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 backpacker.com/postatrip). 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; garmin.com