Best Camping/Hiking GPS – Reviews and Guide 2020

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Last Update: 13.Feb.2020

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Garmin Montana 680t

From summer vacations and backcountry treks to sailing trips, the Garmin Montana 680t GPS keeps you locked in to your location at all times. Access to both GPS and GLONASS satellites results in improved positioning and faster fixes, and features such as a touchscreen color display and built-in camera improve your overall experience. It comes pre-loaded with TOPO U.S. 100K maps and includes a one-year BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription so you can start adventuring the moment it arrives. A barometric altimeter and three-axis tilt-compensated compass offer additional navigational help. The vivid touchscreen display is easily readable, even in bright sunlight.
Best Choice Go to Amazon Shop

Garmin eTrex 30x

Whether you're an avid hiker, mountain biker, geocacher, or kayaker, the Garmin eTrex 32x will help you explore further into your favorite wilderness spaces and feel confident heading off on adventures into new ones. This reliable GPS device not only ensures that you've got tons of helpful maps close at hand, but also delivers rock-steady performance in different terrain and conditions to help make sure that you never lose your way. The eTrex 32x is super easy to use in a wide range of conditions, so you can rely on it in bad weather and tough terrain. The color display is easy to read in sunny conditions, while IPX7 water-resistance ensures that you can still use your GPS while it's raining, provided you tuck it back into a dry space after a few minutes of use. It also uses both GPS and GLONASS satellite systems, giving it the ability to track you in more challenging environments (bad weather, rugged and isolated terrain) than if you were using just GPS.

by Willie Test

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Last Update: 13.Feb.2020

Your handheld global positioning system becomes very reliable for navigating terrain when you are out there far from cell range. This device is not only good for hiking but for mountaineering and trekking as well. It enables you to stay on track even when the visibility is low or the landscape has no features whatsoever.

The best hiking GPS devices have a plethora of advantages over your smartphones. Smartphones are frequently used by recreational hikers for navigation. But for people who are serious about hiking and stuff, these devices are the best bets. Tracking devices are durable and have a long battery life.

In this guide, we will explain in-depth attributes of the best GPS tracker for hiking. So read on to find all you need to know about these handy navigational units.

Garmin Montana 680t

With a glove-friendly touch screen, 8-megapixel camera, 3-axis compass, barometric altimeter and GPS / GLONASS access, the Montana 680t also includes a 1-year BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription.
From summer vacations and backcountry treks to sailing trips, the Garmin Montana 680t GPS keeps you locked in to your location at all times. Access to both GPS and GLONASS satellites results in improved positioning and faster fixes, and features such as a touchscreen color display and built-in camera improve your overall experience. It comes pre-loaded with TOPO U.S. 100K maps and includes a one-year BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription so you can start adventuring the moment it arrives. A barometric altimeter and three-axis tilt-compensated compass offer additional navigational help. The vivid touchscreen display is easily readable, even in bright sunlight.
Go to Amazon Shop
  • Technical specs

Best Use

Backpacking

Preloaded Map

Road / Topo

Basemap

Yes

Preloaded Geocaches

Yes

Wireless Communication

Yes

OS Compatibility

Windows / Mac

Camera

Yes

Display Size

3.5 x 2 inches

Screen Pixels

480 x 272

Internal Memory

8 gigabytes

Expandable Memory

Yes

Compass

Yes

Altimeter

Pressure-based

Quad Helix Antenna

No

Compact Antenna

Yes

Battery Type

Lithium Ion

Batteries

Rechargeable lithium ion battery pack

Average Battery Life

16 hours

Dimensions

5.7 x 2.9 x 1.4 inches

Water-Resistance Rating

IPX7

Weight

10.2 ounces

Pros

Dual battery system

Rugged, waterproof construction

Large display

Compatible with several mounts

Cons

Heavy

Expensive

Garmin GPSMAP 64st

Preloaded with TOPO U.S. 100K mapping, the Garmin 64st boasts wireless connectivity and a high-sensitivity receiver that works with Russian GLONASS and U.S. GPS for superior reception and navigation.
Garmin's GPS Map 64 is one of the first quad helix receivers that tracks both GPS and GLONASS satellites for quicker position, elevation, and directional information. BaseCamp mapping software includes 200 routes and 5,000 waypoints, and you can download more maps via Geocache. Connect the GPS Map 64 to your computer via the USB outlet to download more maps, trails, and terrain. This device holds 4GB of additional memory, and there's a slot for a microSD card in case you need more. The dual battery system accepts AA batteries as well as the optional NiMH battery pack.
Go to Amazon Shop
  • Technical specs

