best handheld gps for hiking

Best Handheld GPS For Hiking of 2020 Complete Reviews With Comparisons

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While hiking is a gratifying and rewarding activity, it is easy to take a wrong turn and become utterly lost, especially when you are hiking less familiar routes.

That is why it is so crucial to keep a handheld GPS with you at all times, to ensure that you stay safe and on course.

However, choosing a handheld GPS can be quite challenging due to the sheer number of models, brands, and types available today.

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best handheld GPS for hiking devices to make choosing the right one for you a little easier.

Best Handheld GPS For Hiking
Comparison Chart

Garmin in Reach Explorer+

Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator

Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS

Garmin eTrex 22x, Rugged Handheld GPS Navigator

Garmin GPSMAP 78S Marine GPS Navigator

Best Handheld GPS For Hiking Reviews

Garmin in Reach Explorer+

Garmin is perhaps the most well-known manufacturer of GPS devices and has maintained a reputation for producing quality products since the company was first founded. The Garmin in Reach Explorer+ upholds that quality.


Its 100% percent global Iridium satellite coverage gives users access to two-way text messaging from anywhere in the world. This feature allows you to exchange text messages with any email address or cellphone number, from anywhere.

The tracking function of the Explorer+ lets your family and friends track your progress using their mobile devices or computers, and sends waypoints at predetermined time intervals.

You can also allow those back home to ping your device and view your GPS location, exchange text messages, and track your movements while on your trip.

The Explorer+ also provides detailed weather forecast updates directly to your device, so that you can know what conditions to expect before embarking on your trip.

You can also request forecasts from your current location on the journey or any other waypoint destination that you have selected.


  • Satellite communication enabled
  • Can exchange text messages with any phone number or email
  • Whereabouts can be tracked and shared
  • Friends and family can monitor your location
  • Detailed weather reports available
  • SOS enabled for emergency situations


  • Not compatible with Garmin Maps
  • The display can be difficult to read
  • Screen is not touch-sensitive

Garmin eTrex 10

The eTrex 10 from Garmin supports geocaching GPX files that allow for details and geocaches to be downloaded directly to your device.


The eTrex stores and displays vital information, such as terrain, location, hints, difficulty, and descriptions, meaning that you no longer need to enter coordinates or manually use paper printouts.

The eTrex uses high-sensitivity, WAAS-enabled GPS receivers, as well as HotFix satellite prediction to locate your position precisely and quickly, and maintains the GPS location even in more daunting terrains like deep canyons.

It is also the first-ever consumer-grade handheld GPS device that can track GLONASS and GPS satellites at the same time, meaning that the time it takes for your position to be ‘locked-on’ is around 20 percent faster than when using only GPS.

The Garmin eTrex also features a worldwide base map and a 2.2-inch monochrome display that is easy to read in any lighting. It also boasts an immense 25-hour battery life when used with two simple AA batteries.


  • Rugged device can withstand damage
  • Preloaded with a worldwide base map
  • Monochrome display is visible in any light
  • Waterproof can withstand rain and splashes
  • Supports paperless geocaching and Garmin spine mounting accessories
  • 25-hour battery life using two AA batteries


  • Screen may be hard to view in low light
  • User interface may be confusing
  • Instruction manual is not very detailed

Garmin Foretrex 401

The Garmin Foretrex 401 is a super slim wrist-mounted GPS device that is ideal for outdoor activities that need you to use both of your hands.


It combines a high-sensitivity waterproof GPS receiver, barometric altimeter, and electronic compass into one lightweight device that is ideal for skiers, hikers, and campers.

You can connect your Foretrex 401 to your computer via USB or send data to another device wirelessly, to easily share your GPS data.

The Foretrex helps you avoid getting lost by keeping track of your route and displaying it as a simple dotted trail on the screen. To enable this, turn on your device’s TracBack feature, and you will be able to retrace your path to the point that you started.

You can monitor your altitude and bearing using the Foretrex 401’s barometric altimeter and electronic compass. Another great feature is that you can save desired locations in the device’s memory as waypoints. This way, you will always be able to find your way back to those critical places on your route, such as your vehicle or campsite.

In order to keep track of your trip, connect your Foretrex 401 to your computer, Mac or PC, using a USB, to allow you to store routes, waypoints, and track on your computer. You also have the ability to share these routes, waypoints, and tracks wirelessly with any other Foretrex 401 device.

