Going out on big adventures in the wilderness is always fun and exciting. However, getting lost can not only risk someone’s life, but it can also destroy the whole experience. We have concluded this list of the best handheld GPS we have found after many hours of research.
There is a GPS for every need, and we think regardless of which one you choose, you will find out that it is an excellent fit for you. There are more advanced GPS that can allow for SOS and satellite communication. That can give you that extra layer of protection, when you are out on your hunting trip, make sure to check them out.
Keep on reading, and we will show the world of different devices you can find right now.
A premium handheld GPS that has a 3-inch sunlight-readable display and has excellent display readability. It uses multiple Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), so it should be able to track your travels in more challenging environments.
It has features like an active-weather function so that you can get up-to-date forecasts. It also has features for animated weather radar and geocaching.
It is a great handheld GPS for hiking, hunting, geocaching, or GPS for kayaking. It is, however, not a touchscreen GPS, so it uses several buttons on the front of the device. It also has an LED flashlight built-in. In GPS-mode, it has up to 16 hours of battery life, and if you’re using the expedition mode, the battery life will last around one week.
It has ABC sensors, so you can accurate accurately monitor your ascent or descent while the barometer can be used to predict weather changes. We also like that it has preloaded maps for Canada and the US.
If you like to do Geocaching, it has several features for that. Overall, it is an excellent GPS with a lot of great functionalities. However, the price will also reflect that, but if you want a GPS that basically can do everything, this one is for you. You can also buy this GPS without the preloaded maps for a lower price.
This GPS has a sunlight-readable 2.6-inch color display and 4 GB internal memory. It uses a dual battery system so you can use it with two traditional AA batteries or rechargeable batteries. The weight of the device is 8.1 ounces with batteries.
The manufacturer recommends that you use Polaroid AA batteries. You can pair it with ANT+ sensors, which can give you heart rate monitoring, temperature sensors, speed/cadence, or to control your VIRB action camera.
The price is reasonable, and it works excellent with geocaching since it has 250,000 preloaded caches. Other functionalities are, for example, ABC sensors, and it also has a MicroSD slot if you want to increase the memory capacity.
When you buy this GPS, you will get a one-year BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription. It also uses high sensitivity GPS and GLONASS, which will allow for quick and precise positioning, even if you’re in heavy cover or deep canyons. Battery life is around 16 hours, and it doesn’t come with any preloaded maps. However, you will get a worldwide base map.
It has a 3-inch sunlight-readable touch screen with a dual-orientation so that you can use it to either in landscape or portrait view. It also has built-in ABC sensors for determining altitude and elevation and aswell an electrical compass. The design is rugged, so it stands strong against dust, dirt, and humidity. It has a waterproof rating of IPX7.
It uses both GPS and GLONASS satellite reception, and the benefit from that is that you get highly sensitive and accurate readings when it locates your position. This GPS also has expanded wireless connectivity so that you can use it with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and ANT+ plus.
It has a redesigned antenna compared to its previous generations. The new design will work even better outdoors since it is better at establishing satellite reception. It has support for multiple activities, regardless if you are hunting, hiking, climbing, and many more.
Oregon 700 has built-in functions for geocaching, and it can also show weather forecasts, and it has ABC sensors. However, compared to Oregon 750 and Oregon 750T, it doesn’t have any flashlight or Camera built-in.
This GPS has a water resistance rating of IPX7. However, it doesn’t come with any preloaded maps. If you want preloaded maps, you should look at the 750T model.
This GPS comes with global Iridium satellite coverage, which enables two-way text messages. That, however, requires you to have a satellite subscription. You can trigger an interactive SOS signal, which can help if you ever need help and assistant. The SOS functionality works in more than 140 countries. You can track and share your location with family and friends, and it also has a water rating of the IPX7.
The battery is a rechargeable internal lithium-ion type. It does not have a touchscreen. Instead, it utilizes several buttons on the front. You can pair it with any mobile device using the free EarthMate app, that app allows access to downloadable maps, routes, charts, and aerial imagery.
It comes with preloaded DeLorme TOPO maps, with onscreen routing, digital compass, barometric altimeter, and accelerometer. If you are looking for a GPS without the preloaded maps. Then it would be best if you looked at the inReach SE+ model. Which is in the same model series, but it doesn’t have the preloaded Map
It has a rugged design, and its waterproof rating is IPX7, which will protect well against splashes, rain, and humidity. WAAS-enabled GPS with HotFix and GLONASS support that will allow for fast positioning and always have a reliable signal.
