A Handheld GPS is a mandatory accessory when you’re heading into unfamiliar territory and will provide added protection if conditions deteriorate during your outing. Reduced Visibility, washed out trails, fog, or even snow can make finding your direction on even the most simple route virtually impossible and for this reason its always wise to take a Handheld Navigation System with you.
GPS Technology has come along way over the last few years and its now possible for your Handheld GPS to provide information such as thermometer, water depth, potential hazards, slope steepness and most importantly your accurate location. Yes you can carry your telephone, however a dedicated handheld GPS will have better satellite reception, better navigation features, and a much better battery life.
What to Consider When Buying A Handheld GPS
- Touch Screen’s – Our Advice is that you choose a Handheld GPS without a Touch screen as these units are often faster, have better screens that you can see in direct sunlight and don’t require you take you gloves off to operate.
- Brand Names – Our Advice is that you buy brand name GPS unit as whilst there are lots of models on the market, many of the newer models come with fantastic features that don’t really work. Stick to Garmin or TomTom models and you will ensure that you have a fully tested handheld GPS device.
- Cross-Over GPS Units – Don’t buy a crossover GPS that you can use for the road and for the out doors as they will typically be set-up for the road with the added benefit of being used for outdoor life. The battery life will usually be terrible and quite frankly, you can buy a good Handheld GPS and a good Car GPS far cheaper separately than you can when you buy one that will do both jobs.
- Electronic Compass – Our Advice is that spend the extra money to buy a handheld GPS System with an Electronic Compass. Electronic compasses mean that your unit will give you the direction to travel in from the start, whilst having a GPS unit that does not have an in-built electronic compass means than you will need to walk in one direction for a short while before the navigation system can calculate which direction you need to travel in.
Best Handheld GPS
Garmin eTrex 20 Handheld GPS Unit (Our Favourite Model)
The Garmin ETrex 20 is a favourite among hikers as it offers reliable satellite navigation even in the most difficult conditions due to its high-sensitivity GPS receiver, a 2.2-inch colour display and wide array of detailed topographic maps to map out your next adventure. The unit is very easy to operate given it has five buttons on either side of the rugged unit which is also waterproof to IPX7 standards meaning it will easily take any downpours that mother earth can throw at you.
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The eTrex 20 allows your adventure to last over night given the unit has a battery life of over 20 hours on its two AA batteries and as a top of the range handheld unit its very portable, weighing in a just 5 ounces with the batteries included. The unit has fantastic interface and menu which allows you to easily input your destination and then allow the unit to calculate a route for you or show your route based on a selection on waypoints that you have used. Given the crystal clear screen and fantastic maps, the navigation software is very easy to follow whilst you on the move.
The eTrex 20 also allows for wireless unit to unit connectively to share waypoints, routes, tracks and geocaches which is a real world, out-door game of hide-and-seek where participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates. The in-built memory with an option for a Micro SD card allows you to add further maps and navigation points to take your Geocaching game into the air or water.
- Over 20 Hours Battery Life
- Both inbuilt and extended memory
- Waterproof to IPX7 Standard
- Various mounts for use in other activities
- Highly sensitive touch
- Needs proper surveillance
- No Bluetooth function
The Garmin GPS 62ST, waterproof, handheld Navigator comes with a three-axis, tilt-compensated electronic compass and barometric altimeter for specific altitude dimensions. Its 2.6-inches screen features a crystal clear, high resolution waterproof screen for those days when its pouring rain.
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Typical Garmin, its super easy-to-use and comes with a simple interface that is both user friendly an efficient. The unit is controlled with 8-buttons on the front of the device and a cross-directional thumb button for easy navigation with the maps. Navigation features BirdsEye Satellite Imagery providing satellite images for select destinations, detailed maps that include national, state and local parks and forests, along with terrain contours, elevation information, trails, rivers, lakes and points of interest.
For further information, users can download free software that converts paper and electronic maps via connection to your computer and the internet which also allows you to get detailed analysis of your routes and send potential routes that you have found online to your device using Garmin Connect. Garmin Connect also allows you to explore routes that have been used by millions of other Garmin Connect Users.
- 2.6-Inch Screen
- Waterproof Navigator
- Direct sunlight readable
- Altimeter is not accurate
- Not Compatible with Smartphones
- Limited additional accessories
The eTrex 10 is the baby model of the eTrex20 above, however for those who are on a budget, this could be an ideal GPS unit. The navigation system unit is equipped with a fast processor and sensitive GPS receiver that both finds satellites and your location quickly. This unit come with a 2.2 inch monochrome display and provides good, clear coloured maps which are easily readable during daylight hours without the use of the backlight which has the added benefit of improving the battery life up-to and beyond 25 hours of use.
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The eTrex 10 is slightly smaller than its bigger brother and whilst it lighter, its still rugged and able to take a few drops here and there. Its also waterproof to IPX7 standards meaning that you can use your GPS Unit in even the heaviest rain. The interface is simple to use as with all gamins and the fast processor means even complicated routes are calculated quickly and are easy for you to read and follow on the navigation unit.
Whilst this GPS unit is the base model, it’s still loaded with features such as a large points of interest database, route direction, connectivity to computers and access to Garmin’s paperless geocaching where you access a real world game of hide and seek.
- Up to 20 Hours battery life
- Simple interface
- Waterproof to IPX7 standards
- Hot Fix and GLONASS support
- 2.2-inch monochrome display
The Garmin Oregon 600 is the only touch-screen handheld unit that we would recommend as it really works well. The Oregon Series comes in two models, the 600 and the 650 with the 650 being a slightly larger model. Our advice is that you go with the 600 as it offers better value for money. The 650 has extra’s such as a Camera, however its not really that good, 100K Topo Maps for the US, however you can easily find these online and the better battery pack can be purchase separately for less than $20.
The 600 come with a sharp 3-Inch, direct sun light readable screen and an interface that operates more like a modern I-Phone than a complicated GPS Unit. Its very easy-to-use and the screen will work easily with your lightweight gloves on meaning no more freezing cold hands whilst you’re trying to operate your GPS Unit.
The unit has a super fast processor giving good GPS speeds and excellent reception which leads to good accuracy and the electronic compass means your unit will tell you the direction you need to travel even when your not moving. This device uses the free software Basecamp which is very good and allow you to easily plot your route using waypoints and then follow this route on your GPS whilst your on the move. One downside of this unit is that it is quite heavy. The downside of a touchscreen is the battery needed to be bigger and this has had the result of an overall weight increase.
- 3-Inch Sunlight Readable Screen
- Touchscreen using pinch and twist
- Electronic Compass
- Dual-Band GLONASS satellite Positioning
- Landscape and Portrait Views
- Bluetooth Technology