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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. I’m looking for a gps for hiking. One feature i definately want is one that shows elevation gained and overall elevation for the hike. Recomendation?

    • It’s hard to get accurate elevation data with GPS. A barometric altimeter improves things but can throw it off if the weather is changing. Still, I’d go with a unit that has one. I’d suggest the Garmin eTrex 30 , GPSMAP 62s or Montana 600.

      Best practices for good elevation numbers include setting the track to collect one trackpoint per second and calibrating it to a known elevation at the start of the trip if possible. If you don’t start at a known elevation, powering the unit on ASAP after arriving at the trailhead, before heading out, can also help.

  2. Hello! Had a question. My wife and I do a lot of traveling. We are currently traveling around Europe without self-phone reception so navigation in a city is important and more difficult without our iPhones. I’ve got a Garmin Nuvi auto GPS with the Europe City Navigator maps loaded. I use this for both it’s intended road-navigation purpose, and I also use it as a hand-held once we get into a city to figure out where we are and how to get to the landmarks and restaurants that we want to visit. I’ve decided that there’s got to be a handheld GPS that would work better for this purpose. The Nuvi doesn’t have good battery life outside of the car, it’s not very durable, not water resistant, and it’s a bit bulky in my pocket. It also doesn’t have a compass so I end up using my iPhone compass to point me in the right direction until the Nuvi detects my vector. I was wondering what handheld you would recommend? The ability to accept sd cards so I can load City Maps would be ideal. Do the city maps on handhelds show you landmarks and things like the auto GPS does? Also, when using handhelds with topo maps, is there a way to display multiple maps over each other, like a hybrid road-map and topo map? I find that knowing if I need to walk uphill vs downhill helps keep me oriented as well as cardinal direction. I’m also interested to see which model would offer the best accuracy in an urban environment as buildings often block some signal reception. The new eTrex 30 that supports glonass looks interesting, as well as the 62 series with the large receiver. We wouldn’t need the GPS for much trail use, but we do occasionally geocache. Let me know what you think!

    • Except for the battery issue, there are nuvis that will do what you need…

      http://gpstracklog.com/2012/03/the-best-garmin-nuvis-for-pedestrian-navigation.html

      The eTrex 30 and 62s are both good units and would be among my top choices. The eTrex 30′s GLONASS chip would likely improve reception in urban canyons.

      If your City Navigator maps were purchased on a Garmin card, they should work in those handhelds. They will show you landmarks. Whether or not you can layer maps depends upon whether or not the maps are transparent, some are, some aren’t.

      Hope this helps.

  3. I need a rugged handheld unit that would be good for hunting as well as boat fishing for the inland and coastal waters of the East coast. I like the GPSMAP 62stc. Would that be a wise choice? Would I need to purchase any additional mapping software for inland and coastal waterways for the 62stc version? Deciding which maps to have for these units are confusing for me in regards to hunting AND fishing. Thanks for your help.

    • Oh..by the way, I use a 17ft. Carolina Skiff for fishing and a 4wheeler and walking for hunting. Having a touch screen isn’t a big deal to me and really don’t care about the extra viewing area of the 600 series. Those are the two units I’m looking at. Thanks for your replies in advance.

      • Yes, you would need to pay extra for the marine maps. Another alternative would be the 78sc, though it doesn’t have a camera. Generally I recommend against the t models since there are plenty of free topo maps with a higher resolution. Also, you may want to consider a BirdsEye aerial imagery subscription, which can be quite handy on the water. Hope this helps.

  4. andrew winks says:

    Hi Rich, great website. Trying to decide what to buy. Need a handheld thats good on water, sampling small and large lakes. (As well as general POI logging of world travels.) The 78SC was recommended by the local supplier, but I’m concerned about comments over the small screen. The 650T was the other recommendation (large screen) but its pricy and probably would not handle a bit of moisture and wet hands using the touch screen. Would be logging a fair bit in China so I’m not counting on too many available maps, correct?
    I could use raster images from GE and G Map to kick off. Appreciate your comments

    • Yeah, available maps will be few and far between, at least as far as topos go. The 78sc screen size isn’t a big issue IMHO. I actually use and like my 62s (same screen size) more than my Montana.

