Are you on the lookout for the perfect handheld GPS to escort you on all your hiking trips?

Though smartphones and smartwatches have come a long way and are undoubtedly helpful for navigation, they are by no means comparable to 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, devise a route, and efficiently log and track trail information. In contrast to the smartphone and the new addition to the smart family, the smartwatch, a handheld GPS, is far more advantageous and offers exceptional durability and much-extended battery life.

What is a Handheld GPS?

Handheld GPS systems have been a boon for hikers as they can track their progress with accuracy and ease. They can also help them find their way back to the starting point. A handheld GPS is pocket-sized and lightweight, which makes them easy to carry around while on the go. These devices can be used by hikers as well as travelers to stay on track and make sure they don’t get lost or go in circles.

Most GPS devices come with an emergency feature that will send out a distress signal in case you run into any trouble.

With navigation apps becoming available and popular on your smartphone, you may wonder whether it is worth buying a dedicated GPS device. However, they have a much longer battery life than a smartphone and can be charged easily on the go. Hence, there is no need to depend on your smart devices for navigation anymore. Instead, we should use it for what it is mainly intended for, such as making calls, browsing the web, tracking steps, etc. GPS units will help you figure out where you are, where you are going, and track the route you are traveling.


Best Handheld GPS

There are a few imperative due diligence matters to be borne in mind when seeking an exceptional GPS, ranging from quality, reliability to performance.

We wrote this article with the intention of giving you feedback on highly-rated GPS units to provide you guidance and confidence when you’re ready to buy. We have assembled and put together a list of the best handheld GPS devices in the market from among a multitude of brands to leverage and have on hand for your next hike. 

Let’s get into the specifics and our review of the top 6 handheld GPS devices for hiking.

Glamper Tech Editors Choice

1. Garmin inReach Explorer+

Garmin inReach Explorer+

The next time you plan a solo hiking trip that is ways out of your phone coverage area, take along the Garmin inReach Explorer+ that you can use confidently to reach out for help. This unique device comes attached with features such as two-way communication, SOS messaging, and a 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 comes preloaded with DeLorme TOPO 24k maps that you can pair with your smartphone. It allows you 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 topographic 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 service to initiate the device; however, you can cancel it later.
  • Quite expensive

In Stock at Backcountry and Amazon from $449

Prime Logo

2. Garmin eTrex 30

Garmin eTrex 30

If you are seeking the best GPS coverage, in that case, 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 that delivers this facility to its patrons. The outstanding accuracy is another factor that makes it the 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 coupled with the HotFix feature that locates your position instantly after the first use. In addition to this, if you switch off the device and then switch it on a few hours or a day later, it helps conserve battery power and fix a location immediately. Moreover, the Tracks feature plans your current track and makes it a cinch to discover your way back. The latest version of the Garmin eTrex 30 is furnished 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

Prime Logo

3. Garmin Montana 680

Garmin Montana 680

Garmin Montana 680 is a fabulous handheld GPS device with an enormous display screen. The touchscreen is simple to use, and the destination or route can be computed automatically. It also aids turn-by-turn navigation, which provides voice-guided driving directions to employ it as your car GPS. The intelligent dual-orientation display makes it super-versatile and may be 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 in size and bulky

In Stock at Backcountry and Amazon from $479

Prime Logo

4. Magellan eXplorist 310

Magellan eXplorist 310

Magellan relatively does not develop high-end handheld GPS devices like Garmin. However, they are still trusted manufacturers of handheld GPS devices. They are also responsible for building some effective mid-range budget options like this one, which made it land 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, and possesses 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 along with WAAS, MSAS, and EGNOS, Magellan eXplorist 310 claims up to 3-meter precision.

The battery life is better than the average 18 hours, and is sufficient for a few days with cautious usage. Likewise, it comes preloaded with the World Edition map and 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

Prime Logo

5. Garmin eTrex 32x

Garmin eTrex 32x

Owing to the distinctive 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 insert a microSD card for extra storage. It arrives with a battery life of up to 25 hours in GPS mode with 2 AA batteries. As an added advantage, 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 supports a 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

Prime Logo

6. Garmin Oregon 700

Garmin Oregon 700

The Garmin Oregon 700 could be assumed to be a pared-down edition of the Garmin Montana 700i. Thanks to the large screen size of the 3-inch color touchscreen, the Oregon 700 proposes an instinctive intuitive user interface reminiscent of a smart device.  This model is elegant and more portable, which could be considered advantageous or disadvantageous, relying on your requirements. For hiking purposes, we prefer the smaller size as it’s lighter and requires only 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

Prime Logo

The bottom line is that investing in a suitable GPS device for backpacking will save you from frustration,  making your time in the wilderness worthwhile and more rewarding. It’s not only beneficial in the case of an emergency, where you find yourself lost in the middle of nowhere, but it can also be handy when going on long trails you’ve never been on before. The reliable GPS is your best travel buddy that you can take along wherever you go and is an absolute must for the hiker in you.

That’s it for today. Thank you for stopping by and reading our review. We hope one of these handheld GPS devices will surely make your shopping list and make your next hiking trip stress-free and all the better.


Glamper Tech is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission from affiliate links.