Are you a long-time hiker? Or are you new into it? Or you may simply be curious about GPS in general? Then, hop in! Here, we will review the best hiking GPS of 2020!

Having zero grey area on where you exactly are is of no question when you’re hiking. A handheld GPS should be a need rather than a want primarily for safety purposes. And when you’re in a tedious activity such as hiking, a handy one will definitely work best for you. 

There are a handful of hiking GPS in the market and just like with anything else, you just have to find what suits you best. May this article take you an inch closer to your dream GPS!

Garmin eTrex 30x

Garmin eTrex 30x

 Features a 2.2” 65K color sunglight readable display offering increased resolution (240 x 320 pixels). Physical dimensions: 2.1″ x 4.0″ x 1.3″ (5.4 x 10.3 x 3.3 cm)

Garmin eTrex 30x is one of the GPS devices on this list, obviously. It has a fantastic high resolution display and it’s water-resistant, too!

Best features

  • 2.2” display
  • Wireless connection
  • 3.7 GB internal memory
  • Preloaded worldwide map
  • Built-in slot for micro SD
  • 3-axis tilt compensated e-compass
  • Built-in barometric altimeter

Positive points

This GPS device is one that is sturdy and durable as it boasts of a great display. It is also easy to operate. However, the best thing about this is its navigation system with a 3-axis e-compass and a barometric altimeter. With its technology, you can enjoy a dependable navigation system no matter the terrain and no matter the weather.

Negative points

Performance-wise, we have nothing against this device. It’s just that other Garmin models have a lot of preloaded maps available with additional subscriptions, but this does not have those. In other words, you may have to buy some topographical maps should you need them.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Advanced navigation system
  • Easy to operate
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Need to purchase topographical maps if not readily available
  • Lacks subscription
  • Lacks preloaded maps
Garmin GPSMAP 64st

Garmin GPSMAP 64st

Sunlight Readable 2.6 inches color display. Display size : 1.43 x 2.15 inches and 2.6 inch diag (6.6 centimeter). Battery life : 16 hours. Water rating IPX7

As compared to the previous device, this is a lot smaller. But, its lack in size does not mean it lacks in performance.

Best features

It is more compact, therefore, it is easier to carry around. However, for something so small, it’s amazing how it’s packed with the features some bigger models can offer. 

  • 2.6” color display
  • Wireless upload
  • 8 GB internal memory storage
  • USB-compatible
  • Smartphone pairing
  • Multiple power source capability

Positive points

The Garmin GPSMAP 64st is an easy choice because of its precise navigation without the hassle of a heavier and bigger device. It has Bluetooth and wireless functions which make it pretty convenient.

A great feature is you can easily share your information with your loved ones. This is to ensure them of your safety as well. What a good way to hike if you still get to receive all the information messages you need. And lastly, it’s insanely easy to use!

Negative points

With this device, the display is compromised. Well, that’s easy to understand because it’s really minute. However, it is still easy to read.

Although it’s easy to use, it is said that setting this up may take more time than you think. So make sure you’re ready for that. 

Pros

  • Wireless information sharing with loved ones
  • Easy map adding
  • Easy to operate altimeter and compass
  • Bluetooth-compatible

Cons

  • Small display
  • Longer time for the setting up process
Garmin eTrex 30x

Garmin 750T

3-inch sunlight-readable touchscreen display with Dual orientation (landscape or portrait view). IPX7 water rating

Another small but terrible GPS from Garmin made it to our list. It has been competitive in the market and that is for a good reason. 750T has preloaded maps available which makes it convenient.

Best features

  • 3” touchscreen display
  • Ipx7 water rated
  • Built-in 8 megapixel camera
  • 3-axis e-compass and barometric altimeter
  • Available in landscape and portrait

Positive points

For its size, it offers a generous amount of display. It is even backlit so the sun’s blinding glare won’t stop you from using it comfortably. It even houses a camera! All-in-one I would say.

It has precise navigation that’s not difficult to operate. And the best thing? It survives some major water drop!

Negative points

The battery indicator isn’t the most accurate thing in the world and this is a relatively huge drawback when its purpose is to survive an activity in a place where power source is not easy. However, this is not something packing some more batteries can’t fix.

Another thing is that setting it up also takes time, so make sure that you have that.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Comes with a camera and LED flash
  • Backlit display
  • Precise navigation
  • Easy to operate

Cons

  • Battery indicator is not accurate
  • Longer setting up duration
Garmin eTrex 30x

Garmin Montana 680T

2″W x 3.5″H (5.06 x 8.93 cm); 4″ diag (10.2 cm). up to 16 hours (lithium-ion); up to 22 hours (AA batteries)

Garmin Montana 680T is definitely one to look out for. It has a sleek touchscreen aesthetics and it has features worth investing for.

Best features

  • Built-in WAAS-enabled receiver
  • 8-megapixel camera
  • 250,000 preloaded geocaches
  • Hotfix satellite prediction and GLONASS support
  • Track manager

Positive points

The technology this device carries gives this one a strong edge. It’s equipped with geo-tracking and highly precise maps. It also comes with an auto geotagging feature that lets you map your track out.

The display is so good that reading with this one is a breeze.

