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.


  1. Thank-you Rich, for the great site!

    My brother and will be doing quite a bit of exploring on jeep trails with dirt bike this summer and I want to get a nice GPS that has good map detail (but not necessarily birds-eye, arial photo like detail); good sensitivity; and is pretty rugged. I have been through your site and for my budget ($275-$300), I have narrowed it down to two (I think); the Dakota 20 (currently $305ish) and the Delorme nw-60 without SPOT (currently at Amazon for $275!). Any thoughts?

    • I’d go with Garmin, but you should check out the Oregon 450. I don’t see it on sale now, but it should be in your price range sometime in the near future.

      • Thanks Rich: Ya, the 450 is pretty attractive… but just enough out of reach $-wise that I’ll have to wait for it to come down.

        Is there a “season” for GPS in terms of when the manufactures tend to put them on sale? In other words, is it like boats and RV’s where the best prices are at the shows in the spring.

        Also, is Delorme a newcomer or ??? I can’t seem to find anybody really endorsing them except them and yet it seems like they have a pretty good product.

        Thanks again for you great feedback.

        • It’s kind of hit or miss. Unfortunately you just missed some great prices, with the Oregon 450 going for as low as $229…

          I expect that we will see it down to $250 or lower at some places before spring hits.

          DeLorme has been making GPS receivers for several years now, and they have quite a few fans. I find their user interface a bit clunky. Their companion mapping software is powerful but pretty unintuitive.

  2. Silas Biggin says:

    Mr Owings, This is a great site! Thanks for the info. I’m shopping for a small GPS to replace my 3 year old Garmin Foretrex 101, to be used while backpacking and canoeing. My foretrex 101 often has trouble locating satellites even when on top of a ridge in clear weather. I’m looking for something lightweight that can connect to a computer via USB. I don’t necessarily need a map display in the unit; I plan to use the GPS to augment an old fashioned map and compass. my question for you is: How can I tell what kind of chipset each model uses? I’m comparing the new Foretrex 401 with the Etrex and Oregon series. Do they all use the same kind of ‘antenna’ (or whatever you call it)? What’s the difference?I don’t see this info posed on Garmin’s website.

  3. I’m looking for a handheld unit to use for canoeing and hunting. I have found a garmin extrex venture cx that is barely used. Will this unit service my needs?

  4. Hello,

    Last summer, my then 12 years old started geocaching, low tech style. Last week end, he went with the cadets and they had a very high end GPS and he loved it. Next week, it is his 13th birthday and he wants a GPS. What would be the best choice for him? eTrx Venture or something else. in the 200$ range would be nice as he is still young and I’m not sure how long the interest will last.

    thank you

    • I’d definitely stay away fro the Venture, unless its the HC model. Even then, something with a more user-friendly interface is probably warranted.

      You might want to look at units that include paperless geocaching capabilities. The Magellan eXplorist GC fits the bill, but isn’t very good for hiking. I’ve seen it for around $150.

      The Garmin Dakota 10 is in your price range, and would be my recommendation, but be aware that it has no electronic compass…

  5. Carl Begley says:


    I am in the market for a new handheld GPS. I have been using a Lowrance iFinder Go2 for the last five or six years and have been very pleased with it. I use my GPS mostly for fishing. There is a GPS on the boat but I like to have a back up just in case. It is also handy to take waypoints I marked on my boat to a friends boat. I will also be using it on my bicycle to keep track of my riding habits, elevation changes, etc. My iFinder just does not seem to handle being on the bike very well and it is hard to see the screen while riding. I have been leaning towords the Endura line because of my experience with the iFinder but am open to suggestions.

    Thank you for your time
    Manistee, Mi

  6. Al Walters says:

    Great site! Can you help direct me to the best units for walking GPS in Italy?
    Currency conversion, language audio conversion, restaurants and historical POI and great graphics are some of the features I am looking for.