Using a simple connection to your computer and the internet, you can receive an in-depth analysis of your activities, as well as send tracks to your GPS device using the Garmin Connect website. This is a one-stop website that provides an activity table, and also lets you view your activities on a map using Google Earth.

Feel free to explore the other routes that have been uploaded by more than 12 million Garmin users and share your experiences on social media.


  • High-sensitivity GPS receiver
  • HotFix feature improves reception and overall performance
  • Does not lose functionality in more daunting terrains
  • Tracks routes and waypoints
  • User’s path can be retraced and displayed
  • Dual-position readout capable of enabling location viewing in multiple formats


  • Small display can be difficult to read
  • Wrist strap can become uncomfortable after extended use
  • Instruction manual is not very detailed

Garmin eTrex 22x

The eTrex 22x is one of Garmin’s most straightforward and easy-to-use GPS devices. It is also one of their most affordable GPS models. It comes with a preloaded TopoActive map system to allow for precise traveling and a detailed overview of your surrounding terrain.


The preloaded TopoActive maps are preloaded with road-routable maps and also features trails and streets, to allow you to take your journey off the grid and into the unknown. These maps will enable you to survey your surrounding environments and terrains to get a better understanding of them.

You will be able to locate things such as natural features, waterways, and also buildings and international boundaries.

You can also quickly locate thousands and thousands of points of interest, which include stores, restaurants, car parks, schools, universities, and accommodations.

Like the eTrex 10 from Garmin, the eTrex 22x uses both GPS and GLONASS satellite systems to provide the receiver with the ability to track positions in much more challenging environments, which would not be possible using GPS alone.

The eTrex 22x also supports paperless geocaching, allowing you to upload GPX files directly onto your device to view crucial information such as terrain, location, and hints from

This device is designed for use on bicycles, ATVs, in boats, or on foot as a handheld GPS.


  • 2.2-inch display is easily readable in sunlight
  • Color display improves readability
  • TopoActive maps provide routable roads and trails
  • GPS and GLONASS support allows for tracking in challenging environments
  • 8GB internal memory
  • 25-hour battery life with two AA batteries


  • Preloaded maps consume most storage space
  • Small display may be hard to read for some
  • Instruction manual is not very detailed

Garmin GPSMAP 78S

The GPSMAP 78S is the best handheld GPS device for water sports enthusiasts and boaters who are looking to use the best GPS they can get.


It features a 3-axis compass, crisp color mapping, barometric altimeter, high-sensitivity receiver, molded rubber grips on both sides, as well as a MicroSD card slot to allow the user to load additional maps. It also floats!

The GPSMAP 78S, like the majority of Garmin products, comes loaded with a built-in worldwide base map, to allow the user to navigate anywhere. This device is also totally waterproof and buoyant, which makes it perfect for use at sea or during water sports.

It comes with a built-in 3-axis electronic compass that compensates for tilting, which shows you your heading and direction even while you are standing still, without holding the device level.

The barometric altimeter within the GPSMAP 78S tracks changes in pressure to pinpoint your exact altitude. It can even be used to plot barometric pressure over a period of time, which helps you keep track of the constantly changing weather conditions found when at sea.

You are also able to share your tracks, routes, and waypoints, as well as geocaches, wirelessly with any other compatible device.

The GPSMAP 78S uses WAAS enabled GPS receiver and HotFix satellite prediction, as well as a high-sensitivity, to locate your position quickly and accurately. It maintains this location even in more daunting or challenging terrain like deep canyons or heavy cover.

You can easily add more maps using the vast array of detailed topographic, marine and road maps provided by Garmin.

You can use a basic connection to the internet and your computer to receive a detailed analysis of your activities and also send routes to your outdoor device using the Garmin Connect website. This site provides you with an activity table and lets you view your activities on a map using Google Maps.


  • 2.6 inch LCD is easy to read
  • Preloaded worldwide base map
  • MicroSD card slot for additional mapping
  • Barometric altimeter
  • 3-axis compass
  • Full buoyancy and waterproofing


  • Small screen may be difficult to view
  • Instruction manual is not very detailed
  • Can only search up to 892 waypoints

Final Verdict

So, each of the GPS devices we’ve mentioned on this list serves different purposes, and suit different needs and preferences.

Hopefully, we’ve made it a little easier to find the one that works best for you. Get out there and explore!

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