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. William Jackson says:

    Hi
    My Garmin Emap has given up on me after about 10 faithful years of great service to me.
    I am looking to replace it under insurance.
    I mainly use it out on the ocean. I also had the CMAP for this area on the chipset but it has died as well. What is the equivalent these days. I have been told the 60 csx or the Legend Hcx are the same as the Emap was. I have had a look at them but they dont seem to be anything close to what I had in the Emap. What would you suggest as a replacement

  2. Ken Myers says:

    We will be on a cruise this summer to Italy and several surrounding countries. I would like to take a GPS receiver along that would allow us the freedom to explore towns and sites with the ability to find our way back to the ship. I also hike and would like to take up Geo Caching. Are there any recomendations as to any one unit that would meet all of these needs?

    Thanks,

  3. Dual-use units are a compromise… http://gpstracklog.com/2009/04/dual-use-gps-for-road-and-trail.html

    It is often better to get a low-end auto unit and a separate handheld than to try to get them to do double duty.

    For the European trip, you may want to consider a nuvi 1xxx series that can fully utilize CityXplorer maps… http://gpstracklog.com/2009/06/garmin-cityxplorer-review.html

    Hope that helps. Feel free to follow up with more questions.

  4. Hi I’m working for an NGO in Africa and some of our programme staff would like me to get them GPS handhelds for survey purposes, only neither they nor I have any idea. Ideally, I need something that’s quite basic to use and input data and waypoints, doesn’t need to be fancy, and is really hardwearing. Any thoughts?
    cheers
    Mary

  5. One thing to consider…consumer handhelds aren’t likely to get you better than 10-30′ accuracy. These aren’t survey grade receivers. Another consideration is that no handheld GPS is that simple to use. With those caveats, I’d recommend the Garmin eTrex Venture HC or the Garmin GPSMAP 60Cx. The latter may be a little easier to use due to the button configuration. You may end up finding that the ability to load maps is helpful, and both of these have that capability. Feel free to follow up with more questions if it would help.

  6. Similarly to Mary, I will be doing some research in Ghana where I will be mapping out locations of homes and work sites. For someone doing research like this, would you suggest a regular handheld GPS, or is there another type I should be looking at? I would like the accuracy to be minimal (so less than 30′), but I’m also hoping to not spend thousands of dollars.

    Also, can most GPS units be used in Africa, or do they have restrictions? Can I just download and/or buy a map of Ghana to put on the GPS unit?

    Thank you for the help!

    • Generally, unless you’re in very dense rainforest or canyons, you will probably get closer to 10-20′ accuracy with most current generation handhelds. This can be improved on some models that have a port for an external antenna. The other option is a survey grade unit, which likely will run thousands.

      The use of GPS is actually outlawed in some countries, but otherwise there should be no issue. Leave it in the open for 30 minutes the first time you use it to allow it to download data on satellite locations relevant to its position; this will speed future lock. I’m not sure what quality maps you will find, but here are a couple of sources:

      http://downloads.cloudmade.com/africa/ghana#downloads_breadcrumbs

      http://gpsmapsearch.com/

  7. Hi, my dad wants to get a GPS for measuring trail distances. He leads hikes and sometimes when he’s out scouting a trail he actually uses a wheel to measure distances! I was wondering what GPS you recommend for using a track feature to measure distance? Typical areas are places in the Smokies and in western NC where there is a lot of tree canopy. My basic understanding of track features is sort of limited (althought I did benefit a ton from your post on the topic): is distance calculated by a series of waypoints taken at set time intervals…or does it bring in information on trip time and rates? Curious because I was wondering how well track features account for switchbacks, and e.g., trail turns that might fall right between a set time for track waypoints? Also, would love to be able to download tracks and overlay onto a map database for printing, and potential web publishing, so really I’m interested in what overall system of GPS and software you recommend. Thanks in advance! And thanks for the great web resources you have on GPS!

    • Al Schober says:

      I do similar stuff on a bicycle. The GPS will store the track data at the frequency you specify. On my Garmin GPSMAP76, ‘auto’ is fine for me. The other issue is receiver sensitivity. If you lose fix, you’ll end up with multiple tracks. After a ride, I download the tracks using DeLorme Topo. The editing feature in Topo allows me to ‘stitch’ the pieces back together.

  8. Ah, we’re in the same neighborhood!

    They aren’t really waypoints; they are trackpoints. You can usually set the trackpoint collection interval to time, distance or auto. The latter usually works best, and will adjust to your speed, and should show switchbacks fine. The tracklog can generate all sorts of stats — average speed, elevation gain, etc.

    As far as what GPS to get, any modern receiver with a high-sensitivity chipset should work fine. It might be nice to have one that can show actual USGS quads, like can be done with Garmin custom maps (http://gpstracklog.com/tag/garmin-custom-maps). If elevation gain is important, I suggest a unit with a barometric altimeter. For creating a map, I prefer National Geographic TOPO.

    Hope this helps. Feel free to follow up with more questions.

  9. Brittain says:

    Hi, I am looking at getting a new GPS and am trying to decided between the GPS 60CSx, Legend hcx, and Vista hcx. I just got a flyer from REI saying that the 60 will be 199 for memorial day so that puts it about in line with the other two. This will be used in the forest of the PNW and will be for hiking.

    Thanks!

  10. Between those three, I’d go with the 60CSx for the larger screen and better (button) interface.

  11. RICH, I WANT TO GPS A GOLF COURSE AND CONVERT THAT TO A .DWG FILE SO I CAN MANIPULATE AND ADD ON TO THE EXISTING MAP. IE: SPRINKLER HEAD PLACEMENT, PIPE SIZING, VALVE LOCATION, GREEN LOCATIONS AND OUTLINE, FAIRWAY OUTLINE, TEE BOX OUTLINE, ETC. I WOULD LIKE TO GET WITHIN A FOOT OR TWO OF ACCURACY. THANKS, JERRY

  12. You can’t get sub-meter accuracy with consumer handhelds. You’ll need a surveyor grade model with post-processing.

  13. I’m a kayak fisherman so I’m looking for waterproof, durable and floating would be nice.

    Primary use would be to mark structure where I caught fish, mark buoys or areas to avoid and finding my way back to port if the fog rolls in.

    Mapping would be great as well. On my large GPS I use a Navionics chip but also have access to C-Map data. Any recommendations?

    Thanks.

  14. I’d take a hard look at the new Garmin GPSMAP 78 series, hitting stores right now. I’m expecting a review unit very soon and am planning to do a first looks post right away. Here’s what I posted when it was announced…

    http://gpstracklog.com/2010/04/garmin-gpsmap-78-78s-and-78sc-marine-handhelds.html

    You could go with an older 76CSx or 76Cx, but you;’ll lose the ability to load custom maps and aerial photos.

  15. Is there a unit that can give highway navigation directions and can be used for hiking?

    How close can the typical unit be in terms of distance? Within 100 feet? 10?

    • I am looking at

      Home » On the Road » All Road Products » Automotive

      What is the feature that would make it useful for determining location off of a highway system?

      Would it be “Ability to add maps?”

      • You can add topo maps to nearly any of those products, but most are not ruggedized, nor do they have a compass. If you really want to go that route, I’d suggest the nuvi 500…

        http://gpstracklog.com/2008/09/garmin-nuvi-500.html

        • It is “Ability to add maps” that would allow for general non-highway use?

          I would use a GPS unit for occasional road use and occasional other use.

          One example: The U. S. once had a vast system of intercity electric railroads (about 22,000 miles in the 1920s).
          A lot of it was where I live in Ohio. I might want to use it to trace out an old right-of-way. I don’t think I need anything very advanced.

          Do any of these units use AA or AAA batteries? Non-standard batteries seem to me to be limiting even if they might provide longer time between recharge.

          • You could use it off road even without maps, but you would get nothing showing other than nearby roads and your position (and a track showing where you’ve been, if the model supports that feature). You would want to turn off “lock to road.”

            If you want to trace out an old ROW by walking it, you would need a unit that records a tracklog. Most all handhelds will do this. You can see which nuvis do it by looking at the “track display” column here…

            http://gpstracklog.com/compare/garmin-nuvi-comparison-chart

            If you want to display a previously collected ROW track, or one that you draw on mapping software, you’ll need a handheld, non-automotive unit.

            This might help…

            http://gpstracklog.com/2010/03/handheld-gps-101-tracks.html

  16. Alan,

    Take a look at this post and then feel free to ask any followup questions…

    http://gpstracklog.com/2009/04/dual-use-gps-for-road-and-trail.html

    Accuracy is typically 10-30′

  17. I use hand held GPS devices for work. We have been using the Garmin 60csx since it came out and it works great for finding survey points and for recording tracklogs. We have been waiting for the next round of GPS units to come out, and I must say I am confused and disappointing.

    If you look at the smart phone arena there seems to be so much more progress. Why can’t Garmin include an 8MP camera in all their units. Why can’t they include a more customizable interface that includes different apps for different uses. Maybe I am expecting to much, but the GPS realm appears behind in the technology game. If there was a rugged smart phone with decent GPS I would buy one tomorrow.

  18. I think you’ll see good ruggedized smartphones within a year or two, but battery life will continue to make them less than suitable for replacing a handheld GPS.

    The competition in the smartphone arena and the lucrative total consumer dollars being spent are driving a wicked pace of innovation. Not so with handheld GPS.

    • Why do you think the handheld GPS realm hasn’t adopted some of the smartphone technology? As I compare the 60CSx with the 62s it appears that it took 4-5 years to give us a slightly larger screen, a little better screen quality, 2 more hrs of battery life, built in memory, more points/tracks storage, and custom maps. Maybe there are a few more, but it seems like such a small step in technology, while a lot more progress is being made else where.

  19. The mobile space is evolving as a wicked pace, due to competitive pressures and huge total consumer dollars not seen in the handheld GPS arena. I think these are the two main reasons.

  20. Heidi Stuart says:

    Hello,
    My family enjoys geocaching. We have three Garmin Rino combination GPS and two way radio units (one 110 & two 120)that we purchased used. Shortly after turning these on they get hot to the touch and wipe out batteries. I emailed Garmin and was told that I could send them back for repair for the cost of $100 dollars each. That seems expensive- especially if you consider that it is probably a design/ manufacturing problem (seeing that all units have the same problem).

    My question is, should I pop for the $300.00 or should I look for something new? I would really like to get into paperless geocaching but each member of our family likes to have his/her own unit so we can race to the find.
    What would you suggest we get? Ease of entering data is paramount even if it is not paperless. Thanks so much for your help!

    • Ha! Only you can decide that. 😉

      If you don’t need the two-way radio capability, I think you would really like paperless caching. It wouldn’t surprise me to see an updated paperless Rino announced by early next year, but I bet they will be pricey.

  21. I am in Iraq and need a GPS for the city of Hillah and surrounding areas especially the Babylon ruins. I sometimes need to locate buildings and offices as well and give them UTM coordinates. Any preferred devices?

  22. If you just want to give UTM coordinates, just about any handheld GPS will do. To make it easier to upload them to a computer, get one with a USB cable like the Garmin eTrex Venture HC. And be sure to get a newer one with a high-sensitivity chipset.

    If you want maps, I would get a Garmin mapping unit due to the third-party maps that are available. There are some free ones here…
    http://downloads.cloudmade.com/asia/iraq#downloads_breadcrumbs
    and a pricey commercial one here…
    http://www.globalmap1.com/16/

    Feel free to follow up with more questions.

  23. Rich,

    I have been doing extensive research on GPS Units for a while (about 1.5 months). I was hoping for a GPS with long battery life (10+ hours), waterproof (in case of accidental drop in the lake or downpour), and the ability to navigate cities with spoken turn-by-turn directions. Are there any such units? I haven’t found one, yet.

    If the purchase of two units was required, which two basic units do you recommend? I can’t afford to buy anything too expensive but definitely need some accurate units. I would want the car unit to have spoken turn-by-turn directions and my hiking/camping unit to have a long battery life (10+ hours that would take rechargeable AA batteries) and it would have to be waterproof (in case I accidentally dropped it in the lake or in case of downpour). Oh, and I was hoping to not spend more than $250 on both units.

    Thank you so much for your useful Website and your detailed responses.

    Cheers!

    Yese

    • Spoken directions and long battery life are going to be hard to get in a dual purpose unit. I’d recommend a basic, low-end Garmin nuvi and an eTrex Legend HCx if you can find a deal on the latter (due to the 25 hour rated battery life). Otherwise, I’d go with the eTrex Venture HC. It has a 14 hour life, but don’t expect any of these to live up to their ratings. Feel free to follow up with more questions.

  24. Why is the Garmin 60Csx still considered one of the best units even though it’s a older unit.

  25. Thanks for your quick response. If you didn’t already have the 60CSX, would you buy one now? Would advise anyone to purchase it or wait for the 62’s?

  26. Hello again, I purchased a 60csx and each time I used the Trackback feature it never took me where I started. Can you help me? I thought it left a bread crumb trail if so, the birds must be eating.

  27. It should ask you to set the point you wish to navigate back to. Then you just move the cursor to your start point and hit Enter.

  28. I need a gps unit that allows me to set waypoints and get azimuths back to a central location. I have about 50 remote radio sites that need their antennas to be pointed back to one centralized radio. However I do not think a compass will work for this because of the amount of metal that is around these locations and I was wondering if any or all gps units had this capability. I know it sounds like a basic thing but I haven’t seen anywhere that has said that it would do that without using the built in compasses which I don’t believe will work either for the same reason.

    • Do you want bearings or azimuth? If it’s the former, the best way might be to set the waypoints in the field and then use mapping software in the office to establish the bearing.

      • I already know the azimunths from each point back to the central location so if there is something that would work with that it would be better and save me a few days driving around to each point

  29. i have garmin 60csx.now i want superior handheld please suggest me

  30. tan singh says:

    i forget one another point that is i want display of distense two digit after decimal(when distense in kilometer) and bearing one digit after decimal.is it possible in 60 csx.please inform me.

  31. Bob Benfer says:

    Hey, I’m an archaeologist, and I’d like azimuths too. My old Magellan performs well enough, but I need a second unit that does UTM and can accept a Perú map. Any units do that?

  32. Your Magellan won’t let you switch to UTM display?

    For international maps, I recommend Garmin units. Here are some sources for Peru, though I don’t know if the ones in the first link are still available:

    http://mapcenter.cgpsmapper.com/catalogue.php?country=169&region=

    http://www.gpsfiledepot.com/maps/country/pe

    http://downloads.cloudmade.com/south_america/peru#downloads_breadcrumbs

    Newer Garmins can accept custom maps and aerial imagery:

    http://gpstracklog.com/tag/garmin-custom-maps
    http://gpstracklog.com/tag/birdseye

  33. You have an informative website; thank you. I’d like to know about the internal battery on some GPS units. Are any of them replacable by the user? Also, I thought I saw a unit that didn’t require the internal battery to save waypoints and the like; would you have any knowledge of such a unit?

    • Thanks! Glad you’re finding it helpful. Almost all handheld (as opposed to auto) units utilize user-replaceable batteries (typically 2 AAs). If you want to know about auto units, let me know and I’ll try to dig up which ones are replaceable.

      As far as ones that don’t need to be powered to save a waypoint, I don’t know of any, nor do I see how that would be possible. Can you tell me what unit you are referring to?

  34. Paul Black says:

    Hi! Trying to find a replacement for my legend cx is proving challenging. I use it for 4x4ing, hiking, and fishing (lakes) in very remote areas of British Columbia Canada and am looking for something with a bigger screen, the best ‘in bush’ reception (because it sucks hiking when you get into the trees and you lose reception), and maps for my area. Any suggestions? Price isn’t really a factor.

    • Any of the new units with high-sensitivity chipsets will perform much better under canopy than the Legend Cx. My current favorites are the Garmin Oregon 450 and GPSMAP 62. The 450 has the biggest screen. In the US, you can often get better maps for free. I’m not sure about BC. Here’s a place to check… http://www.gpsfiledepot.com/maps/country/ca. I’d especially look at the NW Trails and Ibycus topos.

      You’ll probably find some versions of the Oregon 450 and 62 series bundled with Canadian topos. I’m just not sure which route (free vs. Garmin) will give you the most detailed topos.

      Hope this helps!

  35. Neil Lambert says:

    we are interested in purchasing 550t and were curious about how to tell if we
    were getting a later model (one with the brighter screen) as opposed to an older produced model (without the bright screen). We do a lot of Geocaching and will be in the bright sunlight most of the time.

    • Unless you can compare some side by side, there’s no way to know for sure. The best advice I’ve seen is to buy from someone with a good turnover of stock, like Amazon or REI.com. A good return policy might help too, in case you don’t get what you want.

  36. How about handheld GPS apps? One of my favorites is Traxx for BlackBerry phones. http://www.traxxmobile.com

    Though it may not have quite as many features as some of these units (has a good portion of the features, but doesn’t support map packs for lakes and such), it is a pretty darn good buy for $9.99!! GPX file support and all! I highly recommend.

  37. james fields says:

    i need a unit for hunting. $ not a concern. concerns are accuracy, reception, topo a must. looking at the garmin 60csx, 78, and 550. which would you recommend and why? prices are comparable. i was uneasy about your findings of track innaccuracy with the 62s. should i get one of these regardless? are they the “go to” models? should i look to another brand? i’m a step up from beginner, but not much. i don’t need lots of frills. i need the accuracy, reception the most. the 3 track compass feature would be a good thing i suppose. thanks for any help you can send my way…

  38. Michael Fischer says:

    I am considering a handheld unit to do the following. Let me get around in cities (worldwide) and countryside (hiking / walking) and do tracks for placing my digital pictures. And to show me where I am on boats (going to Antarctica this February) and trains. Price really doesn’t matter but don’t want to spend more than I need. I’m thinking of the Garmin Oregon 450t. The only thing the 550t offers in addition is a camera. Is there any reason for a camera built into my GPS instead of one separate? Any other models to consider?

    Thanks.

  39. You’ll get better photos with a separate camera. I really like the 450 series. Have you looked into what kind of maps you’ll be using for city navigation?

    • Michael Fischer says:

      I see there are two types of Garmin sold maps – City Navigator and City Explorer. The City Navigator feature involving transit, though, seems only available on the newer nuvis, not the Oregon. Or am I not reading this correctly?

      I see also that there is a program called Base Camp that seems to be able to be used to make maps or import non-Garmin maps but I’m just starting to check that out.

      One other question — is there an overall base (presuming very low resolution) map so if, for example, I am in Antarctica and turn on my Oregon it will show in general terms where I am or will it then only give me latitude and longitude (or, worse, nothing)? As you can see, I’m pretty much a newbie on this. I have noted from your excellent review that I should probably consider the Oregon 450 rather than the 450t.

      • I don’t think City Explorer would be fully functional on an Oregon. BaseCamp and MapSource will let you load Garmin compatible maps to the Oregon. There is an Antarctica map available at http://rwsmaps.griffel.se/. The Oregon can also load Garmin custom maps and aerial imagery. It looks like the Garmin basemap does not cover Antarctica, so without another map loaded, you’d only get lat/long and your track, along with any waypoints you have loaded. And yes, I’d definitely go for the 450 over the 450t. Use the money saved for some Garmin city maps.

  40. Pat Harper says:

    I have been doing a lot of searching on the web and have found your information the most helpful. I’m looking for a handheld GPS for my husband for Christmas–this would be his first GPS. I am trying to decide between the Garmin 450 and the 78s. He likes to go off the beaten path in Canada and Michigan’s UP. He does canoeing, hiking, bicycling and motorcycling. I’m leaning towards the 450 as it is a much better price and the touchscreen appears to be easier to use–but I’m wondering if 1) it would survive if the canoe tipped over? 2) And can he download rivers and inland waterways on the 450?

    • You might want to read this…

      http://gpstracklog.com/2010/07/garmin-gpsmap-62s-or-oregon-450.html

      The 78s functions much like the 62s, so you can pretty much substitute it in the post above. I do find that a unit with buttons is easier to manage on a bike. That’s my only reluctance in recommending the Oregon. And the 78s would be a bit more visible on the bike too.

      The Oregon would do fine canoeing. It is waterproof, so as long as it doesn’t sink to the bottom and get lost, it would be okay. And yes, he can download additional maps (rivers, lakes, etc.) to the 450.

      Hope this helps.

  41. Two good Black Friday (11/25/2010 – 11/28/2010) deals out there:
    Dakota 20 bundle (with case and Garmin Topo 100k) for $229.99 at Gander Mountain (in store only)
    60CSX Outdoor Pack (with 128 MB micro SD card, case and Garmin Topo 100k) for $219.99 at Bass Pro Shops (in store only)

    Also, Amazon has the 60CSX by itself for $199.99.

    I’ve been following the discussions on here for a while now (thanks for the great reviews and questions/comments/responses) and decided to go with the Dakota 20 since I couldn’t find any really good deals on the 62s. The custom map capability and 3-axis compass were the deal breakers for me, as I plan to use it for hiking and biking and potentially geocaching (never done it but it sounds like fun, so the option to go paperless may be useful).

    Buying it at GM today also got me $40 in credit for any purchase there from 11/28 – 12/4/2010. Even though the maps are effectively available for free elsewhere, I fugured at that price I may as well get the latest official version.

  42. Links to the Dakota 20 and 60CSx deals we’re tracking on the other site:
    http://bestgpsdeals.net/tag/garmin-dakota-20/
    http://bestgpsdeals.net/tag/garmin-gpsmap-60csx/

    I think you’ll like the Dakota. I’ve been encouraging people to go for the newer models — just too many good new features added.

  43. Hey Rich
    I am looking at buying a handheld gps for the mrs she is an archeoligist i was wondering if you could make a recomendation as there are so many to choose from. A newer model and 1 that would work well in australia for maps etc at the higher end of the price range.
    Thanks for that mate
    Rusty

  44. Garris Chuba says:

    Dear Mr.Owings,
    I am an avid hunter who likes to “beat the brush”. I am computer challenged but not totally inept. I am looking for a unit that is operator friendly, that can take rough handling, that can allow me to hike to base camp after getting dropped off by others or, if the going gets tough, allow me to retrace my steps. Ideally it could show potential trails with topography and record areas that I see game. I have a limited budget. What unit would you recommend? I get dizzy cross referencing models. Is there a feature that I could see the area to be hiked before I enter the woods? Any chance that it could double up as a road navigator that gives me the directions from one address to another, that I transcribe to paper, and then shut off? Thanks.
    Garris

  45. Garris Chuba says:

    Dear Mr. Owings,
    I just sent an Email that had the wrong return address. The address on this Email is correct. I look forward to your reply. Thanks.
    Garris Chuba

    • All handheld GPS have a learning curve. They are complex, but we’ve got a series to help…
      http://gpstracklog.com/handheld-sport-gps/handheld-gps-101

      I’d have to know your budget to make a recommendation, but I’d lean towards one of the new Garmins. The Oregon 450 is on sale for $229 thru tomorrow, which is a rather amazing price…
      http://bestgpsdeals.net/gpscity-com-black-friday-deals/960/

      Another nice thing about Garmins is all the free topo maps available at http://gpsfiledepot.com.

      With added software (not free unfortunately), you can also use it in your car for turn by turn navigation.

