latest handheld GPS receiver is the new Oregon series. It is very similar to its predecessor, the Garmin
Colorado and is preloaded
maps of the United States, has a barometric altimeter, electronic 2 axis
compass and the ability to share wirelessly between other compatible
Garmin units. The Oregon also sports a touchscreen interface, other
hardware adjustments and a few minor feature additions. This
page specifically focuses on Oregon 400t, retail priced now (July 2009) at $499.
Check to see if discounted prices are available, by clicking here.
Oregon 300 is the same unit, but instead of preloaded TOPO
maps, has a basemap of North American with terrain shading. The Oregon 200 is without the preloaded maps,
has a very simplified basemap, no electronic compass, no barometric altimeter
and does not allow wireless
In June of 2009, Garmin announced the Oregon 550 and 550t units.
This series brings a built in camera, geotagging capablities of
photos, a three axis compass, what Garmin says is improved visibility
on the touchscreen and more capacity for waypoints and tracklogs.
These units are now shipping (read more on the 550 series here) and Garmin has also
announced the Dakota series, a smaller, scaled back, but similar unit
to the Oregon 200, 300, 400 units.
The Oregon 400t package, unit, carabineer clip, USB cable,
Oregon 300 (copper trim) and
Oregon 400t (silver trim)
Back cover simply lifts off to give access to batteries and
microSD card microSD card slot
is underneath the batteries, similar to location in 60CSx
Mounting spine for carabineer clip, bike or automotive mount
USB connection on bottom of unit,
with weather cover pulled back
The Oregon brings the preloaded TOPO maps of the United States, which
is Garmin's US TOPO 2008 product. It also features terrain
shading on the maps, which is a key feature of this product. (The preloaded maps are a file that is about 2.7GB which is
loaded on the unit, leaving 1.0 GB of free space for additional maps or data) The
Oregon has advanced features for geocaching, including paperless
caching and direct uploading of caches from geocaching.com. While
Garmin has had touchscreen GPS receivers for cars, this is the first
handheld touchscreen. The touchscreen on the Oregon adds ease and
speed to inputting data and using the different functions. While
battery life is not as good as the 60CSx and Vista HCx, battery life is
much better in the Oregon than the Colorado. The screen
is darker on the Oregon than the Colorado, however, it is better in
direct sunlight than the Colorado and certainly looks much better with
the backlight on full than the Colorado. A big question is just how
rugged is the touch screen? So far it appears to hold up to
regular outdoor use, although I added an Invisible Shield for extra
protection and the touchscreen functions just fine with the screen
What's New in the Oregon
The Oregon is very similar to the Colorado series. Besides the
obvious physical differences, such as touchscreen, microSD instead of
SD and the back cover, the Oregon . It uses a different GPS chipset, which gives the
Oregon the "HotFix" option, of storing GPS almanac information to allow
for faster acquisition when a unit has been off for up to three days.
The Oregon also has a Time Zone file, to automatically determine
your location and Time Zone, instead of requiring user input. We
also found that the Oregon will save your last location as a .gpx file,
similar to Garmin automotive units which have the "Where Am I" feature.
However, so far the only way to extract this data is to connect
your Oregon to a computer and open the file (in GPX folder>Current
folder>"Position"). Hopefully this
feature will be fixed so you can access it in your Oregon. The
Oregon has a Track Manager and we are very happy with the track
features in the Oregon, after big disappointment with the
Colorado's track system.
Image shots of the map of the Oregon 400t showing the terrain shading
and varying detail. Scales from 20 miles, to 8 miles, to 1.2
miles to .2 miles.
What's Not in the Oregon
Oregon does not include any computer software. Garmin's Trip and
Waypoint manager is not included, for basic waypoint management and no
TOPO disk is in the box either. Garmin apparently expects you to
buy the TOPO software for $99, if you want to review maps, save tracks or plan routes on your
computer. We suggest you look at many of the third party
type programs available on the Internet, which support .gpx files to help with waypoint management.
As with all Garmin units, you want to make sure you have the latest operating software. Run the WebUpdater available
garmin.com to ensure your Oregon has the latest
firmware. From December 2008 with the release of 2.80 to July
2009, Garmin has not issued a finalized software update, rather several
versions of beta updates. These have added many new features and fixed
a few bugs. They have not all been bug free, but as of this
writing the 3.01 beta version appears stable. Notably, the beta
updates have added waypoint averaging, 'Sight n Go', corrected some
ongoing issues with the gps chip software and improved the ability to
customize the Oregon and better manage waypoint data. Click here to see the list of beta corrections or here for what will hopefully be a regular firmware release.