    Thanks Much

    • You might want to check out the Garmin nuvi 2360LT, paired with Garmin City Navigator Europe NT Italy. I’m not sure what it offers in terms of historic POIs so I’d look for a custom POI file to load. Also, I’m not sure what you mean by language audio conversion, but it can definitely give you directions in English

  7. I am looking for a GPS unit for my dirt bike. I was told the Garmin GPSMAP 76CSX is a great choice due to rugged durability, etc. However, I see on the Garmin website that the 76 series has been discontinued. I would like a unit I can also use hand held for hiking or in the car. What do you recommend?

  8. Here are my top reasons for getting one of the new models…

    If you can afford it, I’d look at the Garmin GPSMAP 62s.

    If you want to use it in the car you’ll need to add City Navigator maps or Garmin’s new 24K topo series (which includes highway maps).

  9. Bob of Afrika says:

    I live mostly in East Africa. I just lost my Vista Garmin (maybe stolen?) but still have all my maps and locations on the computer (mapquest) need to replace. No decent maps of our area to download. What should I buy now? this is not about where to turn to get a Big Mac but what is latest model with long run I can use to not be totally lost and track back as needed and make my own maps in the bush. Thanks

    • Here’s a post I did on the advantages of the newer Garmins…

      BirdsEye aerial imagery could come in handy if you are in an area with open landscapes rather than dense canopy, though I don’t know what resolution is offered for your area. Custom maps are a good tool if you have access to good quality topos.

      • Sue of Africa says:

        Hi Rich,
        We also live in East Africa.
        I am thinking of buying the E-Trex 30,as a gift.
        Is this a good option for Africa in general?
        Any advice would be most welcome.

        • Judging by the specs alone, it should be good for you. It’s not available yet so no one has had a chance to try it. What is clear is that Garmin units are the way to go, because of the wide range of maps that are available. Plus, with the newer units, you can use BirdsEye satellite imagery and Garmin custom maps.

  10. Rich, first of all great site very detailed reveiws. I still am having a problem deciding on which gps I should puchase. I have narrowed it down to either the Garmin 62s or Delorme PN-60. The mapping you can get with the Delorme seems to be better according to reveiws than Garmin. Garmin charges a $100.00a piece for different areas I could use. Also according to reviews thee Delorme might freeze up and the Garmin squeaks. Just wondering which one would be the most dependable.

    • Dan,

      I think the squeak has been solved. As long as you buy from someone with good turnover, you shouldn’t get one of those early units. What type of maps do you need and for what areas? If its topo maps, there are a lot of free ones for Garmins at The biggest downside to the DeLorme is the mapping software, which I find unintuitive. It also has a smaller screen.

  11. I am going to the Middle East in the summer and I need to get a handheld gps with a reasonable map for that region. Would the Garmin 62s be a good choice?

  12. I am running a small land Surveying Company.I need a low cost GPS suitable for Topographic Survey & Site Locations- Accurate Altitude & Horizontal Locations etc. Please suggest with Prices,



  13. Rich, I am hoping you can help me out. I am looking for an unbiased opinion between two GPS units.

    I am currently looking at two GPS units, the Garmin GPSMAP 62st and the DeLorme PN-60w w/ SPOT Connector. I used my GPS for Overlanding and Expedition trips and I use my GPS mostly for 90% Topo and 10% for road driving. I currently own the Garmin Vista CX and it has been and good unit, and served me well.

    The decision that I need help with is that the Garmin GPSMAP 62st has, bar none the best user interface. But where it lacks is real time tracking using a laptop and the ability to create custom Topo maps that you can print out. DeLorme conversely has the ability to do real time tracking using TopoUSA on a laptop and it has very highly detailed Topo maps. I do hear that the user interface is somewhat more labor intensive than the Garmin unit.

    If you were to choose between the two what do you think it the best unit, and why? Thanks in advance for you help.

    • I think you’ll probably find it less frustrating to stick with Garmin than switching platforms. If you were willing to go to the 78 series, which has a serial port, I believe you could use it with nRoute on a laptop. More info on that here…

      You’re right about printed topo maps. Personally though, I’d choose the Garmin and use some other software for printing maps.