      The Montana (and 62 series) is waterproof, so that’s not an issue. And since the Montana has a resistive and not capacitive touchscreen, a wet screen and wet fingers shouldn’t matter (just tested it on mine). Although buttons may be easier to use than having a wet hand slide on the screen and miss where you are trying to press!

      One advantage of the 78sc is that it floats. If you go for the Montana and you’re based in the US, there is no need to get the “t” model, since there are plenty of free 24K topos for it. If you can wait, I’ll be covering Black Friday sales here and there should be some good deals on the Montana; not so sure about the 78 series. Hope this helps.

      • andrew winks says:

        Ended up going with the Montana 650T. If I can plug the local supplier, GPS-R-US were very helpfull. The T model was the only one available in Brisbane though. I did have a good look at the 78S and I would probably go with it if I was hiking a lot. The touch screen also did it for me. I find it faster to key in info. A must is to get the screen protectors. Can’t wait to get it out on the water!

  5. I was looking to buy a handheld gps, was wondering if any could give an idea. Looking for easy to use, reliable and on the cheaper side.

    • For what use? Hiking, geocaching? Absent other info, I’d say look at the eTrex 20 if you can afford it, otherwise the eTrex 10. There should be good sales coming up on Black Friday if you can wait a couple weeks. I’ll be listing those deals here on this site.

  6. andrew winks says:

    Hi Rich, is there an ofline user guide for Garman Basecamp? The youtube links for the Getting Started, Help, etc are of little use in the country which blocks Youtube.
    Cheers

      • andrew winks says:

        Thanks Rich
        I cannot praise the Garman Montana 650 enough and I’m trying like heck to quickly learn all its features to get the most out of it. For anyone looking at a great tool to assist with work activities, (as well as leisure of course) this unit is worth every cent! I surveyed a large waterbody (2,500 sq km) using the camera feature along the way (photo quality is excellent) and presented the info to colleagues the following day. Blew them away with track recording, etc
        What I am trying to get my head around is how to share the info with others long distance. The process is to instruct the other parties to download/install Garman Basecamp, (correct?) then somehow email the file of the trip which should include all the data including photo files. I created a “Adventure” thinking I can easily email this but I’m a little stuck, can you point me in the right direction.

        • I think you’re on the right track (ha!) with Adventures. Where are you running into problems?

          • Ha, pun intended eh!
            I’ve done some more reading but clueless as to solution.
            I’ve created the Adventure, but in order to share it (send to the boss to prove I’m working and not partying…) the good book tells me I need to publish. I’ve published (dunno where to mind u, is this to a cloud data store of Garmans??) and now I should see some icons where I can email the file or post it to my favourite social media. (sorry, no favourite bookface media for me, I’m just too busy for that stuff..)
            Problem is, I can’t see the icons that let me do this, is this a software glitch?
            I’ve installed all the updates….really appreciate your advice!
            Cheers, Andrew

  7. Denise Fisher says:

    Hi looking to buy a handheld unit for my father for Christmas.He is a crop insurance adjuster and has to walk fields and mark off acreage.Must have a usb so he can upload info to his computer.User friendly so we can learn and teach him to use it. I’m not sure if he needs maps or not.I was looking at the Garmin 76h or etrex10..Help

    • Most Garmin units have an area calculation feature. I don’t have an eTrex 10 to verify that it does, but that one would be my top choice unless you want maps, then an eTrex 20 would be my recommendation.

  8. @Andrew – Wow, yeah, it really is unintuitive. I don’t see any place to share it from the website. In Basecamp, you can open your Adventure, and within the Adventure box, choose “view this Adventure online,” or choose the share icon to email it. That’s how it is on my Mac anyway; I’m having trouble getting my Adventures to show up on my Windows machine, even though I’m logged in!