Mass Storage Mode
The Oregon operates like
Garmin automotive units, such as the nuvi, when you connect it to a
computer. It automatically switches into Mass Storage Device
mode. Garmin also offers its Spanner,
(no support yet for Windows Vista) and
running this software on your computer and
changing the 'interface' in the system settings of your Oregon, will
allow you to plug
into the computer and use third party type programs, via NMEA
You will then be prompted whether you want to go into mass storage
mode, which is required to send/receive tracks in Garmin's MapSource.
The waypoints, tracks, routes are all in the .gpx file format,
which makes it easier to transfer files from non-Garmin GPS programs.
You have to buy Garmin's official power cables for the Oregon or
the unit will
go into mass storage mode. The workaround to use any USB type power
cable, is to set the unit to Spanner interface in the System setup, and
say "no" when asked if you want to go to Mass Storage Mode when you
connect a USB cable.
Garmin has recently added support for APRS
for amateur radio. Click here
for Garmin's take on using an Oregon or Colorado for APRS and
information on the cable required for it to work, about $30. Through
our testing by obtaining the
specific Garmin made cable, it has worked well. The biggest
limitation however is the fact you must connect the cable to DC
power. There is also the issue of having to individually
delete each APRS station which is downloaded to your device, because
you cannot delete waypoints by symbols only. Another limitation
is that the map page does not automatically update to an APRS station's
new location, when that data is received. Hopefully Garmin will
make these adjustments which are in the 60CSx, which would really make
the Oregon a viable option for APRS use. There is a
workaround for APRS if you don't have DC power to run the USB cable,
which works with my Kenwood D7AG. What I did was buy Garmin's USB to serial cable,
and a serial cable to mini plug from Blue Hills Innovations online
store. (You have to use a null modem adapter to connect the two
cables) The Oregon itself will then power the serial converter
USB bump. It will drain your Oregon batteries faster, but is an
alternative if you are really interested in portable APRS with a
handheld and don't mind a long cable.
The Oregon has only one physical button, the power key.
Everything else is controlled through the three inch diagonal touchscreen.
Overall the touchscreen allows for much easier operation of
the unit. While you gain with the touchscreen, you have to
realize you lose some in screen brightness. See example of
daylight use below:
Screen comparison, outside
Screen comparison in the dark (L-R Oregon, Colorado, 60CSx)
The darkness of the screen with no backlight on, is probably the
biggest issue in the Oregon.
Because of the type of screen it is, it is much darker when
compared to other Garmin handhelds. I have found you either have
to hold it in the direct sunlight or use the backlight nearly to full
strength. In the dark, the Oregon screen looks the best of any
handheld, with the
backlight on full, as compared to the other units with backlight on
full as well. The reality
of a dim screen is something I have found I can live with,
considering I now get terrain shading and color maps and a touchscreen
interface. It just takes some getting use to, after using the
older Garmin handhelds with the easy to read screens.
The touchscreen allows for quick and easy data
input into the Oregon. From a lat/long, to an address, to editing
a waypoint name, it is very easy. The Field Note capability for
geocaching is also a plus. The input key is alphabetical
and no QWERTY option is available.
Saving a screen shot is very
easy in the Oregon. Go to the Setup>Display> and then turn
screen shot on. A press of the power button will then save
screen shot. You can then access this bitmap image by connecting
the Oregon to your computer and finding it in a folder called
You can also lock the screen on the Oregon. Simply press the
power key and the option of lock screen is there. Reverse this to
unlock the screen. This is a nice feature and an important one,
if you are hiking and have your Oregon in a backpack, on a belt, etc,
as it will get into menus you don't want it to.
The main menu scrolls your through four pages of options. You can
re-order which pages these options appear on in the "Setup" under "Main
The Satellite page is accessed by pressing the GPS signal meter at the
bottom of the main menu (see above). It will show your current
calculated altitude and individual satellites and their status.
Unlike other Garmins, you cannot adjust between Normal, WAAS or
simulator mode on the satellite page. You must do this in the
Setup, under 'System.' When you are in Demo Mode (simulator) you
can change your simulated location. We discovered this on our
own, as there is no tab to press on the screen and no documentation
Simply press the lower right hand corner of the satellite page
while in Demo Mode and
it will bring up a map. Move the cursor to your desired location
and then press the USE tab on the map page.
