Take your hiking, outdoor, and travel adventures to the next level! Thanks to the range of new handheld GPS units it is easier than ever always to know exactly where you are and find your way in nature. We have tested 25 lightweight navigation products in real-world conditions and picked the ten best models. You can find all winners of our handheld GPS reviews below. Let’s go!
With so many GPS units available, each with their unique set of features, knowing exactly what to look out for can be tricky. Here’s what you need to know when buying your GPS.
Whether a handheld GPS unit works worldwide depends on satellite coverage and the maps it carries. If you plan to take it out of the country, ensure that it works worldwide.
Consider a waterproof model if you plan to use it on boats, in the rain, and in any other wet environments. This ensures that the sensitive electronics will remain safely dry.
Like any electronic device, how much use you can get from your GPS device while away from a power source depends on the battery life. It is an important spec to keep in mind.
Each compact GPS comes equipped with a screen, and the size of that display varies. Larger is usually better but pick the one that fits your personal preference.
With hundreds of portable GPS products available on the market, it is easy to get confused. No worries, that is exactly what this buying guide is designed to help you with. Here are the ten best GPS devices.
The Garmin GPSMAP is a compact yet feature-rich GPS device that can pick up both GPS and GLONASS signals. A quad-helix antenna array ensures that the GPSMAP's signal strength is strong and accurate in any environment. What makes this product shine is the inclusion of a worldwide base map with topographic relief shading, making it perfect for hiking, camping, climbing and other activities that benefit from advanced geocaching.
The display size is a respectable 2.6 inches, and the screen is polarized to be easily readable in direct sunlight. The GPS’s features also include a very useful triple-axis compass and barometer, plus it can be connected to third-party devices wirelessly via BlueTooth. The Garmin GPSMAP offers excellent functionality and versatility, great wireless connectivity, worldwide coverage, and pinpoint accuracy. It is an excellent choice.
Few products compare to the quality of a Garmin GPS, and the eTrex 10 doesn't disappoint. It is ruggedly constructed, exceptionally durable, and waterproof to IPX7 standards. The eTrex is WAAS (wide area augmentation system) enabled to provide superior accuracy. A worldwide base map will let you use it anywhere your adventures take you right out of the box. The GPS also supports paperless geocaching so that you can fix and save any spot on Earth on the go.
Running on two AA batteries, the battery life is rated up to 20 hours of continuous use, giving it great longevity. Using standard batteries also makes this GPS an excellent choice for international travel, boating, and hiking. Just pack a few batteries and you will be able to operate the GPS without any access to electricity for days. Overall, the Garmin eTrex 10 is an incredibly reliable and accurate handheld GPS unit that will help you always to find your way. It is one of the best GPS products we have reviewed.
Garmin's eTrex 20X is another great compact but powerful GPS. The display is 2.2 inches big with a medium resolution of 240x320 pixels. The screen is also equipped with 65K colors and is designed to be easily readable in direct sunlight. While it comes equipped with a preloaded worldwide base map, the 3.7GB of internal storage lets you add your data to expand the device's functionality.
The eTrex 20X supports both GPS and GLONASS services and uses WAAS to increase the overall accuracy of the positional fixes. Tracking accuracy was all-around excellent in our tests, even in challenging natural environments such as deep valleys and canyons. HotFix technology will dramatically reduce the time it takes to pick up a satellite thanks to the GPS’s predictive algorithm. Excellent features and a good display make the Garmin eTrex20X GPS a great addition to your outdoor gear. This is a very reliable, rugged, waterproof, and affordable GPS.
The Foretrex Waterproof Hiking GPSA is a great GPS from market leader Garmin. This small and compact device can be easily slipped on your wrist to give you a precise readout anywhere in the world. The receiver is high quality and very sensitive, featuring HOTFIX technology for improved signal reception in traditionally hard to reach areas.