    • andrew winks says:

      I’ve posted a note on the Garman forum to see what they say.
      The other problem I have found is that there is a problem with the worldmap loded in the Montana 650t, there is a major section of landmass that is missing from a 2,400 sq km lake outline. Got to wonder who is in charge of this as google map and earth clearly show the corect outline.

      • World basemaps are pretty weak. Have you tried the free maps from http://gpsfiledepot.com?

        • andrew winks says:

          Yup, tried the GPS file depot, they have a “topo” map of sorts, but is displays the same errors and is pretty lame besides. Not to matter, there’s a wealth of info if you want to travel the US but anywhere else…
          Garman do have a map which covers my area of interest (download and install to microSD) but at a cool $240, I would have to see this before paying for it!

  9. I am a old guy, new to GPS. Like to river/stream fish, ice fish, find seedlings, that I have planted and summer fish from boats. I do get into remote areas of Michigan where I have got turned around. Not a Tech guy. What would you suggest? Probably should be waterproof to some extent. A swim is always possible.

  10. Guy Lecuyer says:

    Hi Rich,
    Another which one would you recommend question. I live in Northern Alberta Canada, I hunt and do a little hiking . I currently have an old Magellan 315 and would like to upgrade. I have ever only used my GPS to mark waypoints and the ability to track my steps back. And used the compass. I am looking at the GPSMAP 62, 62s or Etrex 10 or 20. I am not sure I want an electronic compass due to having to re-calibrate it when changing batteries and that it may go squirly on you sometimes. I can always use a regular compass. I am not sure how effective and easy it is to use the maps would be on such a small screen. My main requirements would be dependable satellite acquisition in bush country. Everybody wants to sell me the top of the line stuff.
    Thanks for your time and Merry Christmas,

    Guy.

    • The larger screen of the 62 series is nice but not critical. There is no need to calibrate the compass unless you are using it to navigate to a waypoint. If you are just doing trackback, I don’t think it’s necessary. You can always disable the electronic compass and have it just use satellietes.

      Most modern receivers use a high-sensitivity chipset, so you should see greatly enhanced satellite acquisition. Hope this helps.

  11. Hi Rich,
    I am looking for a general-purpose handheld GPS unit that will serve for golfing, hiking, and road navigation. For golfing, I plan to store waypoints for greens and the starting location of each shot, then calculate distances from the ball to the green and to the striking point. With this information, I can choose the best club for each shot using average distances calculated from the data collected. I don’t mind keeping notes and crunching the data by hand afterward, but one key feature is readability in sunlight. For hiking, I favor units that provide actual track distance instead of “as the crow flies” distance. Can you recommend a unit that will handle these tasks? If I have to compromise on a feature, I will give up road navigation and buy a separate unit for that.
    Thanks for your advice, and for the great website.
    Bob

    • No such beast, unless you go with a smartphone.

      Personally I would go with three low-end hiking, golfing and auto units. But if you insist on managing the golfing manually with a handheld GPS that can also be used for hiking, check out the eTrex 30. Hope this helps.

  12. Hi I am looking for a gps to use for quadding for hunting and off-roading more than road or city use. I don’t know anything about gps and the amount of information out there is overwhelming!! I would like to stay somewhere around the $200 range and the choices seem to be endless. Any recommendations? I also don’t know how the maps work or if they are included or if I would need to purchase a bunch of extra maps as well or … ? Any help would be greatly appreciated! Waterproof is an important feature I’d say. What I’d mainly like to use it for is marking trails when quadding and being able to mark my starting point and be told how to get back there! A camera would be a nice extra but probably not a deal breaker. Thanks.

  13. Hi. I’m thinking of getting a gps for use on the ocean. I realize that there are many different maps you can purchase with a lot of detail such as contour lines and buoys and lighthouses to add to a gps but I would like a unit that would just leave a “bread crumb” trail so that if I get somwhere and the fog comes in I can follow it home. I looking at a Garmin etrex 20 and wondering if that unit would do. I have a gps/fishfinder in my boat so this would be a backup. I’m hoping not to break the bank in my purchase but I don’t want to become a statistic either. Thanks for any help.

