The Best Hiking GPS of 2017


Garmin GPS Map 64 Hiking GPS

Garmin GPS Map 64 Hiking GPS

A handheld GPS device comes in handy on hiking and mountaineering trips as it allows you to easily navigate your way even when the visibility is poor or the landscape has little or none distinct features. Handheld GPS devices have several advantages in comparison to Smartphones which are often used for navigation by more recreational hikers. They are more durable and have a much longer battery life. Furthermore, handheld GPS devices are in most cases equipped with batteries that can be replaced with standard batteries (ordinarily AA batteries) if recharging is not possible.

In comparison to the increasingly popular GPS-enabled watches (which indeed come in handy for navigation), handheld GPS devices offer a better overview of the terrain as they can show detailed maps and in some cases also satellite imagery while watches can only show your location in relation to the waypoints and routes. Additionally, handheld GPS devices allow you to easily insert new waypoints and plan routes directly on the device while you have to to insert waypoints and routes on a GPS watch prior to your hike as you need a computer for such activities. Therefore, handheld GPS devices are the navigation tool of choice when it comes to hiking and mountaineering trips in difficult terrain. However, you should never rely solely on any kind of GPS device as even handheld GPS devices are limited by their battery life and availability of GPS signal. It is recommended that you always bring a compass and an appropriate map with you as well.

This selection was updated on the 14th of January 2017.

1. Buying a Handheld GPS device  – What is important?

Construction/Case:

As hiking is no walk in the park, a handheld GPS device should have a robust design and be made of materials that offer good shock and abrasion resistance. Furthermore, a GPS device should also be water-resistant so that you can easily use it in rainy weather. All devices listed in this review offer good durability and have IPX7 water rating (meaning that a device can withstand exposure to water of up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes).

Battery Life:

The battery life of a handheld GPS device should be at least 10 hours so that you don’t have to replace the batteries too often. All GPS devices in this review have a great battery life and can be used with the included batteries as well as with disposable alkaline batteries.

Display:

In order to offer a decent map overview, a GPS device should be equipped with at least a 2-inch display with good resolution. Many modern GPS devices are equipped with touchscreens – which are not perfect for hiking in colder weather or at high altitudes as they are hard to use when wearing gloves. However, touchscreens allow you to operate the device faster and easier. In this review we included two devices that use buttons and three devices that are equipped with touchscreens. All listed devices are known for having high-quality displays.

Weight:

When it comes to hiking and mountaineering, it is important to use lightweight equipment as it allows you to hike faster and easier. In this review we only included lightweight GPS devices.

Planning Software:

It’s a great advantage if a GPS device comes with planning software as it allows you to easily create routes and waypoints which can then be uploaded to the device. Normally planning software also provides you with advanced information about created routes such as distance, ascent etc. Some manufacturers offer their own software like for example Garmin (BaseCamp app which is available for Mac and Windows) while others use third party applications.

Features:

Modern GPS devices do not only show a map and your location but also have other useful features such as an electronic compass and barometric altimeter. The compass and altimeter work even if the GPS signal is lost and thus they come in handy when hiking in narrow valleys or dense woods where it might be hard to get signal. Some GPS devices can be also connected to other devices such as Smartphones, cameras (for example the Garmin Virb action camera), heart rate monitors and temperature sensors. Such devices can then be controlled directly from the GPS unit, which can also show different information from each device (for example notifications from a Smartphone, heart rate from a heart rate monitor etc.).

Positioning Technology:

In addition to GPS, some devices also support GLONASS – an alternative to GPS. Devices that support both GPS and GLONASS locate your position faster and more precisely. Furthermore, they are also more likely to locate your position in difficult terrain (narrow valleys, dense woods etc.). Four of the devices listed here support GPS as well as GLONASS while one device (Magellan eXplorist 710) supports only GPS. Additionally, the positioning accuracy can be increased with WAAS feature which provides GPS signal corrections while the positioning speed can be increased with Hotfix feature that calculates and saves the positions of satellites for the next three days.