The dual readout will display your current position multiple ways, and it also features Garmin’s TracBack which quickly lets you retrace your path back to your starting point. TracBack is an exceedingly useful feature that makes exploration much easier. In addition to the basic GPS functions, the Foretrex offers a perfect trip computer, a compass, and barometric altimeter so you can map the terrain as you go. So what’s the overall verdict? Garmin's Foretrex is a handy small GPS unit designed to be incredibly portable. Its precision electronics will ensure accurate and robust GPS reception wherever you are.
Featuring a 3-inch touchscreen that's easily readable in bright sunlight, the Garmin Oregon 300 offers ease of use and flexibility on the go. The GPS is dual band and supports both GPS and GLONASS satellite systems for better global coverage. It comes equipped with a multitude of sensors such as a tri-axis compass, an accelerometer, and an altimeter allowing you to not only map your trips but to track your elevation and other data.
The Oregon 300 also incorporates BlueTooth technology allowing you to share information with other devices wirelessly. Dual orientation views are supported so that you can toggle between portrait and landscape modes. In summary, the Garmin Oregon 300 marries a beautiful touchscreen display with the latest GPS technology. It is an exceptionally high-quality product and one of the best handheld GPS devices around.
When you need a marine-friendly GPS, the Garmin GPSMAP 78SC is here to help. It is entirely waterproof to IPX7 standards, will float in water, and is perfect for any ocean, lake, and river-related GPS activities. The 78SC comes preloaded with U.S. and Bahamas coastal water charts, as well as maps of all U.S. inland waterways.
BlueTooth connectivity lets you share your data with other GPS units. Included features consist of an electronic compass and altimeter to give you the perfect ability to track your heading or altitude, and the barometer will help you find out if severe weather is approaching. The Garmin GPSMAP 78SC takes marine GPS functionality to a new level thanks to its inclusion of water charts and maps.
Bushnell's Onix 400 handheld GPS offers a compact design for ultimate portability and incorporates excellent GPS processing capabilities. The large 3.5-inch screen is full color to show locations and directions better. It can layer three levels of data on the screen at once: satellite photos, topographical maps, and compass readings. This makes the GPS very useful for hiking, traveling, and exploration. The Onix is very ergonomically designed and fits nicely in your palm. A 20-hour battery life completes the package, making it a feature-rich GPS that very fun and easy to use.Check Price Now
The Garmin eTrex 30X is everything you would expect from a Garmin GPS and more. The 2.2-inch screen is brilliant and is easily readable, even in direct sunlight. It comes complete with a preloaded worldwide base map, although it is easily expandable with more data so that you can add a wide array of customized maps.
The 30X incorporates a variety of sensors into the mix, including an electronic tilt-compensated compass, as well as a barometric altimeter that tracks atmospheric changes over time. Moreover, of course, it will wirelessly share data with other devices thanks to BlueTooth functionality. Compact yet highly efficient, the Garmin eTrex 30X is an outstanding piece of GPS hardware.
Very few handheld GPS units incorporate an 8MP camera, yet the Garmin Oregon 650t does exactly that. Why does a GPS benefit from a built-in camera you ask? For example, you can geotag your photos to document your travel adventures and later find the exact spot where you took the image. You can also share photos online via the new Garmin Adventures service.
The GPS’s beautiful 3-inch touchscreen display offers vibrant colors, allowing you to interact with maps in multiple ways. The GPS provides a suite of sensors such as an electronic compass, accelerometer, and barometric compass. Garmin's feature-rich Oregon 650t offers a unique GPS experience, thanks to the built-in camera, brilliant display, and outstanding map quality.
The Garmin Fenix 3 HR GPS Watch combines excellent outdoor navigation with fitness and activity tracking. In addition to offering both GPS and GLONASS support for navigation, the watch features a very precise heart rate monitor, as well as an easy-to-use activity tracking software.
The 1.2-inch display is stunning, showing information broken down into various sections on the round display so you can quickly find what you are looking for. It is also fully waterproof, making it perfect for swimming, boating, rain, and other wet activities where you want a GPS on your wrist. Moreover, thanks to the built-in Wi-Fi support, you can share your data with others. When you need a fully-functional GPS that incorporates fitness features, the Garmin Fenix 3 HR is an excellent choice.