Trekking or hiking through a jungle or going on a mountaineering trip is something that we all dream off. The opportunity to come close to the nature and refresh your mind is a must to take a break from your daily chores. However, there are several essentials that you should be carrying when going on such adventurous trips. A handheld GPS device is very handy as it allows you to easily complete your trip with no chances of getting lost. Be it a terrain with low visibility or a landscape that has no distinct features; the device makes it easy for you to enjoy your trip without any worries. There are several advantages that these handheld GPS comes with when compared to Smartphones.
A GPS device is more durable and comes with better battery life. Most devices are equipped with replaceable batteries and even support the usual AA batteries. So when you don’t have access to recharging points, you can always use the disposable options and stay on track. Comparing it against the popular GPS-enabled watches, a hand-held GPS offers a better view of the terrain. It presents a detailed map with some devices offering satellite imagery, which is not possible in case of watches. You may even insert new paths and plan your routes directly on the device itself. For GPS watches, you will have to use a computer to insert waypoints and routes. Hence, these features make a handheld GPS device handier than any of the other alternatives.
We have reviewed some of the best hiking GPS devices in the article below. The buying guide and differential review helps in selecting the perfect device for your need.
Tips & Guide To Buying the Best Hiking GPS Device
Although these are perfect guides for your travel, you should not solely rely on a single kind of GPS device. You should also be carrying a compass and a map when you are venturing in unknown territory. Coming back to the handheld GPS devices, there are a few parameters that you need to consider when purchasing one.
Robust design and the quality of materials determine how good a device is. You should always check the durability of the product before buying it. For instance, always check how good its shock and abrasion resistance is. Also, the device has to be water-resistant so that you can easily use it when it rains. A device that qualifies at least IPX7 water resistance rating that enables it to withstand exposure up to 1 meter for as long as 30 minutes is an ideal choice.
The minimum battery backup, a standard handheld GPS device should be offering is 10 hours. Also, they should support both rechargeable and disposable alkaline batteries. You can carry a solar charger for recharging a GPS device when you are going on a long backpacking trip.
A GPS device with at least 2-inch screen display clubbed with good resolution is very important. Compact size of these devices would eventually facilitated comfortable hold throughout the trip. Several GPS devices are equipped with touchscreens that aren’t perfect for hiking in cold weather or high altitudes. On the contrary, touchscreens make it easy and quick to operate the GPS device. Hence, depending on your travel location, you should be opting for the display type of the GPS device.
When going for a hike or a mountaineering trip, you should make it a point to travel light. It is for this reason we recommend carrying a lightweight GPS device as it makes handling a lot easier.
If you opt for a GPS device that comes with planning software, it will be very easy to create routes and waypoints. This software facilitates easy importing of planned routes into the device. Also, the software may offer information about the routes, which may include ascent, distance, etc.
Besides showing your location on the map, the GPS device should also come with other useful features like a barometric altimeter and electronic compass. Both these features are equally important as they allow you to use the GPS even when there is no signal. It works well when you are hiking through dense woods or narrow valleys where it is difficult to get a signal. Among the other optional features, these GPS devices may come with the option to get connected to other devices such as cameras, smartphones, temperature sensors, and heart rate monitors.
The added feature of GLONASS makes your device locate a position faster with more precision. This technology can easily locate your position in difficult terrain. They also allow you to increase the positioning accuracy using the WAAS feature, providing GPS signal corrections besides improving the positioning speed. This eventually facilitates GPS signal corrections besides offering an improved positioning speed that calculates as well as saves different positions of the satellite for three days.
Top 7 Best Hiking GPS in 2020 Reviews
1. Garmin GPSMAP 64st – Large Screen & Robust Build
Equipped with a larger screen, there are buttons placed below the screen instead of the sides. Although this makes it more like a hand phone, the length of the device seems to be extended, making it less handy than the eTrex 30x. The device comes fitted with a helix antenna that facilitates tracking GPS and GLONASS satellites simultaneously. This increases the satellite lock speed while improving the positioning accuracy. Added features include a barometric altimeter, Bluetooth chipset, electronic 3-axis compass, etc.
