The best GPS for hiking

Gear

A hiker uses a GPS.

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Which GPS for hiking is best?

Getting lost in the wilderness is never a pleasant experience, which is why including a handheld GPS unit on your next hiking trip could be a literal lifesaver. Compact hiking-specific GPS units come in a variety of sizes, styles and overall functionality. For those looking for an all-around quality GPS for hiking with an easy-to-read screen, the Garmin Montana 680t is a trusted and reliable option.

What to know before you buy a GPS for hiking

All handheld hiking GPS units vary slightly, with each sporting its own unique features and design.

Size and weight

When hiking or backpacking, the size and weight of your gear is important. Choose a handheld GPS option small enough to easily fit in your pack, clip on your belt or fit in your pocket when not in use.

While the weight may not vary drastically—usually differing by only a few ounces between models—the lighter the model, the easier it is to carry for extended periods.

Battery type

Battery life varies depending on the model of the GPS unit as well as how often you use the device and which applications and features you have running at any given time. There are options that run on rechargeable batteries and others that utilize disposable batteries. Depending on which battery style you prefer, bring along spare batteries or pack a portable charger.

Display

Having a clear and easy-to-see screen is one of the most important aspects of a quality GPS for hiking. The best screens, whether they are LCD or LED screens, allow you to read them clearly in bright sunlight and in the dark. Some devices have full color displays while others have black-and-white displays.

Interface controls

Many newer GPS models have large touch screens, while others utilize front or side buttons to shift between different features and plot routes. The control method you choose comes down to personal preference.

If you plan on using your GPS in colder weather, you may need to remove your gloves to properly use touch controls 

What to look for in a quality GPS for hiking

Durability

Considering that you’ll be using your GPS for hiking, you need a model that can withstand the elements. The best GPS for hiking is waterproof or highly water resistant and can weather the occasional drop or impact.

Storage capacity

The larger the storage capacity, the more maps you can download and store on your device. Those who think they’ll need a lot of storage space should invest in a model that features an additional SD card slot for added memory.

Connectivity

Some GPS units can wirelessly connect to your smartphone or other electronic device to provide live route and weather updates, sync specific maps and perform routine updates. Other devices utilize a standard USB connection, which you can use to update your device and provide the most recent maps.

Additional features

Some GPS devices include an emergency SOS beacon or distress signal to call for help. Others feature a convenient digital camera, electronic compass, barometer and weather information, sunset and sunrise times, waypoints and more.

How much you can expect to spend on a GPS for hiking

In general, most hiking GPS units range from $80 to $700 depending on the features. Most people end up spending between $200 and $500 for a quality midrange option.

GPS for hiking FAQ

Does GPS work without a cell signal?

A. Yes. Even when your cellphone is far out of range of the nearest tower, a handheld GPS device can pinpoint your location because it uses signals from a large network of satellites. Most GPS devices work even in the most remote locations.

How do you know your GPS is accurate?

A. The majority of GPS units are rated to be accurate within 3 meters. If you want to ensure maximum accuracy, look for a model that uses both GPS (Global Positioning System) and GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System).

What’s the best GPS for hiking to buy?

Top GPS for hiking

Garmin Montana 680t

Garmin Montana 680t

What you need to know: The wide array of features and vibrant screen display make this GPS useful for all types of hikers.

What you’ll love: Using both GPS and GLONASS tracking, you can easily plan your route and drop waypoints on remote trails and regions. A built-in 8 mp camera lets you capture scenery while tagging the precise coordinates.

What you should consider: This model is a relatively expensive option for casual users.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

Top GPS for the money

Garmin eTrex 22x

Garmin eTrex 22x

What you need to know: This Garmin GPS device offers a great value at a surprisingly low price.

What you’ll love: Hikers will appreciate the water-resistant and heavy duty design of this GPS unit. It also sports a sunlight-readable screen and quick satellite connectivity. 

What you should consider: It does not have all the extra features found in more advanced models.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

Worth checking out

Garmin GPSMAP 66st

Garmin GPSMAP 66st

What you need to know: This highly accurate handheld GPS utilizes a clear color screen.

What you’ll love: Equipped with a set of preloaded hiking and biking maps, you can outfit the Garmin GPSMAP 66st with an SD card for maximum storage. It features a handy LED flashlight function for use at camp or at night.

What you should consider: The high price point isn’t suitable for all budgets.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Matthew Young writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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