Best handheld Hiking GPS header

A handheld GPS device is a valuable tool for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Whatever it is you are doing, a GPS device will let you find your way with ease. You’ll even appreciate this device more in weather conditions that affect visibility and will otherwise make finding your way difficult without using a GPS device.

These handheld GPS devices are built to withstand the elements and are thus very durable. They have very long battery life and even use disposable batteries in case you are in an area where it’s not possible to recharge them.

You’ll also love the display of these devices as they offer a better overview of the terrain. The maps are more detailed than you’d get from a watch. In fact, it’s possible for you to get satellite images.

Overall, you enjoy a redefined navigating experience as you can easily input new waypoints and plan your routes. And this allows you to wander as far as you like when you are hiking, trekking or mountaineering because you are confident of finding your way back.

Now that you know how important handheld GPS devices are, you’ll agree with us that you can’t just buy any random device. You need to go for the best so you won’t get stranded.

And it is in light of this that we carried out extensive research and compiled the very best handheld GPS devices in the market. After that comes a buying guide to help you make an informed decision when choosing one. So here we go.

The 7 Best Handheld GPS for Hiking of 2020

Garmin eTrex 32x

Garmin eTrex 32x, Rugged Handheld GPS Navigator

$299.99  in stock
7 new from $299.99
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as of May 8, 2020 4:07 pm

Garmin is a well-known and respected brand in the handheld GPS space and the eTrex 32x is one of the finest inventions. This GPS device has all the features you need for a lot of outdoor activities.

For one, it’s very portable and lightweight which means you can easily travel with it. Also the eTrex 32x has a patch antenna for receiving GPS signals. And this results in fast GPS positioning and accurate track recordings.

The 2.2-inch display is very easy to read and understand. The high resolution makes the map and fonts appear very sharp for easy viewing. We also like the long battery life of this GPS device. It can last up to an impressive 25 hours in GPS mode. And it is powered with just 2 AA batteries. The internal memory is also decent with a capacity of 8GB.

This GPS device comes preloaded with Topo Active map for seamless navigation. There’s also a 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter. The manufacturers also added some extra features like proximity alarm, calendar and alarm clock.

Built to withstand harsh conditions of the outdoors, this device is durable and long-lasting.

 Quick Specifications

  • Dimensions : 4 x 2.1 x 1.3 in / 10.2 x 5.3 x 3.3 cm
  • Weight: 96 oz / 141 g
  • Screen size:2 in
  • Supported satellite systems: GPS and GLONASS
  • Internal memory: 8 GB
  • Battery life : Up to 25 hours in GPS mode

Pros

  • Portable and lightweight.
  • Excellent and high resolution display
  • This device has excellent GPS reception.
  • Stunning battery life.
  • Comes with all necessary navigation features.
  • There is a wide range of maps available.

Cons

  • Small internal memory. While this device comes with an 8GB internal memory, the preloaded software takes most of the space leaving only 100MB available to you.

Garmin GPSMAP 64scOur Top Pick

Garmin GPSMAP 64SC, Rugged Handheld with GPS/GLONASS, Wireless Connectivity and Digital Camera

$285.00  in stock
7 new from $285.00
1 used from $247.22
Free shipping
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You know what the standout feature of this GPS device? We’ll tell you. It’s an eight-megapixel flash camera as well as superior geotagging capabilities.

Every photo you take with the GPSMAP 64sc is automatically geotagged allowing you and the people you share the photos with to easily find their way to that spot. Also, you can find geotagged pictures online and easily navigate your way to where the picture was taken.

This device has a 2.6 inch display which can easily be read even in sunlight. There is a quad helix antenna which brings about strong GPS and GLONASS reception. By combining GPS and GLONASS, you’ll always have reception no matter where you are. There’s also a 3-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass and a barometric altimeter.

We really like that you can connect the GPSMAP 64sc to your smartphones and read messages and notifications on the GPS. This means you don’t have to reach for your phones at all times and you can easily keep it away in your backpack or pocket.

This device also comes preloaded with a worldwide shaded relief base map. And you’ll also enjoy a one-year subscription to BirdsEye Satellite Imagery. The battery capacity is also good, lasting up to 16 hours. It comes with a dual battery setup allowing you to use an included rechargeable nickel-metal hydride battery pack or replaceable AA batteries.

The GPSMAP 64SC is rugged, water resistant and overall very durable and long-lasting.

 Quick Specifications

  • Dimensions : 1.4 x 2.4 x 6.3 in / 3.5 x 6.1 x 16 cm
  • Weight: 8 oz / 226 g
  • Screen size: 2.6 in
  • Supported satellite systems: GPS and GLONASS
  • Internal memory: 4 GB
  • Battery life : Up to 16 hours in GPS mode.

