A Quick Guide on How to Buy a GPS for Hiking

A Quick Guide on How to Buy a GPS for Hiking

The modern workplace is currently being seen as a great source of stress, especially those that deal with technology and social media. This is one of the main reasons why more and more young professionals are discovering the great outdoors, with its promise of adventure and a respite from glaring monitors. Other than knowing the how-to’s about hiking and listing items to bring, it is also essential to know how to buy a GPS for hiking.

GPS units connect to different satellites that are passing above the general area and help triangulate your location and, eventually, track your movements. It sounds very 1984, but it does have its benefits.

  • Pinpoints your location during emergencies. GPS units use satellites to know the general area that you are in, and they do not require mobile phone signals to work. They can even work while you’re under a deep forest cover or a hidden canyon.
  • Guides you to your destination. GPS units come pre-loaded with base maps that you can use to find your way around unfamiliar territory or blaze your way through a new trail. Veteran hikers also create waypoints for newbies to follow, these waypoints act as guide points or landmarks.
  • Determine external conditions. Some GPS units would have a built-in altimeter, barometer, thermometer and even up to date weather forecasts. All of these advise you of the current state around you and lets you know if you need to break camp and go back home.

There are several types of GPS units today. They can be built into a vehicle or flying machine or be concealed as a watch for easy carry purposes. For new hikers take note that, when researching how to buy a GPS for hiking, there are two types of GPS Units for hiking, and these are:

  • Handheld Navigators – these look like HAM radios but have an LED screen instead of a touchpad and a dial. Handheld navigators have a long life, and they were designed for the sole purpose of being GPS units. Some models may have other functionalities though.
  • GPS Watches – they tell time and direction and sometimes do even more. They have small display screens as compared to handheld units, but they do come packed with other features that will make the most experienced hiker jump for joy.

Other Uses for Hiking GPS Units

One reason why it is important to know how to buy a GPS for hiking is that you can use it for other sports like the following:

  • Triathlon – triathletes use GPS watches to check their speed and distance.
  • Endurance Racing – endurance athletes use GPS watches to check their heart rate, aside from knowing their speed and distance covered.
  • Sailing – sailors have a lot of onboard gadgets, but they also use GPS units to get their bearings, especially if their main units are not functioning well.
  • Cycling – cyclists use GPS devices to track their workouts and speed. They even use the syncing function to create races and track improvements.
  • Geocaching – people who are into geocaching relies a lot on GPS coordinates and waypoints to locate the geocache and leave their mark.

Consider the Following When Choosing A GPS Unit

Ask yourself the following when deciding how to buy a GPS for hiking:

  • Comfort – since there are two kinds of GPS units for hikers, which one would best fit your lifestyle and comfort. Do you want to go hands-free and go for the GPS watch? Or do you want to get more detailed maps and directions that a handheld unit can provide?
  • Kind of Activities – other than hiking, what other physical activities do you do and which ones can use the GPS unit as well. Will you need waterproof and/or shockproof units?

How to Buy GPS for Hiking

When purchasing anything in the market, you always want to know if you are getting the best or if you are buying the correct product for you. This is the top reason why knowing how to buy a GPS for hiking is important.

Here are some of the things that you would need to look at when buying a GPS unit for hiking.

  • Accuracy – most GPS Units are accurate enough but be aware of the term called track wandering. This is the phenomenon wherein your GPS wanders off while you are at rest. Some have reported a quarter mile movement which should never be the case. Track wandering cannot be avoided, but it should only wander by a maximum of 200 yards from where you rested.
  • Compass – while GPS units do point you in the direction that you want, electronic compasses are still beneficial, especially when verifying the accuracy of your maps.
  • Barometric Altimeter – barometric altimeters, in conjunction with the map on your device, can verify your location. Especially for alpine hiking, barometric altimeters have become an important part of a survival kit.
  • Thermometer – these have become a standard with GPS units and for a good reason. Thermometers tell us the condition outside and having an electronic one saves us from a possible mercury poisoning.
  • Preloaded Maps – most GPS units would have a large internal memory that can carry several maps at the same time. Preloaded maps are almost always going to be a scaled relief of the world, and it does help gather your bearings when you are lost or finding your waypoints.
  • Connectivity Options – majority of new GPS models come with several connectivity options. A few would use their satellite feed to sync data to a verified mobile app, while some would require a physical computer to upload the data it took while you were out.
  • Added Features – these are features that are not necessary, but they will be a good plus if they are included in the package.
    • Step Counter
    • Heart Rate Monitor

Other than the obvious budget consideration, here are the key things to remember when buying a GPS unit for hiking:

  • Ease of use
  • Function and features
  • Durability and strength of materials
  • Adaptability to other sports


GPS has made its way through outdoorsmen’ hearts. And with its added features and uses, it will be so in the hearts of the people in general; it’s just a matter time. We therefore conclude that knowing how to buy a GPS for hiking, as well as for other purposes, is a must. It might not make quite of sense right now, but it will surely be handy when the time comes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *