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Backpacker Magazine – January 2011

Gear Review: Garmin Dakota 20 GPS

Easy to read touch screen with a tough hard-shell

by: Merrill McCauley

Garmin Dakota 20 (Courtesy Photo)
Garmin Dakota 20 (Courtesy Photo)

>>See other Tech Gear Reviews.
>>See all Reader Reviews.
My daily to-do list typically entails hiking off-trail from lake to lake in the Sierra, so a reliable GPS is my most important piece of technology. The Dakota 20, an entry-level version of the Oregon (Editors’ Choice winner, 2009), helped me navigate through miles of tricky terrain and the learning curve was next to nil.

The touch screen is easy to read: With 24k topo maps ($130 extra, it doesn’t come preloaded), I was able to see the tiniest creeks when searching for water. In the deepest valleys, the Hot Fix satellite reception gave me a lock in less than a minute. I loved the “where to” feature, which let me see all the nearby major landmarks (like Half Dome) and then navigate there with a few clicks.

The hard-shelled Dakota is tough, too: It withstood many drops on hard granite and several immersion tests. The only bummer: It sucks batteries. Using my USBCells (below), I averaged about 6.5 hours of run time between charges. $350; 5.2 oz.; buy.garmin.com.

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READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
bluepen61
Apr 16, 2013

5 star rating.

Unlike scuner's experience, my Dakota 20 firmware update was flawless! :)

My prior gps was the Garmin Legend. It worked well on my bicycle, but in the timber, it frequently loss satellite signal. And it seemed slow to respond to elevation and speed changes.

The Dakota 20 is like a Legend on steroids and then some. It responds fast, and works underneath the tree canopy. It has a color display and connects wirelessly with several sensors. I purchased the temp and heart rate sensors. Wow! One device doing so much more that my old Legend.

I also have the Garmin silicone skin, bicycle handlebar mount, and carabiner clip accessories. All work as advertised for me (though the handlebar mount slips some on my Trek 7100 bike).

Garmin has done an excellent job of putting so much into a small handheld! FWIW, it is highly recommended by me!

scuner
Oct 02, 2012

short story about Garmin Dakota 20 firmware update:
a few weeks ago preparing for long distance kayak trip on one of big asian rivers I have updated my Garmin's firmware to latest version. I've checked if all prepared content I can see well, because this region is covered very bad by paper maps. Unfortunatelly, in the first day abroad, when I tried to save first waypoint, my Garmin restarted with no saving data. No good, I have to find a computer, try to fix the problem (not easy in remote region), but I did. On Garmin's web site I couldn't find any help, but after a few hours I repaired my device. But... being in the middle of the trip I noticed a screen: "system software is missing". No computer, difficult part of the trip. Finally I found a village with computer and after few hours I fixed device, but loosing all my trip history.
Conclusion: firmware bugs in Dakota occured often earlier, but this time it was the top. As I know, it was uniwersal issue. In my opinion Garmin have the worst developers team on the world. Maybe next time they should consider testing a software before publication? GPS it's not a Gameboy or other toy. For some people GPS it is very important tool that GPS have to be unfailing. Garmin Dakota is not.

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