Pros

  • Compact and portable.
  • 8MP camera with superior geotagging capabilities.
  • Excellent and high resolution display.
  • Excellent GPS reception.
  • Connects with your smartphones so you can easily read messages and notifications.
  • One-year subscription to BirdsEye Satellite Imagery.
  • Preloaded worldwide shaded relief base map.
  • Good battery life.
  • Durable and long-lasting.

Cons

  • Internal memory could be better. However, you can increase memory with an SD card.

Garmin InReach Explorer +

Garmin in Reach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator with Topo Maps and GPS Navigation

$449.99  in stock
25 new from $448.90
4 used from $385.00
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as of May 8, 2020 4:07 pm

The InReach Explorer+ is a handheld GPS device with superb functionality. This device tracks and shares your location with your friends and family. That way, they can follow the progress of your journey and be sure that you are safe.

With a small subscription fee, you can send and receive messages from any phone number or email in the world no matter where you are. Your messages will be sent via satellite so it doesn’t matter if there’s cell phone signal or not.

And in case of any emergency, you can easily trigger an interactive SOS to the 24/7 search and rescue monitoring center. A lot of lives have been saved with this feature.

There’s also a weather forecast feature that tells you the conditions to expect en route to your destination. You can also connect this device to your smartphones and access unlimited downloadable maps, U.S. NOAA charts, color aerial imagery and more. There’s also an inbuilt digital compass and barometric altimeter and accelerometer.

The InReach Explorer + comes with an inbuilt battery that can last up to four days depending on how you use it. And this device is rugged, durable and long-lasting.

 Quick Specifications

  • Dimensions : 1.5 x 2.7 x 6.5 in / 3.8 x 6.8 x 16.5 cm
  • Weight: 8 oz / 226 g
  • Screen size: 1.4 x 1.9 inches
  • Supported satellite systems: GPS and GLONASS
  • Internal memory: 2 GB
  • Battery life : Up to 100 hours at 10-minute tracking intervals

Pros

  • Compact and easy to transport.
  • Two way text messaging anywhere on the globe.
  • SOS in case of emergency.
  • Location sharing with friends and family.
  • High resolution display.
  • Can be paired with smartphones to access a range of downloadable maps and software.
  • Stunning battery life.
  • Durable and long-lasting.

Cons

  • Battery is in-built and cannot be replaced. So you might consider bringing a battery charger along on your trip.

Garmin Montana 680t

Garmin Montana 680t

$599.99
$480.03  in stock
7 new from $480.03
2 used from $409.99
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as of May 8, 2020 4:07 pm

This is a multi-purpose GPS device that can do it all. Whether you are going hiking, mountaineering, riding etc. This device will allow you to navigate with ease.

The Montana 680t features a 8-megapixel camera with advanced geotagging technology. There is also a very sensitive receiver which receives both GPS and GLONASS signals. The large screen is sunlight readable and globe friendly.

With an internal memory of 8GB, you can easily load more maps and tracks on this device. You also get a free 1-yearBirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription. The inbuilt rechargeable battery lasts long – 16 hours. And you have the option of also using 3 AA batteries to when the inbuilt battery is low.

The manufacturer included a number of  purpose-driven mounts. You can easily mount this device in a vehicle, motorcycle or bicycle. There’s also a 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter

The Montana 680t is very rugged and waterproof. And you’ll be using it for a very long time.

 Quick Specifications

  • Dimensions : 2.4 x 4.5 x 1.3 in / 6.1 x 11.4 x 3.3 cm
  • Weight: 10 oz / 283 g
  • Screen size: 4 inches
  • Supported satellite systems: GPS and GLONASS
  • Internal memory: 8 GB
  • Battery life : Up to 16 hours.

Pros

  • 8MP camera with geotagging.
  • High resolution and easily readable screen.
  • Excellent GPS reception.
  • Comes with a number of purpose driven mounts.
  • Comes with a number of useful software.
  • Long battery life.
  • Very durable.

Cons

  • The large screen and battery makes this device quite chunky and not as lightweight as we wanted. Still, it’s a compact and portable device.

Garmin GPSMAP 66st

Garmin GPSMAP 66st, Handheld Hiking GPS with 3” Color Display, Topo Maps And GPS/GLONASS/GALILEO Support (010-01918-10)

$449.99
$399.95  in stock
13 new from $393.99
1 used from $379.00
View at Amazon.com
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as of May 8, 2020 4:07 pm

Want to wander the outdoors without being lost? The Garmin GSPMAP 66st got you covered. It comes preloaded with TOPO maps and this allows you to navigate easily and plan your trips.

