Handheld GPS for Hiking

Let’s face it, the benefits associated with hiking are too many to go unnoticed. Whereas adrenaline ‘junkies’ take on hiking and mountaineering for the thrill and adventure many of us hike to experience first-hand beautiful scenery and countryside. Whatever your reasons, ultimately, investing in a Handheld GPS will improve the experience for the backcountry explorer. The handheld GPS device provides easy navigation even in areas where visibility is poor, under tree cover, in valleys, canyons, low cloud, fog or where the terrain is unremarkable. The best handheld GPS devices for hiking have the excellent reception, are durable, generally water-resistant and have AA batteries for ease of recharge. All handheld devices in this review have these qualities they also have sunlight readable screens and allow route planning and waypoint input.

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Garmin Montana 680

Garmin Map 64st

Garmin eTrex 35t

Garmin Foretrex 401

Megellan Explorist 710

Garmin Montana 600t

Garmin Montana 680
Garmin GPSMap 64st
Garmin eTrex 35t
Garmin Foretrex 401
Magellan Explorist 710
Garmin Montana 600t


Ideal for hikers and bikers. Fast receiving and excellent reception .  Large easy to read screen. This Handheld GPS houses an 8MP camera with auto location points. Wide selection of compatible mounts, for, cars and motorcycles

An old favorite this beauty cuts our list as the top pick from experienced hikers. The MAP 64s is loved by 80 out of 100 users. This Handheld GPS device has wireless features for sharing as well as excellent reception through thick coverage. 

The eTrex 35 is the upgrade to the popular eTrex 30. It is a great little multi-discipline unit, which is equally at home for hiking, running, mountain biking or cycling. This model has expanded 8GB memory, is capable of storing multiple maps 

Very cool lightweight wrist worn GPS device with tons of functionality including wireless sharing, altimeter, waterproof and high sensitive hotfix reciever. Surprisingly easy to read. No Maps

Rugged, and waterproof handheld GPS and expandable memory. Iincludes 3" sunlight readable touch screen with user programmable button,and a 3.2 mega-pixel camera with auto focus

This is the upgrade model for the Garmin Montana 600.  The difference between the models is the preoaded Topo maps


4"  sunlight readable super sensitive touch screen

2.6" sunlight readable color screen

2.6-inch color, capacitive touchscreen display



4" sunlight readable touch screen


Dual Orientation Portrait & Landscape





Dual Orientation Portrait & Landscape


10.2 ounces

9.3 ounces

5.6 ounces

3.1 Ounces

6.88 ounces

10.2 ounces

Battery Life

16 hours (lithium); 22 hours (AA ). 8GB memory.

8 GB online memory. 2 AA batteries

16 hours 2 AA batteries, NiMH or Lithium recommended. 8GB memory

17 hours

15 hours,  AA batteries

16 hours (lithium); 22 hours (AA )

High Sensitivity

GLONSS and GPS WAAS-enabled GPS receiver and Hotfix

GLONSS and GPS receiver. quad helix antenna for superior reception

WAAS-enabled dual gps and glonass receiver and hotfix satellite

GPS receiver with HotFix for improved performance and reception in heavy tree cover or deep canyons


GLONSS and GPS WAAS-enabled GPS receiver and Hotfix

Barometric Altimeter








IPX7 water rating


IPX7 water rating



IPX7 water rating

Electronic Compass

​3-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass

​3-axis tilt-compensated electronic  compass

3-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass



Preloaded Maps

Custom maps compatible.  1-year subscription to BirdsEye Satellite Imagery,

TOPO U.S. 100K or TOPO Canada plus 1 year Birdseye satelite imagery subscription

Preloaded with either US or Canada topo maps. Capable of storing multiple maps unlike previous models


Preloaded US TOPO Maps. World edition basemap and city series.

TOPO U.S. 100K

Track Log

10,000 points, 200 saved tracks. 4,000 waypoints.

10,000 points, 200 saved tracks. 5,000 waypoints.

10,000 points, 200 saved tracks

10,000 points, 10 saved tracks. 500 waypoints

10,000 points, 200 saved tracks


8 megapixel, autofocus; auto geo-tagging. Location co-ordinates with every picture

8 megapixel, autofocus; auto geo-tagging with 64sc model.  VIRB action camera with 64s and 64st



3.2 mega-pixel Camera with Auto Focus

8 megapixel, autofocus; auto geo-tagging. Location co-ordinates with every picture


Excellent reception and fast receiving..Rugged design.  Dual battery system, Large super sensitive touch dual orientation screen, compatible with several mounts, wireless communication. 

