Handheld GPS buyers guide
Listed below are our choices for the best handheld GPS receivers, from entry-level models to the cadillacs of the backcountry. I’ll make a recommendation in each category, based upon value, feature set and user reviews. Any prices listed are current as of the last update of this page.
Keep in mind that most handhelds don’t come with detailed maps. Fortunately for Garmin owners, there are many free maps available, including 1:24,000 scale topo maps or most states.
Budget handheld GPS receivers
Our choice: Garmin eTrex 10
- Monochrome screen
- Will not accept detailed maps
- Paperless geocaching
- The retail price is $110, but I often see the Venture HC on sale for $99
Other budget units:
- The Garmin eTrex 20 adds a color screen and the ability to load detailed maps. As of this posting the eTrex 20 can be found for about $170. If you can swing the price, this is the one to get.
- The Garmin eTrex Venture HC is a discontinued model, but it can accept detailed maps, unlike the eTrex 10.
Mid-range handheld GPS receivers
Our choice: Garmin Oregon 450
- Barometric altimeter and tri-axial electronic compass
- BirdsEye aerial imagery capability
- Garmin custom maps capability
- Advanced track navigation
- This unit has recently been on sale for as low as $250, but you may need to wait for Black Friday to see pricing that low again
Other mid-range units
- The Garmin Dakota 20 is a smaller version of the Oregon.
- The eTrex 30 is more compact and lighter weight than the Oregon
- The Delorme PN-60 can accommodate aerial imagery and real USGS topos. It has a smaller screen than the Oregon (albeit more legible in most daylight conditions) and comes with powerful but complex software. Available for around $260 at the time of last update.
High-end handheld GPS receivers
- Garmin Oregon 600 or 650 – The latest and greatest from Garmin, these units offer a capacitive touchscreen and a huge array of customization options. The 650 adds an 8MP geotagging camera.
- Garmin GPSMAP 62s – Perfect for those who don’t want a touch screen unit. It brings all the latest features such as paperless geocaching, BirdsEye aerial imagery, custom maps and advanced track navigation. Step to the 62st for pre-loaded 1:100,000 scale topo maps of the entire US.
- Garmin Montana series – I bought the Garmin Montana 600 and have been very impressed with it. Yes, it’s a bit on the big side, but it’s the best dual-use unit Garmin has ever offered.
- The DeLorme PN-60w with SPOT Satellite Communicator is a special case. This combo allows you to comunicate with the outside world, even where there is no cell signal. If you venture far off the beaten track, or go it alone, this one is hard to pass up.
Other high end units:
- Another option is to get a couple of Rino 650 units for you and your outdoor adventure partner. That way, you get most of the advantages of the 62s, plus you can see their position on your screen (and vice versa)!
Still have questions? Chime in below and let us know how you plan to use yours, and we’ll try to find the best handheld GPS for you.