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Best Handheld GPS Black Friday & Cyber Monday Deals
Whether deep in the backcountry or on open water, proper navigation is crucial. And for route finding, recording tracks, or finding a geocache, there’s forget about durable and long-lasting navigator when compared to a handheld GPS. Although it won’t fully replace a map and compass, outdoor GPS devices let you plan, follow, and share recent adventures. As you’ll see from our top picks, the marketplace is dominated by one brand: GPS giant Garmin. Currently, there is no person that comes near the mapping software and show sets across their lineup. Prices may differ widely, and important considerations include whether you like a touchscreen or buttons, which we dive into inside our comparison table and purchasing advice. Below, you’ll find well known handheld GPS devices of 2020.
Best Overall Handheld GPS
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- Garmin GPSMAP 64sx ($350)
Weight: 8.1 oz.
Screen: 2.6 in.
Battery life: 16 hours
Memory: 4 GB (accepts microSD)
What we like: Proven, reliable, and incredibly accurate.
What we don’t: Not everybody loves the buttons; antenna adds bulk.
Some new Garmin handhelds are ditching their buttons, there are several holdouts, like the excellent GPSMAP 64. This product is feature-packed, includes a clear and easy-to-read 2.6-inch screen, and includes large and well-marked buttons that are easy to operate despite having gloves on. It’s also a good value at $350 for the mid-range “sx” version which includes a barometric altimeter and 3-axis compass. There can be an upgraded model with an integral 8-megapixel camera, but we don’t think it’s worth the excess $100. For from backcountry hiking and cycling to geocaching, the GPSMAP is an excellent and confirmed option.
For getting a trusted fix and accurate tracking, the GPSMAP comes with an external antenna and multi-GNSS support. This implies you get compatibility with a variety of satellites, including GPS, Galileo, and GLONASS for standout coverage. This does come at the expense of bulk and weight, and at 8.1 ounces (without batteries), it’s harder to justify bringing on minimalist trips. It’s worth noting that Garmin released a follow-up 66 model a couple years back, though it has been suffering from several reliability issues since its launch. During publishing, we still recommend the more tested (and $50-less-expensive) 64sx.
GPS Receiver Types: GLONASS and Galileo
GPS devices are no more simply appropriate for GPS satellites. Much like all segments of the handheld GPS world, Garmin is taking the lead here having the ability to hook up with the GLONASS satellite system. In combo with the GPS network, this Russian-based technology boosts the receiver’s performance in deep canyons and under heavy cover with 24 additional satellites, and also overall accuracy for all those in the northern latitudes. Note: you do have to start the GLONASS setting on these devices to use it, and it’ll drain your battery a lttle bit faster. In addition, numerous Garmin’s newer devices (including our top-rated GPSMAP 64) are appropriate for the European Union’s Galileo network to increase coverage. Models that may use all three are generally known as having “multi-GNSS support.”
Mapping and Memory
All handheld devices include some sort of basemap-essentially a blank screen which will include some major local features-while many include additional preloaded maps or the choice to upload more down the road. For Garmin devices, it’ll largely rely upon age the merchandise. Some newer models just like the GPSMAP 64 include TopoActive mapping, that is a fairly intensive program with contour lines to point elevation gained/lost, sights, plus some on- and off-road navigation predicated on your country of origin (i.e., a device purchased in the U.S. could have a UNITED STATES TopoActive map). Others just like the older Montana 610 usually do not include this feature. The glad tidings are that almost all of our top picks have built-in memory and/or a microSD slot for adding maps (we indicate this inside our comparison table above). And it’s worth noting there are a number of methods to add maps to your device free of charge, like the popular OpenStreetMap.
Battery Type and Battery Life
The long-time standard for batteries in GPS devices has been the trusty AA. They are cheap, have decent battery lives, and may be swapped out if they are drained. On the downside, when you are heading out for a protracted stretch, you will have to bring backup batteries. With extra stuff brings additional weight and inconvenience. Even though AA batteries remain a choice for practically all GPS devices, Garmin and others have considered rechargeable battery packs as a compelling alternative.
The main advantage may be the ability to recharge on the run. In the event that you already bring a solar power or battery power for charging your other devices, it’s as simple as hooking it up to your Garmin unit. The lithium-ion battery packs do cost you just a little extra-other compared to the top-of-the-line Montana 610 they’re often lumped in with the camera versions. Alternatively, you can buy them separately for about $26. We just like the notion of the rechargeable system. It’s less waste and a far more efficient method of staying out longer, provided you have a fairly easy solution for charging the batteries back up.
Altimeter, Barometer, and Compass (ABC)
Once you clear $300 retail, practically all handheld GPS devices list a barometric altimeter and 3-axis compass. The good thing about the electronic compass is its capability to read direction regardless of how you’re holding these devices. Standard compasses need you to contain the device horizontally to orient properly (or be moving whether it’s GPS-based). It’s a tiny but nice addition, especially if you’re needing to contain the device upright to obtain a signal. Getting a continue reading barometric pressure is effective in identifying elevation for the reason that higher you go, the low the pressure. The science isn’t perfect here, however, since when weather shifts, barometric pressure also changes, that may skew the numbers. Having said that, a barometric altimeter remains your best option for mountainous and backcountry use and provides a helpful approximation of your present elevation.
Dimensions and Weight
Generally, dimensions and weight correspond with screen size. The tiniest and lightest handheld options on our list, the Garmin eTrex 22x and Magellan eXplorist 310, have equally small 2.2-inch screens. How you’ll be using these devices will dictate how important dimensions and weight are. The Garmin Oregon 700 is a best seller because it’s light and reasonably small without compromising readability. The ones that choose high-end devices just like the Montana aren’t typically carrying them within their hand or hiking with a pack, instead inserting them on a handlebar mount for ATVing or snowmobiling.
Handheld GPS vs. Smartphone GPS Apps
Smartphones have already been eroding the handheld GPS market for a long time. And the reason why are fairly obvious: most hikers and backcountry explorers curently have their phones along for capturing photos, and the simplicity of keeping everything using one device is a major plus. Furthermore, prior concerns with strength have already been partially addressed with burlier bags and increased water and drop protection.
In conditions of mapping and accuracy, handheld devices have the upper hand with greater compatibility with a wider selection of satellite systems (smartphones use cell towers and GPS), which is often valuable in deep backcountry areas with challenging coverage. Having said that, most hikers, backpackers, and climbers will enjoy a the performance, and there are several quality smartphone mapping maps. Popular choices include Gaia (a subscription-based service) and Topo Maps, which let you download quality USGS topos. The primary hang-up with going the smartphone route, however, is battery life. It’s true you may charge through to the go with a solar power or portal recharger like Goal Zero’s Flip, but these GPS-based programs are battery hogs and can’t come near the simplicity and longevity of a handheld GPS. As things currently stand, that is the key