Any hiking trip will be several times more comfortable if you have a handheld GPS in your hands. Of course, for navigation, you can use your iPhone or Android smartphone, but their battery charge is barely enough for half a day with active use. But if your smartphone battery is discharged at the most unfortunate moment, then you not only risk staying in the middle of nowhere but also without the opportunity to call the rescue service.
To avoid this, it is better to buy a handheld GPS unit. But what is the best handheld GPS for hiking to buy right now? Our article will help you find the answer to this question. But keep in mind that handheld GPS devices are not for everyone. Their main disadvantages that seem significant to many users are the small screen resolution; slow speed (in comparison to the GPS apps on smartphones); you must use a computer to download custom maps and load it on your GPS device.
But if you are traveling in the wilderness, you love bicycle touring and if you sleep almost always in a tent during your trips. And if you don’t have access to a power outlet every day. Then a handheld GPS is simply a must-have device. Because their battery life is better and they are waterproof and durable.
Best Handheld GPS units for Hiking
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Garmin Foretrex 401 – Best-Rated Handheld GPS 🏆
Why it’s great: Garmin is a world leader in the development of GPS devices designed for car owners, athletes, fishermen, travelers, hunters and for boating. And the Garmin Foretrex 401 is a simple, but at the same time, very smart GPS unit, specially designed by Garmin engineers a for a military, travelers, skiers. This GPS device has compact body dimensions (75x43x23 mm) and lightweight design (87.3 grams). And this GPS unit can be worn on the wrist, like a wristwatch.
Despite its compact size, the Garmin Foretrex 401 supports a wide range of functionality. And this GPS unit includes a highly sensitive modern GPS-receiver, barometric altimeter, electronic compass and all this is enclosed in a rugged, waterproof body (class IPX7).
With the Garmin Foretrex 401, when going on a long hiking trip you don’t have to worry about finding the way back home. The Foretrex 401 will completely record the whole hiking route and display it on the built-in liquid crystal screen (display size 36×23 mm, black and white, supported resolution 100 × 64 pixels) as a line. At the end of the hike, in order to find the way back to the camp, it is enough to turn on the TracBack function and the device will show the way home (the device remembers up to 500 waypoints, 20 routes, and 10 tracks).
Due to the presence of a barometric altimeter and an electronic compass in the Garmin Foretrex 401, the user can see his altitude and azimuth. This GPS allows you not only to make routes to your favorite places of rest but also to provide travelers with other useful information: the time of sunrise and sunset, Fisher/hunter information and the trip computer.
In addition, the device supports wireless communication and therefore it can connect to a wireless heart rate monitor or bicycle cadence sensor (sold separately). Also, you can buy a special mount and use it on your bicycle. The USB interface allows you to connect the device to a laptop or personal computer and transfer recorded waypoints, tracks, and routes to their permanent memory. As a source of power supply navigator uses 2 AAA batteries format, whose capacity is sufficient for 17 hours of operation.
If you don’t mind having a black and white screen, then this GPS is one of the best to buy for a hiker, fisherman, hunter and for the military.View at Amazon
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Garmin eTrex 20x
Best in the price range: under $200 🏆
The Garmin eTrex 20x continues the line of hiking GPS devices from the company Garmin. This handheld GPS supporting simultaneous work with two systems of satellite navigation: GLONASS and GPS. The operation of the GLONASS system allows the use of 24 more navigation satellites, which increases the accuracy and speed of determining the coordinates.
Unlike the basic model the eTrex 10, the Garmin eTrex 20x gives the user an improved graphics display, thanks to the built-in (65,000 colors) LCD screen with a diagonal size of 2.2 inches and a supported resolution of 240 x 320 pixels. The screen of this quality provides the highest quality of the resulting graphic image even in bright sunlight.
Garmin eTrex 20x Lightweight and Compact
This GPS unit is compact and lightweight (141.7 grams with batteries) and it’s waterproof (IPX7). Also, it has dust and dirt protection. So, the Garmin eTrex 20x the best choice for hiking.
