Buying Guide for the Best Hiking GPS

Buying Guide for the Best Hiking GPS

Lots of people go hiking these days. In fact, for the last year leading up to the spring of 2017, it’s estimated that up to 47.2 million went hiking or backpacking in the US. Most of them tend to traverse safe and familiar paths, but the adventurous few do like to blaze new paths every now and then.

If you’re contemplating a new hiking path, then you at least must consider taking the best hiking GPS with you.

Buying Factors to Consider

So how exactly do you find the best hiking GPS for your needs? It’s not really about the price, although it is generally true that the more expensive models tend to offer the more advanced features.

However, you need to consider the following factors first before you pick your hiking GPS.

How big and heavy is it?

When you’re hiking, you need to consider the weight and size of all your equipment. This rule applies to your hiking GPS as well.

You need something that’s somewhat compact so that you find it easy enough to bring along with you on your hike.

At the same time, you can’t pick anything too small. That’s because the hiking GPS provides you with a map, and a very small screen will make the map too difficult to read.

A larger display will be easier to use, though again you need to balance this with the weight.

Durability and reliability.

If you’re taking a piece of equipment outdoors, you better make sure that it can handle the conditions you’re likely to encounter on your hike. You really need something robust and hardy, and you need ample waterproofing and shock-proofing in case you drop it or the weather turns nasty.

Battery life.

One of the most useless tools you can bring on a hike is a GPS that lasts for only a few hours. You’ll be out there in the woods, and so you need a GPS which can last a long while without constant recharging.

You may want to consider battery-powered units, and you can just bring extra batteries to last you through your hike.

Controls

You have basically 2 choices here, and each has its own set of pros and cons. You can have a touchscreen, and for many this is a good choice because the controls are easy and familiar and you don’t need to go through the tedious procedure of going through menu options.

On the other hand, with buttons the battery lasts much longer, it’s more likely to work in even freezing conditions, and you can use it more easily even when you’re wearing gloves.

Memory capacity.

This includes the built-in memory and a slot for any SD card you may want to put in it.

Advanced hiking features.

Many of the more expensive models come with more advanced features. You may enjoy an excellent built-in program to help plan your hike. Some come with 2-way radio, through which you may even get the latest weather updates.

You may also have wireless sharing, so you can share data regarding routes, tracks, and waypoints with other hikers using GPS equipment compatible to yours.

So let’s find the best hiking GPS for the money according to these considerations:

Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator

Garmin is one of the most renowned brands when it comes to outdoor handheld lifestyle equipment, so of course it’s going to be part of our list of recommendations. This eTrex 10 is a base model, which makes it a good choice for younger hikers and newbies. Besides, you don’t really need more than the basics anyway.

Key Features

  • It comes with a worldwide basemap which can display the topographic map info in 2D or 3D, and the info comes with contour lines and elevation profiles.
  • It can track both GPS and GLONASS satellites at the same time, and it also features HotFix satellite prediction.
  • The unit measures 4 by 2.1 inches long and it weighs just 5 ounces. The monochrome display is 2.2 inches along the diagonal, with a resolution of 128 by 160 pixels.
  • It can save 50 routes, 200 tracks, and 10,000 points.
  • It uses 2 AA batteries, which can last for up to 25 hours. The long battery life is due to the use of navigational buttons.

Pros

  • It’s compact and lightweight, and it’s very easy to hold.
  • It’s quite a hardy unit, and it even has an IPX7 rating so you can use it in the rain.
  • Just bring along several pairs of backup AA batteries, and you can be sure you won’t run out of power. The battery life is really excellent.
  • You can use this on hikes and biking adventures so you don’t get lost.

Cons

  • You can’t use an SD card on this.
  • The map is a bit too basic.

Summary

This is an excellent basic model for the occasional hiker, and it can be useful for biking and boating adventures as well. If you have kids who show an interest in hiking, the eTrex 10 is a great starter GPS. The batteries will last a long time and the unit is quite hardy, while the price is quite affordable.