      • Rich, thank you for taking the time to reply. The only problem with NRoute and real time tracking is that it does not support Garmin’s topo software Mapsource, so it is of no use to me. 🙁 I directly asked this question to Garmin’s support team to verify this last week. So with that being said NRoute really does not serve a purpose to me out in the wilderness, cause that is where I need it the most. Screen size is a big deal to me, and that is why I want to use the laptop to see the real time tracking. Do you still feel Garmin is the best choice after finding this out about NRoute. Thanks again. It is nice to bounce this kind of info off someone that really knows what they are talking about.


  14. Hello Rich,

    Thanks for maintaining this wonderful site, what an amazing resource! I am looking for a handheld GPS device for my dad for father’s day. My dad is an avid hiker/backpacker who often sets off alone into the wilderness of Maine for 5-7 days at a time. As he’s gotten older, my mom has begun to worry a little more about him hiking alone and so I’ve been looking for a device that would function both as a handheld GPS and a personal locator beacon. Does any such device exist? The handheld GPSs on this website look great, but I assume they cannot transmit an individual’s location in an emergency? And then when it comes to personal locator beacons, I know of SPOT but I’m not too fond of the $99 annual service charge and then there are the ACR products, which look great. But I can’t seem to find any device that combines the features of a handheld GPS for hiking and a personal locator beacon. Any thoughts? Thank you in advance for your help!


    • The only consumer device right now is the DeLorme PN-60W/SPOT combo, but it’s fairly complex, has a small screen and still has the $99 service plan.

      • Thanks Rich! In talking with my Dad further it seems he’s not interested in using the navigation abilities of a handheld GPS, but is interested in being able to either update his family of his location/status (i.e. SPOT) or being able to send an SOS in an emergency (personal locator beacon). I’m not fond of the $99/year service plan for SPOT. However, the batteries of personal locator beacons have to be replaced every 5 years, and for about $175 this would equate to $35/yr. So basically it comes to a difference of $65/yr to have the SPOT’s added ability to send status updates to one’s family and friends. Thanks again for your quick response!

  15. Hi Rich, Can you use a micro SD memory card greater than 4 GB with Oregon 450? Is there an upper limit or is there an optimum memory size that you should use? Frank.

  16. I’ve heard of 16GB cards working. This may help… What is the largest microSD card supported by the Garmin Oregon? What speed card should I buy?

  17. David Youngblood says:

    Love your website – know my answer is on your site but have not found it yet. We bicycle, hike and kayak at retiree pace – have a Garmin auto and plan to purchase a portable. The more I learn of maps, the more confused I become (units looked at today have “bundled” maps. We are in the Lowcountry of South Carolina with wide water but not so much topo. What maps do I need for a portable unit? Thanks, David

  18. Paul Covert says:

    Hi Rick – I have really enjoyed reading all of the data, stories, and facts about GPS units. I am looking for a unit that will show the longitude and latitude at specific points. What I am wanting to do is amateur surveying – this is NOT a commercial venture – strictly fun. Things like finding the corners of my property to within a few feet, etc. and being able to follow a specific direction a certain number of feet.

    Is there anything that would meet these requirements? I am leaning toward the Garmin 450, but am not sure if it will do the job or if it is the best for what I am wanting to do.

    Thanks for your help, Paul

    • Just about any handheld will do that. But you might not get any better accuracy than 20-30′, depending upon various factors including terrain. I certainly wouldn’t expect any better than 10′ accuracy.

      • Paul Covert says:

        Thank you for a very prompt reply. For what I am doing 10′ would be VERY accurate. I have read your review of the Garmin 450 and am I considering it. Is there another model or brand I should consider?

        Thank you, Paul

        • Not really. Depending upon the vegetation and location, BirdsEye aerial imagery coverage could be very helpful. The Oregon 450 has this capability, but it costs an extra $30/year. Or you could go through the process of making a custom map with other (perhaps higher quality) aerial imagery.

  19. I am going on an endurance ride (horseback) from Shelbourne NV to Virginia City, NV. We ride 50 miles per day. The ride manager provides way points that need to be uploaded into a GPS so riders can follow the trail. I am torn between Garmin and Magellan – It seems like the Magellan 610 with camera is cheaper than any Garmin with camera and may be just as good. We use the Garmin 305 and 310 for a combined GPS and heart rate monitor to track out horses’ workouts, but I have been told that these do not allow uploading and following of way points. So what do you recommend a)with a camera and b) without the camera?

  20. If they are an authorized dealer, I think it will come with a full one year warranty. That would certainly reduce the risk.

    • Turns out they were out of stock – so I got one from Amazon – Thanks for providing this website Rick – it’s a real help for those of us beginning their GPS experience – and thanks for the quick responses!

  21. Paul Covert says:

    Rich, Have you had a chance to review the Garmin 650? I found it yesterday while looking around – Amazon has them right now. Larger Screen, new brighter display, plus a 5MP camera. Let us know what you think – this is definately a high-end GPS. Does it perform any better than the 450 or 550?

    Thanks for all of your insight and thoughts,


  22. Paul Covert says:


    I have ordered the 650 and will be headed to Colorado with it in August. I will let you know how I like it. Thanks for all of your reviews.


  23. I do a lot traveling in Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia), North, Central and South America and I’d like to start using a GPS to help me get to my destinations, mostly by public transit, walking (70%) and 30% by car. I go to cities(70%) but also to the countryside(30%).

    I have purchased the Rotweiller maps for SE Asia, and I have the Garmin maps for North America, and detailed third party maps for Panama and other countries, compatible with Garmin. I do have a Garmin Zumo 550 GPS. But I need a GPS that can operate 12 hours minimum, on one charge, and the Zumo 550 battery life is only about 2 hours.

    I do use a pay-as-you-go GSM quad-band cell phone (motorola v9) in all of these countries. Please note that not all countries have data, 3G and 4G yet, especially on pay-as-you-go. I’d prefer not to pay for maps & directions using data from a phone provider.

    I am considering buying a Samsung Galaxy S2 phone or a Garmin hand held GPS like the Dakota 20.

    What’s the best way to go (cheapest and reliable) – get a smart phone or a Dakota 20 or other recommended hand-held GPS, with good battery life?

    • There are offline mapping applications for smart phones. If you go with something like the Dakota, you may also need to factor in the expense of buying detailed maps for some countries, unless you’re going to rely on OSM maps.

  24. If you bought a bargin 60csx and did not care about roads but only topos and hiking trails in the GSMNP and Shinnining Rocks areas etc. around Asheville NC (I believe your back yard); how would you set it up? Are there topo of just Parks and hiking hiking trails? do you just down load the entire NC or Tennessee maps from a free site? What is the biggest SD card that it will accept and read? I understand that there is a difference? Is a screen protector a good idea? When you down load a map are you hacking the Garmin image file or are you writing to the SD card? When you delete a track do you also drop any other data or can you delete single tracks depending on where it is written?

    It would be really nice you didn’t have to learn so much on your own.

  25. I would add some of the free topos and the My Trails map from Once you install the maps to your computer, you can use MapSource or BaseCamp/MapInstall to select what portion you want to send to the device. As far as what size card it will accept, theere is no formal limit (it comes with a 64MB card, BTW)…{9dec4ad0-954a-11dd-f60b-000000000000}

    Yes, a screen protector is a good idea. I use Zagg’s Invisible Shield. There are no hacks. On the 60CSx, I believe that maps must go on the memory card.

    I’m pretty sure you can delete single tracks, but it’s been so long since I’ve used my 60CSx, I can’t find it this morning to verify!

  26. Hi Rich – looking for a handheld GPS for exploring lakes, rivers and shoreline of Northeast US. Seeking simple, durable, color unit. What would you recommend? Thx

  27. Thank you very much Rich. Will checkout models you noted – will include the prior Garmin model 76 – appears to be on clearance due to discontinuation.

  28. Good point Rich… my primary use will be marine – small boat (within 3 miles of coast, lakes, rivers). How much better is Birdseye imagery vs not?

  29. I am starting a small forestry consulting service and need a unit that will map a stand of timber under tree canopy, allow me to see that map in the field with acreage of traverse, and print out when back home. And a compass would be nice too. Thanks.

    • Courtney,

      Just be aware that consumer-grade GPS receivers are probably going to give you 10-30′ accuracy, maybe more like 20-30′ under canopy. Most Garmin units can determine acreage once you walk the boundary.

      • Paul Covert says:


        What about the software she is asking about – does it exist to do the mapping?

        Thanks for taking your time to answer all these questions.

        • Yes, there are many mapping software packages that will do this.

          • I understand about the point error distances you mention. I really don’t need the accuracy a more expensive Trimble would give. From what I’ve read on your site, the Garmin GPSMAP 62s should do what I want. And do you have any recommendations for mapping software that would allow me to transfer my data to a photo/map? I was told Expert GPS would work.

          • Paul Covert says:

            Me Too 😉

  30. The Oregon 450 (on sale now for $199) will give you a bigger screen…

    Or you can go with the Montana for an even larger screen…

    But the 62s is fine as well.

    I prefer TopoFusion to ExpertGPS, but either will work.

  31. I’m new to the hand held GPS thing and needed some advice. I have a new jetski and have been exploring lakes and was wondering if the new Garmin eTrex 20 would suit my needs? I am basically trying to find my way back to my starting point through fingerlakes and possible rivers.

    Will that unit work for me?

  32. Gidday Rich

    Wish I had discovered this site 6 or 7 years ago when I began GPS mapping. I’m surprised given your background that you don’t have a Buyers Guide for GPS Mapping.

    The requirements, imnsho, are different to other activities. e.g. higher emphasis on accuracy under tree cover, ease of carry/affix to maximise reception and for some types of mapping, ease of recording a POS with special symbol selection and notes …

    Another example is what is suited to various mapping styles. I do most of my GPS mapping (for mtn bike orienteering, bike rogaines and mtb trails) on a mtn bike. To maximise reception I have a re-radiating aerial mounted on my helmet and linked to handheld GPS in my waistbelt. This enables me to leave the bike to explore if necessary but wires are always a nuisance and for maybe half my tasks, I have no need of a handheld.

    Certainly in the sports I am involved in, GPS mapping is growing exponentially so maybe it might be fertilke ground for you?

    Regards, Kenny, nr Melbourne, Australia

  33. Hi Rich,
    I’m going on a European holiday and will be flying or using trains and walking around cities. I’m considering getting a Dakota 20 with CityExplorer maps so we can navigate around cities visiting POIs without wasting valuable time. Not having used a handheld before my question is how useful is a GPS as a tourist. I don’t want to spend too much time looking at screens so voice prompted turn by turn routing would be the ideal. Not sure if the Dakota 20 supports this. If not is it something I can glance at now and then without detracting from the passing scenery too much. Thanks for your thoughts in advance.

    • I think they are useful, but be aware that the Dakotas won’t support some of CityXplorer’s features like mass transit navigation. Personally, I wouldn’t want a GPS that gave voice directions while on foot in the city. Might as well put a sign on your back saying “tourist.” 😉

      Also, the Dakota should beep at turns, which should be enough.

      Many nuvis wil support the advanced navigation features.

      This might be helpful…

      • Thanks Rich for the link. It helped me decide to get the City Navigator Europe instead with a GPSmap 62s. Better resolution than the Dakota and not much more price wise. Don’t need the mass transit navigation. Just a good turn by turn.

  34. Rich, I recently purchased a garmin legend hcx from basspro for hunting/hiking purposes. I dont need something too complex, more just to keep me from getting lost, keeping track of sign and stand locations. With this in mind, I’m wondering if I should return it for one of the newer etrex models such as the garmin etrex 20 or 30?

  35. I received my new eTrex30 yesterday! I also subscribed to Birdseye. Without a manual it has been a little frustrating but I know I will eventually figure it out.

