Garmin Vista HCx tips and tricks


Here are some tips provided by Frank Zgoznik for using the Garmin Vista HCx

Map Limits on the GPS

The Garmin units have a limit of 2024 maps. So not all the OZ topo maps will fit on the GPS.
I found that I could install all the City Navigator maps (MetroGuide is your equivalent), all the Tracks4Australia 1.20 maps but only the eastern half of Australia using the OZTopoMaps10m.

Technical details here:

Vista HCx Software Update

The eTrex Vista HCx’s have a software update to version 2.40 on 26th Sep 2007. Details here

Map upgrades coming?

I bought the City Navigator 2007 maps that includes the ability to give directions to get from A to B along roads. It’s been quite useful.  Since it was purchased after 1 July, I’m eligible for a free upgrade to the 2008 version. A CD is on it’s way from the US for me. There may be something similar coming for the Metro Guide.

Topographic Maps

We’ve downloaded the data for the area around Mt Bogong. We’ve found that when using the Garmin software, the Tracks4Australia and the 10m contours, the next big thing that’s missing is the creeks and rivers. So we’ve added them in. The data is just OK, not great, because it’s based on 1:250K mapping information. It’s a bit coarse, but nonetheless it’s useful. I’ll keep you posted as we get more familiar with it.

There’s a How-to PDF from an Australian researcher here:

High Sensitivity Receiver

The eTrex Vista HCx has a high sensitivity receiver that’s much better in challenging outdoor environments, including heavy and wet tree coverage. My recent trip to the Prom proved the point. I got great coverage where using my old eTrex Legend failed miserably. For me it’s a 100% improvement in the bush.  It’s not a Sirf III chip as I initially had thought. But it’s comparable.

Geotagging photos made easy

While I was at the Prom I had my GPS turned on most of the time. I also took quite a few photos. Back at home I transferred the photos and the tracks onto my PC. The tracks were transferred using MapSource. I was then able to easily geotag each photo using a free tool from Microsoft called WWMXLocationStampter. It only works on jpegs and I suggest you have correct time on your camera as the stamping doesn’t allow any leeway. But it works great. I transferred the photos to Picasa and I could easily see the location each photo was taken. I could also view them using Google earth.

The WWMXLocationStampter is available here:

If you shoot Nikon raw or want a better interface then you might want to pay and use RoboGeo or do the following hack, though I haven’t tried it myself.

Laptop Routing Software

You can you your GPS connected to a laptop to enable routing on roads. I believe it works using the MetroGuide information (but since I have CityNavigator I can’t be cetain of this). Have the sound turned on because it will give you turn by turn instructions. It’s free from Garmin.

Red light and Speed cameras

You can get the locations for Red light and speed cameras onto your GPS. The GPS will alert you when you are near a red light camera or going to fast near a speed camera. You can download the locations to your GPS. The GPS will alert you when you are nearby or going too fast. The software is free from Garmin, the data is free from Garmin’s Australian Distributor GME.

To load these locations onto your GPS use the POI Loader utility on the same page. You can load the camera locations without upsetting any other settings you have. Ensure that you have Proximity Alarms turned on in your GPS – see MainMenu > Setup > System.

Cycling using the eTrex

I bought two bike mounts on eBay for the eTrex from The mounts turned up 2 days later.
They’re great. I was quickly able to go on my ride to work, upload the log to my PC and transfer it to You can see my route here:

Free Australian Maps

I’ve investigated a few possilble sources of free maps for Australia. The best so far seems to be the Tracks4Australia which we already have and another one using the 250K MapConnect data. It’s called Shonky Maps. It’s reasonably good and likely to be useful for BSAR. It has good detail and 50m contours in a zip file that’s 345MB in size.