It can be easily connected to a smartphone and supports notifications like text messages, phone alerts, missed calls, etc. The Garmin GPSMAP 64st also comes with TOPO U.S. 100K maps and a one-year subscription to the 1-year BirdsEye Satellite Imagery. It is a tad heavier than eTrex 30x and comes with shorter battery life. However, you will be really happy with the robust construction and its ability to be used under harsh conditions.
- Highly Durable and made from premium grade materials
- Large Screen offering a better view of the maps
- GLONASS Support enhances precision and speed
- Buttons at the bottom make it quick to operate the device
- Supports wireless data upload using Garmin Connect
- Heavy than standard handheld GPS devices
- Battery life could have been better
2. Garmin eTrex 30x – Enhanced Memory & High Resolution Display
Perfect for climbing, hiking, trekking, and other outdoor activities, the Garmin eTrex 30x is a small and light device. It easily fits in your palms and is very compact in structure. The features such as water and shock resistance make the product highly durable. It features a resolution of 240×320 pixels that supports over 65,000 colors. Other features included are the 3-axis electronic compass, WAAS, barometric altimeter, wireless connectivity, and HotFix. It will also show you the direction even if the device is not completely leveled.
You can use the barometric altimeter to predict the weather and ascertain the height at which you are traveling. Both HotFix and WAAS feature to support faster and précised positioning. You can insert a MicroSD to add maps to the device. A subscription to BirdsEye supports satellite images providing access to the satellite images instead of the map. The device can be paired with other accessories like the foot pod, external thermometer, and a heart rate monitor. It provides a 3.7 GB internal storage capacity besides having a MicroSD slot.
- Phenomenal Battery Life
- Lightweight Device
- Rounded Side Buttons supports easy operations
- GLONASS Support enhances precision and location detection
- Screen size could have been bigger than 2.2 inches to enhance the user experience
3. Garmin Oregon 650t – Handy Touch Screen GPS Device
This sophisticated GPS device comes with a large 3-inch touchscreen display that provides better readability in both bright light and low light conditions. The device supports dual-orientation view and multi-touch features. However, on the flip side, it is not possible to use the GPS device with your gloves on. Other inclusions are the 3-axis compass, 8-megapixel camera, and the barometric altimeter. It is also equipped with an integrated antenna that allows retrieving location quicker and with more accuracy. This device also comes with an added feature that makes Geocaching better with an option to store over 4 million Geocaches.
The user has the option to read descriptions and hints directly on their devices. Filters can also be used to sort the size, difficulty, type, and terrain options. The autofocus camera supports sharing and geotagging through Garmin Adventures. You may also integrate the Garmin BaseCamp app to plan your trips with an option to upload 100K maps and additional maps with ease.
- Enhanced Readability thanks to the 3-inch screen
- GLONASS Support offers better precision and quicker response
- The touchscreen makes the device a lot more user-friendly
- Autofocus 8-megapixel camera makes it a breeze to capture snapshots on the go
- Internal storage supporting up to 4 GB data
- Superior Battery Life with almost three days backup
- Difficult to use with gloves on
4. Garmin inReach Explorer – Multitasking GPS Device
This device is more than a mere GPS. Garmin inReach Explorer+ offers worldwide coverage through the Iridium satellite network and facilitates exchanging text messages with any mobile phone number or email addresses. The device also comes with an in-built SOS feature that can be used for triggering an emergency to the around the clock monitoring center. You can sync the Earthmate app with the device using a Bluetooth making it fare more capable and convenient. This will allow accessing unlimited maps, NOAA charts, and aerial imagery through an Apple or Android device.
The web-based MapShare portal can be used to track and share updates with friends and family members on the go. You may even invite them to use MapSharing that facilitates pinging your inReach unit and track the GPS location with an option to exchanging messages during the trip. The device also comes with other handy features such as a weather predictor that helps you check forecasts for the current location, other location, or the destination.
