5 Of The Best Handheld GPS Device

Getting lost in the great outdoors can be a rewarding experience. However, the moment you become seriously lost, the experience becomes more terrifying than anything.

Many people are beginning to reintroduce themselves to the true and deep sense of enjoyment that comes from exploring backcountry trailsand parks. Taking backpacking and hiking to the next level sometimesmeans involving a bit more off-trail exploration. If you’re planning on adventuring with a bit more freedom, there’s a huge chance you may stray off your map and head into some dangerous situations.

Thankfully it’s 2019 and Global Positioning System Satellites have replaced handheld compasses. With these satellites, it’s possible for anyone with a GPS receiver to position themselves, anywhere on the globe.

These handy-dandy mechanisms do a lot more than just track routes and provide locations. And having one of these GPS devices on the trailcan save you from some seriously dangerous situations. That’s why we’ve compiled the best GPS devices available today.

How We Choose Our Ratings

We understand how important it is to spend money on quality products. We’re shoppers, too, which means we actually get it.

You want to know that the product you’re buying will live up to its promises, which is why we take a lot into consideration when rating our products. We consider the materials used, customer reviews, brand, and features when rating products so that you’re happy with every purchase you make.

Whether you’re tackling a weekend retreat or the Appellation Trail, there’s a GPS on this list that will be sure to safely lead the way through your next big adventure.

Image CCO via Flickr

List of Best GPS Devices

Now that you have a grasp on what constitutes as the best GPS devices, let’s look at some of the top-rated devices of the year.

Get ready to see Garmin a few times on this list.

It’s not because we’re biased or lazy, but Garmin truly provides some of the best devices available. They’ve honed the craft and create near-perfect tools every time. However, some Garmin GPS units are quite different from each other too — in both features and quality.

Let’s take a look at the top 5.

1. Garmin GPSMAP 64S


The first Garmin product on the list is definitely our favorite. As we mentioned above, Garmin creates the highest quality GPS devices, while competitors struggle to match its standards.

The GPSMAP 64S is a fantastic beast of a GPS system. It offers basically every feature you could ever imagine, plus a few extras. Its quad-helix antenna connects you to both the GLONASS (Russian) network and the American GPS system for fast and super precise reading.

It allows for 5,000 waypoints and 200 routes on its 4GB of onboard storage and comes with a worldwide map to help you figure out where you are, wherever you are. It also comes with SNT+ sensors to offer specific data and over 16 hours of battery use.

This is one of the most versatile and high-quality GPS devices you can buy today.


2. Garmin Oregon 700


This Garmin product is a jam-packed GPS system that offers a 3-inch color touchscreen display which is super responsive and works best indirect sunlight.

Similar to the GPSMAP 63S, this GPS device uses both types of location technologies to bring up your location with extreme accuracy and speed. However, due to its lack of antennae, it’s not as quick toobtain a signal, compared to the GPSMAP. It also comes with Bluetooth and WiFi so you can download any maps or features you need.

Since it’s a multitouch technology, it’s a lot easier to communicate with if you’re hiking or adventuring in moderate climates. It will switch back and forth between landscape and portrait orientation which is unique and super helpful.

It also comes with an accelerometer, an electric compass, and a barometric altimeter.


3. Spot X Satellite Messenger


The only non-Garmin device on this list, the Spot X Satellite Messenger does a great job offering a unique GPS option in more ways than one.

It offers real-time location tracking which makes for group hiking missions a lot easier and safer. Also, it’s SOS feature can be an actuallifesaver if you come across any serious problems while on (or off) the trail. While it doesn’t come with preloaded maps like other devices on this list, it does have a digital compass that can be programmed withwhatever waypoints you’d like.

It offers 10 days of full battery life and is drop and waterproof. Some customers complain about the device freezing up so make sure you buy it directly from the manufacturer.


4. Garmin eTrex 30x


This is a great choice for people who are packing super light. It’s the smallest and lightest unit on the list, which makes it a perfect choice for mountaineering, hiking, trekking or other outdoor activities. It fits perfectly on your belt clip, in your hand and has great shock and water resistance.

The Garmin eTrex 30x has 65,000   and is fully equipped with a barometric altimeter, electronic compass (3-axis), HotFix, WAAS, and wireless connectivity. This system can support satellite images and can pair up with various other devices such as an external thermometer, foot pod, and heart rate monitor.

While there is a lot of storage available, it must be in USB 1 format which is difficult for some people. It also takes a long time to load. It’s compact with incredible hardware which is why we highly recommend it for climbers, hikers, mountaineers and any other type of explorer.


5. Garmin Montana 680t


Lastly, we have the Garmin Montana 680 t is another impressive device from this iconic brand. While it’s slightly heavier and bigger than the Oregon, it also offers a bigger display with much better resolution. This touchscreen display system offers double orientationand is better for people using gloves in colder climates.

It features a digital compass, barometric altimeter, sun and moon information, 8 MP camera, a hunting and fishing calendar, turn-by-turn navigation, and tide tables as well. It also utilizes both GPS and GLONASS satellites along with WAAS and HotFix making it a fast device.

The lithium-ion battery lasts for about 16 hours while running the device on AA batteries will help it last for 22 hours. While it’s a mighty GPS system, it is fairly heavy and large, which are two serious downfalls for hikers or explorers needing lightweight equipment.


Buyer’s Guide to Finding a Handheld GPS Device

Before diving into our best-of list, it’s beneficial to review the characteristics and parts you should be looking for in a quality GPSsystem. While reviewing these characteristics and abilities, it’s also beneficial to keep in mind what type of hiking experience you’re setting yourself up for, or what type of adventures you’ll likely do in the future.

These days, most GPS devices follow a similar standard and tend to offer similar features as well, which makes shopping a bit easier andstraightforward.

Image CCO via Commons.Wikimedia.Org


You should be looking for a GPS system with a robust design, that’s made of certain materials that create reliable abrasion and shock resistance.

GPS systems should also be water-resistant since they’ll obviously be used in areas that may not offer reliable or convenient shelter options. All devices found on our list provide the IPX7 water resistance rating.

What does this mean?

This rating means the GPS device is able to withstand water exposure up to 1 meter for 30 minutes.

Battery Life

This is a big one. The battery life on a GPS device should last for at leastten hours long so that you don’t have it dying or require an outlet while trying to find your bearings in the middle of nowhere.

In this best GPS list, all devices have great battery life and can actually be used with rechargeable batteries or disposable alkaline batteries. You should also consider investing in a solar charger since it will come in handy for all sorts of needs.


Your handheld GPS device should also come with a 2-inch display screen with quality resolution. This offers a precise and clear map overview and configuration. While you may find many modern GPS systems with touchscreens, these forms of display aren’t ideal for hiking in high altitudes or colder weather since they’re difficult to operate with gloves on. However, these touchscreen display systems also allow you to navigate through the device a lot easier and faster in moderate climates.

Taking this into consideration, we’ve included some touchscreen display and non-touchscreen display systems on this best-of list, depending on what sort of trek you’re planning on doing.


If you’ve been on long hikes or backpack adventures before, you’ll know how important a light pack is. Which means absolutely everything you bring counts. This is why lightweight GPS devices are ideal and sometimes even mandatory. This is also why all GPS devices on our list are lightweight.

Planning Software

If the GPS comes equipped with planning software, this is a huge bonus. Planning software allows you to create waypoints and routeseasily, which can then be downloaded onto the device.

Typically, planning software displays more information about the routes you have made. These details may include distance or ascent which are super useful features when adventuring through your self-planned route.


You’ll find that most modern GPS devices offer other useful features along with the location. These features are usually barometric altimeter and electronic compass, which work even while the GPS signal is lost, and therefore ideal for navigating your way through dense woods or narrow valleys.

Certain GPS units may also be connected to your camera or  smartphone, temperature sensors or heart rate monitors. These devices can then be controlled right from the GPS, which allows you to read different information from each device.

Positioning Technology

Along with GPS technology, some devices also come with GLONASS, which is a GPS alternative. Devices that offer both types of location technology are able to locate you more precisely and a lot faster. This is clearly a super valuable feature to have on any trip.

Final Thoughts on Best GPS Devices

A high-quality GPS system can make or break your hiking trip and can possibly be a true lifesaver while you’re exploring the great outdoors. To make the most out of your tip, you’ll need to make sure you’re fully prepared… for anything situation, you may face.

Preparation helps you enjoy the adventure in full. It allows you to take chances and venture further than you would have, making memoriesthat last a lifetime either with friends and family or just with your trusty GPS sidekick.

Last update on 2021-11-29 at 21:16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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