Garmin Oregon 600 Review


Garmin have recently released their Oregon 6xx series of GPS. In the range are the 600, 600t, 650, and 650t. The ‘t’ models include “Full European Recreational mapping 1:100K”. The 650 units include a rechargeable NiMH battery pack (this can be purchased separately for the 600 for under £20), an 8MP geotagging camera, a torch, and a larger storage capacity. The devices are currently retailing at between £370 and £500, depending on the model and whether you add 50k OS maps to your purchase. I took a look at an Oregon 600 with 50k OS maps to see if it was a worthwhile upgrade…

First impressions

The Garmin Oregon 600t

The Garmin Oregon 600t

My first impression of the device was that the screen seemed smaller than the Oregon 450 that I’ve used. In fact the screen size is the same (3″ / 240 x 400 pixels). Whereas previous Oregons have the protective raised plastic around the edge of the screen the new version is completely flat with the glass of the screen extending to the edges. This does make the device appear to look more modern and phone-like, however means that the screen isn’t as protected around the edges and gives the illusion that the screen is smaller than it is. It also seems a bit of a waste as it’d be more desirable if the screen filled this vacant space. The glass used on the screen is however “chemically enhanced” meaning that it should be more scratch resistant and durable and therefore doesn’t need that added ridge. Check out this YouTube video where they throw it on concrete and hit it with a hammer and it still doesn’t break!!!

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REVIEW: Garmin Montana


The wait is over

Since I first blogged about the Montana in May I had been itching to get my hands on one, patiently waiting for a UK online store to get some in stock. I didn’t really want to pay the price that Garmin were stating as the RRP. £600-£650 is a lot of money for a GPSr. I was therefore pleased when I saw them sold by Marine Electronic Services Ltd. I pre-ordered my Montana 650 and patiently waited for 2 weeks until finally the day came when my Montana was delivered. Sod’s law meant it came on the very day that I was travelling to Wales for the MEGA so I had to again patiently wait until I got back to play with it. For anyone thinking of purchasing a Montana, I will say that I’m definitely pleased with Mes Ltd. I emailed them a few times to check on my order (I lied when I said I was patient!) and always got a reply back within an hour or two. They also provided a tracking number for me to watch the status of my order. At the time of writing they are also the cheapest price I can find for all of the Montana models, although I notice the 650 has gone up by £20 since I purchased it. I think their site currently does still have the best price.

The review

I’m going to look at the Montana as “A Geocacher” and review the features that I think a Geocacher is most likely to use, so this isn’t going to go into depth with the Marine, Hunt and Fish features, etc. The model I am reviewing is the “Garmin Montana 650” although there’s not a massive difference between this and the other models. The 600 is the base model. The 650 is the base model + a 5 megapixel camera, and the 650t is the base model, camera, and maps.

The size

The first thing you will probably notice about the Montana is that it’s big! It has a 5.06 x 8.93 cm (4″ diagonal) screen. I think this is the thing that will put most people off of purchasing it (Other than the price, of course!). It’s also quite chunky, but you do need that to ensure that it’s not easily damaged. To be honest, the size doesn’t bother me too much. If we were going caching in a really urban location (e.g. a day trip to London) I would be tempted to leave it at home and take our Garmin Dakota simply because you wouldn’t be as easily noticed. The size gives a huge advantage and the massive screen is just brilliant to work with. It’s so easy to scroll around the map and see caches, particulary if you are in an area and are not sure where to go next.

A Dakota 10, Samsung Galaxy S, and the Montana

Caches on the map zoomed out

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Free maps for your Garmin GPSr from Open Street Map


Since I purchased our Garmin GPSr I have always relied on the Garmin Great Britain TOPO maps to “show us the way”. This however, isn’t the only option for maps on our handheld GPSr’s. There is a free option – Open Street Map.

