No matter if you are a seasoned hiker or just starting out you will benefits from a handheld GPS when venturing into nature.
The first line of defense in case you get lost or just want to be on the safe side is a GPS but you maybe wondering if you actually need one when you have a perfectly working smartphone and most GPS units look and fell outdated.
Well to be honest it depends. If you just go hiking close to home for short periods you may not actually need to invest on a dedicated GPS unit but you will still need to make some small investments.
The iPhone or Android Way
Some hardcore hikers frown on the idea of going hiking with just a smartphone but the true is that smartphone are really capable devices. The hc-hikers point to three main downsides of using a smartphone and all of them are valid but like everything there are workarounds. Battery pack investment $30-50
Downsides of smartphone and workarounds
Poor battery life - True. The high performance of smartphone comes with the downside of shorter battery life.
Now you have more than enough juice for a day hike. To preserve even more battery if you are out of cell coverage put your phone on airplane mode. GPS will work but it will preserve your battery since it will stop looking for cell signal. Lower brightness a bid and you should be good.
Fragility - Yes Smartphone’s are fragile devices and thats a big upside of dedicated devices since they are built to handle the outdoors.
But you can and ruggedness to any smartphone with a good outdoor rugged case.
Network Dependent Mapping - This one was a very valid one many years back but today is just fluff since offline mapping apps are easily available and more often that not offer better maps than dedicated GPS units.
So your total cost assuming you don’t already own any of this items will be between $45 and $150 way less than a GPS unit.
NOTE: I embrace redundancy if I go hiking with my phone or a GPS unit I always one more than one. Even if you have a GPS unit why not also have your rugged up phone with you in case your’s GPS fails. And if you are only taking your phone take another spare one in case your main one suffer a catastrophic failure or damage. We all have an old one laying in drawers around the house they don’t have to be the latest and greatest and if you don’t already own a spare get a cheap one for less than a $100. [Here is a good back up one].
Another good backup unit will be a GPS watch like a [Garmin Forerunner 945]but this are a bit expensive for just a backup unit. If you will get more value out of them like health and workout tracking then it will justify it price.
More often than not when people make list like this one they will trow in every single model they can or just repost everyone else list that have’t been updated in years beside the title to update the year.
I will keep this list short and only with units I actually use or will use. Now you will see a theme here on the brand and thats because when it comes to GPS I really trust Garmin.
This is Garmin latest generation GPS handheld and it boosts a newer but familiar interface modern connectivity and access to Garmin’s Connect, Live Tracking, Garmin Explore and Connect IQ.
Long battery life and the best part user replaceable AA ones so you can take spares.
Included Birds Eye view imagery along Topo maps.
Note: Some of the negative user reviews when the units initially launched had been addressed by Garmin via software updates.
If you are really a touchscreen person then the Oregon 750t is the way to go. It’s compact and sleek but features great GPS reception advanced features like Ant+, Bluetooth, Wifi, Camera and also supports Connect IQ. It comes preloaded with topo maps as well. This little device offer a lot on a small package and this one is actually my go to GPS handheld.
The GPSMAP 64st is an affordable but outstanding GPS unit. It’s not touchscreen and lack most of the connected features (while it support Live Tracking) but is a solid unit at a good price. The keyword here is value.
Enter the mighty inReach Mini. This is one of Garmin’s most popular products and for a good reason. This is primarily a communication device with basic field GPS functions but this device will definitely save your life if the worst happens.
The inReach can log your location on device and can also send your location via satellite so your trusted one even when far away from the nearest cell tower. It allows you to send and receive SMS anywhere in the world and it has a dedicated SOS button. Press it and help will be on its way.
This unit should be carried no matter what along cell phones and dedicated GPS units it also integrates with other Garmin devices like the GPSMAP 66st and Garmin watches. Also connects to your smartphone.
Note: The inReach Mini requires a service plan to use the Iridium Satellite Network. The plans start at just $11.95 for more info on this plan check the plan page here.
There you have it the best GPS Handhelds and Smartphone upgrades you can get in 2019 so you can hit the trails with peace of mind.