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Garmin eTrex 32x Review

Garmin eTrex 32x – in this review we will discuss the Garmin eTrex 30x successor in detail, a keyboard-operated GPS device that provides all the basic features you need for a variety of outdoor activities.

The Garmin eTrex series – the first eTrex was born in 1999 – defines together with the Garmin GPSMAP series the term "GPS handheld".

The eTrex 32x is characterized in particular by the following strengths:

  •  Small, light, handy
  •  Excellent display
  •  Fast GPS positioning, accurate tracks
  •  Class leading battery life

What has Garmin improved in the new eTrex generation?

Actually, not much!

  •  Small cosmetic changes in the setup (menus: Tracks, Reset)
  •  Larger internal memory: 8 GB (32x) vs. 3.7 GB (30x)
Garmin eTrex 32x - Reviewing in all weather conditions
Garmin eTrex 32x – Reviewing in all weather conditions

Let’s get right to the internal memory. Only about 90 MB are available – the pre-installed TopoActive map eats up most of the memory! For example, if you want to install additional cards, load numerous GPX tracks and various pocket queries with geocaches and waypoints, you need an additional microSD card (up to 32 GB). This gives rise to the suspicion that during the development of the 32x, the map department did not speak to the hardware department (or vice versa).

Other desirable technical innovations have also not been implemented, such as a modern USB connection (Micro-USB or USB-C instead of the built-in Mini-B). A weakness of the predecessor eTrex 30x is the slow processor. Zooming and moving the map or calling up an extensive POI collection can take some time – this shortcoming also persists.

Our wishlist is similar to the GPSMAP 64sx, especially regarding the menu: A few improvements would be great, for example functions to sort or filter the tracks in the track manager.

Hopefully a serious problem with the predecessors has been fixed: In our test fleet, an eTrex 20 and an eTrex 30 died. Reason: The rubber coating is broken, the keys got lost. Result: The device is no longer usable, which can lead to serious trouble during outdoor tours. Only an endurance test can show whether this weak point has been eliminated – we will report!

Enough of the criticism – the eTrex 32x has so many strengths that make it our first choice for long, weight-optimized tours and kayaking!

Garmin eTrex 32x Experience – GPS Receiver

The Garmin eTrex series features a patch antenna. This also applies to the eTrex 32x – this means that the best GPS reception is theoretically achieved when the device is aligned horizontally.

Our experience has shown that track recordings are generally very accurate, even during an outdoor activity such as hiking, when the eTrex is attached to the backpack and the GPS antenna is therefore not well positioned.

In this discipline, the eTrex 32x is on the same level as our favourite – the GPSMAP 64sx. But the 32x has another strength: The position is available very fast after switching on the device – and therefore much faster than with the GPSMAP 64sx!

GNSS settings

  • GPS
  • GPS + EGNOS
  • GPS + GLONASS
  • GPS + GLONASS + EGNOS
eTrex 32x: GPS only
eTrex 32x: GPS only
eTrex 32x: GPS & EGNOS
eTrex 32x: GPS & EGNOS
eTrex 32x: GPS & GLONASS
eTrex 32x: GPS & GLONASS
eTrex 32x: GPS & GLONASS & EGNOS
eTrex 32x: GPS & GLONASS & EGNOS
Garmin eTrex 32x Review
Garmin eTrex 32x Review

Garmin eTrex 32x Review – Battery Life

Garmin specifies 25 hours as battery life. We have tried the 32x with eneloop rechargeable batteries, we get the following times (in hh:mm).

Energy saving mode (all consumers off)

  • 35:00*
  • 40:30**

Power mode (all loads on)

  • 10:15*
  • 10:50*
  • 13:00**
  • 12:55**

* white eneloop ** black eneloop pro

Depending on the use case, the times to be achieved are between these values. The 25 hours indicated by Garmin thus appear very realistic.

This makes the eTrex 32x ideal for weight-optimized tours, especially in combination with powerful and comparatively light lithium batteries (2x AA Energizer Lithium 30.3 g; 2x AA eneloop 59.5 g).

Batteries cannot be charged in the eTrex (as is the case with Oregon, GPSMAP 64sx or GPSMAP 66s, for example); from our point of view, this is a function that can be dispensed as the charging process is very slow.

Garmin eTrex 32x – Display

The small 2.2-inch display offers excellent readability. In addition there is a resolution like no other outdoor handheld from Garmin has – maps, fonts etc. appear razor sharp.

  •  eTrex 32x: 4,987 pixels/cm² (3.5 x 4.4 cm, 240 x 320 pixels)
  •  GPSMAP 66s: 4,010 pixels/cm² (3.8 x 6.3 cm, 240 x 400 pixels)
  •  Oregon 700: 4,010 pixels/cm² (3.8 x 6.3 cm, 240 x 400 pixels)
  •  eTrex Touch: 1,940 pixels/cm² (3.6 x 5.5 cm, 160 x 240 pixels)
  •  GPSMAP 64sx: 1,940 pixels/cm² (3.6 x 5.5 cm, 160 x 240 pixels)

You have to arrange yourself with the small area, but it is perfectly sufficient for navigating with tracks – certainly the most frequently used navigation method.

eTrex 32x Review – Interfaces

The following interfaces are available:

  •  USB (type Mini-B) for data exchange and power supply.
  •  ANT+ to connect to heart rate, cadence, temperature sensor, Garmin chirp or VIRB action camera and to exchange data with compatible Garmin devices (transfer waypoints, routes, tracks & geocaches).