  14. Guy Lecuyer says:

    I am a little scared buying anything with the electronic compass due to all the incidents of compass freezing or spinning and having to re-calibrate several times. For the price they sell these units at , why cant these guys make something that can be depended on . And why does it take so long before we see new models with basic upgrades? I Think I am leaning towards the Etrex20 or the basic 62(Yellow) already this one is getting hard to find. Does that mean maybe something new coming ?
    Great site and thanks for all the work you put into it. Happy New Year.

    • I’d be surprised to see a replacement for the 62 anytime soon. It’s not a huge seller as most people will go for an entry-level line if they are looking for a low-end unit. The next handhed line likely to be upgraded is probably the Oregon series. We might see an announcement on that by mid-year.

  15. Guy Lecuyer says:

    So Rich, How do you feel about the dependability , accuracy, and having to re-calibrate the electronic compass? Is this a serious issue? and would it be better to stick with a non electronic compass? Etrex20 vs 30.
    Thanks again,

    Guy.

    • I like them. It depends on your use. If you are a geocacher or plan to navigate using direct routing to a waypoint, it’s well worth it. You can always disable it. I’m more of a mountain biker and hiker though, so I tend to use track routing, where it’s not as important.

  16. Got some ideas from previous postings but still would like some advice. Would be used mainly for hunting and fishing and some auto travel. Had one of first Etrex (since sold) and use the Garmin dog tracker. Am looking at the Etrex 30, Oregon 450 and 550, all about same cost. Thanks a great site.

    • There’s a new Oregon series coming out, but it will be pricey at first… http://gpstracklog.com/2013/01/garmin-oregon-600-series-gets-glonass-customizable-buttons-8mp-camera-battery-options-multi-touch-display.html

      Just wanted to mention that in case it matters to you. If you weren’t going to try and use it for auto travel, I’d say the eTrex 30, which has much better screen visibility on battery power than the Oregon 450/550. In fact, I’d suggest the eTrex 30 and a cheaper nuvi, like the 40LM or 50LM. By the time you pay for City Navigator maps for the Oregon and a special car mount, there probably wouldn’t be much price difference.

      • Thanks for your reply. Same ? (with no auto travel) : if you had all garmins to choose from in my situation would you still recommend etrex 30? Seems like it has all a hunter or fisherman would need.

        • If I could afford it, I’d wait for the new Oregons and take a close look at those.

          If you are worried about dropping it in water while fishing, the GPSMAP 78s is another one to consider (it floats), but also comes at a premium.

          Best bang for the buck p definitely an eTrex 30 or 20.

          Hope this helps.

          • Will probably go with the etrex 30. What accessories would you recommend ? Thanks for all your help.

          • Cool! The carabiner clip (although it’s a little hard to get on and off the eTrex, which has a plastic rail) and possibly a screen protector. Also some of the free maps from http://gpsfiledepot.com.

          • Looked at the post about new Oregons and on second thought I may wait to see what you think about them when they are available. Not in any real rush. I am very happy that I came across your web site. Will look forward to your review. Thanks again.

  17. udaimenon says:

    Hello Rich,

    I was planning to do some hiking in the Indian and Nepal Himalayas. Which one of these gps have full hiking trails of the himalayan region ? Any suggestion that i should look for ?

  18. Brandon Elliott says:

    Hi Rich,

    Our company is setting up a very complex network of low-band radios for data transmission. We have two “home” locations and around 80 remotes. We’re looking for something to create a waypoint or marker at our home location(s) and then go to the field radios/antennas, with GPS coordinates, and simply have an arrow and compass reading pointing directly at our home location, I suppose based on a true north azimuth. Is this a basic function of a handheld GPS or is this even possible!? Any input would be wonderful!