The display is a 2.2-inch monochrome display. It has support for GEO caching, and 2 AA batteries can power it for up to 20 hours of use.
Including features is that you can see high and low elevation points. You can also store waypoints and calculate the estimated time between those waypoints. It doesn’t come with any preloaded maps; however, you will get the worldwide base map instead.
Its positioning system is highly sensitive since it is WAAS enabled; however, that only works in North America. That will allow it to work well even if you are in heavy cover or deep canyons. Since it uses GLONASS, it should locate your position approximately 20 percent faster than an ordinary GPS.
In this model series, there is also the eTrex 30x and eTrex 20x. The 30x Has ABC functionality, and that model allows for adding more maps. 30x can store up to 200 routes, while the 10x only can store 50 routes.
High sensitivity GPS with HotFix function that allows for improved performance of the reception even in dense tree-covered areas or deep canyons. You can use it to keep track of routes, trails, or waypoints. You can also buy a heart rate monitor separately and connect it to the wristband.
Uses standard AAA batteries, two are required. The LCD’s display has high readability, and the battery life is up to 17 hours in GPS mode. Other functionalities, is the trip computer, sunrise and sunset time sensors. You can also get hunting and fishing information on the device.
It has ABC, in other words, an electrical compass and a barometric altimeter. It has a reasonable price and is an excellent device if you’re doing outdoor activities that require you to use both hands at most times. It is waterproof; however, the manufacturer doesn’t inform at what standard.
It comes with 250,000 preloaded worldwide geocaches and includes a one-year subscription for Birdseye Satelite Imagery. The display is sunlight readable. The GPS has support for GPS, GLONASS, and is WASS enabled. So it has outstanding functionality for locating your position quickly and precisely even if you are in the deep terrain.
The display is a 4-inch touchscreen with dual-orientation, the screen also is glove-friendly. It has ABC functionality. However, compared with the Montana 680, it doesn’t have a Camera. It has a dual battery system, one for a rechargeable lithium battery, and one for AA batteries.
If you use AA batteries, it has a battery life of 22 hours, and the rechargeable batteries have up to 16 hours of battery life. This model doesn’t have any preloaded Maps, so keep that in mind.
GPS with a 2.6-inch color touchscreen, which should allow for excellent readability. You can use different activity profiles depending on what outdoor activity you are doing. It has an electric compass so it can show you the heading, even when standing still without holding it level.
It also has a barometric altimeter, smart notifications, and ANT+ connectivity. It comes preloaded with a worldwide base map. However, if you want preloaded maps, you can go for the 35T that has preloaded maps from the US or Canada. The battery life is up to 16 hours, and it uses two AA batteries
Garmin Epix has a 1.4-inch touchscreen that allows for a clear view, even in direct sunlight. The wristband GPS has 8 GB of internal memory so that you can load a variety of maps like TOPO maps.
You can connect the device to the Connect IQ app. The app allows you to customize your watch, for example, switching faces, data fields or widgets.
You can use smart notifications so you can receive emails, texts, and alerts directly on your watch. It does support multiple different activities, examples like hiking, running, mountaineering, swimming, and indoor workouts. It has ABC. The battery life is around 24 hours
Guide for picking a Handheld GPS
Finding the right handheld GPS is something many struggle with, but in short, it just comes down to figuring out your requirements and needs. With this guide, it should be no problem to match those requirements with the features of the handheld GPS. If you follow this guide, you will gain more knowledge of these products and make you a better buyer so you can find the right GPS for your use cases.
The battery and its battery life are, as in most products, one of the most vital things to consider. Since you will most likely use these products while you are out camping, hunting, hiking, or so. Then you wouldn’t want to get lost because the battery has lost all power.
Many GPS products have already long battery life as a standard, Garmin GPS, for example, has almost always at least 18 hours battery life. It has been a tremendous advancement in the development of GPS batteries the recent years, long gone are the AA powered devices. Nowadays, most have internal rechargeable lithium batteries instead.
This new development will come at a price since you most likely will need to buy new products like solar panels or battery packs. So you can recharge the internal batteries while being out on your hikes. However, this will only be to your advantage in the long-run since you don’t need to rely on unstable AA-batteries. You will also reduce battery waste, which is good for the environment.
A good display is another vital feature that is important for choosing the right handheld GPS. Size can come in many different ranges, all from wristwatch designs to larger sizes, almost at the smartphone display size. Overall, most displays are around 2.2-2.8 inches. Next thing, we recommend that you buy a GPS with an anti-glare protecting cover since you will be outside, which will save much agony when there is bright sunshine.