Best Use

Hiking

Preloaded Map

Topo

Basemap

Yes

Preloaded Geocaches

Yes

Wireless Communication

Yes

OS Compatibility

Windows, Mac

Display Size

2.2 x 1.4 inches

Screen Pixels

240 x 160

Visual Map Display

Yes

Color Screen

Yes

Internal Memory

8 GB internal/expandable microSD card slot

Expandable Memory

Yes

Compass

Yes

Altimeter

Pressure-based

Quad Helix Antenna

High-sensitivity

Position Accuracy

3 meters

Battery Type

Lithium

Average Battery Life

16 hours

Water-Resistance Rating

IPX7

Weight

9.2 ounces

Pros

Large buttons

Share wirelessly features

Smart notifications

Quad helix antenna and high-sensitivity GPS/GLONASS receiver

Cons

Weak basemap

Non-rechargeable batteries

Garmin eTrex 30x

The Garmin eTrex 30x GPS stacks 3 choice features onto the already-robust eTrex 20x: a barometric altimeter, a 3-axis electronic compass, and the ability to share geocache information wirelessly.
Whether you're an avid hiker, mountain biker, geocacher, or kayaker, the Garmin eTrex 32x will help you explore further into your favorite wilderness spaces and feel confident heading off on adventures into new ones. This reliable GPS device not only ensures that you've got tons of helpful maps close at hand, but also delivers rock-steady performance in different terrain and conditions to help make sure that you never lose your way. The eTrex 32x is super easy to use in a wide range of conditions, so you can rely on it in bad weather and tough terrain. The color display is easy to read in sunny conditions, while IPX7 water-resistance ensures that you can still use your GPS while it's raining, provided you tuck it back into a dry space after a few minutes of use. It also uses both GPS and GLONASS satellite systems, giving it the ability to track you in more challenging environments (bad weather, rugged and isolated terrain) than if you were using just GPS.
Go to Amazon Shop
  • Technical specs

Best Use

Hiking

Preloaded Map

None

Basemap

Yes

Wireless Communication

Yes

OS Compatibility

Windows / Mac

Display Size

2.2 inches

Screen Pixels

240 x 320

Visual Map Display

Yes

Color Screen

Yes

Internal Memory

3.7 GB internal/expandable gigabytes

Expandable Memory

Yes

Compass

Yes

Altimeter

Pressure-based

Quad Helix Antenna

No

Compact Antenna

Yes

Position Accuracy

WAAS-enabled 3 meters

Battery Type

NiMH

Batteries

2 AA

Average Battery Life

25 hours

Dimensions

2.1 x 4.0 x 1.3 inches

Water-Resistance Rating

IPX7

Weight

5 ounces

Pros

Easy to use

Long battery life

Great screen quality

Cons

Basemap is very limited

Small screen

Benefits

While a tracking device is not going to replace your map, compass and adequate set of skills and experience in your backcountry adventures. This is because the latter will never run out of batteries. On the other hand, smartphones with GPS technology are not accurate enough but they get the job done for most recreational hikers. 

If you love to hike off the main trail, you will find a hiking tracker very useful. Similar is the case for frequent bushwhackers and backcountry skiers. 

If you are a climber and like to descend on poorly marked and unfamiliar trials, this unit is useful for you. It enables you to determine your exact location and reorient yourself to find your way back home. 

Your tracker is going to be handy in bad weather conditions. It uses satellite navigation hence; it is not going to lose its signal even in heavy rain, fog or snow. 

What Receiver type hikers Use?

These devices work using satellite systems. Garmin is the true global leader in the world of GPS and it has introduced a technology called GLONASS that allows the device to connect with satellite systems. 

Combining the GPS networking system with Russian based GLONASS, the receiver performance of the unit escalates even in deep canyons and under thick snow covers. The network connects 24 different satellites and improves the accuracy of the location in the northern latitudes. 

The good thing is you don’t have to turn on GLONASS on your device, it is turned on by default. But there is a catch … it drains your GPS battery pretty fast. 

A number of devices also feature WAAS receiver which is another technology to further improve the accuracy of tracking. WAAS (Wide Angle Augmentation System) was developed for the aviation assistance compensation of any tracking issues. 

