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Author Topic: Garmin eTrex Vista HCx - GPS on the cheap  (Read 1988 times)


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Garmin eTrex Vista HCx - GPS on the cheap
« on: July 27, 2016, 03:36:24 PM »
I'm a total and complete newbie when it comes to GPS. Fair warning.

I've been researching units and my head is spinning. Luckily it comes down to a few units that are the accepted crowd pleasers.

I'd like a GPS unit for my motorcycle. When I attend rallies, I'd like to be able to download the map route/track files and follow along. Also, I'd like to be able to download map route/track files from other sites to follow along.

I realize I may not be using the terminology route/track properly. For the sake of argument, let's let that go for now.

Since I want to mount my GPS to a motorcycle, the Garmin 6X/7X CSX seem to be where it's at. However, in 2016 they are still a considerable investment. $200 for a used unit and maybe topo maps is pretty common.

I'm not complaining. I get it, you gotta pay for stuff sometimes.

I see a used Garmin eTrex Vista HCx for sale for $50. Sure, it's old. May be its a good intro unit to tinker with.

My questions:

If I buy a second hand unit, can I download and use the PC software needed to interface with this unit?

Furthermore, can I just download the free topo maps and have what I need?

Taking into account a RAM mount, batteries, and a cable... Is it conceivable to get this unit up and running for little to no investment? Well, other than my time and some work.

Maybe I'm falling prey to wishful thinking.

Any help to set my brain straight would be appreciated.



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Re: Garmin eTrex Vista HCx - GPS on the cheap
« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2016, 04:57:42 AM »
I had a Legend C, which was an earlier version of this model but the with the same screen and case. The Vista Hcx would still be usable today but I'd question how good it would be on a motorcycle. The screen is really small and the backlight is very weak. But some people might not be bothered by this.

Now $50 isn't much, but you also might end up just wasting $50. If it breaks, Garmin will no longer repair it and these are getting quite old. Then you'd end up spending $200 for a better one plus $50 for a piece of junk. ;) Guess you have decide how much of a gambler you are.

Maps are stored on a microSD memory card. The unit will have a really S-L-O-W USB 1.0 interface, so it will be best to remove the card and put it in a USB 3.0 card reader (or internal slot if your computer has one) when you load maps. No drivers would be needed for that.

Garmin Basecamp and Mapsource are used to manage the unit, they are free and easily downloaded. Personally, I suggest using Mapsource, Garmin's older, discontinued software. That is what the unit was intended to use.

There are plenty of free maps here that will be compatible. But it will not work with satellite imagery or scanned maps (such as Garmin Birdseye or "Custom Maps").

I always hated that joystick on the etrex, and that also might be a part that fails as they get old.

I'd just be reluctant to invest in a RAM mount for such an old device with a limited lifespan. I'm sure the vibration from a motorcycle would not help either. The USB socket is another possible source of failure, and that is the only way to power it externally.

If it were me, I would invest in something newer to avoid spending "good money after bad". But that's just me. At the $200 price point, you can get a Garmin refurb of something much better and they have the same warranty as new units.