A feature frequently requested by users – the wireless import of GPX files from a smartphone – is not available. users with Android smartphones can at least import via USB and OTG cable.

Garmin eTrex 32x – Handling & Operations

As already mentioned, two eTrex strengths are size (5.4 x 10.3 x 3.3 cm) and weight (152 g with eneloops). So the 32x fits in pretty much any bag, is handy and lightweight.

The operation with five keys and thumbstick takes getting used to (generation "Smartphone"), but can be learned quickly, especially if all possibilities for individualizing the user interface are exhausted. The Garmin eTrex 32x can also be easily operated with one hand, the same applies to finger gloves that are not too thick.

As with all Garmin GPS handhelds, there are several pre-configured profiles for different outdoor activities to choose from. Additional profiles can be created and highly personalized.

The two illustrations on the right show our main menu for a profile "Hiking": 11 applications, in addition there is a map, trip computer, altitude profile and destination input page.

eTrex 32x - Hiking Menu 1
eTrex 32x – Hiking Menu 1
eTrex 32x - Hiking Menu 2
eTrex 32x – Hiking Menu 2
Garmin eTrex 32x
Garmin eTrex 32x

Garmin eTrex 32x Review – Functions

The Garmin eTrex 32x offers – similar to the recently reviewed GPSMAP 64sx – the proven functionality of Garmin handheld devices. This includes navigating with tracks, routes, waypoints, POIs and geocaches, but also the many additional functions such as proximity alarms, barometer, calendar and alarm clock.

The calculation of routes is done according to the parameters "off road, on road for time, on road for distance" or "car/motorcycle, pedestrian, bicycle".

Navigating with tracks is, as usual with Garmin, quite minimalistic – you simply have to follow the magenta-colored route on the map! There is no helpful routing, e.g. to the starting point of a track, nor is there any warning when deviating from the track default.

Several functions are available for special tasks, including waypoint projection, man overboard (MOB), sight 'n go and compass (CDI) – important e.g. for sea kayaking. Geocachers have paperless geocaching available.

As with the GPSMAP 64sx, the eTrex 32x can be used for any outdoor tour! The configuration and learning of all navigation functions takes some time and practice.

eTrex 32x – Maps & Accessories

The Garmin eTrex 32x comes with a worldwide base map and a TopoActive map for Europe. The TopoActive map is based on OpenStreetMap data, but the map has no contour lines (figures below). However, you can activate a shaded relief to visualize the morphology – we would still prefer contour lines. All in all, this pre-installed topo map is very well suited as a basis for navigating with tracks.

Garmin eTrex 32x: TopoActive map
Garmin TopoActive map missing contour lines
Garmin eTrex 32x: TopoActive + shaded relief
Garmin TopoActive map and shaded relief
Garmin eTrex 32x: OpenStreetMap
OpenStreetMap with contour lines

The scope of delivery is minimalist. There is only one USB cable in the sales package. In addition, you need batteries and a memory card, at least one holder for the backpack and / or a bicycle holder.

Garmin provides several free software. Garmin Express or the WebUpdater for managing and installing updates, the POI-Loader for installing additional POIs and BaseCamp for planning and managing tours (all for Windows and Mac).

Difference – eTrex 32x – eTrex 22x

The eTrex 32x also has the following features:

  • Barometric altimeter for precise altitude information and to display the air pressure when used as a weather station,
  • 3-axis compass for correct indication of directions when stationary or at very low speed,
  • Wireless connectivity via ANT+ to connect to sensors or exchange data with compatible Garmin handsets (see above, Interfaces).

The practical use – especially of the barometric altimeter – is high, therefore we recommend the eTrex 32x.

  • gps handheld device with 2.2-inch sunlight-readable colour display and preloaded with topoactive maps with routable roads and trails for cycling and hiking
  • support for gps and glonass satellites allows for tracking in more challenging environments than gps alone
  • built-in 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter help you keep your bearings
  • 8 gb of internal memory for map downloads plus a micro sd card slot and supports paperless geocaching for downloading geocaches and details straight to your unit
  • rugged, impact resistant and water-rated to ipx71 with up to 25 hours in gps mode with 2 aa batteries
  • Display size: 3.5 centimeters
(* = affiliate link / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases / image source: Amazon partner program)
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.co.uk/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Garmin eTrex 32x Review – Summary

The Garmin eTrex 32x features the same strengths and weaknesses as its direct predecessor. However, it is incomprehensible that the internal memory of the new generation is so small.

