Whether you want to navigate a trip to your mother-in-law’s house, want to do a little bit of geocaching or want to make sure you don’t get lost while hiking on your favorite trail, then you’ll probably want to invest in a handheld GPS. These devices are invaluable and are basically the modern version of the sextant or the compass.
However, many people are hesitant to buy one of these miraculous devices because let’s face it, past models were far from perfect. Early GPS models were not only inaccurate and slow but also rather clunky to use. And there’s a number of reasons why this was the case.
For example, in the 1990s, the U.S military decided that they needed to make the system inaccurate to make sure that the military forces of other countries couldn’t use the system to their advantage. This was later corrected and GPS systems became better and more reliable around 2001, but the stigma that this system was flawed stuck around.
Today, the GPS network is better than ever and handheld units are better than they have ever been. They allow you to plan your routes down to specific way-points, pull up detailed maps and some of them even allow you to send text messages with GPS information embedded in them.
These devices are also more useful than ever before. They are not only used by travelers but are used in a number of different professions including miners, fishermen, hunters, law enforcement, delivery drivers and even athletes.
Of course, not every one of these devices are the same. You’ll want to make sure that you purchase the best handheld GPS that you can to get all of the benefits this technology provides. Which this guide will help you do.
Best Handheld Gps – Reviews
10Delorme inReach Explorer Two Way Satellite Communicator
The Delorme inReach Explorer is not only a satellite communicator but it is also equipped with navigation capabilities built right into it. This means that you’re never really out of touch with other people, even when you are navigating the great unknown. It has a number of features which make it handy for the weekend warrior or for someone traveling to the ends of the Earth. These features include being able to create color-coded routes and way-points ahead of time, sending and receiving text messages and the ability to view key trip stats such as maximum speed and trip distance. It can also be paired with the Earthmate App, so you can use your smart phone or tablet to view and download U.S NOAA charts.
9Garmin Montana 680t
The Garmin Montana 680 is a device that can be used by fishermen, by hunters or by explorers looking to find the next big geocache. It’s a WAAS-enable GPR receiver that can allow you to organize routes and way-points. It’s also preloaded with a quarter of a million geocaches all over the world. To give you a better view of your surroundings, this unit also features a 1-year Birdseye Satellite Imagery subscription that allows you to see your position from a whole new perspective. Another helpful feature of this unit is its 8-megapixel digital camera that can be geotagged automatically with your coordinates.
8Garmin etrex 10 GPS Navigator
The Garmin eTrex 10 comes with a 2.2-inch monochrome display and is waterproof up to IPX7 standards—which means that it’s protects again rain and accidental water splashes. It’s powered by two AA batteries which provides the user with approximately twenty hours of use time. This unit is designed to be rugged and to provide reliable GPS functionality. It’s a WAAS enabled receiver with GLONASS support that gives it a reliable signal and the ability to determine position quickly. This model also supports geocaching GPX files and has a newly designed user interface. The eTrex 10 also has a track log that can hold 200 saved tracks.
7Garmin eTrex 30x Handheld Navigator
The Garmin eTrex 30x has a 2.2-inch display that’s readable in full sunlight and offers a resolution of about 240×320 pixels. This model also has a preloaded worldwide base map, built-in three-axis electronic compass and a barometric altimeter which can track changes in pressure to figure out your exact altitude or to track the barometric pressure over time. This unit also has wireless capabilities that allow the user to share their routes, tracks, and geocaches with other compatible devices. It’s a model that has over 3-gigabytes of internal memory and also has a MicroSD card slot that allows you to load additional maps.
6Garmin Montana 600t
The Garmin Montana 600t features a camo design with a 4-inch touchscreen display that can be read in sunlight and comes preloaded with U.S TOPO maps. This unit features a three-axis electronic compass and a MicroSD card slot that can be used to load additional maps. This GPS unit is also compatible with a wide array of mounts which allow it to be put on just about any vehicle from cars to ATV and even boats. The Montana 600t allows users to load turn-by-turn driving directions or if subscribed to the BirdsEye Satellite Service, satellite imagery. Way-point, routes, and geocaches can then be sent wireless to other users who use a compatible device.
5Garmin GPSMAP 62st
This durable and waterproof navigator features a 2.6-inch display that can be read in sunlight and produces a 160×240 pixel resolution. However, what’s most impressive about this unit is its wide array of GPS capabilities and features that give its user the ability to navigate in a variety of different circumstances. It features 100K U.S topographic data and a worldwide base map that can be added to using a variety of different road, marine and topographical maps. This easy-to-use GPS unit can be used for driving, for navigating your favorite trail or for going on the next great adventure.