    Thanks,
    Brandon

  19. Hi Rich,
    I am planning a cruise to Antarctica and to track our voyage, as I always do on my travels, I just found a free map for my Garmin Etrex30 (or Oregon 450). To my surprise I found out that Garmin does not support any maps outside its basemap coverage which ends at 60 degrees south. Is there a Garmin alternative (to make a use of the map). Otherwise, any other handheld units with an Antarctica coast line coverage?

  20. Hi Rich,

    Sorry for the false alarm. The custom Antarctica map does show on the Oregon (and I assume on the Etrex as well), but one need to zoom in significantly. What threw me off was the fact that the basemap does not show, so I needed to zoom-in “blind” (I used the coordinates to keep the location).

  21. I played with the Oregon 450 t in the store and liked it, but i want a gps without a touchscreen. Is there a gps that compares well to the 450T in performance and price but doesnt utilize a touchscreen??

  22. Lee Russell says:

    I am the land steward for a local land trust, and my duties include inspecting,monitoring and flagging miles of property lines. I once saw a marine gps in action – the screen showed start and destination locations (i.e., waypoints) and a straight line between. The screen also showed the location of the boat in relation to the line between waypoints. That is EXACTLY a feature that I would find very useful since I need to flag the property lines, and knowing where I am in relation to the line – and staying on the line – between two corners (waypoints) would be much quicker than locating a corner pin, then having to follow a bearing with a compass through thick brush or forestland, as I do now. Do any handheld gps receivers have this feature?

    • Sure, most do. Just remember that accuracy is going to be no better than 10-30′. Some days will be worse due to satellite constellation configuration. You might want to look at a Garmin eTrex 20 or 30.

      • Lee Russell says:

        Rich -

        Yes, I do realize the accuracy constraints. However, if I’m within 10 feet when flagging a 1/2 mile long property line through thick brush, that’s good enough. If there are issues, then a surveyor can be called. I am thinking I’ll order the Garmin GPSMAP 62sc – it seems to be the favorite, including your own review, and has all the bells and whistles, including the geotagging camera – a big help for my kind of work. Thanks for your help.

        Lee

        • It’s a great choice, and easier to use than the eTrex 20/30, but it doesn’t have GLONASS which can result in improved accuracy. If you can afford a high-end model like the 62sc, you might want to wait for the New Oregon series which is expected to come out the middle of next month.

          • Lee Russell says:

            Rich -

            One of the reasons I decided to go with the 62sc was the brighter screen compared with the touch screens of other models. Also, I like the buttons – I’m a button guy, not a touch screen guy, and you and other reviewers said that the 62 series is easier to get around on compared to the touch screens – unless I did a lot of text work – which I won’t. So – is the GLONASS going to be a significant difference in accuracy? And are the other features of the new Oregon series going to trump those of the 62sc?

            Lee

          • The 600 series will have an improved interface too, and should be significantly easier to use in terms of less taps to access menu items. It will function more like the Montana series. GLONASS will theoretically make a bigger difference in northerly latitudes and in canyon-like environments.

  23. Hello Rich – great website, thank you for all the information!

    I am surprised I don’t see anyone asking about Geocaching! I currently have a Magellan eXplorist GC – my first handheld when I got into Geocaching. It works well, but not the most accurate in the world. It is a great unit when starting out, but its time to upgrade. I am looking at the Garmin products as many of them seem to be on the top of most handheld GPS lists. I have found the Oregon 450 for under $300 with shipping. I am trying to stay under $300 for now.

    What is your recommendations?

    Thank you!!!

  24. I am a hiker, xc skier, snow shoe-er in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. My first GPS is an 8 or 9 year old Magellan Gold with a 1 3/4″ by 2 1/4″ screen. It is no longer working so great and I would like to replace it. But all the new GPS have teeny screens (for 55 year old eyes)! The larger screens all seem to be in the $400+ range which is out of my range. I’d appreciate any suggestions. Thanks!

