Looking for a rugged, user-friendly Garmin handheld GPS navigator to push your adventures to the next level? I put the Garmin Oregon 450T to the test in South America.
I purchased the Garmin Oregon 450T to use during a three year expedition across the Andes Mountains in Argentina, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia. The unit was tested in a variety of activities, including high-altitude mountaineering, camping, climbing, and long-distance hiking. I had considered using a Garmin Oregon unit for camping in the past but this was my first long expedition with the 450T.
- 3" sunlight-readable touchscreen display
- Preloaded topographic maps with 3-D map views
- 3-axis compass with accelerometer and barometric altimeter sensors
- microSD™ card slot
WHAT I LOVED:
- While using the Garmin Oregon for hiking many times I would attach the carabiner (included with the unit) to my shoulder strap for easy access and instant information about the terrain I was covering.
- The touch screen is incredibly intuitive and the menus are easy to navigate. The overall weight of the Garmin Oregon vs Montana or similar models convinced me to purchase the Oregon because when climbing every ounce counts.
- The unit can be operated with one hand, much like a smartphone, which enabled me to access information in any situation during my expedition.
- The durability is amazing; I dropped this unit from thigh height multiple times over the course of three years and did not have an issue.
- The unit boots up quickly, which allowed me to extend the battery life by leaving it powered down, then powering up for a few minutes to check my location.
- I was able to upload tracks from other hikers and climbers with ease, giving me a line to follow when chasing a remote peak or ancient pioneer trail.
What I didn't Like:
- The Garmin Oregon 450 maps include a basemap of the world that does not contain enough information for an off-the-grid excursion. Alternate maps with more detailed topography are available for purchase through Garmin or via download.
- At times the unit would have some minor issues determining my exact location in heavy forest. In order to turn the unit off the single side-button is depressed for several seconds; however, the screen is turned off by depressing the button for a shorter length of time. This sometimes lead me to incorrectly believe that the unit was off.
- When I switched to an open source map for some of my climbing expeditions the OSM maps were not completely compatible with the Garmin basemap map and so there was some overlap of information.
THE FINAL WORD:
I was pleased with my purchase and certainly relied on my Garmin Oregon 450T for all of my navigation needs. When in a solo situation in the back country an equipment failure might be devastating; the Oregon did not let me down and over the course of my expedition my life depended on this GPS!
On a solo bid for the summit of the 14th highest peak in the Americas, Tupungato, I was denied the summit by a storm mountaineers in the Andes refer to as “The White Winds.” High velocity winds pick up super-compacted snow particles and blast the faces of the mountains, cutting visibility down to no more than a few feet. The force of the wind pushed me into a crouch and in my semi-hunched position I cradled the Garmin Oregon in my hands and followed the map back to my basecamp, which had become buried in snow during my summit attempt.
A model using buttons as opposed to a touch screen would have been virtually unusable with my heavy mountaineering gloves. When the screen timed out I was able to push the single side button with my gloved thumb, allowing me to keep my gloves on during the storm. In the early AM when I left my basecamp for my summit bid I had used the Oregon to drop a waypoint at my basecamp, so when I returned all I needed to do was select the waypoint and hit “GO.” The unit automatically scaled the map and constantly corrected my bearing.
Of course, neither myself nor Garmin would ever recommend using the unit in such conditions! However, by this time in my journey I had enough confidence in this piece of equipment that I knew I could trust it to bring me safely home. I summited Tupungato successfully the following day and continued using the Oregon for 18 months in the Andes. The Oregon 450T is currently stored in my closet, awaiting the next adventure, which I hope will be sooner rather than later!
BUT SHOULD YOU UPGRADE?
Once I decided on the Oregon series, I did extensive research as to which model I wanted to carry for my expedition.
Garmin Oregon 450T vs 550T (discontinued)
My decision was easy; the 550T provides the same key features but includes a camera. I always carry a small point-and-shoot camera to document my adventures, making this added option somewhat superfluous.
Garmin Oregon 450T vs 650T
This was a bit of a tougher decision being that Garmin announced the 450T in 2009 and the 650T in 2013. The more recent 650T comes with an 8MP camera, more internal memory and rechargeable NiMH battery pack. Pairing the rechargeable pack with a small solar panel would have increased my options in the back country.
Garmin Oregon 450T vs 750T
Since Garmin introduced more recent models the 450T and 550T have been gradually phased out. The 750T is their most recent model and comes loaded with everything described in the previous models, plus take a look at this improved feature!
Garmin Oregon 750T Key Features
- Redesigned antenna enables better GPS and GLONASS reception and performance; 3-axis compass with accelerometer and barometric altimeter sensors
- 3-inch sunlight-readable touchscreen with dual orientation (landscape or portrait view)
- Expanded wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth®, ANT+® capable); includes smart notifications¹ and automatic uploads to Garmin Connect™ online community and supports Active Weather and Geocaching Live
- 8 megapixel autofocus camera; automatically geotags photos
- Preloaded TOPO U.S. 100K maps; includes 1-year BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription
While the 450T is still supported, if you are in the market for a new unit, I would suggest purchasing a more recent Oregon series model.
After my experience with the Oregon 450T I would assume there are extremely high-quality used units available, however, these will not automatically come with Garmin’s amazing service and support. I was able to contact Garmin at any moment during my expedition and speak to a person in technical support. Their response time is phenomenal and this is a company who stands behind their product.
For a Garmin Oregon 450 Manual:
To purchase the latest handheld GPS units, including the 750T, directly from Garmin:
To take a look at how the newer Garmin units stack up against each other: