Garmin Dakota 20 GPS Review

For my hiking and mountaineering expeditions I needed a handheld GPS device that will provide me all necessary trail information and safety when weather conditions become really nasty up on the snowy mountains. My goal was to purchase a not very large or heavy device that would run on AA batteries and would have touch screen too. Garmin makes the most of the Dakota 20’s smaller screen (2.6 inches diagonal, compared with the Oregon’s 3 inches diagonal) by providing a large-font mode for the trip odometer that displays speed and moving time in a large, bold font easily visible when the unit is mounted on a bike handlebar.

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Front View

The screen is customisable to the Dakota 20’s multiple modes, and for the most part the controls were intuitive and easy to use. I found screen brightness and sharpness to be just fair. This means that I am not entirely happy with the quality of the screen, especially if I compare it with mobile phone devices such as an iPhone 6. Having said that, the Dakota 20 will provide you enough screen space in order to locate yourself and the next “waypoint”.

The interface is basically the same as that of the Garmin Oregon, with a main menu of 24 items spread across four screens. It’s pretty intuitive and easy to use, but it gets much better if you take the time to customize it. The user can change profile and can re-arrange the menu. The keypad is not very easy to use, due to the smaller screen, but I found that I quickly got used to this and it did not result in a significant increase in errors.

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Back View

he Dakota 20 has the same excellent route, track and waypoint management tools. These include:

  • Waypoints – The ability to project a waypoint, and to reposition one at your current location.
  • Tracks – You can choose to hide or show a track on the map and give it a custom color (17 colors are available). The image at the right shows the View Track preview option.
  • Routes – You can view a map of the entire route, edit the route, reverse it and view an elevation plot.

Plan Your Next Trip

One of the best features Garmin provides, is that you can plan your next trip right from your computer. Take charge of your next adventure with BaseCamp™, software that lets you view and organize maps, waypoints, routes, and tracks. This free trip-planning software even allows you to create Garmin Adventures that you can share with friends, family or fellow explorers. BaseCamp displays topographic map data in 2-D or 3-D on your computer screen, including contour lines and elevation profiles. It also can transfer an unlimited amount of satellite images to your device when paired with a BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription.

Garmin Dakota 20 pros

  • Compact and light weight
  • Tri-axial compass
  • Barometric altimeter
  • Great touch screen interface
  • Slightly better sunlight visibility than Oregon series
  • Ability to customize display and menus using profiles
  • Excellent track management tools
  • Paperless geocaching support
  • Availability of free maps
  • Accepts Garmin custom raster maps with v 3.22 beta
  • Good battery life

Garmin Dakota 20 cons

  • Poor sunlight visibility than eTrex and GPSMAP color units
  • Small screen limits map area that can be seen

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Physical & Performance

Physical dimensions 2.2″ x 3.9″ x 1.3″ (5.5 x 10 x 3.3 cm)
Display size, WxH 1.43″ x 2.15″ (3.6 x 5.5 cm); 2.6″ diag (6.6 cm)
Display resolution, WxH 160 x 240 pixels
Display type transflective color TFT touchscreen
Touchscreen  Yes
Weight 5.25 oz (148.8 g) with batteries
Battery 2 AA batteries (not included); NiMH or Lithium recommended
Battery life 20 hours
Water rating IPX7
High-sensitivity receiver  Yes
Interface USB
Barometric altimeter  Yes
Electronic compass Yes (tilt-compensated 3-axis)
Unit-to-unit transfer (shares data wirelessly with similar units)

Maps & Memory

Basemap  Yes
Ability to add maps   Yes
Built-in memory 850 MB
Accepts data cards microSD™ card (not included)
Custom POIs (ability to add additional points of interest)   Yes
Waypoints/favorites/locations 1000
Routes 50
Track log 10,000 points, 200 saved tracks

Outdoor Features

Automatic routing (turn by turn routing on roads) Yes (with optional mapping for detailed roads)
Geocaching-friendly Yes (Paperless)
Custom maps compatible   Yes
Hunt/fish calendar   Yes
Sun and moon information   Yes
Tide tables   Yes
Area calculation   Yes

13 thoughts on “Garmin Dakota 20 GPS Review

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