Map options

Garmins come with a worldwide basemap installed. It’s not very exciting though. Some sea, land, a few roads and rivers, etc. To start seeing contours, minor roads, footpaths and more detailed terrains then you need something else. There are a few options for UK cachers…

An example of the base map - No footpaths

There are the Garmin TOPO Great Britain maps. These show countours, roads, rivers, POI’s trig points, and some tracks and paths. They retail at £150. We’ve used these for about a year, and despite Garmin stating the data is provided by the Ordnance Survey not all footpaths are included, and in some cases there are footpaths included that we have walked over to only to be confronted by a gate that says “PRIVATE” on it. The maps are OK. I can’t say they are great.

The Garmin TOPO maps - Some footpaths, minor roads, forests, etc.

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NEW: Garmin Montana GPSr + Magellan eXplorists in the UK


Well, it looks like there are some exciting times ahead for us UK gadget-loving Geocachers. Today Garmin announced the new Montana unit and last week Magellan announced that they would return to the UK and launch four GPS handhelds.

Garmin Montana

The Garmin Montana

The Garmin Montana looks very exciting indeed. We have the usual features that the Oregon is packed with (Wireless, microSD card, waterproof, durable, paperless caching, etc.) but we also have a 4″ sunlight-readable touchscreen (Hooray!!!) with improvements on the display and the ability to view maps in landscape mode. It’s also packed with a 5-megapixel digital camera which allows Geotagging (Add the coordinates that a photo was taken to the photo attributes) and allows the ability to navigate to a geotagged photo. We have a massive 3.5GB of built-in storage too (Well, you need somewhere to store those 5MP photos!). It comes with a rechargable Lithium Ion battery, but also gives the option of using 3 AA batteries, for those emergencies when you frantically dash of for an FTF and the battery dies, of course! It also looks like if you buy the City Navigator maps for it, plus a mount then it will transform into an in-car sat nav. There will be three models: the 600, 650 (+ camera) and 650t (+camera, +maps).

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Opencaching.com – Garmin’s new cache listing site!


Just when OpenCaching was starting to accumulate a good number of caches along came another Geocaching site, OpenCaching! Er, wait… Didn’t I just say that??? Yes I did. In case you weren’t aware, Geocaching.com is not the only cache listing site out there. There is also navicache, Terracaching, and quite recently a trend of ‘OpenCaching’ with sites for each country (opencaching.org.uk, opencaching.eu, opencaching.us, etc.) These opencaching sites are focused on being completely free, so there is no members fee. Also you have more choices on what types of cache you can submit. E.g. Webcam and virtuals are allowed.

This new opencaching site that has caused quite a stir is opencaching.com and despite having the same name is not under the same umbrella as all of the other opencaching sites, instead it is associated with our good friends GARMIN!!! Hmmm…

At least the graphics are cute!

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NEWS: The Garmin Chirp (Wireless beacon for Geocaching)


A few days ago Garmin released a new little Geocaching product called the “Chirp”. This is a little wireless beacon that runs on their ANT wireless protocol, meaning it can communicate with any other Garmin ANT-enabled devices.

The Chirp

The basic idea of this is that you place this little device in your cache. When a GeoCacher with an ANT-enabled Garmin device comes within 10m they can then pick up the signal it is transmitting. This signal can push additional hints, or coordinates and can confirm that the cache is nearby.

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HOWTO: Loading Geocaches onto your Sat Nav as POI’s


On Saturday I went caching on my own and as a result I was both the navigator and the driver. Before driving to the next cache I studied my map carefully and memorised the junctions and turns I needed to make. I did however have to glance at the GPSr a couple of times (Which isn’t a safe thing to be doing) and I did make the wrong turn more than a couple of times! I thought there must be a better way to do it…

Most cheap sat nav’s support POI files and our Garmin Streetpilot C510 is no exception (My old Navman sat nav does as well) however some don’t accept .LOC or .GPX files which you get from the Geocaching.com site (And for the ones that do I should imagine you have to play around with Geocache GPX files to condense the information in them). It is however extremely simple to get your .GPX file to a .POI file and I was surprised to find out that .POI files are simply just .CSV files (Are you fed up of my TLA’s yet? ;))

So onto the nitty gritty. To get your Geocaches onto your sat nav…

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