Top of the range Etrex model. Features barometric altimeter, electronic compass, 24Mb of memory capable of holding very detailed downloadable maps - as well as the usual waypoints, tracks, routes, etc, etc.
Rating is average of good and bad. This unit is small, lightweight, has large memory, and a good screen. Battery life is poor and the antenna is not very good. I also found the Vista controls hard to operate. I also have a Garmin III+ with a great antenna, smaller memory, heavier, four batteries (great batter life), and no compass or altimeter - I kept the III+ and sold the Vista. Your mileage may vary.
I really like this product. It's features are very handy and click-stick makes it very easy to use. It is also very easy to use with computerized map programs. Packed with extras and lots of memory space. The only reason for its four star rating is the battery life. I use this with rechargeable batteries and it drains them in no time. Also it can take a while for it to find the satelites at startup.
I have the Vista and Legend models. Both units perform reliably (purshased the Legend over 3 years ago). They are compact enough to take anywhere. With rechargeable NiMH batteries, I usually get about 10 hours of run time. The menu and general operation of the unit is user-friendly and simple.
My only gripe is that the control stick (on both units) is sometimes erratic. This can be frustrating when you're trying to enter a waypoint, pan the map, or toggle through the menu. Aside from this shortcoming, which is an inconvenience but not a show-stopper, the eTrex is the perfect product that I won't travel without.
I owned a Garmin eTrex Vista for several years and used it over all kinds of terrain. It was used in conjunction with Terrain Navigator (computerized Topo software) to plan each outing, then, download waypoints along my proposed route. After each outing, I moved my actual track from the GPS to Terrain Navigator to serve as a permanent record.
As a general rule this worked well in open terrain; however in heavily forested areas or in deep canyons, the eTrex Vista often lost contact with available satellites. This caused it to record very erratic tracks, which then had to be corrected in my Topo software by hand – a very tedious affair, to be sure.
Battery life with the Garmin eTrex Vista is suspect. During warm weather (above 70 degrees Fahrenheit) you can expect the batteries to last all day, and then some. But, if the temperature drops below 50 degrees, expect to replace the batteries every 4 hours or so. The eTrex Vista has a battery life icon on the main menu page. I always watched that closely (after the first couple of hours) during cold weather to see if it was time to retrieve warm batteries from my pocket.
Over all, I have to say the Garmin eTrex Vista served me well. It performed perfectly on every climb I made to the summit of a Colorado 14er and on many hikes through open or lightly forested terrain. It was only after I moved to Montana and began hiking and climbing in and through deep forested canyons that I discovered its limitations.
Though the suggested list price for a new Garmin eTrex Vista is $214, a used unit can generally be purchased on eBay for between $90 and $125, which is what I suggest if you decide this is the GPS for you.
If you're new to hiking and don't want to sink several hundred dollars into a state-of-the-art GPS, the Vista was meant for you! The unit has plenty of storage and a fairly intuitive user interface. When WAAS is disabled and the unit is in power saver mode, battery life is more than enough for a full day's hike, even on rechargeables. Accuracy is passable, and the barometric altimeter is a nice touch if you need the extra motivation of chasing altitudes on your way up!
Massive downside -- the antenna strength is poor. Be comfortable using a map and compass to navigate when in medium to heavy cover, as the Vista seems to lose signal very easily.