We recommend the Garmin eTrex 32x for a variety of outdoor activities. But especially for activities in which it can play off its special advantages: Size, weight and battery life that set standards.

eTrex 32x – Pros

  • Small, light, handy
  • Excellent & high resolution (but small) display
  • Excellent GPS reception
  • Stunning battery life
  • All necessary navigation features
  • Wide range of maps (Garmin, OSM, …)

eTrex 32x – Cons

  • Small internal memory
  • Slow zooming and moving the map, calling up lists, etc.
  • Outdated USB interface

eTrex 32x – Score

  • GPS: 100%
  • Speed: 40%
  • Battery: 100%
  • Display: 100%
  • Handling: 60%
  • Navigation: 80%
  • Features: 80%
  • Maps: 100%
  • Final Score: 80%
  • gps handheld device with 2.2-inch sunlight-readable colour display and preloaded with topoactive maps with routable roads and trails for cycling and hiking
  • support for gps and glonass satellites allows for tracking in more challenging environments than gps alone
  • built-in 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter help you keep your bearings
  • 8 gb of internal memory for map downloads plus a micro sd card slot and supports paperless geocaching for downloading geocaches and details straight to your unit
  • rugged, impact resistant and water-rated to ipx71 with up to 25 hours in gps mode with 2 aa batteries
  • Display size: 3.5 centimeters
(* = affiliate link / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases / image source: Amazon partner program)
×
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.co.uk/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
Note: The articles may contain affiliate links. If you buy through these links I will receive a commission; thus you support the continuation of this website. There are no additional costs for you. It is up to you where and when you buy a product. I do not receive any information about the buyer.

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11 thoughts on “Garmin eTrex 32x Review”

  1. I recently purchased an Etrex 32 ( mid 2020) for a bike packing trip through the Australian Snowies. The unit itself is tough and rugged and works pretty well. the screen is a bit small but it does the job. However, and this a big however do not buy this for bike packing as the mount recommended by Garmin for mounting the unit on your handle bar is rubbish. After about 750 km of riding on rough rocky roads/ tracks, on a corrugated gravel road the device managed to fall out of the holder. I noticed it had fallen out but I was unable to find the unit when I back tracked to the stop where I last looked at the Etrex. Sure its a bit of sour grapes, but that said, my i-phone was rock solid in its quad lock and the other guys had no issues with their gear mounted on the bars. I am pretty sure (90%+) that it was not user error as it was fine when I looked at it 7 km prior to noticing it had gone. For a unit that is supposed to be rugged the Garmin holder is crap and not reliable, For serious reliability and given the GPS can be an essential addition to your safety kit, buy a product that has bomb proof mounting. Also because I did not have a serial number,(though I do have all the receipts, photos on the bike etc), they would not entertain a replacement. That aside ( again sour grapes bias to be noted) the product design is not good enough from a company as well known as Garmin. I won’t replace it with a Garmin product.

    Reply
    • Hi,

      I agree the Garmin holder is not worthy of the outdoor handhelds; the best alternative is RAM mounts.

      Reply
  2. I have the etrex 32x and think it is very good, my only downside is that I can follow the same track numerous times and whilst the distance is measured the same +/- 0.1m the total ascent varies between 465ft and 775ft???

    Reply
    • Hi Nigel,
      quite strange, do you calibrate the altimeter? Which settings do you use for the altimeter?

      Reply
  3. Hello Joachim,

    I have an Etrex 20. I can’t recall how long I’ve had it – but quite a few years anyway.

    Would you consider this 32x to be a worthwhile upgrade? I’d be gaining a 3-axis compass and altimeter, which would be great.
    Although, in Canada, it’s $50 more expensive than the GPSMAP 64sx, or Oregon 700 (but not sure I want a touch screen).

    Reply
    • Hi Jason,

      yes, the 32x is a worthwhile upgrade – especially the altimeter. But, depending on your use case, however, I would consider whether another device would not be better, because the eTrex is so slow … maybe the GPSMAP 64sx or 65s!

      Cheers

      Reply
  4. My Etrex worked fine for a while, but eventually the rubber seal around the outside tore up. Garmin flat refuses to service it or even sell me a part. They want to charge me for a brand new GPS, which I do NOT need. Garmin couldn’t care less about supporting their products. They only want to get you to buy another one. The product is fine, but the Garmin Company is worthless. I suggest you patronize their competition.

    Reply
    • Hi William,

      I know this problem … two of my eTrex devices (eTrex 20, eTrex 30) are broken. However, you can check ebay for eTrex spare parts.

      Cheers

      Reply
  5. Hi,
    Thanks for the review. I have an older etrex 20 and am thinking of upgrading and have been looking at the GPSMap 66 or 86 mostly because of their larger screens, the down side apart from cost is their battery life which is two thirds of the etrex. Having read your review I’m thinking that perhaps a sharper screen is what I need rather than a larger one.
    best wishes
    Simon

    Reply
  6. Etrex 22x and 32x is Garmin doing away with these 2 items? Most outlets here in Belgium either have lost one in store or no more. I know you can still get them over Garmin direct but it does seem that stores seem to not what to keep any stock on these 2 GPS units. Is it that they are coming up with new models of the eTrex button version. I have a couple of friends that do not like the touch screen models at all.

    Reply