Find hidden treasures with the Garmin eTrex 20x
The Garmin eTrex 20x can be successfully used for geocaching (search for caches and treasures). This device will provide all the information needed for this: coordinates, terrain, tips, descriptions, and level of complexity. And engineers of Garmin 20x has developed a number of different mounts allowing to use this device with various types of vehicles: quad bikes, motorcycles, boats, cars, bicycles.
Garmin eTrex 20x Batteries
This handheld GPS unit uses two AA batteries and on one set of batteries this GPS can work up to 25 hours (depends on batteries quality and navigation mode used). Other features of this GPS: the calendar; hunting and fishing information; the lunar and solar calendar. And the Garmin eTrex 20x allows you to save information about 2000 waypoints. Also to create up to 200 routes and 200 tracks.
This is the best handheld GPS for hiking that you can buy in the price range of under $200. Another great choice is the eTrex 30x which is the same as the eTrex 20x but has two additional features – barometric altimeter and electronic compass. If you need these features then buy eTrex 30x, if not then eTrex 20x is the way to go also it’s around $30 cheaper.View at Amazon
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Garmin GPSMAP 64S
The Garmin GPSMAP 64s is equipped with a high-precision GPS receiver, a three-axis electronic compass, a barometric altimeter. And this GPS provides high accuracy of determining the user’s coordinates and its positioning. In addition, this model is able to work with satellite images of BirdsEye, and support custom maps. Like all Garmin products, the Garmin GPSMAP 64s is distinguished by its original design, compact dimensions, rugged waterproof body and capable of supporting wireless connections to other Garmin devices.
The accuracy of determining the coordinates is at a high-level, thanks to the included in its composition a GPS receiver with high sensitivity and a built-in quad helix antenna. This GPS device also supports the HotFix function, which allows it to predict the current location of satellites, which significantly increases the speed of finding their location. In addition to working with GPS satellites, the GPS receiver supports the GLONASS satellites.
Garmin GPSMAP 64s Screen
This handheld GPS has a TFT screen with a size of 2.6 inches and a supported resolution of 160 × 240 pixels. The Garmin GPSMAP 64s already have built-in base maps of the world and in addition, Garmin has developed a number of cartographic software for users, targeting different users: sailors, fishermen, car owners, hikers. All this software can be easily installed in the navigator thanks to the built-in memory of 8 GB. In addition, you can use an external microSD card.
Garmin GPSMAP 64s Memory
The memory of the Garmin GPSMAP 64s is enough for storing 2000 waypoints, 200 routes, and 200 tracks. This handheld GPS unit has composition three axial compasses that can determine the necessary direction. The barometric altimeter built into this great GPS unit allows determining the current altitude value.
Garmin GPSMAP 64s Geocaching
The Garmin GPSMAP 64s can be successfully used in such an interesting way as they search for treasures and hidden places. This device supports geocaching GPX files, which can be loaded directly into the memory of the GPS. Also, a distinctive and important feature of this handheld GPS is its ability to maintain wireless communication with other navigation devices from Garmin. Using the wireless connection, the user can easily exchange routes and maps with other Garmin users.
When you return from an exciting hiking trip, all important data recorded during the trip can be downloaded to the laptop or PC. The body of the Garmin GPSMAP 64s is compact (61x160x36 mm) and this GPS unit is lightweight (260 grams together with batteries). The Garmin GPSMAP 64s uses a set of two NiMH or lithium AA batteries that provide autonomous operation of the device for 16 hours. In addition, this handheld GPS is reliably protected from moisture and water (protection class IPX7).View at Amazon
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Garmin Montana 680t
The Garmin Montana 680t handheld GPS has a glove-friendly touchscreen. And this GPS device is waterproof and durable. This is why motorcycle travelers say that this is “the best GPS for a motorcycle” and almost any serious motorcycle traveler has the Garmin Montana 680 on their handlebar. In addition to motorcycle adventures, this device for sure is a great choice for any activities including hiking and boats.