Garmin's documented way to set location in Demo mode, is to select a
point and hit 'go' to navigate to it. You will then be prompted
want to move to this location. Overall the GPS reception is good
in the Oregon. The HotFix seems to do well, when the unit is
powered on while outside and you will usually have a satellite lock by
the time the unit is finished starting up. Some users have had a
difficult time getting WAAS
correction and I have seen this as well, however it is possible as you
can see from the image below. While other Garmin handhelds get
immediately, the Oregon is slow to acquire it and this is
something Garmin is hopefully working on improving. The reception
outside has always been good and acceptable, even in dense forest or
canyon areas. There also seems to be the 'odometer' issue that has
eTrex HCx series. When you are walking under 3mph, it does not
accurately record your actual distance traveled. Garmin has
apparently fixed this in the HCx series and we hope a fix is on the way
for the Oregon.
Satellite page gives you your lat/long and the estimate on accuracy.
It displays the GPS calculated elevation, not the barometric
measured elevation in the unit. The "D" on the individual
satellites indicate which satellites are receiving WAAS correction.
10 feet is the best accuracy I have even seen, usually
it reads between 14-25 feet of accuracy outside, with WAAS
half of the time. I have lined up several Garmins together and
the Oregon's lat/long is right there with the other handheld models,
even though the other units show accuracy readings in the single digits.
This is where you access a waypoint, point of interest, etc. Garmin has now added the option of subcategories.
The bullseye icon above allows you to search near a waypoint, a recent find, your current location or a map point.
The Map page is where the
Oregon really shines, as it offers terrain shading and is easy to zoom
in or out. Map panning is much improved
in the Oregon, from the Colorado. You simply touch the screen and
then can drag it to where you want. Very easy and smooth.
You can also select map points and review data, although
sometimes it can
be a little tricky to get your finger on the small map icon you want to
review. You then press the data tab at the top of the screen to
review the information and the small waypoint flag which will appear on
the screen, will allow you to
save this point as a waypoint. The
TOPO maps with the terrain
shading capability, are very good. Here are four images of
varying zoom levels. The image on the far right shows a 24K map.
While in Automotive mode, the street and highway maps have that
3-D style look similar to a Garmin nuvi or
StreetPilot automotive unit. See below for example
along with active route screens. You must have the optional City
Navigator maps to have your unit create an autoroute on the Oregon for
you to follow.
You can also keep the TOPO maps enabled, while using City Navigator street
maps. This will then give you terrain shading, over the road maps while in 2-D mode.
The Oregon does have the option of turning off the shaded relief on the
map, if it becomes too busy. I have found this is helpful,
especially in TOPO mode where the dark background makes it hard to read
the screen. Do this in Setup>Map>Advanced Map Setup.
The Oregon includes a 2 axis, electronic compass. The
compass works well, if properly calibrated, but requires you to hold
the unit level to get a correct reading. You can switch the
compass on/off depending on need or the desire to conserve battery
power, in the Setup under 'Heading.' You can switch
between 'Auto' or 'Off.' You can calibrate the compass in the
Setup under 'Heading.' A faster way, is to press the center of
the compass on the compass page for a few seconds. It will then
bring up the calibration option. You can also customize the data
fields on the compass page, by
simply pressing them and then a menu comes up, allowing you to choose
which field you want displayed. During the beta updates of the
first months of 2009, Garmin did add the 'Sight n Go' feature to the
Garmin has got the idea right
when it comes to the user profiles.
It is so much easier to customize your Oregon and then quickly
switch the settings depending on your navigation needs. I have
created several profiles and it takes just one button press to switch between them. The
profiles are set up, so you can have the TOPO maps in one, the road maps
(City Navigator) in another, terrain shading either off or on, etc.
I would say this is my favorite feature in the Oregon, as it is
so easy to customize your unit and then switch it to which features you
want, depending on what you are doing. I have two profiles that
are simply for searching on the map page. One for TOPO and the
other for City Navigator road maps. This way, it always comes up
as North Up on the map. I also have a bicycle profile for evening
rides, where it keeps the backlight on continuously. You can
really do a lot with the profile feature and make your Oregon very versatile for all types of navigation.