2. The Best Hiking Hiking GPS Review

Best Hiking GPS

Best Hiking GPS

  1. Garmin eTrex 30x
  2. Garmin GPSMAP 64st
  3. Garmin Oregon 650t
  4. Garmin Montana 680t
  5. Magellan eXplorist 710

Comparison

Feature/Product Garmin eTrex 30xGarmin GPSMAP 64stGarmin Oregon 650tGarmin Montana 680tMagellan eXplorist 710
Weight141 g230 g209 g289 g 195 g
Size5.4 x 10.3 x 3.3 cm6.1 x 16.0 x 3.6 cm6.1 x 11.4 x 3.3 cm7.5 X 14.4 x 3.6 cm 6.5 x 5 x 1.5 cm
Display2.2" 2.6"3" 4"3"
TouchscreenNoNoYesYesYes
Battery Life25 h16 h16 h 22 h 16 h
Battery2 AA batteries (not included)2 AA batteries (not included)Rechargeable NiMH packRechargeable lithium-ion 2 AA batteries (not included)
Technology GPS + GLONASSGPS + GLONASSGPS + GLONASSGPS + GLONASSGPS
Electronic CompassYesYesYesYesYes
Barometric AltimeterYesYesYesYesYes
WaterproofYes (IPX7)Yes (IPX7)Yes (IPX7)Yes (IPX7)Yes (IPX7)
Memory Card SupportYesYesYesYesYes
Routes Memory200200200200200
POIs Memory 20005000400040002000
Supports Standard BatteriesYes (2 AA batteries)Yes (2 AA batteries)Yes (2 AA batteries)Yes (3 AA batteries) Yes (2 AA batteries)
Wireless ConnectivityWireless (other Garmin devices and ANT+ sensors)Bluetooth (Smartphone) and ANT+ Wireless (other Garmin devices and ANT+ sensors)Wireless (other Garmin devices and ANT+ sensors/
Camera NoNoYes (8 MP)Yes (8 MP)Yes (3.2 MP)
Geocaching-friendlyYesYesYesYesYes
Trip Planning SoftwareYes (BaseCamp)Yes (BaseCamp)Yes (BaseCamp)Yes (BaseCamp)Yes
(VantagePoint)
Garmin eTrex 30x

Garmin eTrex 30x

1. Garmin eTrex 30x

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Climbing
  • Trekking
  • Hunting
  • Geocaching
  • Backpacking

 

The Garmin eTrex 30x is the lightest and smallest device in this review. This makes it perfect for hiking, mountaineering, trekking and other outdoor activities as you can easily store it in your backpack’s hip belt pocket. It will also fit perfectly in your hand. The device is very compact and offers great water- and shock-resistance. The display is small but provides sufficient readability. It has a resolution of 240 x 320 pixels and can show 65000 colors. The Garmin eTrex 30x is equipped with a 3-axis electronic compass, barometric altimeter, WAAS, HotFix and wireless connectivity. The electronic compass shows direction even when the device is not completely leveled. The barometric altimeter shows how high above the sea level you are and can also be used to predict weather. The WAAS and HotFix features make positioning fast and precise. Maps can be easily added to the MicroSD card. The device also supports integration of satellite images with the maps (it can display satellite images instead of a map), but a subscription is required to use this feature (BirdsEye). You can pair the device with different accessories such as heart rate monitor, foot pod and external thermometer (Garmin Tempe) via a wireless connection. The Garmin eTrex 30x is a great handheld GPS device due to its small size and incredible hardware. It is highly recommended for hikers, mountaineers, climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

 

Pros:

  • Battery life
  • Weight
  • Side buttons
  • GLONASS Support

Cons:

  • Small screen

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Garmin GPSMAP 64st

Garmin GPSMAP 64st

2. Garmin GPSMAP 64st

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Hunting
  • Geocaching
  • Backpacking

 

The Garmin GPSMAP 64st is equipped with a slightly bigger screen than the Garmin eTrex 30x and has buttons placed below the screen instead on the sides, which obviously increases the length of the device. Therefore, it is slightly less handy than the eTrex 30x. The Garmin GPSMAP 64st is equipped with a helix antenna that tracks both GPS and GLONASS satellites simultaneously which increases the satellite lock speed as well as the positioning accuracy. Other features include an electronic 3-axis compass, barometric altimeter and Bluetooth chipset which allows you to wirelessly connect it to other Bluetooth devices. The Garmin GPSMAP 64st also supports smart notifications such as missed calls, text messages and other alerts from your phone to be displayed directly on the GPS device. It comes with the TOPO U.S. 100K maps and a 1-year BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription. The Garmin GPSMAP 64st is an amazing device but in comparison to the eTrex 30x it’s heavier, larger and has a shorter battery life. The construction is, however, very robust and able to withstand harsh conditions.

 

Pros:

  • Durability
  • GLONASS Support
  • Buttons

Cons:

  • Size

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Garmin Oregon 650t

Garmin Oregon 650t

3. Garmin Oregon 650t

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Hunting
  • Geocaching
  • Backpacking

 

The Garmin Oregon 650t is a sophisticated GPS device that is equipped with a 3-inch touchscreen. The screen provides good readability, even in sunlight, and supports multi-touch and dual-orientation view. The downside of the touch screen is that it is hard to use with gloves on. The Garmin Oregon 650t is equipped with a 3-axis compass, accelerometer, barometric altimeter and an 8 megapixel camera for snapshots. The high-quality integrated antenna allows the device to retrieve the location quickly and accurately (it uses GPS as well as GLONASS). The device is also perfect for Geocaching because it allows you to download up to 4 million Geocaches. You can also read the descriptions and hints directly on the device. There are filters which allow you to sort the Geocaches by size, terrain, difficulty and type. The camera features autofocus, geo tagging and sharing through Garmin Adventures. Trips can be easily planned in the Garmin BaseCamp app. The Garmin Oregon 650t comes with Topo U.S. 100K maps and additional maps can be easily uploaded to the device.