This device has a very powerful antenna that can receive signals from three satellite constellations – GPS, GLONASS and Galileo. You can also use the Garmin Explore™ to plan your trip on your phone or computer. Then you send your plans to this device.

Also, you can connect your smartphone to this GPS device and receive notifications, monitor real-time weather forecasting among others. You also get free access to BirdsEye Satellite Imagery, which provides you with free satellite images.

The GPSMAP 66st has a 3in screen which is very easy to read and understand. Everything on the screen is displayed in high resolution making them appear clear and sharp. The ergonomic design means you can easily operate this device with one hand, even when you are wearing gloves.

The battery lasts long and the internal memory is high – 16GB. You have the option of increasing the memory with a sd card. There’s also a flashlight that helps you navigate in the dark. And we must also mention the durability of this device as it is built to withstand the harsh conditions outdoors.

 Quick Specifications

  • Dimensions : 6.4 x 1.4 x 2.5 in / 16.3 x 3.6 x 6.3 cm
  • Weight: 8.2 oz / 232 g
  • Screen size: 3 inches
  • Supported satellite systems: GPS, GLONASS and Galileo.
  • Internal memory: 16 GB
  • Battery life : Up to 16 hours in GPS mode.

Pros

  • Compact and portable.
  • Excellent signal reception.
  • Large screen and high resolution display.
  • You receive weather updates.
  • Long battery life.
  • Connects to your smartphone to read notifications.
  • Comes preinstalled with useful software.
  • Durable and long-lasting.

Cons

  • It’s a bit bulky.

Garmin Foretrex 601

Garmin 010-01772-00 Foretrex 601, 2 inches

$249.99
$189.95  in stock
10 new from $189.97
Free shipping
View at Amazon.com
handheld gps for hiking Amazon.com
as of May 8, 2020 4:07 pm

Yeah, we know. Another Garmin product right? Full disclosure, all the products on our list are all made by Garmin because they produce the best GPS devices.

The Foretrex 601 is one of the latest GPS devices from Garmin. Your hands are free when using this device as you wear it on your wrist. It’s lightweight and thus comfortable to wear. It’s a multi-purpose device that’s suitable for a variety of outdoor activities, military operations and scientific field work.

The Foretrex 601 receives signals from three satellite constellations – GPS, GLONASS and Galileo. The 2″ display is easy to read with its high resolution. And the battery life is amazing! Up to 48 hours in navigation mode.

There’s a built-in altimeter that provides elevation data. This allows you to accurately monitor your ascents and descents. And the barometer forecasts the weather by measuring air pressure. You can also connect this device to your phones to receive notifications on your wrists.

This device is also rugged and waterproof. And this confers durability.

 Quick Specifications

  • Dimensions : 0.9 x 2.9 x 1.7 in / 2.3 x 7.4 x 4.3 cm
  • Weight: 3.1 oz / 88 g
  • Screen size: 2 inches
  • Supported satellite systems: GPS, GLONASS and Galileo.
  • Internal memory: 84 MB (77 MB free for user data)
  • Battery life : Up to 48 hours in navigation mode.

Pros

  • Very portable!
  • Hand-free! You wear it on your wrist.
  • Rugged & waterproof
  • Physical buttons for operating with mitts
  • Incredible battery life
  • High resolution display.
  • Receives signals from several satellite systems
  • Very easy to use
  • Rugged, waterproof and very durable.

Cons

  • Internal memory is low.
  • There are few configuration options

Garmin eTrex 20x

Garmin eTrex 20x, Handheld GPS Navigator, Enhanced Memory and Resolution, 2.2-inch Color Display, Water Resistant

$199.99
$128.99  in stock
21 new from $128.98
2 used from $117.00
View at Amazon.com
handheld gps for hiking Amazon.com
as of May 8, 2020 4:07 pm

If you are on a budget and looking for an inexpensive and yet functional GPS device, then the eTrex 20x is your best bet. It’s a bargain device that will give you value for your money.

This device is small and this easy to transport. The internal memory of 3.7GB allows you to load a lot of maps. And should you need extra space, you just need to add an SD card. The eTrex 20x is a basic GPS device providing you with all you need to navigate easily.

The screen has a high resolution and this allows you to read it easily. You can plan your trips using the free Garmin BaseCamp software and then send it to this device. There’s also a proximity alarm that will notify you when you are almost at a waypoint or coordinate by producing a chime sound.

This device has a powerful antenna that receives GPS, GLONASS and WASS signals. It’s very easy to use this device. You can also use it with gloves on. The battery is long-lasting and can allow you to use this device for up to 22 hours. And the ruggedness of this device makes it durable and long-lasting

 Quick Specifications

  • Dimensions : 2.1 x 4 x 1.3 in / 5.3 x 10.2 x 3.3 cm
  • Weight: 5 oz / 141  g
  • Screen size: 2.2 inches
  • Supported satellite systems: GPS, GLONASS and WASS.
  • Internal memory: 3.7GB
  • Battery life : Up to 25 hours depending on use.