DeLorme inReach SE Satellite Tracker

If you’re really into hiking and biking on a regular basis, you’ll need a GPS that’s a bit more advanced. That’s certainly the case with this unit, and that means it’s a lot more expensive than starter GPS devices.

In addition, you must also subscribe to a Delorme service plan to use this satellite tracker properly. You can get a 30-day plan whenever you plan to use it, or subscribe for a whole year with lower monthly rates.

Key Features

  • It comes with an old-fashioned cellphone design, with a small screen at the upper half and buttons at the bottom.
  • You can use it with type and send text messages to cell numbers and email addresses. You get a message confirmation to indicate that your message got through.
  • You can send an SOS message to the 24/7 GEOS search and rescue monitoring center.
  • It measures 5.8 by 2.4 inches, with a weight of 7 ounces. The screen measures 1.8 inches
  • The rechargeable battery can last up to 100 hours.

Pros

  • Once you accept that you need a subscription plan for it as you do with your phone, you may find that the plans are actually quite flexible.
  • This offers a very reliable way for you to send messages and ask for help, especially when you don’t have mobile phone service. With message confirmation, you can know for sure if your message got through.
  • You can track your trip and share your location with others, and you can include data regarding your coordinates and elevation. It even monitors your speed.

Cons

  • Not all people are fans of the subscription plans.
  • The small screen can make it a bit hard to read the map.

Summary

Basically, you want to bring this with you just to make sure that you can send for help if anything goes wrong during your hike. You may grumble about the expense of the unit and the subscription plan, until it saves your life!

Garmin GPSMAP 64st, TOPO U.S. 100K with High-Sensitivity GPS and GLONASS Receiver

Here’s another Garmin, and this time you have a more advanced GPS unit to help you out on your hike. If you’re in the US, you’ll certainly appreciate the preloaded TOPO 100K map that accompanies the worldwide basemap.

This TOPO 100K even covers the non-continental US, including Hawaii, Alaska, and even Puerto Rico. You even get a free 1-year subscription to Birdseye Satellite Imagery.

Key Features

  • It’s a compact and portable unit, yet it offers a nice, large 2.6-inch color screen than you can read even in sunlight.
  • The map details include various types of parks and forests, from national and state to local.
  • It offers 8GB of onboard memory, plus there’s a micro SD slot so you can use additional downloaded maps.
  • The Base Camp software allows you to see and manage your maps, tracks, routes, and waypoints. You can also share the data with other compatible Garmin devices, without using a computer.

Pros

  • It offers an accurate reading on your location and you get the data quickly.
  • The built-in compass shows your heading without having to hold it flat, and also even when you’re standing still. It also comes with an accelerometer and a barometric altimeter.
  • The map is excellent, and you can even add maps of your own.
  • You have 2 choices on how to power it. You can use a rechargeable NiMH battery pack, or a more traditional set of 2 AA batteries.
  • The display is easy to read and use. You don’t have to squint at it, and sunlight isn’t a problem.
  • With Live Track, you can share your activities as they happen with others.
  • If you’re using it with an iPhone 4 or later model, you can receive your smartphone notifications through this device.

Cons

  • It is quite an advanced GPS unit, and so you’ll need a bit of time to familiarize yourself with all the features you can enjoy.
  • With so many advanced features, the battery life is a bit average at about 16 hours, if you’re lucky. You may need to get lithium batteries just to be safe.

Summary

Hiking is fun, but it can be a lot more enjoyable with the use of this high-tech device. It’s reliable with lots of data and convenient features to offer, though that means you need a lot of extra batteries with you.

Bad Elf 2200 GPS Pro

Are you hiking with a party of adventurers who are partial to Apple devices? If that’s the case, you may want to consider using this Bad Elf 2200 GPS Pro so that everyone gets equal access to the information.