    • Screen size isn’t everything. I’d suggest you go to a store where they will power some on for you and check out some of the newer models. The Oregon series is a nice compromise between screen size and price, but it fails in some other areas. The new Oregon 600 series should be an improvement, but then you’re back in the $400 range. You might want to check out the Garmin GPSMAP 62s.

  25. FDWhitey says:

    I just purchased the Garmin GPSMAP 62 on eBay for $250. Everyone I spoke to regarding a good GPS for Geocaching under $300 has recommended this one to me… I’ll let you know how it is once I get it!

  26. I like to hunt for civil war relics and want a gps that I can use old maps and overlay them to the current maps of where I live to find where the troop movements were. What do you recommend?

  27. I’m completely new to the world of handheld GPS and need some basic tips. I plan on using it on a 65-mile Alaskan fly-fishing raft float trip on a remote river over 7 days. –I need the GPS so I’ll know where on the river we are at any given time so that we can properly “space” the float over 7 days to our predetermined pickup point down river. I plan on purchasing the new Garmin Oregon 600 when it comes out. I have downloaded Garmin Basecamp to my PC and have downloaded via GPSfiledepot.com a 1:64K topo of Alaska to Basecamp. So far, I have played around with it in the PC by adding “waypoints” and “tracks” to the river I’ll be floating. I have the following questions:
    When I acquire the Oregon 600, I assume the next step is to download the map to the Garmin? I assume my added waypoints, tracks, etc., will follow automatically from my PC to the Garmin unit?
    When viewing the map on my PC with Basecamp, I’m able to zoom in real tight to small areas. After downloading the map to the Garmin unit, will I be able to also zoom in and zoom out just as well?
    Will I be able to “slide” the map “downriver” so I can view whats ahead?
    Any other tips you can provide would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.

    • You’ll need to transfer the map separately from the waypoints and tracks, but yes, that is what you want to do.

      You will be able to zoom and pan the map. Sounds like you are heading in the right direction on this.

  28. Jon Meyer says:

    I am having some issues. I bought a Montana 650T and use it for off-road dirt biking, as well and want to use it for typical road navigation. Topo maps are working fine, but I cannot for the life of me, find the street city maps on the unit. I went on Garmin and purchased it, thinking it didnt come with the unit. When I tried to download it to the unit, it says it is already there. Yet, I see no way of entering an address and navigating. When I go to maps, it doesn’t show any city maps option- just topo 24k.
    Any help is appreciated!
    Jo

  29. I found an Oregon 450t for half the price of the new Oregon 600. I plan on using a GPS for mainly hunting and fishing. I’m leaning towards the 450t for what it offers, what we already know it does and the price. do you agree? Thanks.

  30. I guess I need a little push. I’m now ready to buy a GPS for hunting and fishing. I have 3 of them in mind – Oregon 450, the new Oregon 600, and the Etrex 30. In past correspondences you have suggested these also. Do you think buttons or touch screen makes a difference for my applications, would the bigger screen be more advantageous, is the 450 that difficult to read in the daylight, and is the 600 improvements worth the extra $200? Hopefully I’ll now be able to make up my mind! Thanks for all your help.

    • The Oregon 450 screen is definitely less bright in many conditions. This is counter-balanced somewhat by the fact that during handheld use, you will intuitively tilt it for the best view. I’m also not a fan of the interface…too many steps for common tasks. OTOH, the eTrex has a much smaller screen and the button arrangement is not ideal.

      My personal favorite right now is the 62s, but that could soon be supplanted by the Oregon 600. Hope this helps.

  31. Me again. When do you think you will be able to get your hands on the 600 to review it? I know it’s supposed to be out shortly. Will wait for review before buying 62s or 600. Your advise really helps.

  32. Rich – Any idea if there might be sales on the 62 series when the new Oregon 600 comes out ? Thanks

  33. Sir,
    Kindly suggest me Hand GPS model where i can put coordinates and track these points . alos this instrument also show the features like water bodies / railway tracks /highways etc.