Pros

  • Inexpensive.
  • Compact and portable.
  • High resolution display.
  • Receives signals from multiple satellites.
  • Stunning battery life.
  • Very durable.

Cons

  • The 2.2-inch screen is a little small.
  • Doesn’t have a compass or altimeter

Best Handheld GPS for Hiking: The Guide

Now that we’ve reviewed the best handheld GPS devices, we’ll now be taking you through an extensive buying guide. This guide will help you understand all the specs and jargon we’ve been talking about in the review. And by understanding the features, you’ll be able to make an informed decision when buying a GPS device.

 

General Considerations

  • Do You Need A GPS Device?

This is the first question you should ask yourself. If you’ll be going on a well-marked trial and you are equipped (and able to use) a compass/map, then you don’t need a GPS device.

But if you’ll be venturing into unfamiliar territory or wandering farther, then having a GPS device will let you find your way.

  • Can I Use My Smartphone Instead?

Some phones, especially the newer models, have really good GPS receivers. And they are a number of applications that you can download on your phone for easy navigation. But the problem with smartphones is that they are not built specifically for the outdoors. They are not as rugged or waterproof as GPS devices. And the battery life of smartphones is another issue. Also, you can lose a cell phone signal.

As you can see, smartphones aren’t ideal replacements for GPS devices. At least not yet.

  • GPS Devices vs GPS Watches

GPS watches are also good navigational tools. Their obvious advantage is their size. They allow you to move as very fast. Also, they are great if you want to travel as light as possible. But they provide basic navigation features.

If you want dedicated navigation functionality, then you have to go for a GPS device.

  • Can a GPS Replace a Map and Compass?

A GPS device does what maps and compasses do, albeit faster and more efficient. But you should always have a map and compass with you when you are outdoors as some kind of contingency plan.

Every outdoor enthusiast should know how to use a map and compass.

  • Positioning Technology

The most popular positioning technology is GPS (Global Positioning System). In addition to GPS, some devices also use GLONASS. GPS is American owned while GLONASS is owned by Russia.

A device that uses both GPS and GLONASS will locate your position quicker and with more accuracy even when you are in an area with poor signal such as dense forests and narrow valleys. Some devices have WASS feature which corrects errors in the data received by GPS for more accuracy.

  • 3-Axis Compass and Barometric Altimeter

Some GPS devices have 3 axis compass and barometric altimeter. The compass allows you to navigate and find your way. The barometric altimeter measures altitude and allows you to monitor your ascent and descent. Since barometric altimeters measure air pressure, they can also help predict the weather.

 

How to Choose a Hiking GPS?

  • Batteries and Battery Life

Most devices use AA or AAA batteries. There are models that use inbuilt rechargeable batteries. And that means you’ll have to find a way to charge them.

Always go for devices with battery life of at least 10 hours as you won’t have to change the batteries too often. All the devices on our list have stunning battery life for your convenience.

  • Construction

Handheld GPS devices must be rugged and made of materials that are resistant to shock.and abrasions. Also, they must be water-resistant so that you’ll be able to use them in the rain. Our handheld devices are very sturdy, durable and have a IPX7 water resistance rating (This means they can withstand exposure to water of up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes).

  • Display Screen

For convenience, go for devices that have at least 2in display. Also, the resolution must be good so that you can easily read the screen. You also have to make a choice between going for those with touchscreen feature or buttons.

While touchscreens are easier to operate, you might have difficulty using them in cold weather with gloves on.

  • Features

You can get a lot more from GPS devices than just your location on a map. Some have an electronic compass and barometric altimeter. Some can be connected to your smartphones so you can read messages and notifications on them. There are even models that can be connected to heart rate monitors and temperature sensors.

  • Weight

We know you want to travel light when hiking, mountaineering and participating in other outdoor activities. As a result, we included only lightweight devices on our list.

Final Thoughts

That’s all fellas. Our buying guide will provide you with all you need to know so you can make an informed decision when buying your handheld GPS device. After all, the best handheld GPS for hiking is the one that suits your needs, above anything else.

It’s not fun to be stranded in the wild. And with our handheld GPS devices, you can wander as far as you’d like because you know you’ll find your way home with ease. Get one today and explore the outdoors as more as you like!

Disclosure: Exploration Junkie is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

If you purchase an item on Amazon through the affiliate links in this page, this website will earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps us keeping this site ad-free, and it helps you say thank you if our content is useful to you 🙂

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