Is a GPS Better Than Google Maps

Is a GPS Better Than Google Maps?

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If you plan a long hiking trip, navigation is one of the most important things to consider. Hiking through the woods and over mountains can be fun, but it can also be dangerous.

It is not uncommon for hikers to get lost or suffer serious injuries due to choosing the wrong routes. Therefore, having a navigational system is essential.

Many will opt for the handheld GPS specifically designed for hiking, as this is the most accurate method. However, others will try to save money or might not want to buy a handheld GPS. Instead, they may choose to use Google Maps on their smartphones.

We don’t have anything against Google Maps, as it is an excellent service. However, whether or not Google Maps is ideal for hiking through the wilderness is questionable. So, is a GPS better than Google Maps? We’re here to discuss this question, so let’s compare side-by-side to see which is better for hiking.

Is a GPS Better Than Google Maps?

While Google Maps is fine, it’s not perfect for navigating the great outdoors, and there are various reasons for this. So, let’s compare a handheld dedicated GPS unit designed for hiking and Google Maps used on your smartphone.

Navigational Instructions

Google Maps is excellent for navigating busy city streets. It does a fantastic job leading you around traffic and various obstacles such as construction. However, Google Maps does not excel at providing the best routes or waypoints when hiking.

There are a few incidents where hikers received potentially fatal or hazardous routes to follow when hiking over mountains and through the woods.

In other words, Google Maps doesn’t do a great job providing the best routes to follow when hiking in the woods or over mountains. GPS units specifically designed for hiking have a lot of research in developing the routes they recommend you take and are therefore much safer.

The Accuracy and Detail of the Maps

Now, Google Maps is relatively good in accuracy and maintains excellent levels of detail through all of their maps. However, this is generally for urban and rural areas, not mountainous and wooded areas.

The information they provide is good, but it may not always be overly accurate or up to date. If you are looking for the latest and best information for accuracy, you want to use a handheld GPS device designed for hiking, especially for topography.

Google Maps fares poorly in topography, which handheld GPS units generally do well. If you get the handheld GPS unit for hiking, it should have very detailed and accurate topography maps, so you know the terrain you will be hiking.

Offline Functionality

Many people think that Google Maps will not work offline, which is only partially true. You must download your maps and set your waypoints before going offline.

Moreover, the chances of having Wi-Fi or any kind of cell signal are relatively low when you go into the woods. Therefore, offline Google Maps don’t provide up-to-date information as you go.

However, the GPS unit in your cell phone can still guide you, but the maps will not be updated as you go. If there are updates, you will not receive them until your mobile gets a signal again. So, using a dedicated handheld GPS designed for hiking is best.

As long as there is a satellite signal, you will always get up-to-date information, and the information provided by your GPS unit will y be more reliable.

The real problem with Google Maps is that whether you are walking, driving, or cycling, you won’t get up-to-date and constant directions if you are offline. Google won’t be there to tell you to turn left or turn right now.

Is a GPS Better Than Google Maps


You need to be able to contact the authorities immediately If you need to be rescued. Google Maps is fine on your cellphone for basic navigation, but it does not allow communication. So if you’re out of range when you’re out in the woods, you won’t be able to call for help.

However, if you have a dedicated GPS unit with radio or even satellite phone functionality, you can contact rescue services for help no matter where you are. Therefore, it’s much safer to have a GPS with these functions.

Battery Life and Overheating

A dedicated GPS unit will have excellent battery life. These units often last for days or even weeks without recharging. Unfortunately, this would not be the case for your cellphone, especially if using GPS functions with Google Maps.

Your cellphone might die in just a few hours, and you’ll be in trouble. Moreover, using Google Maps on a mobile uses a lot of RAM, which can cause the phone to overheat and possibly shut down. This will not happen with a dedicated GPS unit.


The simple reality is that a GPS is much better than Google Maps for hiking on all fronts we discussed.

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