Are you a hiking fan? That’s terrific, me too!
And I’m about to introduce you to the tool that has revolutionized for me the whole preparation phase involved in a hike. Seriously, don’t you think that a map and a compass are an outdated solution?
Well I found the handheld GPS for hiking that will simplify most of your preparations and make your experience safer!
- Hiking GPS: here’s my Top 4 for «2017»
- Why buy a GPS for hiking?
- Hiking GPS: How to make life simpler by making it safer
- How to choose the best hiking GPS?
- Review of the top 8 best hiking GPS in 2017
Hiking GPS: here’s my Top 4 for «2017»
To begin, here is my selection of the top 4 GPS for hiking of the moment
Why buy a GPS for hiking?
A hiking GPS can display your position on the screen, record your route, follow a trail, head to a specific location or follow a path on the map. It is used before the hike to prepare the trail, during the hike to follow a path and after the hike to analyze the data.
A GPS is useful for hikers, hunters, fishermen, but also for geocache fans, mountain bikers or motorcycling. It replaces the paper map and the compass for navigation. A point on the screen indicates your position on a map, a line indicates the route you have just taken and an arrow points to your destination. It’s as simple as that.
In addition to the classic guidance on a map, the latest models of GPS for hiking offer a touch screen readable in full sun, a barometric altimeter (more accurate than GPS for altitude) and an electronic compass.
A handheld GPS is the classic solution for hiking because it offers robustness, low price and autonomy. A GPS map for hiking is completely waterproof, sturdy and works very simply with AA batteries. It is an option that has proven itself for hiking, treasure hunt or geocaching (I talk more about geocaching a few paragraphs lower).
A handheld GPS for hiking has pros and cons:
- Ease of use
- Needs to buy or download maps
- Needs to buy a memory card
- Works with batteries
Pocket GPS are always simple and robust solutions for hiking. But today there are other GPS solutions for hiking like GPS applications or GPS watches.
Hiking GPS: How to make life simpler by making it safer
A hiking GPS meets a simple need and does it well: the need to be able to orient yourself correctly at all times and in all circumstances, during outdoor activities.
A true guardian angel
Have you ever been caught in the middle of your hike in a fog so thick that you couldn’t see more than 5 meters in front of you? I can assure you that this is not an experience you would like to live without a hiking GPS.
You find yourself unable to orient yourself, and providing that weather conditions worsen, your exciting excursion will quickly turn into a nightmare.
Great for hiking, but not only!
Although often used in hiking, this type of GPS can be used for many other activities. Are you a fan of hectic mountain bike rides? Long horseback riding? Or maybe your gig is to hurtle down a mountain on ski?
All these activities can be made safer and simpler to organize with a hiking GPS.
These devices can also be used for another type of outdoor activity, but less known: geocaching.
Geocaching: A new kind of treasure hunt
You do not know what geocaching is? It’s simple: it’s a community treasure hunt. An adventure that big and small will love.
Do you have children? You must make them try this! I do not know about you, but personally, this is the kind of thing I would have loved doing being a kid.
Okay then you’re probably wondering what exactly it is, right?
So it’s very simple: people hide small boxes containing a guestbook where you leave a small trace of your passage. They then share on the Internet the geocache GPS track to the whole world.
You download the map, transfer it to your GPS, and go for the adventure. Rather cool, right?
There are millions of geocaches scattered all around the globe. It is often an opportunity to discover new and interesting places you probably would never have found otherwise.
How to choose the best hiking GPS?
I will present here the essential criteria in order to select the best hiking GPS for you.
These devices often have so many features, it can be overwhelming and sometimes difficult to know what to look for. That is why I have listed for you the features to check first to find more easily the model that suits you best.
Having a tool of the latest technology is good. But do you think your GPS will still be useful when the battery will be empty?
This is why it is essential to buy a model with sufficient autonomy.
The models with the best battery life is around 25 hours. Needless to say that if it can hold 3-4 long days of hike, you will have peace of mind.
The quality of reception of the GPS signal
During a hike, you’re likely to find yourself in places where the reception of the GPS signal is not at the top. Do you usually climb mountains? To cross large and dense forests? These places are clearly hostile to good reception.
With poor GPS signal, the accuracy of your position will greatly be reduced, and in some cases, may even become unusable.
Having a built-in compass in your hiking GPS is something I consider important. This will allow your device to tell you which direction you are heading, even if you are stopped.
