As Garmin's basic GPS locator, the eTrek is designed to offer just that - the basics, but can being too basic be its downfall? We head out into the wilderness to see if we can get lost.

For those not in the know, a GPS locator allows you to pinpoint your location on the globe at any given time by your relation to a series of satellites. Change location and the satellites will track and follow you. As you can imagine, for those that need to know this can be either an invaluable tool or a great backup when map reading becomes difficult.

The Garmin eTrek is a small handheld unit roughly the size of a large mobile phone and powered by two AA batteries. The yellow rugged exterior exudes the backpacker ethos with rubberised sealed buttons and a tough case and the colour makes it easy to find at the bottom of the Bergen. On the front is a large black and green LCD display.

The unit offers a number of screens that allow you to pinpoint your location or check for signal strength and these include giving longitude and latitude figures. The unit also includes a digital compass which is handy if you know the direction you're supposed to be heading in. It also offers speed over distance, once again handy for keeping pace.

For those with a set course they need to follow, the eTrek allows you to enter waypoints. These are the setting of a start, finish and perhaps interval point(s) at which you want to stop. A prime example would be the local pub. Once set, the map screen will plot an imaginary course for you, regardless of landscape, with compass bearings. Because the data is updated on a live basis the map will constantly plot a new course every time you move and this is great news if for some reason you've chosen to digress from your original path, again because you saw that pub in the distance and decided to pay a visit.


For the walker, sailor or even jogger venturing out into the unknown, the GPS locator unit can be very helpful. Better still, this unit won't break the bank either. Yes it's basic and doesn't offer a multitude of options but then for the majority of travellers you won't need that many. If your map-reading skills either on the land or the sea are pretty good and you're just after that third arbiter to check you're right, then this is a good place to start.