:10 140 4 30 6
Garmin eTrex Vista HCx 3:30 160 3 24 6
Garmin eTrex Venture Cx no fix no fix 0 no fix 1

Am I missing some sort of explanation for what these data represent?

Edited by alandixon on 07/29/2008 14:30:17 MDT.

Christopher Williams
(clwilla) - F

Locale: The Bluegrass
Screen Shots on 07/04/2008 10:44:08 MDT Print View

I own the Colorado, and find it adequate for my needs, although I wouldn't consider myself a heavy user.

I do have a question, however. How does one take screen shots? I've been looking for that feature and simply can't seem to find it. Is it through the unit software, or the PC software (I use a Mac, and as you note the software has left tons to be desired)?

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
xImage... on 07/04/2008 13:51:26 MDT Print View


Edited by skopeo on 04/25/2015 21:13:02 MDT.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Colorado Screen Capture... on 07/04/2008 14:02:55 MDT Print View


Edited by skopeo on 04/25/2015 21:12:11 MDT.

Alan Dixon
(alandixon) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Re:Garmin eTrex Vista HCx GPS REVIEW on 07/29/2008 14:33:05 MDT Print View

Sorry for the late response. The table headers seem to be messed up in the review:

First Fix
. Min = minutes:seconds to first get a fix
. Acc = accuracy (ft) of of the first fix at time acquired
. Sat = number of satellites (with good communication) of the first fix at time acquired

Fix at 5 min
. Acc = accuracy (ft) of of 5 min after powering up unit
. Sat = number of satellites (with good communication)at 5 min after powering up unit


First Fix Fix at 5 min
GPS Min Acc ft Sat Acc Sat
Garmin Colorado 400t (1) 0:47 200 4 24 8
Garmin Colorado 400t (2) 3:10 140 4 30 6
Garmin eTrex Vista HCx 3:30 160 3 24 6
Garmin eTrex Venture Cx no fix no fix 0 no fix 1