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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Handheld GPS buyers guide

Best handheld GPS

What is the best handheld GPS for you?

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

Garmin-eTrex-10-smallOur 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

 

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


There are several units to consider here; all have a barometric altimeter and tri-axial electronic compass.

  • 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)!

Related posts:

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.

Comments

  1. Heather says:

    Looking for a handheld I can take in the backcountry of British Columbia to mark trails. I would like to be able to load maps.

  2. Wearable v’s Hand held? I not looking for big short cuts and I’m not terrible at old school nav. That said, recently at 8,000ft in the French Alps, in cloud, in very low vis, I missed my intended trail by about 500ft and got on an animal track. Whilst not dire, the consequence was descending in the wrong valley which (although parallel to the original) added 3.5 hours to a 5 hour hike. It could have been worse! The time has come for gadgetry back up. Any opinions on the Garmin Fenix 2 vs a GPSMAP 64 vs Oregon 600? Is the accuracy of either substantially better than the other? I think I’d really only like a Lat ; Long fix but does a digiMap change things for the better? Uploading the trak post return would be fun but I think all 3 do it? Any thoughts appreciated.

  3. hi Rich. I just found your review (08/10/12) of the original Fenix v GPSMAP 62 v Oregon 450. Possibly encouraging for the Fenix 2. Any plans to put all three updated versions head to head?

  4. I do (very) little hiking but lots of off road Jeep trails. My Garmin Oregon 400t is ready for retirement and I would like your recommendation for a replacement. I have used the Oregon for highway travel and off-roading with satisfaction. Budget is minor consideration.

    What say you?

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