Garmin’s Oregon outdoor GPS devices pack in a host of features, but they pack hefty price tags as well. If you don’t fancy paying over £300 for digital hiking assistance, Garmin has another option which also includes a touchscreen and supports Ordnance Survey maps, but costs less than £200. It’s called the Dakota, and this week we’re looking at the current flagship, the Dakota 20.
The main reason why the Dakota 20 is cheaper than any current Oregons is its smaller, lower resolution display. This is 2.6in diagonally rather than 3in, and the resolution is 160 x 240 pixels rather than 240 x 400. This makes the device considerably smaller, and it weighs in at under 149g rather than 193g.
But the Dakota 20 is equally rugged. It has the same robust build, and is also accredited to be waterproof to IPX7 standards. This means it can withstand half an hour submerged under a metre of water, although there’s no guarantee about whether it will survive a fall. Also, like the Oregon 550t, the Dakota 20’s digital compass is three-way, so it displays directions correctly no matter how you orient the device.
As standard, the Dakota 20 comes with a very basic world map, which only includes a few major roads and isn’t topographic. So adding an extra map will be essential if you want to use it as more than just a posh digital compass. As stated before, Garmin’s Ordnance Survey-based GB Discoverer maps are supported, and there’s a microSD slot hidden under the batteries.
You can also upload maps to the devices on-board memory, of which 850MB is free. However, the USB port is only version 1.1, so will be slower when transferring data than the Oregon’s USB 2.0 interface. We also found the Dakota a bit more sluggish zooming and scrolling these bitmap-based maps than the Oregons we’ve tested, whilst the lower resolution made it noticeably harder to get an overall idea of the surrounding terrain.
The usual range of destination options are available, though. You can navigate to waypoints, tracks you’ve recorded during previous trips, coordinates, and addresses. The latter can either be via the traditional city-street-number input process or you can enter a postcode, but not a full seven-digit UK one, just the initial group and first number of the second group. You can choose to navigate via roads with maps that support this feature. So although the Dakota 20 would not make a particularly good in-car sat-nav, it shouldn’t take you down any dead ends when on foot. The Active Route option provides turn-by-turn directions to help you along your way as well.