Without a compass, your GPS will be unable to know which direction you are turning, if you do not move forward.
While this feature may seem basic, it is not included in all models. Think therefore to check this detail, if you consider not being able to do without a compass.
The altimeter is again a function that will improve your location. It will provide more information about your trip, and allow you the calculation of height differences you went through.
If your altimeter is coupled to a barometric function, it will turn your GPS in a real weather station. It may well plot weather forecasts based on changes in air pressure. Rather nice if it can warn you of a storm, don’t you think?
A larger memory allows more storage of information and maps. An extension of memory with a micro-SD card is interesting.
The internal memory may also be used for data storage only, so you will have to store your cards on a separate micro-SD card.
Robustness / Resistance to water
It is always better to have a robust enough device. You’ll have no bad surprises in extreme weather condition.
Imagine yourself caught in a storm with your top-notch model? It starts taking on water, goes down, and here you are unable to orient yourself.
Of course, for a more occasional use, this criterion may be of lesser importance.
Entry level hiking GPS have mostly monochrome screen.
Is it out of the question for you to use such a screen? No panic, there is something to satisfy everyone.
The latest models will offer a color touch screen of excellent quality. On the other hand you will have to spend at least a hundred dollars more.
If it is an important selection criterion for you, you will have to check this point before buying.
Review of the top 8 best hiking GPS in 2017
Garmin is, as you may have seen in many other reviews related to GPS, is one of the undisputed leaders in the navigation device. In the field of hiking GPS, Garmin reigns once again in master. The quality and reliability of its devices is unparalleled, and it is for me the best choice.
So it’s natural that most of the models I’ve selected for you come from this fantastic manufacturer.
GPORTER GP-102 +
Cheap and Effective
You are new to hiking and you want to be accompanied by a GPS? The GPORTER 102+ is the one you need. There is no easier to use! Given its low price, it does not have a super-advanced technology, as you can imagine, but it has the major features: pedometer, altimeter, barometer, thermometer, clock.
Its backlit LCD display allows you to clearly see the information displayed regardless of the brightness. And something very valuable for those who keep their device in a pocket or backpack, having to press 2 buttons to browse, some will see it as an ergonomic fault, but I find it rather good.
It avoids random clicks and the risk of false manipulation.
In short, the GP-102 GPORTER + is a very good device to start hiking with a GPS!
Garmin eTrex 10
Geocaching at a low price
If you want to go hiking and treasure hunt occasionally, this is the ideal device! It will meet all your geolocation expectations and let you discover geocaching for cheap.
With the Garmin eTrex 10, you have a reliable ally for hiking, some even use it for making cycling trips or sea navigation (to be used with other cards of course).
I must admit that for that price, to benefit from GLONASS (GLONASS is Russia’s version of GPS) is something exceptional.
At the base, the GPS system is fine, but the two systems coupled together make it overpowered, they allow an immediate precise location, by receiving 24 satellites!
In the depths of a forest, in the middle of a valley, on the highest peaks, with this hiking GPS, you are not about to get lost!
Bushnell BackTrack D-Tour GPS
Compact and functional
Those who, like me, do not like to be encumbered by large equipment will be delighted with this little GPS from Bushnell. The Backtrack D-Tour is an effective device with all the necessary features needed for hiking.
The Bushnell BackTrack D-Tour GPS will provide you with useful information either in real time or once at home on the computer. During your hike, it will provide very accurate information on: your position, altitude, distance and will do the same back at home with accurate information through the Dtour application on your PC or Mac.
The backtrack mode as the name suggests is to take you back to your starting point and that is a very interesting feature. You can select up to 5 departure or destination points and your device you will take you there promptly!
Also very useful to find your car if you parked in a remote parking lot or a few blocks away from your home.
Garmin eTrex 20x
The best value for money
With the eTrex 20x, Garmin has found the perfect balance between quality and price. This GPS features a high resolution display with 65,000 colors, an internal memory of 4 GB (possibility of another microSD card) and basic features for hiking.
Other benefits and they are many, are the TopoActive preloaded maps (for Eastern/Western Europe) that allow the use of the GPS for hiking as it was originally designed but also for Geocaching, mountaineering, biking or even fishing!
The use of 24 GPS and GLONASS satellites allows 20% faster positioning even in the most remote areas. The excuse of “I got lost” is no longer valid, your GPS knows where you are!