The trip computer keeps track of trip data and you can customize each
individual data field. New to the Oregon is the sunrise or sunset
update at the top of the screen. It will count you down in the
day to sunset and at night to sunrise. To reset the Trip
Odometer, go to Setup and then Reset. So far, you cannot reset
your overall odometer. Three Odometer images below,
Default (left), Geocaching (center) and Automotive (right)
The Setup is where you adjust all of the features in the Oregon.
Many of the features can be customized here. Garmin also
did a good job this time of figuring out which settings should be
global across all profiles and which ones should be profile specific.
Global options include battery type, WAAS on/off, tones, time zone, backlight,
This is where you can build routes for the Oregon. You can
select using waypoints, points of interest and by browsing the map and
selecting map points. The specs show you can load a total of 50
routes in your Oregon.
The 3-D view is okay and some screen examples are below. You can
get a general idea of the terrain that lies ahead. You can scroll
the view with the arrows and also zoom in or out.
This will give you a turn by turn listings of your route, calculated
with City Navigator or other Garmin autorouting capable maps. So
far, the active route needs to be fixed so you can zoom in/out the map
scale, to see an upcoming turn. It also does not support a pop up
page, showing your upcoming turn, like other Garmin automotive units.
This feature will give you an x/y graph of your elevation change.
Height of altitude and distance traveled, can be adjusted, by
pressing the scale area of the screen. The Elevation page still
needs some work, including the ability to plot an elevation location
and then bring that location up on the map page. This is possible
in both the 60CSx and HCx series. You have the option of plotting
elevation and time, elevation and distance (shown above), barometric
pressure or ambient pressure on the graph.
Unfortunately there is no quick way or button press to save a waypoint
on the Oregon. The only way to do this is to hit the Mark
Waypoint icon. However, it will then allow you to either save or
save and edit the waypoint. The touchscreen makes it quick to
name a new waypoint and edit other properties. Waypoint Averaging
was added during the series of beta updates in 2009. Read
Garmin's explanation of its current school of thought with Waypoint
The Waypoint Manager allows you to edit and delete waypoint
information. This is much improved thanks to the direct input
from the touchscreen. You can now also edit directly when selecting a Waypoint for review.
Garmin's ANT system allows you to trade waypoints, geocaches, routes or
tracks between other Garmin compatible units. This is a nice
feature for exchanging data with friends or new friends you meet on the
trail. You can only connect to one unit at a time however and
geocaches only transfer basic waypoint information. No description, hints
or logs from geocaches can be exchanged. You can exchange data between Oregon units and also
between an Oregon and a Garmin Colorado and presumably the new Garmin Dakota 20, which is said to support wireless exchange.
The Oregon is quickly becoming
a favorite with Geocachers, with its paperless caching. The
geocaches are stored separately from your waypoints, which keeps
them from cluttering your waypoints, something I like as well.
To see the hint or logs, you must first navigate to that cache and then
go back and hit the Geocache option in the Main Menu. It will
then bring up the geocaching features. The Geocaching mode
is very helpful if you are a premium member of Geocaching.com,
you can get the cache information, including the last few logs and the
hint automatically loaded
into to your GPS. (When you register
your Oregon at garmin.com, you are eligible for a 30- free premium
Find Another Option
The Oregon also supports "Field Notes." What this means, is that
when you are out in the field, you can input directly into your Oregon
(under "Log Attempt") any note you want uploaded on your geocaching
account. For example, TNLNSL (Took nothing, left nothing, signed
log) and "great cache, enjoyed the scenery" can be inputted into the
Oregon at the cache. When you get home, you then log onto
geocaching.com and can
import this data into your account, again you have to be a premium
member for this feature. The only drawback I have found, is that
you cannot delete a geocache on the Oregon itself. You have to connect
it to your computer in mass storage mode and then search for the
geocache waypoint number and delete that .gpx file.
Overall, the geocaching options function very well and it seems the
consensus from the geocaching community, is that Garmin has listened to what they want in a GPS unit for geocaching.
The Oregon supports WhereIGo, the new GPS based game, created by the
folks at geocaching.com. It offers both virtual and geographic
games, using a GPS. Many people appear to be disappointed with
the lack of upgrades and attention this feature may be getting, as
expressed in the forums. Find out more at whereigo.com.
Garmin did a great job with the Track Manager feature in the Oregon.
You can save a track, and edit, set color and then have it show up on
the map, under all profiles. Very handy if you have a trail or
road not on the map, that you always want on your map page. It also
appears you can save numerous tracks, many more than the 20 saved
tracks listed in the specs.