This GPS device can work as a standalone model, but it can also pair via Bluetooth with up to 5 Apple mobile devices. These include the iPhone 5, iPad,iPad mini and 5th gen. the iPod.

Key Features

  • It can work as a standalone model, and that gives you 35 hours of use. When paired via Bluetooth, you can still get 16 hours.
  • The data you see on the backlit screen includes your coordinates, direction, and speed. Other information includes satellite lock, battery life, and time.
  • You can log your data at 1-second intervals, so you have a constant record of where you are and where you’ve been.
  • It only measures 3 by 2.5 inches, with a thickness of just 0.7 inches. The weight is virtually negligible at a mere 3.2 ounces.

Pros

  • You do get a rather long battery life on a single charge of your rechargeable battery.
  • It’s extremely portable, and you even get a detachable neck lanyard for your convenience.
  • With it, everyone in your group has access to the data if they have a compatible iPhone or iPad.
  • You have a ton of memory so you can really log data about your trip.
  • The data you get from your location is
  • There’s no map here, but you can transfer the data from the Bad Elf to your Apple map or app.
  • With the accurate GPS and altitude readings, it’s great for pilots too.

Cons

  • There’s no option to use AA batteries—good luck getting it recharged on your hike.
  • To maximize its use, you need to pair it with a mobile device with a map.

Summary

When you have lots of people in your group who like to know where they are constantly, there’s really no need to have each one buy their own GPS device. They can simply use the Bluetooth feature on their iPhone and each one can access the information they want to see.

Garmin Fenix 3 GPS Watch

Why hold your GPS in your hand when you can get your hands free and your GPS is on your wristwatch instead? This time, your wristwatch gives you more information than your regular watch.

In fact, it’s so useful that you can find it helpful for more than just hiking. You can use it for running, swimming, and biking as well.

There’s really no end to the kinds of data you can see here, as you can get just about every kind of information about your activities. The watch is also a GPS tracker, and it also offers the capability to store 1,000 waypoints and 10,000 tracks.

Key Features

  • At just one glance, you can see any data that you want. You can customize not just the data displayed but also the look of the watch face itself.
  • It comes with a steel antenna that synchs with GPS and GLONASS satellites.
  • With the various data available, you can use it to train properly.
  • You can safely use it for swimming, as it’s rated for 100 meters.

Pros

  • It’s extremely lightweight, and you can have hands-free access to the data.
  • The look is actually quite appealing, unlike other similar watches with rather garish designs. It helps that you can download the look of the watch so you can customize how it looks.
  • It uses scratch-resistant domed mineral glass, just like a nice regular watch.
  • The battery life is quite long, ranging from 20 hours in GPS/training mode and 50 hours in UltraTrac mode, to 6 weeks in just the regular watch mode.
  • The versatility of the watch is stunning.

Cons

  • It’s somewhat pricey.
  • Despite the price tag, you still get the dinky plastic wristband that you really need to replace right away.

Summary

For outdoor enthusiasts, this watch is undoubtedly cool. The endless range of customization settings available means that you can use it for any sort of outdoor activity.

You can train with it, then go kayaking and hiking, then just wear it to the office. You can set the look to provide the information you need, even if it is just the time and the date.

Final Verdict

The real outdoorsmen and training enthusiasts will undoubtedly enjoy the Garmin Fenix 3, while parents can buy their kids the Garmin eTrex 10. Apple users traveling in a group can use the Bad Elf, while those who don’t mind subscription plans can go with the Delorme and have an insurance policy against getting lost.

But for true-blue hiking enthusiasts, the Garmin GPSMAP 64st really takes the cake with all its advanced features. Sure, it takes a while to learn all the features.

But that’s part of the fun of using it, just as part of the fun of hiking is learning about a new path or trail. The map you get with the 64st offers a really detailed guide of the most popular hiking spots in the whole country, and you’ll never get lost with this GPS device.

If you’re looking for the best hiking GPS device, it’s hard to top the 64st. Have fun with it, and have fun hiking!