5 Best Hiking GPS

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Editor’s Choice: Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator

A handheld GPS is a convenient tool for most hikers, campers, and mountain climbers. Compared to smartphones and even GPS watches, they are both more durable and reliable.

There are other clear benefits of using a hiking GPS, which we’ll cover further along. Most of all, check out some of the best hiking GPS devices that you might consider for your next trip.

Top 5 Hiking GPS

Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator

The eTrex 10 is one of Garmin’s best entry-level handheld GPSs. It runs on two AA batteries and has 8MB of memory.

It doesn’t have a touchscreen, but the buttons are very easy to navigate with just one hand. It has a robust construction that feels very sturdy and resilient.

The screen is clear and offers a sunlight-readable feature. It has a GPS receiver and GLONASS support. It also has an IPX7 waterproof certification and will easily survive rain and unexpected splashes.

Pros

  • Fast and accurate
  • Great for beginners
  • Affordable
  • Supports geocaching Cons Low memory

Garmin GPSMAP 66st Handheld Hiking GPS

If you don’t want to take any risks with regard to accuracy and reliability, the Garmin 66st is a premium choice that you can rely on. It’s one of the best hiking GPS devices around. It has a very powerful antenna for connection to more satellite networks than many other devices.

The 16GB of internal memory is preloaded with plenty of topographic maps for the USA and Canada. It has a large display and access to Birdseye Imagery that you can subscribe to. It requires two AA batteries that are not included in the package.

Pros

  • Excellent reception
  • Birdseye Imagery
  • Large buttons
  • Connected to multiple networks

Cons Pricey

Garmin eTrex 20x, Handheld GPS Navigator

This is a lightweight and relatively small hiking GPS that offers an impressive performance. It will unmistakably get you where you are going by providing decent reception and speed. Compared to its predecessor, the display has been upgraded and offers better resolution. It also has enhanced internal memory at a sizable 4GB. It features GLONASS support and a WAAS-enabled GPS receiver.

The large pushbuttons make it very easy to use too. Overall, this is a fantastic hiking GPS that’s inexpensive and will work for most hikers, entry-level or not.

Pros

  • Great display quality
  • Ultra-lightweight and small
  • Versatile

Cons Potential slow download

Garmin Montana 610

If you’re keen to get a GPS device that has all the bells and whistles, including a rechargeable battery and tons of preloaded maps, the Montana 610 by Garmin fits the description.

It has impeccable reception and over a-quarter million preloaded geocaches. It also includes a subscription to Garmin’s Birdseye Imagery. Plus, it has a 3-axis compass and can track both GPS and GLONASS satellite networks.

It’s a fantastic GPS for hiking or hunting, and you won’t have any problems either if you’re close to the water. The display is 4 inches diagonal and has excellent sunlight readability.

Pros

  • Compatible with most networks
  • Excellent reception
  • Birdseye Imagery subscription

Cons On the heavier side

Garmin Foretrex 601

This hiking GPS isn’t a handheld but rather wrist-mounted. It’s one of the few of its sort that Garmin has ever produced. The design is different, and it looks like a hybrid of a GPS watch and a handheld GPS.

It has an excellent battery life, and it also offers the convenience of hands-free operation when hiking. Durability is one of the main features of this model because the construction is military-grade. It’s compatible with three satellite systems, which means it can give you a readout very quickly and accurately.

Pros

  • 48h battery life
  • Hands-free feature
  • Durable construction

Cons Unable to download maps

What is a Hiking GPS and Why Do You Need One?

A hiking GPS can be any device that has GPS capabilities. However, for hiking, camping, and climbing purposes, a handheld GPS device is a much better choice.

Even if you’re an experienced hiker, getting lost on a trail can happen. A handheld hiking GPS that is small and durable will give you peace of mind as you enjoy your time outdoors.

The Different Types of Hiking GPS

Most handheld hiking GPS devices are similar and it’s not as straightforward to classify them by categories. The most notable difference from the outset is touchscreen and buttoned GPS devices. And then there’s the use of satellite networks.

Touchscreen vs. Buttons

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. But let’s dig into a few major differences. Touchscreens are easy to navigate and will provide both portrait and landscape views.

However, the overall experience with a touchscreen will vary due to the quality of the device. Also, if you’re using gloves all the time, touchscreen GPS might be a needless investment that eats up battery faster.

Button GPS handheld devices might seem a bit bulky and slow sometimes, but there’s a reason why most expensive GPS devices still have buttons. They perform better in cold weather too, and you won’t have to remove your gloves to use it.

GPS vs. GLONASS

This is also a difficult comparison to make since all the best hiking GPS devices also support the Russian GLONASS satellite system.

GLONASS works in combination with GPS and improves performance. Another relevant receiver type is the EU’s Galileo network, which is available on many hiking devices. GPS devices that support multiple satellite connection types are labeled as “Multi-GNSS” supported.

3 Benefits of Using a Hiking GPS

The obvious benefit would be not getting lost in the wilderness. But other GPS supported devices can do the same, and so can the good-old compass. But what makes the handheld GPS special?

1. It’s Versatile

Compared to other devices, a handheld GPS is ultra-portable, and you can take it with you on the boat, road trips, camping, and of course, hiking. In most cases, it will either run on AA batteries or a rechargeable lithium battery. Also, you can always use it in your car if you get a compatible mount.

2. It’s Affordable

Sure, there are some pricey models out there, but an entry-level hiking GPS is relatively inexpensive. Plus, it will cover all the most important features like your location, distance traveled, retracing of your steps, and mapping capabilities.

3. It’s Easy to Use

There are much bigger GPS devices around, but they’re hardly perfect for your hiking or camping trip. Also, handheld GPSs usually have just a few basic buttons that you can use for all functions. They’re designed to be as uncomplicated as possible, perfect for you to quickly find your way.

3 Things to Look for in a Good Hiking GPS

The best hiking GPS devices are the ones that always have excellent reception and will find your location without any excessive errors. But what are a few other features that will help you pick a great GPS device?

1. Battery Life

Handheld GPS devices mostly use AA batteries that have proven to be a trusted source of power. You should always look up the maximum expected battery life when shopping for a hiking GPS.

The minimum should be at least 10 hours, and some can go up to 48h. And if you prefer a rechargeable option, newer models should fit the bill.

2. The Display

How big is the display and is it visible on a bright sunny day? There are the answers you should look for when purchasing a GPS. The screen size can vary drastically, and a big screen will use up more battery and isn’t necessarily the most visible under sunlight.

3. Construction

Handheld GPS devices usually have a robust and sturdy build. This makes sense because they must be able to sustain shock and the elements. Water resistance is a vital feature to pay attention to. They should also be anti-slip as well and feel very stable in your hand.

Conclusion

The best hiking GPS should be versatile and have excellent reception and preferably not too expensive.

That’s why the Garmin eTrex 10 is the best of the bunch. It’s cherished and trusted by hikers all over. It’s an upgrade over the wildly popular eTrex 10 that’s already pretty good on its own.

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