Handheld GPS devices are essential for hikers of all skill levels. But when trying to decide which one to purchase all the tech lingo can make you head spin. So how do you decide what is the best GPS for hiking that will fit your needs?

One of our goals here at Hike Camp Live is to make your life easier when it comes to choosing your gear.  We have created this guide of the best GPS for hiking for everything from a short weekend day hike to a month long thru hike over the Appalachian Trail.

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Top Picks For Best Handheld GPS For Hiking:

If you want to skip all the extra details here are our top three picks for best GPS for hiking in 2019.


What to look for when choosing the best GPS for hiking:

Before we breakdown the 10 best GPS for Hiking, here are a few key factors that you should consider when searching for the best handheld GPS for your trek.

Weight:

Weight is usually the number one thing experienced hikers consider when adding new gear to their packs. Having lightweight gear allows you to hike faster and easier. Thankfully, GPS makers have recognized this and there are many compact GPS models available. Every ounce matters.

Durability:

The best GPS for hiking should be tough enough to survive any nasty weather that you may encounter on your hiking trip. It should be shatterproof, waterproof, abrasion resistance and be encased in durable materials. We suggest looking for a IPX7 Water Resistance Rating. This means that the unit can withstand being submerged in water 1 meter deep for at least 30 min without any damage.

Battery Life:

Pulling out your GPS after a few hours of hiking only to find that it has a dead battery can be frustrating and can put a quick end to your hike. We recommend looking for one with a minimum of 15 hours of battery life. Always opt for ones that take either rechargeable AA or AAA batteries so that you can carry extra batteries with you.

A solar charger is useful for recharging a GPS device on longer hiking or backpacking trips.

Display:

The best GPS for hiking should have at least a 2inch display with excellent resolution. This is important because you want to be able to read your map clearly. Touchscreen devices have a larger screen, which gives you a larger map, but those can come with short battery life and are more bulky to carry.

Memory:

Modern GPS units store data internally and on a microSD card. This memory is used to store map data, waypoints, routes, pictures and video. More memory lets receivers hold more data.

Buttons/Touchscreen:

Modern GPS devices are commonly equipped with touchscreen displays. These allow for fast and easy navigation of the different menu options. The touchscreen displays of GPS devices mimic smartphones so the user experience is similar.

The biggest downside of the touchscreen is that they use more battery power and most do not work well with gloves or mittens. Touchscreen models are not always the most reliable at high altitudes or in cold weather.

GPS devices with standard screen display and button controls work in all weather conditions and altitudes, have longer battery life, last longer and can be used while wearing gloves. The downside to button controls is that they are a bit harder to navigate menus and add waypoints and are usually a bit slower to respond than touchscreen models.

Sensors:

Thermometers, barometric altimeters, and electronic compasses can be useful tools on the trail. The compass and altimeter come in extra handy when you are hiking in narrow valleys or heavily wooded canyons where it might be hard to get the signal because they work even if the standard GPS signal is not available.

Satellite Communication:

The best GPS for hiking will be capable of communicating through satellites and not cell networks. On most hiking trails you will not have cell phone service and if your GPS relies on a cell coverage then it will not be useful on the trail. Avoid GPS devices that only work on cell networks as they will be useless on remote trails.

Bluetooth:

Today’s GPS devices can usually be connected to other devices such as cameras, heart rate monitors, smartphones, and temperature sensors. Then those devices can be controlled from that GPS devices. So your heart rate monitor or phone alerts would show up on the GPS unit. This can be handy when bad weather is rolling in or getting notifications from friends and family.

Geocaching:

If you are interested in Geocaching there are some GPS devices that come preloaded with geocaching locations. You can always upload these locations onto your device if they did not come preinstalled.

Camera:

The best GPS for hiking comes with a built-in camera and are of decent quality. GPS cameras are certainly the highest quality but if you want to leave your extra camera at home this one is decent.


10 Of The Best GPS For Hiking In 2019

When you are planning your next hiking adventure choosing the best handheld GPS is not an easy task. Garmin dominates the GPS market and for good reason, they are simply the best GPS for hikers and campers. With multiple things to consider we have found the 10 best GPS devices for 2019.

1. Garmin Montana 680 

  • Best Use: Hikers looking for a rugged GPS that is built to last.
  • Touchscreen: Yes
  • Battery Life: 16 hours
  • Memory: 4GB
  • Preloaded Maps: Yes
  • Camera: Yes
  • Water Resistance Rating: IPX7
  • Features: Compass, barometric altimeter, Wireless sharing of data, preloaded geocaches, access to both GPS and GLONASS satellites

Montana 680 features a dual-orientation, 4-inch color touchscreen that’s glove friendly and includes a 1-year Birdseye Satellite Imagery subscription.

