Updated May 2, 2021

While smartphones and smartwatches with GPS functions are undoubtedly helpful for navigation while you are on a hiking trip, they can’t be compared with the interactive and comprehensive potentials of a handheld GPS. A high-quality handheld GPS will enable you to sight a layered summation of the landscape, add waypoints, design a route, and efficiently log and track trail info. Compared to a smartphone, a handheld GPS has far more advantages, comprising exceptional durability and much-extended battery life. 


There’s no need to depend on your smart devices for navigation anymore. We have assembled the best handheld GPS devices to leverage and keep with you for your next hike.

Glamper Tech Editors Choice

1. Garmin inReach Explorer+

Garmin inReach Explorer+

If you’re planning solo hiking trips out of your phone coverage regions and want to be confident that you can reach help whenever you may require it, then Garmin inReach Explorer+ is an incredible option. It comes with a two-way communication feature, SOS messaging, and personal locator beacon packaged into a tool with a 2.3″ color display screen. With the Iridium satellite network, you obtain genuine 100% global coverage for messaging. It is preloaded with DeLorme TOPO 24k maps to pair with your smartphone to download more maps with the free Earthmate application.

Moreover, you can sync it with your smartphone or smartwatch to access all your contacts so that they can track your location in real-time.

What We Like

  • SOS messaging and personal location locator beacon for absolute peace of mind for you and your close ones.
  • Location sharing feature 
  • Preloaded with 24K maps 

What We Don’t Like

  • Sync feature with Apple devices running OS older than iOS 10 is not possible.
  • Need to sign up for a subscription to initiate the device; however, you can cancel it later.
  • Quite expensive

In Stock at Backcountry and Amazon from $449

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2. Garmin eTrex 30

Garmin eTrex 30

If you are looking for the best GPS coverage, then you require a tool that efficiently and effectively tracks both GPS and Glonass satellites. The Garmin eTrex 30 is the primary consumer-grade GPS device to deliver this facility to its patrons. The outstanding accuracy is another factor that makes it a second-best choice on our best handheld GPS Devices list. The housing has a rugged feel to it, and the water-resistance facet will enable the submersion of 3 feet for up to 30 minutes.

It comes with the HotFix feature that gets your location quickly after the first use. Which makes it perfect for switching on, obtaining your position instantly, and then switching it off to conserve battery power. Moreover, the Tracks feature plans your current track and makes it a cinch to discover your way back. The latest version is equipped with barometric and altimeter sensors.

What We Like

  • Rugged, waterproof housing
  • 2.2-inch full-color sunlight-readable display screen
  • Good battery life of around 25 hours
  • Joystick interface promotes compact design

What We Don’t Like

  • Available only with a sparsely populated base map 
  • Small display screen

In Stock at Moosejaw and Amazon from $299

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3. Garmin Montana 680

Garmin Montana 680

Garmin Montana 680 comes with an incredible touchscreen display screen with one of the enormous screens available on a handheld GPS unit. The touchscreen is simple to use, and the navigation is highly automatic. It also aids turn-by-turn navigation so that you could employ it as your car GPS as well. The intelligent dual-orientation display makes it super-versatile, being utilized both horizontally and vertically. Moreover, it has an 8 MegaPixel camera that is suitable for referencing images to waypoints.

What We Like

  • Large 4-inch sunlight-readable screen with vibrant colors
  • 3GB memory capacity 
  • Rugged, waterproof design
  • User-friendly interface
  • 3-axis digital compass and barometric altimeter sensors

What We Don’t Like

  • Quite large and heavy

In Stock at Backcountry and Amazon from $479

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4. Magellan eXplorist 310

Magellan eXplorist 310

Magellan doesn’t develop quite as high-end handheld GPS devices as Garmin, but they are still a trusted manufacturer of handheld GPS devices. They build some effective mid-range budget options like this one on our list of best handheld GPS for hiking.

With the Magellan eXplorist 310 Waterproof Hiking GPS, you get a rich, vibrant color screen display that reads effortlessly under direct sunlight, rugged and waterproof housing. The GPS accurateness is pretty good, although getting a GPS lock takes a bit of time, and the signal can be a little weak. Equipped with the SiRFStarIII GPS chipset and WAAS, MSAS, and EGNOS, Magellan eXplorist 310 claims up to 3-meter precision.

The battery life is better than average at 18 hours, sufficient for a few days of cautious usage. Plus, it comes preloaded with the World Edition map, and in addition to that, includes 500Mb of additional internal storage to upload Summit Series Topo maps.

What We Like

  • Simple button and joystick interface
  • Clear 2.2-inch sunlight-readable screen with sharp colors
  • Preloaded World Edition map with shaded relief
  • Rugged, waterproof housing

What We Don’t Like

  • GPS lock can take too long
  • The instruction manual is lacking

In Stock at Amazon from $169

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5. Garmin eTrex 32x

Garmin eTrex 32x

With the unique and advanced 32x, Garmin has improved the display screen’s resolution and upgraded the internal storage memory up to 8 GB. The new Garmin eTrex 32x provides you a ton of space to load maps, and you can furthermore put in a microSD card for extra storage. It arrives with a battery life of up to 25 hours in GPS mode with 2 AA batteries. Plus, it has the HotFix features that enable fast-locking.

Overall, it is a decent entry-level, lightweight, and handy GPS device equipped with an altimeter and compass. 

What We Like

  • Full-color sunlight-readable display
  • A wealth of internal memory and also aids the microSD card
  • 2,000-waypoints and 200 routes

What We Don’t Like

  • The screen is a bit small
  • Slow processor waypoints

In Stock at Moosejaw and Amazon from $279

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6. Garmin Oregon 700

Garmin Oregon 700

The Garmin Oregon 700 could be assumed a pared-down edition of the Garmin Montana 700i. Thanks to a huge 3-inch color touchscreen, the Oregon 700 proposes an instinctive user interface reminiscent of a smart device.  This model is elegant and more portable, which could be an advantage or disadvantage relying on your requirements. For hiking, we prefer the smaller size as it’s lighter and utilizes smaller space but still gives tons of characteristics and easy-to-operate features.

What We Like

  • Compact
  • Huge smartphone-like display screen

What We Don’t Like

  • Easy-to-learn interface

In Stock Amazon from $399

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Investing in a suitable hiking GPS device will not only save you from frustration but also make your time in the wilderness worthwhile and more rewarding. It’s helpful in case of emergency, but can also be an extremely useful tool for longer trails you’ve never been on before. 

Thank you for reading our review and we hope one of these handheld GPS devices makes your next hiking trip even better.


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