Great reception GPS & Glonass satellite enabled, wireless for sharing, connectivity to smartphone, reliable, lightweight. Easy to read screen in sunlight. and buttons are easy to use in all conditions

Small and lightweight ergonomic, rugged design.  Easy to use, accurate, clear and easy to read, and an excellent buy for the money.  An awesome unit for all activities.  High sensitivity and 8GB memory for storing data and/or multiple maps

Lightweight wrist worn with heavyweight functionality

Touch screen and buttons

Excellent reception and fast receiving..Rugged design. Dual battery system, Large super sensitive touch dual orientation screen, compatible with several mounts, wireless communication. Downloaded Topo maps


A little bulky,  heavy & expensive

​Base maps are limited and button don't perform as smoothly as touch screen 

Quite a small screen size is offset by a small lightweight device

No base maps

Churns through the batteries. Suspense mode turns off everything except tracking - helps battery life

​A little bulky, heavy & expensive

Customer Rating


Full Review

What to look for in a Handheld GPS Devices for Hiking

1. Great Satellite Reception

Selecting a GPS with a “high sensitivity chipset” is recommended for any hike especially when hiking in valleys or under dense tree cover. Look for a device which is is equipped with GPS and GLONASS, WAAS-enabled receiver, fast receiving and the best reception.  The best GPS device can predict your position quickly, accurately, and maintain position when under thick cover.  A GPS device which is compatible with a wide range of mounting units can also allow use in your car.

2. Quality of Display

Sunlight readable screens are a must for hiking, a dual orientation screen is a bonus in a handheld device to provide ease of use.  Choose touch screen or buttons depending on weather or preference although some handheld devices have super sensitive touch screens which can be operated using gloves.

3. Touch Screen vs Buttons

If you are frequently hiking in cold temperatures, you might prefer getting a GPS that operates with buttons instead of a touchscreen because they are more reliable in cold weather. Touchscreen GPS devices, while faster, are best for the more temperate weather because they tend to be difficult to use while wearing gloves. Keep in mind touchscreens also use a bit more battery power.

4. Quality and Ruggedness of Device

An IPX7 water rating is generally good for hiking purposes and protects your device in rain, showers, snow and immersion up to a meter for 30 mins.  

5. Memory and Storage of Maps and Waypoints

Keep track of your trip and plan the next hike with waypoints, routes and tracking.  Some GPS devices have cameras with automatic location pinpoints. All handheld GPS devices come equipped with base maps although some devices also include topo maps.  Topo maps can be bought and downloaded into most GPS units it is advisable to use maps and software provided by the GPS manufacturer rather than free options found online. The rule of thumb is the more memory and waypoint totals the device has then the more navigation and map data can be stored.  Memory can be expanded and unneeded maps and waypoint can be easily deleted to free up memory.

6. Battery Life

Most GPS handheld devices come with AA batteries which can be easily carried on hikes.  Some devices have dual battery capability which provide not only AA power but rechargeable lithium batteries.

7. Device Weight

Obviously weight is important when hiking.  However consider how much GPS functionality and ruggedness should be sacrificed in the name of light weight particularly for difficult, long, challenging hikes or for improved safety

8. Barometer altimeter

The barometer altimeter feature will provide greater accuracy in elevation readings.  Although altitude is based on the satellite data which all GPS receivers provide the accuracy of the elevation readings is improved with a barometer altimeter feature.  The barometric feature can also indicate weather trends.

9. Electronic Compass

If you want to spend a little more, and are planning to do challenging, remote or difficult hikes, it might pay to invest in a GPS with an electronic compass rather than a differential compass. There is a big difference, as electronic compasses show you which direction you are moving in and also when not moving at all. This allows route planning and orientation at rest stops. If you are not planning to do technical hikes, then you will most likely be fine with a differential compass that requires movement to determine direction.

Best Handheld Devices for Hiking

Handheld GPS for Wilderness

With Handheld GPS, it becomes easy to maneuver between fishing, camping, hunting and hiking. For hikers, a Handheld GPS unit is essential for navigation. According to The Guardian, hikers have indicated that lives have been saved by these savvy devices. The best handheld GPS devices have fast receiving and great reception in the most covered and unlikely places and they can hold reception during the hike. GPS devices for hiking are generally lightweight, rugged and able to operate in varying temperatures and weather extremes.