Garmin Oregon and Colorado GPS Review

Garmin has produced some great handheld GPS receivers over the last few years including the 60csx which we depend on during our on the job back country trips. This unit basically works to provide accuracy and repeatability 90 percent of the time. Recently two new models have been released to replace or improve on the 60csx.

The first model is called the Colorado and at a distance its profile looks similar to that of the venerable 60. However up close you will find that its display screen is much larger and it does not have any physical keys for data input. At the top of the unit is a large wheel similar to that found on some portable music players that are so popular. The larger 3 inch TIFT screen is an improvement however it is not as easy to view in full sunlight as older Garmin models. If you are into Geocaching then this unit will make playing the game a lot easier since you can download data directly making the exercise essayless paperless.

The Garmin Oregon is the newest of the handheld mapping GPS models to enter the market. Like the Colorado it has the larger 3 inch screen which makes viewing map details much easier. The physical texture of the screen is not as shiny as the Colorado which reduces the amount of reflection during daylight operations. However daylight viewing in full sunlight is also poor even with full backlighting. The largest difference comes from the fact that both the antennae and wheel are missing from this unit. The Oregon's inputs with exception of 3 buttons including the power on are done via touch screen. This is a great improvement in terms of ease of use but also reduces the size of the receiver.

Again this new unit has many features specifically designed for Geocaching. You have the option of purchasing both units in a low cost base form (model 300) that will give you a lot of great features. However you also have the option of purchasing the 400 series models that feature enhanced mapping features that include coastal and inland nautical maps covering most of the US and Bahamas. The "C" model includes charts that cover coastal waters and the Great Lakes and the "I" model has detailed navigation charts for inland lakes. In addition the model 400t has preloaded topographic maps of the entire US with the ability to use SD cards to add detailed maps of some National Parks and Forests. Both models allow you to install MapSource cards that will give you turn by turn street navigation capability.
In terms of performance we found that both the Colorado and Oregon worked very well. However they did not appear to be as accurate as some of the older Garmin models such as the 76s and 60sx. The two new units seem to have more track drift than the older units. Satellite acquisition was much slower than expected but that may be due to mapping software installed in each unit.

Both the Oregon and Colorado have a lot of great features but one feature that we really would like to see is ability to clearly view the display in full sunlight without using excess power drain of backlighting. When you are in the bush battery management is a priority and neither unit is very efficient. An increase in battery life would be greatly appreciated. At this time we will hold off purchasing any additional Colorado or Oregon GPS units until further improvements are made. We will continue to monitor all the software and hardware improvements as they become available.