- 100% global Iridium satellite coverage that facilitates 2-way messaging from any location
- Send an SOS to the 24/7 Search and Rescue Monitoring Center
- Easily pair with smartphones using the Earthmate app
- Preloaded with DeLorme TOPO maps, in-built digital compass and barometric altimeter.
- Heavy and bigger making it difficult to hold in your palm throughout the trip comfortably
5. Garmin Rino 755t – Rugged Handheld 2-Way Radio / GPS Navigator with Camera
The Garmin Rino 755t combines map-guided train navigation with 2-way radio communications. The handheld GPS features a unique position reporting capability that sends the exact location to the Rino users. This means that other users can see you on their Map displays automatically. The extended coverage makes it easy to communicate through voice and unit-to-unit text messaging.
- Five w gmrs 2-way radio supports a range as wide as 20 miles
- Integrated highly sensitive GPS and GLONASS satellite receptors
- Large 3-inch touch screen display supporting both landscape and portrait modes
- Battery backup of almost 14 hours through the dual battery system
- Waterproof & Highly Durable
- 3-inch sunlight-readable touch screen supporting both landscape and portrait views
- A little bulkier compared to the other alternatives
6. Garmin 3 “Garmin Rino 755t – Large Screen Display
The GPS comes with a 3-inch touchscreen display and is integrated with a 5 Watt FRS/GMRS 2-way radio. It utilizes dual GPS and GLONASS satellite reception to offer better tracking around the tough environments. Added features include the Active Weather support depicted by the animated radar, Bluetooth headset audio, Position Reporting with emergency alerts, barometric altimeter, and 3-axis compass. The device comes preloaded with TOPO U.S. 100K maps, 8-megapixel autofocus camera powered by an LED flash and Birdseye Satellite imagery.
- Large 3-inch display that works well in all light conditions.
- ACE Sensors included includes the 3-axis compass with barometric and accelerometer altimeter sensors.
- Easy Bluetooth connectivity with improved wireless support for voice communication
- Offers smart notifications coupled
- Automatic uploads to the Garmin Connect Online Network
- Average Battery Backup
- Difficult to operate with gloves on
7. Garmin Montana 680t – Superior Battery Backup
Another sophisticated GPS device from Garmin, the Montana 69t is big and heavier than the other options reviewed above. However, it comes with a better resolution and touchscreen support that very user-friendly. The best feature is that it can be used with gloves on and the experience is way better than any of the touchscreen alternatives available.
Other standard inclusions are the barometric altimeter, eight mega-pixel cameras, digital compass, fishing/hunting calendar, sun and moon information, turn-by-turn navigation and tide tables. As this GPS uses both GPS and GLONASS satellites, the location detection is pretty quick and précised. The experience gets a lot better with HotFix and WAAS features that make retrieving signals very fast. The device is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and also supports three standard AA batteries. With a backup of almost 16 hours, the Garmin Montana 680t is a worthy tool when you are on an outdoor trip.
- Superior Readability and user-friendly touchscreen support
- High Precision and Quick Response due to GLONASS, HotFix and WAAS features
- Good battery back-up (rechargeable batteries offer 16 hours backup, AA batteries offer 22 hours backup)
- 8 Megapixel camera good enough to capture snaps on the go
- 1-year Birdseye Satellite Imagery subscription included
- Preloaded with TOPO U.S. 100K maps
- Slightly on the heavier side
- Still Not an option to use with gloves on
Each of the products reviewed above includes all the basic features expected from a hand-held GPS device. However, it is up to the customer to decide and opt for the product which meets their requirements. For instance, if you are going on a trek at high altitudes where wearing gloves is a must, we recommend opting for Garmin GPSMAP 64st. It has a decent screen size and can easily be operated with your gloves on. On the contrary, if it’s a hike to a jungle that is remote and lacks any form of mobile connectivity, Garmin inReach Explorer+ is the perfect option to go for. Similarly, if you are looking for Best Hiking GPS device that all that’s expected from such a device, opting for Garmin eTrex 30x will be an ideal choice.