Sunday, March 18, 2012


Garmin eTrex Vista HCx review


UPDATE: This model has been superseded by the new Garmin eTrex 30.

UPDATE 2: This model has been discontinued. For more current recommendations, please refer to our handheld GPS buyers guide or our Garmin handheld GPS comparison chart.

The Garmin eTrex Vista HCx is the flagship model in Garmin’s new eTrex H series line. The successor to the popular Vista Cx, the Vista HCx adds a high-sensitivity MediaTek chipset and has a faster processor as well, which will give you faster map scrolling and screen redraws.

Like the Vista Cx, the HCx sports a bright, sunlight-readable color screen, a barometric altimeter, electronic compass, and a micro-SD card slot for loading topo or highway maps.

Compare prices on the Garmin eTrex Vista HCx

A great backcountry device, the Vista HCx also autoroutes, so you can add City Navigator maps and a mount, and use it for turn-by-turn routing in your car. The button layout may make it a little awkward for this purpose though; a better, but slightly larger, dual use choice might be the Garmin 60CSx.

Stepping down one level to the Legend HCx, you lose the barometric altimeter and electronic compass. To see how the Vista HCx stands up against other Garmin models, check out my Garmin handheld GPS comparison chart.

More Garmin eTrex Vista HCx reviews

I’ll be posting more hands on GPS reviews as they appear, but in the meantime, here are some other…

Garmin eTrex Vista HCx resources

Compare prices on the Garmin eTrex Vista HCx at these merchants:


About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.


  1. New to the world of GPS. Just acquired a Garmin eTrex Vista HCx, and bought a 4 gig card for it, thinking I can carry around 1:100,000 topos for pretty much the entire nation. WOW, it took more than a full day to load into the chip! Is this normal? What do most people do, carry just a few topos, or just one state? Also, a couple of days after I loaded the entire lower 48 states into my chip, and used the unit around town just getting used to it, I lost about half of my topo maps from the chip… all the topos south of a nice straight east/west line across the nation just vanished. Do you suspect hardware? software? user error? I realize you are not customer service, just looking for some direction here. Thanks!

  2. Loading will go faster if you can transfer directly from your computer to the card, rather than through the Vista. Regardless of method, there is a 2025 map tile limit for transferred maps, and this may be what you are running into.

  3. Csx 60 vs Vista HCX

    Perhaps this is covered and I missed it, but I was wondering if there are any real performance differences between these units? My uses are for hiking and mtn. biking. I realize there is a form factor difference; however, is that all there is? FWIW, both units are almost equally priced today. I do like the “pocketable” size of the Vista HCX but I do like the larger screen on the csx60.

    Also, as a newbie, I find that this site is by far the best information source.

    Thank you in advance for any guidance.

  4. Hi, here’s my situation and I was wondering your input? I just bought the eTrex Vista HCx from I noticed that if I want to upload another map a day later, it’ll overwrite that gmapsupp file. If I try renaming gmapsupp, like you suggested, the Vista HCx won’t recognize the file. If I start from scratch by resending all the maps to my unit again, it takes more than 12 hours just to do the whole thing again (I have an 8 GB card in the unit). It’s a pain.

    Since Costco has a return policy if you’re not satisfied, I was thinking of returning this unit and paying the extra $100-140 to get either a Dakota 20 or Oregon 450. My questions: Do those two other units allow you to recognize the renamed gmapsupp file? Another thing I’m concerned about is if their touchscreens make it more difficult to pinpoint the exact point on the map you want compared to the eTrex (if you don’t have good fingernails)? How do the Dakota 20 and Oregon 450 compare to the eTrex Vista HCx?

    • Yes, you’ll get that capability…

      The touchscreen units have a neat feature many folks don’t know about. Tap the map screen to located a point and a pin will appear at that point. Now you can drag the map under the pin, until the pin is in the correct location. You can even zoom if necessary.

      • Thanks for your response.

        Another thing I wanted to ask you is I’ve heard from multiple places that the sunlight visibility is worse with the Dakota 20 and Oregon 450 touch screens than eTrex? Is that much of an issue? Also, the battery life for them aren’t rated as long as the eTrex Vista HCx.

        So, in your opinion do the added features of the Dakota and Oregon overrule those two disadvantages? Or, how much of an issue are those two concerns I have?

        • Yeah, they probably aren’t quite as bright. What is your use? If it’s going to be as a handheld (hiking, geocaching, etc.), you’ll find that you intuitively tilt it for the best view, so the Oregon or Dakota will probably be fine. If it’s fixed mount use, the improved visibility at wider angles might steer you towards one of the new eTrex x0 models or the 62s.

          Battery life also depends on your use. Are you out for 12+ hours at a time? If so, maybe an eTrex would be better.


  1. […] Garmin eTrex Vista HCx review – GPS Tracklog – Stepping down one level to the Legend HCx, you lose the barometric altimeter and electronic compass. To see how the Vista HCx stands up against other Garmin models, check out my Garmin handheld GPS comparison chart. […]

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