Why and Where Do You Need a GPS?

Why and Where Do You Need a GPS?

Before you can answer the above question, you need to consider if you actually need a GPS system or device. A great majority of hardcore and seasoned adventurers, including but not limited to hikers, trekkers, mountaineers, hunters, and paddlers continue to rely heavily on maps, paper charts, atlases, and traditional compasses.

So, obviously for these people a GPS device like a handheld navigator or a digital wristwatch may not be a necessity but might serve as a backup and could take the place of the manual methods over time.  A GPS can take the place of charts, maps, and compasses but it is always prudent to carry both. I always carry a topo map with me along with my GPS and use it as a backup.

GPS devices can never the replace the use of conventional compasses and maps regardless of their versatility and effectiveness. However, a handheld or in-dash GPS unit can come remarkably handy, especially when you’re hiking in unfamiliar territory or driving in a new city by furnishing you with detailed and accurate data regarding your route, location, and destination.

Even if you’re experienced, sometimes you could be confused about your precise location despite careful review of the maps.

This is where a GPS comes to your aid helping you to pinpoint your location you just need to check out the map displayed on your screen. When you need to archive any favorite site like a beach or a campsite and share it with others, you just have to press the handheld GPS’s waypoint button.

More importantly, a GPS can help you find your way when it is foggy or during low visibility.

Moreover, a GPS unit can help rescuers trace you as the same will provide them with details (including the longitude and latitude) about your accurate location.

What is a Handheld GPS?

 A handheld GPS is a supremely portable device installed with the global positioning system software that helps hunters, paddlers, hikers, endurance runners, and bikers to pinpoint their exact location.

Additionally, a quality GPS device comes with a built-in digital compass and barometric altimeter that enables one to work out his or her position (or location), direction (to where headed), and the elevation (height above sea-level). In case you find yourself bang in the middle of a dense forest or a vast desert, and are absolutely clueless about where to head to, a Garmin or a Magellan handheld GPS navigator will enable you to traverse back to civilization.

As a matter of fact there are many types of portable or handheld GPS systems including automotive units, wristwatches, and gadgets for fishermen, paddlers, long distance runners, and so on. The type or kind of GPS device you may need will obviously depend upon the purpose you want to use it for.

Features of a Handheld GPS

Though the basic features of all handheld GPS units are more or less the same, there could be variations. These variations are usually in terms of performance capability, construction, and extent of compatibleness with other devices (like smartphones) featuring GPS, from one model to another.

Following are some fundamental attributes of a handheld GPS:

Intuitive Display

A GPS device with an interactive display will let you view or read everything and anything with perfect clarity. Simply put, an intuitive display implies that the screen should not be less than 2-inch in size when measured diagonally and should throw up images and illustrations in high resolution.


You already carry a heavy backpack when you go hiking or mountaineering. You surely do not want to take a GPS along with you that bogs you down.

Therefore, it does not need to be exaggerated that carrying a lightweight handheld GPS lets you proceed on your trail faster.

Robust Construction

Hunting deep in the woods or scaling a lofty mountain can both be exciting and grueling at the same time. And surely that implies you need a GPS navigator which has been robustly constructed.

In other words, the unit should be able to retain its functionality in extremes of weather, is waterproof, and resistant to falls and abrasions.

Extended Battery Life

The handheld GPS unit that you use should be compatible for working with standard AA batteries which are replaceable.

Proprietary Software

A premium GPS unit usually comes embedded with proprietary or installed software that allows you to chart waypoints and routes as well as browse info about the same which has already been uploaded by other hikers.

Situational Technology

Most handheld GPS models of Garmin and Bushnell have built-in barometric altimeter and digital compass that help you to keeps yourself on track when GPS signals are lost or very weak.

What is a GPS Watch?

Basically speaking, any digital watch that harnesses the triangulation technique of the global positioning system (GPS) can be termed as a GPS watch. Most fitness watches used by professional and amateur runners as well as health-conscious individuals have the GPS feature which lets them establish their accurate location.

Using the triangulation method, the GPS watch calculates the difference in time between receiving and sending a signal from the satellite.

The further away a satellite, the longer it will take for the watch to catch the signal. The GPS technology incorporated into a fitness wristwatch allows the device to gauge a chain of points or links which in turn are harnessed to calculate speed, distance, heart-rate, and other metrics.

Many GPS watches come equipped with barometric altimeters that allow you to determine the height when you are running or jogging on an elevated track or up a mountain.

Features of a GPS Watch

Following is an exhaustive list of features of a GPS watch, some of which are optional.

  • Display screen (passive or illuminated)
  • Time and Date Display
  • Route Tracking
  • Roadmaps Display
  • Compatibility with Heart Rate Monitor App
  • Routes
  • Companionability with Cycling Cadence Sensor App
  • Compatibility with Weight Scales
  • Touch-screen display
  • Accelerometer for rating swimming competitions
  • Reminder alarms
  • Companionability with Internet/Wi-Fi enabled Devices
  • Reminders for Nutrition and Hydration


Closing up, it can be inferred that the technology of GPS is indispensable when it comes to pinpointing one’s precise geographic or topographic location as well as for charting a track or route when one gets lost during a hiking or camping trip. In this regard, a handheld GPS navigator is of immense significance to hikers, campers, hunters, mountaineers, and other adventurers.

On the other hand, a GPS watch that is popularly known as a sports watch or fitness watch is ideal for swimmers, runners, hikers, cyclists, bikers, motorcyclists, and golfers.


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  2. One other thing worth mentioning: You can pair the DriveAssist 51 with an optional Garmin BC 30 Wireless Backup Camera ($170; professional installation is recommended). 

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