4Garmin GPSMAP 64st
This particular GPS model features a 2.6-inch color screen that can be read in daylight and has a number of useful navigational features. It has a quad-helix antenna with a GLONASS receiver that can help you locate your position quickly and accurately—even if you are in low areas or under heavy foliage. It also comes with 8GB of internal memory, a dual battery system that can use either AA or NiMH rechargeable batteries and a three-axis compass and barometric altimeter that can be used with the 100K of U.S topographical maps and quarter of a million preloaded geocaches.
3Garmin Oregon 450t Handheld GPS Navigator
Whether you’re looking for a unit to take on hunting trips or a unit that’s capable of providing turn-by-turn directions, the Garmin Oregon 450t features a 3-inch color display that can be read in full sunlight, a barometric altimeter and a three-axis electronic compass. It’s also preloaded with 100K U.S topographical maps and is equipped with a high-sensitivity receiver that allows it to hone in on GPS location quicker and with better reception. This model also gives users the ability to add additional maps and has wireless capabilities so users can share geocaches, way-points and routes with other users with compatible devices.
2Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx
Manufactured as an upgrade to the Garmin 60CS, this unit is a model that can be used for all types of marine and outdoor use. It’s a highly sensitive GPS receiver that features a color TFT display that can be viewed in sunlight and features color-coded mapping that makes it useful to just about anyone trying to get their bearings. It also has a 64 Megabyte MicroSD card slot that allows the user to store optional map details. Another great feature of this model is that it also uses information from its barometric altimeter so that users can have the most accurate elevation data possible.
1Garmin Foretrek 401 Hiking GPS
This wrist-mounted GPS navigator is a system that’s built specifically to be useful to hikers but can be used by just about anyone looking to get a better handle on their bearings. This waterproof GPS device is highly-sensitive and has Hot Fix to improve its performance in areas that are low such as valleys and canyons – and in areas with heavy foliage such as forests and woodland areas. This unit also features a trip computer, a barometric altimeter, sunrise and sunset times, and an electronic compass. It also has approximately seventeen hours of battery time and uses rechargeable AAA batteries.
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Features To Look For In A Hiking GPS
If you’re looking for a GPS model that can be used for hiking, or any outdoor activity, then you are going to have to take some time to examine the features of various models. Below are some of the features you need to consider before purchasing a GPS unit.
GPS Size Vs. Screen Size
Naturally, you’ll want as big a screen size as possible. However, one thing you need to consider first is that the bigger the size of the screen, the bigger the unit is going to be. And that’s why you’ll want to balance these two elements. You may have to go to a lower screen size if you want something that isn’t so bulky.
Another important consideration to make is how you want to interact with your device. Do you want a unit that can be used by pushing various buttons or do you want a unit that has a touchscreen. If you choose a touchscreen, be sure to choose one that can be used while you’re wearing gloves if you’re going to be using it in cold weather conditions.
Screen size and interface options aren’t the only things that need to be considered, however. Modern GPS units have a variety of features which can help you navigate your environment. While it’s not possible to list all of the features modern units have—below are some of the more common ones.
Barometer & Altimeter – Units that contain both barometer and altimeter features give you more accurate elevation readings than units that rely solely on satellite data.
Electronic Compass – Units that have an electric compass will tell you which direction you’re facing while standing still.
Geocaching – Many of the newer GPS models have a geocaching feature that not only tell you where geocaches are but also keeps tracks of the ones that you find.
Preloaded & Third-Party Maps – Basic GPS units all comes with a base map. While that may suit users who don’t expect to venture too far off the beaten path, many advanced users will choose models that have topographical maps that can be downloaded or plugged into the unit via a MicroSD card slot. Some units also come with additional maps or the option to purchase additional maps. However, third-party maps can be a bit expensive, so that’s also something to keep in mind.
Two-Way Radios & Text Capabilities – Another feature to consider is two-way radios. Using this feature, the hiker can communicate with a friend, if they have a comparable GPS model. This can allow the hikers to always be in contact with each other. Some models even incorporate NOAA weather radio forecasts as well.
There are also units that allow you to text, using either available networks or satellites. Some of these even embed coordinates into the texts so you can keep a third-party notified of your whereabouts at all time.
Waterproof – Of course, one of the more important features currently available is the waterproof feature. However, please keep in mind that not all waterproof units are equal. Some can handle submersion in water and others are really only water resistant.
One Final Note
This concludes this article on finding the best GPS model for handheld use. We’ve tried to show you some of the ones that are currently available nowadays and given you some tips on what to look for when choosing one of these units. Hopefully, this guide will provide you with the information you need to make an educated decision about these miraculous devices.