The black lines represent my tracklog. The current track is
black and its color cannot be customized. The purple line
the direction to the waypoint I am navigating to. You can
select in each profile if you want to record your track and then record
and show it on the map or record and not show it on the map.
image above shows a saved track in red, showing a trail I hiked
not on the map. The Oregon supports 'Tracback' meaning you can
retrace your current track. This is similar to previous Garmin
models, but it appears you can only 'Tracback' using your current track
and not on a saved track.
Allows you to load digital photos in the Oregon in the unit's memory and then use it as a
picture viewer. You can pan the photo and zoom in the with arrows.
You can walk an area and then determine the area. Press start
when you begin and when you are finished you are prompted for which
units you want the area to be calculated in. (sq. feet, acres, etc.)
Gives you a calendar to find dates. You can't save waypoints to the dates, it is simply a month view calendar.
Typical calculator, but unlike other Garmins, the Oregon does not have any scientific capabilities.
Sun & Moon
Will give you the sunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonset. This is
for your current location and you can now also search a separate place.
Much improved in the Oregon, very simple to set and it does work! Even has a snooze function.
Hunt and Fish
Gives you hunting and fishing success predictions, using lunar data.
Options also allow you to check a separate location.
Stopwatch allows for laps, but no way to set your lap distance in units.
The Oregon has a Fitness profile and allows for fitness add ons,
including Garmin's heart rate monitor and bike cadence sensor.
I have only tried the heart rate monitor and it will show your
heart beats per minute, on one of the data fields.
However, you can't upload your heart rate data into Garmin's
online fitness program Garmin Connect Garmin had said outdoor devices would be supported in the summer of 2009 and is now saying September 2009.
The Oregon does get more battery life than the Colorado, but it is less
than the older Garmin handhelds. With the
type of screen, the batteries go much faster. The battery
strength meter is also not representative of actual battery level
remaining. It stays full for a long time, but once it drops to
two bars left, you had better have some more batteries with you, as the remaining battery power will go
fast. I lined up my Oregon 400t, Colorado 400t, GPSMAP 60CSx,
and eTrex Legend for a battery test. All were loaded with
Energizer Alkalines, with WAAS on, compass off and backlight full.
I ran the backlight on average twice every hour for 30- seconds
on each unit. The Colorado started showing backlight limiting at
ten hours and by twelve, was dead. The Oregon showed limiting at
ten and a half hours, but didn't show low batteries until 16 hours,
showed me the red warning at 17 hours and was completely dead at
18 hours. The 60CSx showed low batteries at 17 hours, went
at 18 and was dead at about 20. The Legend was dead at 18.
big winner for battery use was the Vista HCx which was still going at
The Oregon allows for alkalines, rechargeable NiMH or lithiums. I
use the NiMH or lithiums, as alkalines will be gone in a day's use.
I always use lithiums in the outdoors, as they will last the
longest. My best estimate is a good 25 hours or more with
lithiums, with compass off and limited backlight use.
The Oregon will automatically determine your current time zone.
From your location, it will calculate which time zone you are in, thanks to a small map file in the unit's memory.
This is a nice feature if you frequently change time zones,
because your Oregon's time will update automatically.
To do a hard reset of the unit, press the upper left hand corner of the
screen while you power on the unit. You will be prompted that it
will erase all of your user data, such as waypoints, routes, tracks, etc.
The owner's manual in the Oregon is too brief. Many key features
and options are under explained. While it is a great quick guide
and reference, the manual should be more in depth to help users
understand everything their Oregon is capable of. The Garmin
website also lacks additional information. We have tried to
discuss in this article, what quick tips and tricks we have discovered,
that are not documented in the manual. Many of the forums are
good to search too, as users often share what they have found.
The Oregon appears to be where Garmin is putting its focus on its handheld series, with the addition of the 550 series and the smaller Dakota version. The
touchscreen on the Oregon is easy to use and you
can quickly learn the menus. The maps look great with the terrain
shading and the unit has very good options for geocaching.
Overall, Garmin has done a good job with
this unit and has been much more responsive so far in making software
is a webpage compiled by those on the Groundspeak forum, coordinated by
g-o-cashers (Scott) who has done an excellent job of keeping a
running list of issues with the Oregon. Here is a link. Garmin has a mini
site up for the
Oregon here and the official Garmin Oregon page where you can see all of the specs is here.
Questions/Comments: Visit the gpsinformation.net Forum