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Do-it-all Garmin Dakota 20 GPS Suitable for Multiple Sports, Geocaching, Hiking

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Garmin Dakota 20 Review

Garmin Dakota 20 color mapping handheld GPS.


The Bottom Line

The Garmin Dakota 20 is designed to be a versatile, do-it-all, rugged, touchscreen handheld GPS that's small enough to comfortably take on a run or mount on a bike, yet substantial enough to rely upon as your main GPS on a multi-day backpacking trip. You can even mount it in a vehicle and place it in car routing mode. And yes, it can load marine maps and has a marine chart mode. Geocachers will appreciate its dedicated geocaching features. It's rugged and completely waterproof, and passed my immersion test (don't try that with your iPhone). Overall the Dakota 20 is an excellent value in a versatile, compact handheld.
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  • Compact size.
  • Very versatile, multi-activity, do-it-all GPS.
  • Robust memory/storage and an SD card slot.
  • Waterproof and rugged.


  • Topo map reading somewhat cramped on small screen.


  • Price: $349
  • Color mapping, touchscreen, handheld GPS.
  • Unit dimensions: 2.2" x 3.9" x 1.3" (5.5 x 10 x 3.3 cm)
  • Display size: 1.43"W x 2.15"H (3.6 x 5.5 cm); 2.6" diag (6.6 cm)
  • Weight: 5.25 oz (148.8 g) with batteries
  • Batteries: 2 AA, battery life: 20 hours.
  • Waterproof
  • Basemap, but no pre-loaded topo or marine/lake maps. These are optional (see maps link below)
  • Accepts microSD card.
  • Waypoints/favorites/location capacity: 1,000. Routes: 50. Tracklog, 200 saved tracks.

Guide Review - Do-it-all Garmin Dakota 20 GPS Suitable for Multiple Sports, Geocaching, Hiking

For this review, I used the Garmin Dakota 20 on mountain bike rides, hikes, and runs. The Dakota 20 suits my outdoors style well. I don't do multi-day backcountry trips, but day hikes, bike rides, runs, and kayaking day trips are all things I enjoy, and the Dakota 20's compact size (2.2 x 3.9 x 1.3 inches, compared with the Garmin Oregon's 2.3 x 4.5 x 1.4 inches) and lighter weight never seemed like a burden. Also, unlike its larger cousins, it doesn't look out of place on a bike handlebar mount. Fitness-oriented users may want to buy the optional belt clip ($7.23), bike mount ($9.99), heart rate monitor strap ($60), or bike cadence sensor ($60).

This kind of versatility is welcome for those who want a GPS along for multiple activities, but don't want to spend for separate, more specialized GPS devices for each activity.

Garmin makes the most of the Dakota 20's smaller screen (2.6 inches diagonal, compared with the Oregon's 3 inches diagonal) by providing a large-font mode for the trip odometer that displays speed and moving time in a large, bold font easily visible when the unit is mounted on a bike handlebar. The screen is otherwise very customizable to the Dakota 20's multiple modes, and for the most part the controls were intuitive and easy to use. I found screen brightness and sharpness to be acceptable in full daylight, and it is adjustable.

The feature list is long, including a compass, paperless geocaching, waypoint manager (1,000 waypoint capacity), track manager (capacity, 200), stopwatch, and more. The Dakota 20 comes with a simple basemap, but you will need to purchase one of Garmin's many optional maps for specific tasks. For example, the "Topo US 24K West" map ($129.99) covers western states in great detail, and "US Inland Lakes Northcentral" ($116) covers lakes in detail. Load optional maps via SD card, DVD, or download.

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