Having a reliable GPS unit can come in handy when hiking. But, finding a good GPS unit for a reasonable price is easier said than done. However, we’ve assembled five of the best handheld GPS units for hiking. This article discusses their features and identifies their pros and cons. So, let’s get to it!
Best Handheld GPS for Hiking: Reviews
Garmin inReach Explorer+
This is a very functional handheld GPS system with many different features. It’s not the most cost-effective unit, but this brand is known for making very high-quality products.
This Garmin GPS unit features a rugged plastic shell combined with rubber reinforcement. It’s durable enough to take some impacts, and it should be able to handle some rain too.
It features an IPX rating of 7, so it should be fine even if you drop it in a puddle. Moreover, it has a 30-hour battery life with a rechargeable internal lithium-ion battery.
This fully functional GPS system has all the features you would expect. It comes with 100% global Iridium satellite coverage, so you should be covered no matter where you are. In addition, you can two-way text message, as long as you have a satellite subscription.
In addition, you can trigger an interactive SOS that alerts the 24/7 search and rescue monitoring center. Also, you have access to NOAA charts for weather updates, and there’s color aerial imagery.
This unit comes with a map of the US, although you can download other maps. In addition, it comes with the Delorme topography maps, on-screen GPS routing, a digital compass, an accelerometer, and a barometric altimeter. It might not be inexpensive, but it is functional and reliable.
- Comes with a US map
- You can download additional maps
- Topography maps
- Digital compass
- Access to NOAA charts
- Good battery life
- Decent display
- Rugged shell
Customer service is lackluster
Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator
This is another GPS model from Garmin, although this one is more basic and affordable. But, again, this is simply a GPS unit and nothing else.
This very small and lightweight handheld GPS measures 2.13 by 1.3 by 4.06 inches, so it’s small enough to keep in your pocket. Moreover, it also features a very rugged plastic and rubber exterior. You can drop it, and it will remain intact.
Moreover, it has an IPX 7 waterproof rating, so it can stand up to heavy rain and be splashed. Finally, this unit has up to 20 hours of battery life, which is decent, although not impressive. However, you need AA batteries for this unit to function, and it does not come with rechargeable batteries.
In addition, this unit features a preloaded worldwide base map that should be good enough for most hiking and outdoor purposes. However, the maps aren’t the most detailed.
We like how this unit is WAAS enabled and comes with GLONASS support and HotFix. This gives you a reliable signal and allows for high-speed positioning. There’s also support for paperless geocaching. You can set both low and high elevation points and store waypoints along a particular track.
- Decent base map
- HotFix + GLONASS
- Waypoint features
Small black and white screen
Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS
You guessed it—another Garmin unit! However, this model comes with many excellent features.
This unit is slightly different because it is wrist-based and worn like a wristwatch. This means that you can have both hands free. In addition, it has a comfortable adjustable soft band.
Moreover, this is a high-sensitivity GPS receiver, barometric altimeter, and electronic compass. You can connect it to your computer with a USB cable or use the wireless function to transfer data to other devices.
You may appreciate that this model can track your path and display it as a dotted trail on a high-quality screen.
You can use the backtrack feature to retrace your steps to where you started. The electronic compass and the barometric altimeter allow you to track your bearing and altitude. You can then even save locations as waypoints along your path.
In addition, you can create and store various routes to your favorite places. Finally, the unit displays sunset and sunrise times, a trip computer, and fishing and hunting information. Dual readouts make this model a cut above the rest.
However, this unit uses replaceable AAA batteries to give you 17 hours of battery life. It’s not the best battery life, but you just have to pop new batteries into it when needed.
- Cool wristwatch format
- Quite durable
- Nice display
- Very accurate and reliable GPS
- Has many additional features
- More expensive
- Has technical difficulties at times
Garmin eTrex 22x Handheld GPS Navigator
This is a mid-range model from Garmin with some really cool features, especially where the screen is concerned.
We really like the display because it is readable in sunlight with anti-glare features. It is also a full-color display with 240×320 display pixels and measures 2.2 inches. It is one of the best GPS screens out there at this time.
Moreover, the unit supports GPS and GLONASS satellite systems to track your location wherever you may be. In fact, this is one of the more reliable units available.
This unit has 8MB of internal memory for downloading the maps you need, and there’s a micro SD card slot for additional memory. In addition, it is preloaded with active topic graphical maps with routable roads and trails.
In addition, this model supports paperless geocaching. You can easily upload your information to your device through various methods.
You also get access to Birdseye satellite imagery with an additional subscription. It also allows for various mounts, using it on a bike, boat, or on foot. Moreover, there are city navigator maps with turn-by-turn driving instructions.
- Fantastic screen
- Very durable
- Reasonable price
- Very reliable location features
- Paperless geocaching
- Can download maps
- Setting it up is a challenge
- Cannot update without an SD card
Garmin GPSMAP 78S Marine GPS Navigator and World Wide Chartplotter
This GPS unit is technically designed for marine navigational purposes, although it works fine for basic hiking.
This is another unit with a really nice display. It measures 1.43 by 2.15 inches, with a 2.6-inch diagonal. This is a TFT LCD display with full color, so it is effortless to read.
Moreover, the unit is made of highly durable materials and is very impact-resistant—if you drop it, it shouldn’t be a problem. It is water-resistant and even floats.
This model has 1.7 megabytes of built-in memory, so you can easily download additional maps. In addition, there’s a micro-SD card slot for optional mapping and map downloads. A worldwide shaded relief base map is preloaded. It is also WAAS-enabled and comes with HotFix satellite prediction for highly accurate and reliable GPS location, even in heavy cover.
In addition, this GPS unit features a three-axis compass and barometric altimeter, so it can keep track of your location very well. It lets you keep track of your heading when you’re on the water, even if you are standing still and holding the GPS unit in an odd position.
- Accurate and reliable positioning
- Very nice display
- Durable and waterproof
- Preloaded worldwide base map
- Storage capabilities—you can download additional maps
- 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter
- Marine charts must be purchased separately
- Some issues with the waypoint feature
The best handheld GPS on the list is undoubtedly the Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator. It might not be cheap, but it’s durable, reliable, functional, and comes with so many great features.