Garmin Etrex Fiddle Fix

Post by blogger | April 21, 2009      
Backcountry Skiing

Garmin GPS mod.

Trying to get my Silvretta last day TR up for you guys, but I’m having too much fun testing backcountry skiing gear on our nice Colorado springtime snowpack. Out again this morning, so a quick post about a gear mod, then I’ll process more Silvretta images this afternoon.

Garmin’s idea of having a joystick on a GPS seems cool in the store when you try it out, but take it to the field and the teeny lever may drive you crazy when it gets inadvertently bumped, thus switching things around on the screen so who knows what you’ll be looking at from one “gyping” session to the next. Of course, having a control lock in the unit’s firmware would be too simple and logical for a GPS. I mean, that would be like having a parking brake in a car! How lame! Add things as useful as that, then working with the Garmin Etrex wouldn’t self actualize the geek in us.

Garmin Etrex joystick protector.

The mod. Make a protector ring from the end of a wire nut. Glue it on with two-part plastic adhesive. Relax.

We’ll, my inner geek is plenty actualized, so the other day I got fed up with the Garmin Etrex’s stupid joystick flipping me all over the place every time I brushed against it. Time for the WildSnow modshop to take over. Sorry geeks (and apologies if you guys did hack the firmware and add a control lock — I couldn’t find anything on Google, besides, smearing adhesive on a piece of electronic equipment is like waxing skis. So satisfying.)

Backcountry Skiing

In process. Plenty of masking tape, including covering the joystick in case a gob of adhesive gets flung where it's not wanted. I just held the ring on with a finger and puttied the adhesive around it. Surfaces were prepped by toothing with a Scotchbrite and cleaning with denatured alcohol.

The Etrex joystick protector ring I made is about 4 mm tall, and may only need to be about 3 mm for easier access to the joystick. It’s easy to reduce height using a course file, so I’ll tune it after some field testing. Trick was to make the ring large enough in diameter to allow access to the stick, but not so large it wouldn’t protect it. Each to his own on that. My 13 mm ID ring still lets my finger do the walking, but with a thick gloved digit it wouldn’t be so easy. Compromise. Oh the pain. But at least that map cursor will be where I left it the last time I looked at it.



10 Responses to “Garmin Etrex Fiddle Fix”

  1. Alex April 21st, 2009 10:28 am

    Nice fix, I have the same problem with the eTrex Vista, if I stick it in my jacket it will constantly keep pressing the knob/button which if left on the map screen leads to it entering _many_ new waypoints.

  2. Scott April 21st, 2009 11:15 am

    It’s surprising to me that Garmin let this problem go for more than one generation of GPS devices. Such a simple fix for a big frustration. You’d think this issue would come out right away during field testing.

  3. Lou April 21st, 2009 11:21 am

    My theory is that a LOT of people buy or buy/gift these small personal GPS units, but a LOT of them sit in drawers or turned off in a backpack. If more people used them for field nav of more than a quick map check, the hue and cry for at least a control lock would be all over the net. Instead, I googled it and just found a few folks chatting about the need for a control lock. This stuff is frustrating. I’ve certainly got better things to do than gluing wire nuts onto GPS casings — but the fix does work, used it today, very pleasant to be able to leave the GPS on, throw it in a pocket, pull it back out, and not have the display all whacked out.

  4. ScottP December 28th, 2009 1:35 am

    I was just given a Garmin eTrex for Christmas and I was glad I remembered this post. How is the absence of a key lock not a huge problem for more people? I just used it for a single day of skiing and was cursing it within 15 minutes for the joystick doing all sorts of crazy things while in my pocket. Even worse, the eTrex are all advertised as “pocket-sized” GPS units. How can something that’s obviously supposed to be put into a pocket be so poorly suited for the job?

  5. Lou December 28th, 2009 8:38 am

    Scott, it seems to me that the only answer to your question is that the user interface of the eTrex was designed by morons, or that they expect us to glue things to it to make it work. That being said, in my opinion Garmin is still the only way to go. I’ve been using a 60CSx and without a joystick it’s a bit more friendly, though still needs a keypad lockout. :angel:

  6. ScottP December 28th, 2009 10:32 am

    Yeah, it wouldn’t be anywhere near so irritating if the GPS didn’t work so well otherwise because then I could just eschew the whole thing. Oh well, glad I saw your mod!

  7. Rob March 22nd, 2010 1:32 pm

    FInally got around to making this mod to my Garmin and tested it out during a Humboldt ski trip yesterday. It works great, so I thought I’d bump this up for anyone who missed out on it last year.

  8. Lou March 22nd, 2010 3:49 pm

    Rob, good on ya! Really nice to have that joystick not getting bumped around, isn’t it?

  9. ScottP February 28th, 2011 8:56 pm

    I made my mod to my Garmin a few months ago, forgot to repost here and thank you for the tip! Very nice not to have it logging crap all the time.

  10. Lou February 28th, 2011 10:22 pm

    Scott, great!

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