    Please suggest the suitable hand held GPS
    Vinayak 09920255099

  34. Hi, I’m looking for a hand held GPS to map paddocks and tell me the size in ha/acres. Also be able to take bush walking/ prospecting and in car with road maps. Won’t mind spending $ for quality.

    • Most Garmin units will do this if you walk the boundary. Or you can record corners and use mapping software to do it. But be aware that, on the best days, accuracy of a consumer grade unit is 10-30′.

  35. Is a 60csx still worth picking up for hikeing, hunting, possible geocacheing.
    Never used one and have a chance to pick this up lightly used for $150.

  36. Hi Rich. I like the Etrex20 but I have a NUVI1300. Thinking of getting upper midwest fish chip for it. What I need is a gps to guide me at night on a large chain of lakes in Wis. to get back home. Do you know if this chip would work on the nuvi or should I be looking at the 20 for helping to follow a track back home.

    • The nuvi 1300 is listed as a compatible unit, but the eTrex 20 has better navigation features in terms of pointing you back to your put in spot, etc.

  37. Grayson says:

    Hello Rich,

    First of all you’re awesome for answering all of these questions…Jeez, it’s nice to pry the mind of someone who uses GPS units more than the average joe.
    Believe it or not, I’m actually going to use a GPS unit for a slightly different purpose than anyone previously mentioned: I’m going to complete a GIS-based map of several regions within Guatemala working with the Ministry of Health and other regional organizations.
    What I want most out of a unit is the ability to accurately track elevation changes, one that is waterproof, and resistant to dust and shock (if possible). Seems pretty basic, right?

    I would also want a unit with the ability to download and operate (with no trouble) detailed topographic maps and one thats easy from which download information (mostly way points) to my computer.

    What GPS device is most useful when working with GIS software (ArcGIS 10.1) if you have any history with this software, and what might be able to be the most versatile in terms of being able to handle different features and data layers I might want to input during my time there.

    I have research funds sufficient to cover whatever device I’ll need, so $ is actually not an issue here, to a point. I would have difficulty shelling out $1000+ for a Trimble unit, but is there any reasonably priced device that can be as accurate as some of the Trimble units? (sub 3m accuracy?)

    Thanks!

  38. HI Rich, I am trying to find a GPS handheld that will suit both my husband and myself. He wants to be able to use it boating and work out total speed, ave speed as well as tracking (snail trail) to favourite fishing spots in the harbour. I need it for area calculation to find paddock sizes on our farm. Can you suggest a user friendly model? We are in New Zealand.
    Thanks

    • Most Garmin handhelds have an area calculation feature, as well as the boating features he wants. One caveat on area – accuracy on any line you walk will likely vary by 10-40′, impacting area calculations. You may be better off trying to calculate it from aerial photos and desktop mapping software, if aerials with high enough resolution are available.

  39. Herb Solinsky says:

    I am going on a first time CO elk hunt in the mountains. Having never used a handheld GPS, which model do you think would best serve my needs. I would like to have mapping, without breaking the bank.

    Thanks,
    Herb

  40. Hi im after a unit to measure acres/hectares of paddocks and also go prospecting in bush. Can the same unit be used in car for maps and also how accurate would the acres/hectares be.

    • Most Garmin handhelds will do this. Accuracy, depending on the satellite constellation on any given day, is likely to be 10-30′. You should be able to calculate area error from that (it depends upon the size of the paddocks of course).

    • Most mapping units can be used in a car, if you buy road maps for it. It’s often better to buy a cheap car unit though, unless you go for a high-end handheld, like the Montana series or Oregon 6xx.

  41. What would be best for prospecting?

  42. Hi Rich,
    Am new to GPS. The Garmin GPS sold in my country Kenya have alot of unmapped roads especially in the rural areas. Am wondering, is it possible to add custom roads(roads that are not appearing on preloaded maps) on Garmin Nuvi and Garmin eTrex 20? How do I map these roads and will I be able to navigate those roads?

    Thanks in advance.