The Montana has an 8-megapixel digital camera provides high-quality images, excellent resolution and automatically geotags photos with coordinates, allowing you to navigate back to the exact spot in the future.

Includes 3-axis compass, barometric altimeter, and access to both GPS and GLONASS satellites for improved positioning and typically faster fixes. High-sensitivity GPS holds your position even in the deepest cover. Includes 250,000 preloaded geocaches from Geocaching.com.

Share your waypoints, tracks, routes and geocaches wirelessly with other compatible Garmin GPS users. Bumps, dirt, humidity and water are no match for the durable Montana 680.


2. Garmin GPSMAP 64st

  • Best Use: Rugged backcountry and remote hiking
  • Touchscreen: No
  • Battery Life: 16 hours
  • Memory: 8GB
  • Preloaded Maps: Yes
  • Camera: Yes
  • Water Resistance Rating: IPX7
  • Features: Bright LCD Display, compass, barometric altimeter, Wireless sharing of data, preloaded geocaches, access to both GPS and GLONASS satellites

GPSMAP 64SC handheld navigator features a 3-axis tilt-compensated compass, barometric altimeter, and 8 Megapixel autofocus camera with automatic geotagging.

This GPS also features a 2.6-Inch sunlight-readable color display and a high-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS receiver with a Quad Helix antenna for superior reception.

Gpsmap 64SC comes with a Dual battery system that lets you use the included rechargeable NiMH battery Pack or optional AA batteries. Additional features include a worldwide basemap with shaded relief and a 1-year birdseye satellite imagery subscription.


3. Garmin Oregon 650t

  • Best Use: Rugged backcountry and remote hiking
  • Touchscreen: Yes
  • Battery Life: 16 hours
  • Memory: 4GB
  • Preloaded Maps: Yes
  • Camera: Yes
  • Water Resistance Rating: IPX7
  • Features: Bright LCD Display, compass, barometric altimeter, Wireless sharing of data, access to both GPS and GLONASS satellites

With high-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS satellite tracking (more satellites mean faster fixes, even in challenging environments), preloaded TOPO U.S. 100K maps, worldwide basemap with shaded relief and a faster processor, you don’t just look at maps, you interact with them.

Zoom in, pan out and rotate using multi-touch. The touchscreen even is compatible with many gloves. The reflective display technology boosts touchscreen brightness so much that maps and displays are as vivid in full bright sunlight as they are in the shade. The display is strengthened for impact resistance but with multi-touch and dual orientation views that still accommodate gloved operation.

You can capture memories with an 8 megapixel autofocus camera with digital zoom and automatic flash/torch, plus customizable buttons for 1-touch image capture and waypoint marking.

Bumps, dust, dirt, humidity and water are no match for this mapping-oriented navigator.


4. Garmin eTrex 30x

  • Best Use: Rugged backcountry and remote hiking
  • Touchscreen: No
  • Battery Life: 25 hours
  • Memory: 3.7GB
  • Preloaded Maps: Yes
  • Camera: No
  • Water Resistance Rating: IPX7
  • Features: Compass, barometric altimeter, Wireless sharing of data, access to both GPS and GLONASS satellites

The eTrex 30x has with enhanced screen resolution for a more readable display and internal memory expanded to hold more maps. It retains the ease-of-use, durability, and affordability that eTrex is legendary for and can also be used on ATVs, bicycles, boats, cars or hot air balloons. The eTrex 30x has an enhanced 2.2-inch, 65K color, sunlight-readable display.

Durable and waterproof, eTrex 30x is built to withstand the elements. It has an upgraded interface yet retains its legendary toughness to withstand dust, dirt, humidity or water.


5. Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator

  • Best Use: Rugged backcountry and remote hiking
  • Touchscreen: No
  • Battery Life: 25 hours
  • Memory: 3.7GB
  • Preloaded Maps: Yes
  • Camera: No
  • Water Resistance Rating: IPX7
  • Features: Satellite enabled text messaging, Compass, barometric altimeter, Wireless sharing of data, access to both GPS and GLONASS satellites

You may venture off the grid, but you’re never out of reach as long as you’re carrying an inReach Explorer+. This handheld satellite communicators and GPS hybred isdesigned for the outdoor enthusiast who wants to roam farther and experience more without compromising their loved ones‘ peace of mind.

From backcountry experiences to international adventures, inReach provides communication, location sharing, navigation and critical SOS functions for anyone who loves getting away from it all, on land, water or in the skies.

The one drawback: You’ll need to subscribe to one of Garmin’s annual plans to use this device. The plans aren’t cheap (starting at around $120/year), so this isn’t a stocking stuffer for walking in the park. The cheaper plans allow you to create pre-set messages to be sent anytime, while the more expensive plans offer the ability to type out custom messages when — and where — they like.