Negative points

One thing to consider is that it’s quite heavy as compared to its competitors. However, some are easy to see past this flaw because of its magnificent features. 

Another small issue as well is that color selection may be improved. But other than these, nothing seems to cause a stir.

Pros

  • Highly reliable
  • Can record track logs
  • Auto geotagging feature
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to read

Cons

  • No other colors to choose from
  • Quite heavy
Garmin eTrex 30x

Garmin ETrex 20x

Features a 2.2” 65K color sunglight readable display offering increased resolution (240 x 320 pixels)

If you don’t mind smaller screens, then this might be a good device to consider for you.

Best features

  • 2.2” color display
  • Preloaded worldwide base map
  • 3.7GB internal memory storage
  • High-grade GPS receiver
  • Precise navigation

Positive points

This one is so easy to carry through your hike because it’s made of lightweight materials. But despite that, it’s one small durable guy. This means that you can enjoy some precise navigation without the hassle of its bothersome weight. This is especially perfect for those hiking for several days on end.

It’s packed with great navigation technology without sacrificing the battery’s longevity. That’s a pretty good deal.

Negative points

Tilt-compensated e-compass is a thing nowadays. A lot of models in the market carry this feature. This e-compass means a more accurate navigation experience. Additionally, it has a small screen. If that’s a problem with you, you might have to skip this model. 

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to carry around
  • Easy to use
  • Durable
  • Great battery life

Cons

  • No e-compass feature
  • Small screen

Key aspects to look out for

To further assist you on your purchasing journey, here are five factors that are of utmost importance when buying a hiking GPS.

Battery longevity

A reasonable battery life for hiking GPS batteries is 10 hours at the very least. This is if you cannot be bothered replacing batteries mid-hike. But the great thing is a lot of devices in the market are competitive in this department. Also, there are solar-powered chargers and power banks in the market to make your experience better.

Display

A minimum of a 2-inch screen is easy on the eyes for reading Anything less may be problematic. Should you want more comfort, especially if you hike with gloves on, a touch screen display will suit you best.

Weight

Hiking is not the easiest thing in the world, so it’s best to go for devices that won’t make your hike a pound harder.

Positioning

A device that has both GPS and GLONASS easily makes your navigation more precise and positioning a lot quicker. These features are especially useful in rugged and unpredictable terrain. 

Another thing to look out for in the features list is WAAS which is a GPS signal booster. Hotflix satellite, on the other hand, can improve navigation speed. It also provides computation and location of the satellites.

Durability

Of course there’s no question that an activity such as hiking requires nothing but durable gears. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What is a mapping GPS?

A GPS having a map and mapping in itself are two different things. Mapping is the application of external sources for a more exact navigation experience. The majority of these lets you track your route and save it. From traffic maps, topographic maps, and to elevation maps, all these are accessible with a mapping GPS.

Are rechargeable batteries advisable?

Technically, you can. However, the hassle of bringing charger packs will only add some weight to your backpack. It’s a lot easier if you bring some traditional batteries. But then again, the choice is up to you.

Touch screen or button-operated GPS?

Just like anything else, you have to first consult yourself first. This is largely dependent on preference. 

But of course, we can help you decide on this. A touch screen display will be easier on the eyes, but they will also have a shorter battery life. 

Now if you are not the techie type and do not really care about the advancement of your hiking GPS, a button-operated one may fare well with you just fine. But then again, choosing this type is not enjoying the advancement we have today. However, if battery life is on top of your list, this is the better option.

Also, think about the weather where most of your hiking will take place. For wet weather and areas, touch screens may be a pain to use as compared to button-operated ones.

Are handheld hiking GPS devices precise?

The majority of the handheld GPS units in the market can detect locations within about 3 meters. But, if you purchase those with positional technology as discussed above, an accuracy of 10 meters is achievable.

Do I need a GPS for hiking?

Yes. When you’re in the backcountry, navigation is absolutely critical. Without it, you can easily wind up lost and find yourself in a very dangerous situation.

Can I use my phone GPS for hiking?

 Smartphone is a valid & capable backpacking GPS. However, take into consideration how long your phone’s battery lasts.

Can Google Maps work without Internet?

You can get driving directions offline, but not transit, bicycling, or walking directions.

Is a GPS better than a phone?

GPS units also have a longer battery life than a smartphone and it easily plugs into the car adapter or portable battery. Using the smartphone for so many different things (GPS, calling people, internet) will drain the phones battery quickly. A GPS is strictly to provides navigation.

How do I load a map?

First and foremost, you may consult your user manual for this since varying units may have different procedures. However, with our gadgets above, they have similar processes since they came from the same company.

Point-by-point maps are introduced with the use of the BaseCamp application. Simply have your handheld device or SD card read the map.

See below for the steps:

  1. Refer to the user manual to pair your PC with your GPS.
  2. The Library and Devices territory will show your name up.
  3. Right-click the Internal Storage tab under the corresponding GPS name.
  4. Choose the map of your choice and click install.
  5. Follow the prompts.

Final thoughts

A handheld GPS device is undoubtedly a must-have when you’re off to a hike. This will make your overall experience better and safer. 

Now that you’re equipped with the basics you need, what’s left is to decide on what works best for you. Whether it’s a touch screen GPS or a button-operated one, just do you!