Do not forget the itinerary feature that allows you to go from point A to point B by following the path shown on your super color screen! And it is even possible to plan your routes with the BaseCamp software, so you can find out in advance about points of interest nearby geocaches and why not. Yes, yes read it right! The Garmin eTrex 20x manages GPX files of the site geocaching.com for treasure hunting.
To you the beautiful adventures!
Garmin eTrex 30
We go upmarket with this GPS eTrex 30 from Garmin.
Well, I will not dwell on the basic features found on the eTrex 20x (like route planning with BaseCamp, the ability to add memory, the availability of satellite images with BirdsEye (optional), enhanced location with GPS and GLONASS and of course the function for Geocaching treasure hunt), but rather on the evolutions.
Compared to its predecessor, the ergonomic has been redesigned, there is an improved interface and a social aspect among users. Indeed, you can share your waypoints and your tracks with the Garmin community and this wireless!
The ETrex 30 also allows profiles configuration, which will be of great help when you go for a bicycle ride, while you just came from a geocaching session 2 days before.
No need to set up since you have already done it once! It’s fast, effective and simple.
Other big news, the electronic 3-axis compass with inclination compensation that allows you to stay on course even if the device is not horizontal.
You will therefore always follow the good road, but not as far as Rome!
Not to mention the barometric altimeter which calculates your exact altitude depending on the pressure, so you can keep an eye on the weather also.
I think I’ve found my favorite hiking GPS!
Garmin eTrex Touch 35
The ultimate outdoor GPS
With the eTrex Touch 35, we go up up in the category. This time with a GPS specialized in outdoor activities such as biking , hiking, geocaching and for families with a device suitable for all (small, robust, waterproof and with touch screen).
For the basic features, the device will give you a wealth of information for practicing hunting and fishing thanks to a program with optimized activity profiles that will allow you with a simple click to move from one mode to another.
It geolocates to perfection with GPS and GLONASS, tells you sunrise and sunset times, altitude and heading to keep with its electronic compass.
Another positive feature: the Bluetooth connection connects to your smartphone to receive notifications directly on the screen of the device with the Smart Notifications program.
Other features include data logging and synchronization to Garmin Connect or Garmin Adventures.
The Garmin eTrex 35 Touch is preloaded with TopoActive maps (for Eastern/Western Europe) that will allow you to take on the paths and trails without downloading anything.
Geocaching enthusiasts will be delighted to find that more than 250,000 geocaches are listed in the eTrex Touch 35 directly from the geocaching.com official website.
A must-have for lovers of the great outdoors.
Garmin Oregon 650t
The GPS hiking camera
With this high-end GPS hiking, you’ll keep wonderful memories of your outings!
Let’s start with the basic features from Garmin like the different activity profiles, the barometric altimeter, the 3-axis compass, the GPS + GLONASS systems which guarantee high positioning accuracy, the Bluetooth connection to connect your smartphone and the BaseCamp route planner.
Now I will talk about the other programs that make the Garmin Oregon 650T, a true “workhorse”.
First the 3-inches touchscreen with double orientation, portrait and landscape, that will excite everyone.
We have the customization of the dashboard with shortcuts and monitoring activities that allows you to schedule your trips directly on your device.
Then the famous 8 MP camera with autofocus and geographic tag recording.
The flashlight with several levels of lighting that will save the battery when you go out at night.
Speaking of energy, GPS is the first to have dual power: the NiMH (16 hours of battery life) recharges as soon as it is plugged in or conventional AA batteries.
No more excuses to say “I was out of batteries”, you always have a spare one now!
Garmin Montana 680
The ultimate customizable GPS
Take the Oregon 650 (just above) and add a 4-inches TFT touchscreen with 65,000 color and all the customization options and you will get the Garmin Montana 680.
A robust, waterproof, reliable GPS, highly readable and effective, regardless of your activity type.
With his new tracks manager, you can plan your route according to your sport profiles and easily choose your waypoints.
In front of an interesting place, you can also capture the moment and take beautiful pictures with the 8 MP camera integrated in the GPS. Let’s have a little selfie?
In terms of customization, you can opt for shortcuts and have a dashboard that suits your needs with only the information you want (up to 16 items can be displayed on the screen).
You can also customize the internal menus, you can put everything in the order you want to have faster access to your favorite applications and all this with extreme simplicity.
If for you, nature is not a place to rack your brain with the material, then opt for the Montana 680, it’s a safe bet.