6. Garmin Foretrex 401

  • Best Use: Slim and Handsfree
  • Touchscreen: No
  • Battery Life: 17 hours
  • Memory: –
  • Preloaded Maps: Yes
  • Camera: No
  • Water Resistance Rating: IPX7
  • Features: sunrise/sunset times, hunting/fishing information, electronic compass and barometric altimeter

The Foretrex 401 is a slim wrist-mounted GPS navigator perfect for outdoor activities that require the use of both hands. Foretrex 401 combines a high-sensitivity waterproof GPS receiver, electronic compass and barometric altimeter into a lightweight device ideal for hikers, skiers and campers. To share data easily, you can connect Foretrex to your computer with USB or just send data wirelessly to another device.

No matter where your adventure takes you, you’ll never worry about getting lost with the Foretrex 401. Foretrex keeps track of your path and displays it as a dotted trail on the screen. Just turn on Foretrex’s TracBack feature, and you can retrace your path back to where you started. Keep track of your bearing and altitude with Foretrex 401’s electronic compass and barometric altimeter.

You can save locations in memory as waypoints, so you always can find your way back to any important place, like your campsite or vehicle. And with up to 17 hours of battery life and replaceable AAA batteries, you’ll never worry about making it back.


7. Bad Elf 2300

  • Best Use: Casual Weekend Hikes
  • Touchscreen: No
  • Battery Life: 24 hours
  • Memory: –
  • Preloaded Maps: Yes
  • Camera: No
  • Water Resistance Rating: IPX4
  • Features:
    compass, barometric altimeter, Wireless sharing of data, access to both GPS and GLONASS satellites

The Bad Elf GPS Pro+ adds GLONASS reception, a barometric altimeter, advanced USB features, and double the data logging storage capacity already popular in the Bad Elf GPS Pro.

Run all day with the 24-hourbattery, stream your NMEA GPS data over USB to any computer, record up to 200 hours of data logs, and access those data logs via USB cable just like a thumb drive.


8. Spot X

  • Best Use: Casual Weekend Hikes
  • Touchscreen: No
  • Battery Life: 10 Days
  • Memory: –
  • Preloaded Maps: No
  • Camera: No
  • Water Resistance Rating: IPX4
  • Features:
    compass, satellite text messaging, real-time tracking

The SPOT X provides 2-way satellite messaging so you can stay connected to family, friends, and colleagues whenever you’re outside of cellular range, including Direct communication with search & rescue services in case of a life-threatening emergency.

The device also offers real-time location tracking, making it easy for others to follow along as you hike and its handy SOS feature could literally be a lifesaver should the user run into trouble while in the backcountry. SPOT x even provides you with your own personal mobile U. S. Number so others can message you directly from their cell phone or other SMS devices at any time.

The SPOT is lightweight, features 10 full days of battery life thanks to a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and is water and drop-proof.  As with the other dual GPS/Salellite Communicators you will need to have a service plan with the provider.


9.Garmin Rino 755t

  • Best Use: Rugged backcountry and remote hiking
  • Touchscreen: Yes
  • Battery Life: 14 hours
  • Memory: –
  • Preloaded Maps: Yes
  • Camera: Yes
  • Water Resistance Rating: IPX7
  • Features: Weather alerts with animated radar, Position Reporting with emergency alerts, Bluetooth headset audio, 3-axis compass, barometric altimeter

The Rino 755t bring trail-tested confidence to any hunt, trek, climb or adventure with their 5 Watt FRS/GMRS 2-way radio and 3-inch touchscreen display. Dual GPS and GLONASS satellite reception give better tracking in challenging environments.

There’s Active Weather support with animated radar, Position Reporting with emergency alerts, Bluetooth headset audio, 3-axis compass, barometric altimeter and more.

The Rino 755t adds preloaded TOPO U.S. 100K maps, Birdseye Satellite imagery and an 8 megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash.


Top Budget Pick Less Than $100

10. Garmin eTrex 10

  • Best Use: Casual Weekend Hikes
  • Touchscreen: No
  • Battery Life: 20 hours
  • Memory: –
  • Preloaded Maps: Yes
  • Camera: No
  • Water Resistance Rating: IPX7
  • Features: supports geocaching, low cost


This rugged little device is affordable yet still offers plenty of features for casual outdoor enthusiasts.

It supports both GPS and GLONASS satellites and comes preloaded with a worldwide base map. It’s also water resistant, geocache compatible, and has enough onboard memory to store 50 routes, 10,000 waypoints, and 200 saved tracks.


Final Thoughts On Choosing the Best GPS for Hiking

Hiking is a fun activity that everyone should embrace. Handheld GPS devices are essential for hikers of all skill levels and it is easy to get overwhelmed with all the tech jargon. Chose one that is simple for you to operate and will meet your needs on the trail. Always remember while hiking, safety comes first.

-Bobbie

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