Tips on How to Choose a GPS for Hiking

Tips on How to Choose a GPS for Hiking

With so many brands offering various models with a wide variety of features, it can surely seem like an overwhelming task to find the GPS device that’s perfect for your need. This article intends to provide some guidance on how to choose a GPS for hiking, keeping in mind that every hiker has different needs and budgets.

How to Choose a GPS for Hiking: Identify Your Needs

Do you need to simply track your distance or maybe your altitude when hiking? Or do you wish to record and look for specific sites?

These are straightforward GPS apps and you can get away with less expensive and simpler devices without a built-in map.

Perhaps you prefer to record trails of your hikes and enact them on maps on your home computer or in your GPS gear. Maybe you wish to follow a trail map installed on your device. Mapping features have a tendency to lead up the GPS gauge of products and price.

Standard Features

Features below are fairly regular among many GPS receivers, but it’s still significant to make definite that they are built-in for the specific model of the device you are interested in.

Rugged and Waterproof.

GPS units used on the track should be able to endure some abuse, from being dropped on a stony trail to getting wet in a sudden thunderstorm. Look for some shield to unexpected dropping and a waterproof mark.

Battery Life.

Most new GPS units can exceed up to 16 hours of use, which works out well for most day hikes. It’s a good idea, however, to carry an additional set of external batteries.

Positional Accuracy.

Look for GPS units that use a 12-channel parallel receiver scheme, as this permits the receiver to connect to several satellites, all at the same time, to accurately pinpoint your position. Many aspects affect GPS accurateness, regardless of the brand and model; but some units provide improved accuracy under definite conditions.

GPS units need unhindered access to satellites above, so to keep the best connection, the device should not be concealed deep inside a backpack or pocket, since it’s still likely to lose connection even under apparently perfect weather conditions.

Advanced Features


Not all GPS units have mapping gears. The most basic GPS units document data, such as waypoints, elevation, or miles traveled. Some GPS devices have simple mapping capabilities, displaying your position in reference to major towns or roads.

Certain GPS devices even permit user-built maps to be used. It’s significant to recognize what type of mapping capability you require, as this factor plays a huge role in the overall cost.


More costly models tend to deliver color displays, while cheaper models have grayscale displays. This factor habitually runs as one with mapping abilities, as topographic maps are easier to track and follow with a color display.

If the hiker is less focused on utilizing maps, consider a grayscale type to save money. It’s also significant to make definite the screen is clear and readable when outside, as some screens can seem to be washed out in daylight.



Though many GPS devices for hiking are intended to be handheld, their shapes and sizes widely vary. Some units are compact enough to fit securely in your hand, while other units can be larger and be easier to hold with larger hands.

Screen resolutions and sizes also differ, so be definite you can effortlessly read the maps and text on the screen. The best means, to discover what model works for you, is to look for a retail store that carries GPS units and allows hikers to handle the GPS units.


The factors mentioned influences the price of GPS units, so if know what you want in a GPS receiver, you can simply narrow down your options.

A small, grayscale model, without mapping or with very limited mapping functions and other features, may cost less, while a high-end color model with a touchscreen display, topographic mapping, and other advanced functions cost more.

Get the Most Out of Your Device

Below are a few ideas on how you can make the most out of your GPS, for a range of activities:

  • Go on a geocaching or GPS Treasure Hunt.
  • Track your altitude.
  • After the hike, transfer your tracks to a laptop and make a map using a program like Google Earth.
  • If you’re into photography, discover the capability to Geotag your digital photos based on GPS information.
  • Once you begin using your GPS unit outdoors, you will probably discover many other means that you can apply to it to improve your hiking experience.

A GPS device remains a valued outdoor gadget for hikers and other explorers. It can give you essential information regarding your location, places you have been to, and sites you want to go.

Remember these points on how to choose a GPS for hiking, as you work out your requirements and research similar brands and models.

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