Buttons or Touchscreen
Touchscreens have been around for a long time; in the early days, those devices could be a real pain to use, since the technology wasn’t as good compared to today. However, today, the touchscreens are significantly much better than the previous generations.
Buttons still have benefits for you, and it only depends on when and in what types of weather you will use the GPS in. If you will be using it in cold, rainy or other types of bad weather, like in the middle of the winter. Buttons will then give excellent benefits in those types of situations since you won’t need to remove your gloves to use the buttons. That can save you from the risk of frostbite and unnecessary energy waste.
We think they both have an equal amount of benefits, but we recommend if you are going to use the GPS in situations that require you to use gloves. If so, then pick one that at least can function by its buttons. If that is not a concern for you, then you should get one with a touchscreen. That will increase the speed and overall user experience while you use a handheld GPS.
Buttons will also increase the time it takes to enter text into the device, so keep that in mind if you are going to buy a GPS with buttons. It will also become more of a hassle when you want to move around on the map on the screen.
Since smaller screens will be harder to read if you are just quickly looking over the screen. For example, when you are using your handheld GPS for hunting, boating, and other activities, that requires you to have full focus on the target ahead. That could be a good reason to upgrade to a larger screen, so you get a more unobstructed view of the map.
In other instances, for example, if you are out hiking and camping, a smaller one could perhaps be a more suitable choice. Since then, you can save some space in your backpack, and you will most probably have the time to stand still and have a good hard look at the screen.
If you want a handheld GPS for geocaching, then you most probably will do just fine with a small or mid-size GPS. But keep in mind that your smartphone will most likely do just as beautiful for that purpose.
As we mentioned before, anti-glare is an essential feature that will increase the overall readability of the display. To be able to adjust the brightness in many different settings is also something that can improve the readability in bright sunlight.
The ABC’s of GPS (Altimeter, Barometer, and Compass)
Most GPS devices will have a barometric altimeter and a compass built-in. However, those features will most often be available in the middle budget and over options. The barometric altimeter will provide excellent benefits if you are going through elevated terrain. That can help you determine how high up you are, since the higher you go, the lower the pressure.
The compass will provide brilliant benefits of reading the directions, without having to adjust how you are holding the device. If you want a more advanced and the nice-to-have features, aim to find a GPS that has the ABC’s included.
Weight and Total Size
This topic goes hand-in-hand with the Display topic we talked about before. The larger the screen, the more weight it will add but also the total size of the device. So if you are going hiking and want a lightweight device, check for one with a smaller display. Otherwise, go for something that you think will fit your needs, that isn’t too large, so you will need to use a mount in the end.
Additional Software for Planning
Some GPS manufacturers will also include software that you can use to plan and set up routes for your upcoming hike. You can then transfer that plan and directions to your GPS, which will not only save you time. But it will be much easier to do all that planning on a laptop or desktop computer. That software can also show you more information on the terrain you will hike through, which can make your hike a safer one.
Most of us know already about GPS, but there is another type of system that is called GLONASS. GLONASS is free to use for any user and is made to be a complement to GPS (That USA has developed). If your GPS supports both of these, you will then get some additional benefits of faster positioning and more accurate reading.
If you live in North America, you can get even more accuracy in the positioning of your location with the WAAS feature.
100 m: Accuracy of the original GPS, which was subject to accuracy degradation under the government-imposed Selective Availability (SA) program.
15 m: Typical GPS position accuracy without SA.
3-5 m: Typical differential GPS (DGPS) position accuracy.
< 3 m: Typical WAAS position accuracy.
Included accessories are a massive benefit since that will not only save you money. But you don’t want to stand out in the forest and have forgotten to buy that extra rechargeable battery. Cases to carry your GPS, USB cables, and mounts are some accessories that the manufacturer can include.
Make sure always to read what is included in the package when you are selecting your handheld GPS. Having that said, you should always check that regardless of what you are buying.
Do I need to buy additional maps?
Early generations of GPS devices often required you to spend tons of money on maps for your GPS. Nowadays, you can most often buy devices with the maps preloaded. You should check the GPS model name, and if it has a T annotation, It will most likely include preloaded maps.
But keep in mind that models with preloaded maps will often be a little more expensive than those without maps preloaded. There is still the option of buying more maps so that you can get access to new countries, extra details, or areas.