.

Pros:

  • Readability
  • GLONASS Support
  • User-friendly

Cons:

  • Hard to use with gloves on

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Garmin Montana 680t

Garmin Montana 680t

4. Garmin Montana 680t

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Hunting
  • Geocaching
  • Backpacking

 

The Garmin Montana 680t is another sophisticated GPS device from the iconic manufacturer. It is slightly bigger and heavier than the Garmin Oregon 650t but on the other hand it also offers a bigger display (an inch extra) with better resolution. The touchscreen display supports double orientation and is more “glove-friendly” than standard touchscreen displays. This does not completely eliminate the fact that touchscreens are fairly hard to use with gloves on because wearing a (thick) glove you will still have problems touching the screen precisely. The Garmin Montana 680t features a barometric altimeter, digital compass, 8 MP camera, sun and moon information, hunting/fishing calendar, tide tables and turn-by-turn routing.  As the device tracks both GPS and GLONASS satellites as well as utilizes the HotFix and WAAS features, it retrieves signal very fast and shows the location precisely. The device is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery but can also run on 3 standard AA batteries. The lifetime of the lithium-ion battery is approximately 16 hours and the lifetime of 3 standard AA batteries is slightly longer – approximately 22 hours. The Garmin Montana 680t is a powerful navigation tool but it has two big downsides – weight and size.

 

Pros:

  • Readability
  • GLONASS Support
  • User-friendly
  • Battery life

Cons:

  • Hard to use with gloves on
  • Weight

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Magellan eXplorist 710

Magellan eXplorist 710

5. Magellan eXplorist 710

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Hunting
  • Geocaching
  • Backpacking

 

The Magellan eXplorist 710 is a rugged waterproof handheld GPS device that is able to navigate you from doorstep to summit. It is a very compact device and therefore fits perfectly in your hand. It features a 3 inch touch screen, 3-axis electronic compass, barometric altimeter, 3.2 MP camera, microphone and speaker. The device can be used for navigation when hiking as well as for city navigation with turn-by-turn directions. It is also able to show 2D or 3D viewing angles and covers the globe with detailed roads and land use areas. Power is supplied by two AA batteries that last 16 hours when navigation is enabled. Additionally, it is equipped with hunting and fishing calendar, sun and moon information and geocaches worldwide. The Magellan eXplorist 710 is a great device for hikers, mountaineers and other outdoorsmen but it also has downsides; it does not offer as good connectivity like the above listed Garmin devices and its planning software (VantagePoint) requires subscription.

 

Pros:

  • Big screen
  • Records video and voice

Cons:

  • Hard to use with gloves on
  • No wireless connectivity

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3. The most attractive product in the review

Which product is the most attractive?
Cast your vote to see the results of this poll!

4. Honorable Mentions

The below listed products were once included in our best five selection but as newer and better products were released we moved them into this section.

Satmap Active 12

Satmap Active 12

Satmap Active 12

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Hunting
  • Geocaching
  • Backpacking

 

The Satmap Active 12 is a simple but very effective GPS device. Therefore, it is appropriate for beginners as well as for professionals.  The device weighs only 228 g and is equipped with a 3.5 inch high-resolution display that provides a clear map overview. The buttons are large and easy to use – even when wearing gloves or having fingers numb of cold. The design is very solid thus offering good protection against shock and water. The Satmap Active 12 is equipped with Bluetooth Smart which allows you to share routes wirelessly and connect additional equipment, like for example a heart rate belt, to it. The device is also equipped with a barometric altimeter which additionally increases the displayed altitude accuracy. The altitude information is due to the barometric altimeter available even if the GPS signal is lost. The device comes with the GB 1:250,000 mapping, 1:1 million OS road mapping and World Base Mapping 1:5 million and 1:200 million. The included rechargeable battery lasts for up to 12 hours, but can be replaced with 3 AA standard batteries. The Satmap Active 12 is a great device for every hiker or mountaineer. The main advantages of the Satmap Active 12 in comparison to the competition are the convenient buttons and big high-resolution display.

 

Pros:

  • Display
  • Buttons
  • Compact

Cons:

  • Price

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Best Buy!

Satmap Active 12

Satmap Active 12


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