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Backpacker Magazine – April 2009

Editors' Choice 2009: Garmin Oregon 400t GPS

Meet the ultimate GPS: simple enough for beginners, wonky enough for experts, powerful enough for all.

by: The Backpacker Editors

Garmin Oregon 400t (Steve Howe)
Garmin Oregon 400t (Steve Howe)

See more gear that made the cut in our 2009 awards.


Learn everything you ever wanted to know about GPS with our primer.

In the old days, say 2007, even the most basic backcountry GPS units challenged novices with complex menus. Not the Oregon 400t. It uses universal icons and a three-inch touch screen to simplify the user interface. All of our testers, including two GPS newbies who served as "controls," were navigating within minutes of turning it on. In just half an hour, each of us had mastered the essentials. But idiot-proof operation is just the start. Expert users will geek out on preloaded topo and 3D maps (United States or Europe), elevation profiles, and trip stats like average pace and hike time. In Wales's Brecon Beacons National Park, where trails literally vanished in the foggy moorlands, we navigated with help from the electronic compass and altimeter. Clipped to our tester's pack, the rugged body survived constant rain and ran 16 hours on two AA batteries.

Thanks to HotFix technology, which predicts your location before the GPS is even turned on, the Oregon 400t often locked onto satellites faster than the competition–even other Garmin models. The onboard memory can store up to 20 tracks and 1,000 waypoints. Upload data to a PC or Mac and into your map software, Google Earth, or website (including Or wirelessly share info with other Garmin Oregon or Colorado owners.

And it's not just a hiking tool. Fitness buffs can link the Oregon 400t to a Garmin heart-rate monitor and bike-cadence sensor. Geocachers can upload the locations of thousands of caches. And none of it takes more than an outing or two to master. $599 ($459 street price); 7 oz.; 2 AAs; micro SD expandable memory;

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Feb 27, 2010

What are the preloaded maps on the Ogegan 400t like, can you navigate thru the backcountry with them or do you need to buy additional garmin topos?

Feb 03, 2010

I recently took a new Garmin 500t and my delorome pn-20 on a snowshoe trip in the mountains. The Garmin picked up the satellites in seconds. PN-20 took over an hour. I will never buy another Delorme.

I did find the learning curve on the garmin to be steep for actually navigating where you had to be right. But since getting some experience I can deal well with it. I recommend expertgps software for managing the garmin.

K Daniels
Oct 29, 2009

I would like to hear what the folks at backpacker mag have to say about the comments made about Delorme and Garmin. I like Garmin, I own Garmin (60csx) I thought about buying, well, actually, I bought the Colorado and returned it... not impressed with battery life and all the snafus that came with it. It is interesting to hear about Delorme. Maybe I should reconsider in my next purchase. Any comments BACKPACKER?

Sep 10, 2009

DeLorme Earthmate PN-40

That is all.

Matt P.
Aug 26, 2009

Man,I am wanting to buy my first GPS unit and have been researching online. You see different reviews depending on where you look. Most other sites have comments about the 400t's lack of visibility during bright days (direct sunlight). It seems that all units are lacking somewhere, why can't they take these reviews and build one good product?

John Readmen
Aug 20, 2009

it might be a mater of fact the like LL Bean Is a big doner to backpacker, so products that they give Best to might be a buisness choise , than what Is Best. Thak is why I will never buy from LL Bean.

Aug 03, 2009

I bought the 400t and love it! Since I had only used a Garmin nuvi for road travel before, it took a little time to get used to "how it works". Agree the manual is not very specific. Learned about geocaching and this helped me learn to navigate with it. Wouldn't trade it! Well worth it! Thanks to Backpacker Mag for writing articles on this--that's what drove me to investigate.

Jul 12, 2009

Delorme must not pay enough in advertising. I own both and overall, the Delorme package is much better. If the PN-40 came with a larger screen it wouldn't even be close, that's the only advantage the 400t has really

Stefan Harwood
Jul 07, 2009

I don't get the complaints. I bought this Garmin and it has worked flawlessly ever since. The menus are very intuitive. The topo base map is excellent. And touchscreen works much faster than buttons or wheels. I have never had to contact tech support because I never ran into any problem at all. It transfers very easily between desktop mapping programs like Google Maps, expert GPS and Garmin's mapping programs. The battery life is excellent. The only complaint I can find - after using it for months - is that the Garmin stores waypoints as an entire group, rather than allowing you to put them into distinct folders trip-by-trip. An excellent gps.

Cooper Lilly
Jul 04, 2009

I am stumped about the top rating as well unless Garmin is a bigger advertiser than Delorme. The price is insane and the desktop topo/DOQQ/planning software is very subpar. Compare the price to the DeLorme PN-20 or betterPN-40, and I think you'll find that there is no comparison.

Jul 04, 2009

I am stumped about the top rating as well unless Garmin is a bigger advertiser than Delorme. The price is insane and the desktop topo/DOQQ/planning software is very subpar. Compare the price to the DeLorme PN-20 or betterPN-40, and I think you'll find that there is no comparison.

John McIntosh
May 31, 2009

I can't understand how you could give this product a top rating. The manual is very short and does not address many critical usage questions. Their technical support is horrible. I have yet to wait less than 35 minutes. The Mac support is confusing at best. How to use which maps to do what is not even addressed.


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