Again, there is a network of satellites involved as well as ground stations. The stations are helpful in keeping the technology working seamlessly if in case the satellites are not working. This means that WAAS smoothes out errors and it improves the accuracy of tracking services. 

Buyer’s Guide

As there are so many manufacturers that have introduced their GPS devices, finding the right device can become pretty eschewing! You need to consider a lot of features to assist you in different scenarios.

To sort things out for you, we have developed this brief buying guide. We have highlighted what features you should consider before finalizing your purchase.

 

Preloaded vs. Uploading of Tracks

 

Many devices now come with a choice of 100k map preloaded. The name of these models has a “t” at the end of their name and you will notice a price hike as well. 

You can skip these devices altogether. This is because you can upload your favorite maps from your computer using the internet. 

Whereas, the 24k maps are a lot better with their contour lines and details, particularly regarding the slopes or steepness. 

 

Screen

 

The screen size is getting bigger with the advancement in touchscreen technology. This means that users are getting more screen area and display size and it improves their readability. 

The units now have a low profile and users can read the information on the screen more conveniently by zooming in and out. But small screen size also translates into lightweight hence; this is the best GPS for backpacking. 

If you are a Geocacher or mountain biker, such a lightweight small screen device will work well for you. 

Apart from the readability of the screen, daylight is critical. A variety of hiking devices these days come with anti-glare screens and excellent backlight systems that make deciphering maps and text easy. 

 

Battery

 

AA has been a long-time standard when it comes to the longevity of batteries. These batteries are cheap and offer a decent battery life too. But you will definitely need extra batteries. 

You can also go for rechargeable battery packs for extra backup. You can now recharge your battery on the go using a rechargeable battery pack or a solar panel. 

 

Barometer, Compass, and Altimeter

 

All mid to high range GPS devices come with a 3-axis compass, altimeter, and barometer. An electronic compass can easily read directions regardless of the way you are holding your device. 

In the case of standard compasses, you have to hold your device horizontally for proper orientation. This becomes very useful in a handheld GPS device because you have to keep it upright for signal reception. 

Barometric pressure allows you to determine elevation because, with an increase in elevation, the pressure reduces but with changes in weather, the pressure also changes and this is where a barometric altimeter comes in to play its role. 

This is a very useful device in the backcountry and mountainous trails and can provide you with approximate details on your elevation. 

 

Receiver’s Performance

 

Many units are highly accurate in pin posting the location up to at least 10 meters. GPS devices with WAAS are accurate up to 3 meters. 

If you are looking to improve your accuracy even further then you can go for a beacon receiver as well as an antenna for distance correction DGPS or differential GPS. 

The modern smartphone offers a GPS accuracy that ranges between 4 to 9 meters. Weather and clouds don’t interfere with the satellite signals but trees, canyons, and buildings do. 

So you need to keep your device out of your pack and in a waterproof layer (thin) to get maximum reception quality. 

 

Weight & Size

 

Weight and size directly correlate with the screen size. The smallest size is going to be the lightest in weight. How you are going to use your device is going to determine what should be the ideal weight and dimensions you should go for. 

The high-end devices are heavy and large. They are not for you to carry in your hands but for placing them on the handlebar of your snowmobile or ATV. 

 

Geocaching

 

You might have not heard about this term before! It is a new kind of outdoor activity that involves a kind-of-a scavenger hunt using a tracking unit. 

The containers called caches or geocaches are hidden and sought by participants all around the world. These caches are placed in specific positions across the globe and are marked by coordinates. 

 

Buttons versus Touchscreen

 

With the increased use of smartphones and tablets, touchscreen grew in popularity. Hence, most of the gadgets and devices are coming with touchscreen and the same is the case with these tracking units. 

With a touchscreen, interacting with the device becomes a lot simpler, but there is an issue! In cold weather and wet conditions, this touchscreen will not function very well. Although the touchscreen is simple to use, it has its limitations. 

Buttons will provide you with a lot more authority in such conditions. You don’t have to take your gloves off and you can use these devices in extreme conditions as well. 

But buttons have their own disadvantages too. They make the device bulky and you will frequently need to type. This eliminates the convenience of using touchscreen easily! 

Conclusion

There are different aspects associated with buying the best handheld GPS for your outdoor excursions. You need to have a look at different features that will come in handy during your trips. 

Be sure to buy the GPS device that aligns well with your requirements and helps in new expeditions.

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