      • Garris Chuba says:

        Thanks for the reply. Do any of the etrex series of Garmins have the capabilities I am looking for. I am keeping an eye out for a used one but do not want to get involved with a unit that is archaic. Anything under $175 available? Thanks again.
        Garris

        • Yes, the eTrex H series will do those things. I’d suggest looking at the Venture HC, Legend HCx or Vista HCx. I don’t find the interface as intuitive as the newer touch screen models though, and it will seem quite complex at first. But if you use our handheld GPS 101 guide and master the basics first, I’m sure one of those models will work fine for you.

          • Garris Chuba says:

            Any difference between the legend etrex hcx and the vista etrex hcx? Thanks again for all your info.

  46. Yes, the Vista HCx adds a barometric altimeter and electronic compass. The altimeter will give you more accurate elevation readings. On units without an electronic compass, you have to start moving before the GPS will point in the direction of your destination waypoint. This is because GPS receivers can tell where you are, but not which way you are facing. An electronic compass solves this, and can point to destinations while standing still. The downside (other than price) is that, for the best accuracy, they require calibration each time you change the batteries. It’s not very difficult though, only taking about a minute.

  47. Garris Chuba says:

    I would like to thank you for all the advice. I have researched the various units that you recommended for my application. The Garmin etrex series, dakota 20’s, 450, etc… and read several reviews from various sources on all the makes. I went the full circle and discovered that the best unit was the very first one you recommended. The Garmin Oregon 450. I now wish I pulled the trigger to purchase the unit (Black Friday at $229). Thanks again for your time and keep me posted if a similar or cheaper price comes back. Are factory refurbished units any good?
    Garris

  48. Chris Zimmerman says:

    Looking to upgrade my early generation Garmin handheld after 12 years of faithful service (time for color, waypoints longer than 8 characters, and topo). Use is primarily trails/hunting, but will get a lot of use from the saltwater charts…and occasional Boy Scout geocaching as well. Not sure what’s easier – upgrading a 78 series with topo maps or upgrading a 62 series with charts? I like the SD card technology. Lots of good info on this page so thought I’d give it a shot. Thanks for your advice!

    • Ooh, great question. BlueChart products tend to be very pricey, so I’d be inclined to go with the 78 series and add topos to it. But I’m a landlubber 😉 so maybe someone else here will have other thoughts to share.

      • My EMAP gave up after many years of service. Now own a Colorado 400c which has ALL the Australian Charts already included in the unit. I think the charts are more expensive to buy than the Topo maps. My unit was about $650 3 months ago. Otherwise if you buy the charts individually then it costs BIG time.($300-400@) I dont have any Topo maps in mine yet, Santa might be kind to me. It might depend how many places you go fishing in as well. Australia Vs Cuba…..

  49. Hi,
    I found your site while cruising the web and it seems by far the best, so thanks!
    I own a small hotel in the middle of nowhere in Portugal and have many walkers and nature enthusiasts coming to stay as I’m also an ornithological guide, (www.birding-in-portugal.com). I’d like to be able to lend the walkers a hand held gps unit so they don’t become lost in the wooded valleys surrounding the hotel – the idea would be to mark various walks on the unit – and do the same with some of the birders who’d take it in their car with them to find sites with specific species. Thus the unit would have to be simple to use, (or to explain how to use), rugged, waterproof and with detailed maps of Portugal.
    Can you suggest a make and model?
    Thanks.
    Regards,
    Frank

  50. There’s no ideal unit for walking and driving. This may be helpful…

    http://gpstracklog.com/2009/04/dual-use-gps-for-road-and-trail.html

    So you may want to consider an auto and a handheld unit.

    For handhelds, I like the newer Garmins due to their advanced track navigation features, which could be very useful for your purpose…

    http://gpstracklog.com/2010/07/navigating-tracks-on-the-new-garmin-handhelds.html

    For ease of use, I’d look at the Garmin Oregon 450. Finding decent topo maps for it may be difficult though. I found these, but the site is no longer being updated…

    http://mapcenter.cgpsmapper.com/maplist.php?cnt=179&rgn=&cat=4

    Anyway, digest some of that and then let me know what further questions come up.

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