Garmin Montana 680t – one of the most accurate GPS on the market
With its high-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS reception, WAAS-enabled receiver and HotFix® satellite prediction, Montana 680t locates your position quickly and precisely and maintains it. Whether you’re in deep woods or just near tall buildings and trees, you can count on Montana 680t.
Another great feature of the Garmin Montana 680 is its large built-in color screen, where you can easily and conveniently browse cartographic information. It has the 4-Inch TFT screen with a resolution 272 x 480 pixels.
Garmin Montana 680t made for adventures
The Garmin Montana 680t has preloaded TOPO maps. Thanks to the presence of the MicroSD slot, the user can download additional maps at any time. For example, the owner of this GPS unit can download TOPO U.S. 24K maps with hiking routes, BlueChart® g2 maps for sailing the seas or City Navigator maps containing instructions for driving on the road. Also, the functionality of this handheld GPS allows you to use BirdsEye Satellite Imagery to load into the device satellite images of the terrain and use them together with cartographic support.
Garmin Montana 680t Memory
Built-in memory of the Garmin Montana 680 is 8GB and it allows you to save detailed information about 4000 waypoints, 200 routes or 200 tracks (10,000 points each). The Garmin 680t has three axial compass and a barometric altimeter to determine the azimuth, altitude, and atmospheric pressure. Another feature of this GPS is the inbuilt 8MP camera.
The body of the Garmin Montana 680 navigator has compact dimensions 2.9″ x 5.7″ x 1.4″ (7.48 x 14.42 x 3.64 cm). And it’s a lightweight GPS device. Also, this GPS device is durable and waterproof (IPX7 water protection class). As for power source, this GPS can be used with either rechargeable lithium-ion (included) or three AA batteries (not included)
Battery life: up to 16 hours (lithium-ion); up to 22 hours (AA batteries)View at Amazon
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Garmin eTrex Touch 35
Not so long ago Garmin updated its line of GPS units for hiking and the eTrex series were updated. In the new Garmin eTrex Touch 35, there are not so many changes in comparison with the eTrex 20x/30x but still, it’s a new product. The most important thing that has changed is the navigator control. Now you can use the touchscreen to control the Garmin eTrex Touch 35. So, if you are not a fan of button control like the eTrex 20x and eTrex 30x have, then this handheld GPS is good for you.
What makes this handheld GPS best for hiking?
Its compact design, lightweight design, water resistance (IPX7 rating) and the ability to add custom maps. In addition, this handheld GPS works on two AA batteries which is a big advantage for hiking when you are in the middle of nowhere. If the GPS battery level is too low, just insert new batteries and forward them to new adventures. With this handheld GPS, you definitely will not get lost like Daniel Radcliffe in the Jungle movie.
Garmin eTrex Touch 35 Battery Life
But in comparison to eTrex 20x and eTrex 30x this handheld GPS have lower battery life – 16 hour vs 24 hours (eTrex 20x). Looks like this is what you have to sacrifice in order to enjoy a touchscreen. But anyway, you can use spare AA batteries or NiMH or Lithium rechargeable batteries, so it’s not a big deal. But good news, this handheld GPS lets you share your waypoints, tracks, routes and geocaches wirelessly through unit-to-unit sharing to compatible Garmin devices. The smart notification feature means you’ll never miss a text, email or notification from your compatible smartphone unless you want to. You can even use your eTrex Touch 35 as a remote control for the Garmin VIRB® XE, IRB X, and VIRB Elite action cameras.View at Amazon
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Which features should you look at in handheld GPS?
So, what is the best handheld GPS for hiking or any other activities? Well, this mostly depends on your budget and on your familiarity with using such devices. If you have never used a GPS beforehand it might take some time to get most of the functionality of some high-end GPS devices.
Pricing is not the only thing that you should take into consideration. For example, other features that might also be important are the size of the device and battery life. However, if money is not a problem and you really want the best handheld GPS then you should look no further than the Garmin Montana 680 or the Garmin GPSMAP 64S.