    • You could add them as tracks on a handheld like the eTrex 20 and then set it to follow the track, but you couldn’t choose a destination and have it automatically follow that track. One way for either device would be to make your own maps; you can find more info on this at http://gpsfiledepot.com/. Or you could use OSM maps and become an OSM contributor. This might be the easiest way.

  43. I just bought a Garmingpsmap 78sc….any comments on choice…I want it for Boundary Water travels

  44. For hiking in the Ontario Northern woods, I would like a simple GPS that gives the global coordinates of the person holding the GPS and in which one can type in the coordinates of destination, also equipped with a magnetic compass. There is no need for complicated maps and tracking waypoints etc. If there is one available, I would be interested in buying one. Thanks.

  45. Hi Rich,
    I’m new to the handheld GPS world and have found your site very helpful. I’m looking for an affordable device to use when kayaking in coastal/inland waters and when hiking. Also, I’m not sure if it’s smarter to opt for bundles that include topo 100K or skip it and go for the free 24k downloads.
    What are your recommendations?
    Thank you!

    • Skip the 100k models and go with free 24k maps. You may want to consider the Garmin GPSMAP 78s, which floats. Also, be sure to get a model that is compatible with Garmin’s BirdsEye aerial imagery, which is great for being able to see islands and the actual river course. Most recent mapping models are compatible.

  46. Looking for a GPS mainly for hunting and fishing. Have looked at the Oregon 450, the new 600 and the GPSMAP62s and the reviews. Don’t want to go overboard but don’t want to cut myself short. What do you suggest? Thanks

  47. Trying to decide on a handheld unit for my mother to hike with. She’s 70 and her memory is deteriorating, so she is rapidly losing confidence to hike anywhere other than a few trails that she does really often. So I’m looking for something basic that will have maps of common hiking areas in Colorado (would prefer a unit that these maps do not have to be added to, if that exists?) She really just needs something that she can check to be sure she hasn’t gotten off the trail, and that will show her where she is in relation to the trail in case she does.

    • There are several problems you’re going to run into:

      • Handheld GPS are complex devices with a significant learning curve; REI does classes on them, which could help but it may be too hard for her
      • Units with preloaded maps use 1:100,000 scale maps not 1:24,000 scale maps
      • Many trails will be missing but most units can show which was she came so she can retrace her steps

      With those caveats, maybe the Garmin GPSMAP 62st would do.

      • John Orcutt says:

        Thanks for your earlier advice, Rich. I went with the eTrex20 for my mother and she thinks she will really like it IF she can ever figure it out. She can do the basics, but is VERY frustrated that she can’t find a manual specific to the eTrex20 (all we can find is a PDF for the 10/20/30. She gets very confused trying to make her 20 do things that the manual fails to mention can only be done on the 30. Garmin support has been completely unhelpful. Just wondering if you have any advice on where to find better help exclusively for the 20? (REI’s class is too confusing for her since it covers such a wide range of units.) Thanks so much for your time, amazing that you answer everyone’s questions on here, it IS appreciated!

  48. I am looking for a handheld gps model to use for fishing on the great lakes and also use for hunting in Northern Michigan. I would like it to be able to track and view routes,and show water depth contours I am leaning to the Garmin GPSMAP 78s This will be in addition to my chart plotter on board my boat Thanks in advance

  49. My wife and I just purchased some land and need to find the corners and boundaries. The land is actually 2 parcels so there will be 6 waypoints to locate from coordinates. We would also like to try and define the borders as best as we can so we can add a fenceline in the future.
    I do not think we will need a GPS for anything else at this time so just looking for an economical unit to serve it’s purpose.
    any suggestions?

    Thanks
    Jim

  50. George Parsons says:

    I’m very active in genealogy and am often locating grave sites in cemeteries. What I’d like to do when I locate a grave is tag it with its longitude & latitude coordinates for future location instead of landmarks which can often change. Is there a handheld GPS that would meet my needs?
    George Parsons

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