    Here’s my first problem…I downloaded a map using Basecamp and Birdseye Satellite of a lake I will be going to this weekend. However..I can’t seem to find the map on my eTrex? I went to the top of base camp and sent it to my device so I think I have done everything? Where on the GPS is it located to pull it up and look at it? Hope this makes sense..I’m a newbie 😉

    • Congrats on being among the first! I hope to have one later today, but will go ahead and take a stab at your problem now. You should see your BirdsEye imagery in the left hand column on BaseCamp. If you right-click with the eTrex connected, you’ll get Send to Device. Did you load them this way? If not, you might try that.

      Also, find Setup on the device. You may need to go into the Main Menu. Then look for Map and something like Map Information. Does the Birds Eye imagery show up there and is it enabled?

      • Rich:

        I called Garmin and they tell me I have to be in that specific area to see the satellite imagery map? I’m a total newbie so I guess that makes sense…if you disagree please let me know. I will be there this weekend so i guess I’ll find out then. Thanks!

    • You can pan the map to see that area. Or if you have a waypoint set you can go to Waypoint Manager, select it and choose Map. You may have to zoom in to see the imagery.

      Also, if you’re completely new to handheld GPS, check this series out:

      And there are tons of free maps at

  36. Jeff Moore says:


    I’m looking for a handheld that I can take flying that gives me at least 5Hz update rate and at least 10m accuracy. I need to be able to record & download the tracking info for flights lasting as long as 4 hrs. Is the Garmin Aera series my best bet or is there a better/cheaper alternative? Cool website by the way. Thanks.

    • You can use just about any handheld with a high sensitivity chipset for this purpose. But you’ll need to have a good view of the open sky. The new eTrex 10 or eTrex Venture HC should work fine. I also suggest making sure you have a good lock at the current location for half an hour before taking off. I don’t understand what you mean by 5Hz update rate.

      • I am not familiar with Garmin’s aviation units, but I can tell you that none of the handhelds in their “on the trail” category have a 5hz update. They all update your position once per second (eg: 1hz update rate).

  37. Rich , I am looking for a GPS to use specifically for fishing on my boat. I want to be able to mark way points and fishing holes. I have read a few of your posts and im pretty sure i will go with the birds eye view. Could you reccomend the best unit for boating. it will be my first time using a GPS unit (other than my car) , so maybe you can consider that in your reccomendation. Great site. Thank you Pete.

  38. Rich,
    Your website is exceedingly helpful. I’m hoping you can help me choose a GPS unit that I will be using for my forestry research. I don’t have much in the way of budget to buy anything too fancy, so I’m hoping I can buy only what I need. What do I need? Well, I want to be able to record positions in my forest plots, within moderate accuracy. In particular, I’ll be locating the positions of trees, which I will flag in any case. I want as much other data as well, including altitude, aspect, etc. I imagine that these can always be obtained from Google Earth once the positions are known. A friend had warned me about Garmin because of the cost of buying topo maps, but you’ve pointed readers here to a website with free maps for Garmin GPS, which is great. It’s looking like the 62s comes pretty close. DeLorme has what look like nice units but I haven’t seen a lot of enthusiasm for them on your site or on others. Interested to read your thoughts! THanks!

  39. The biggest issue to keep in mind is that accuracy is limited in consumer GPS. You can generally expect about 10-30′ accuracy. Personally, I’d go with the 62s over the DeLorme, though the latter’s desktop software is probably more powerful (which also means a pretty nasty learning curve!).

  40. Rich,

    I am looking to purchase some sort of handheld GPS that I can carry with me for exploring the wilderness marking points and creating tracks. Also I am on the water a lot and would like something that would double for that, that will assist in navigation after creating a route. Do you have any suggestions? Ideally something less than $300 I was looking on best buy and found Garmin – GPSMAP 76Cx GPS. It seems as it is maybe out of date or would it work fine for this?


  41. Hi Rich,
    Thank you very much for your advice regarding Oregon 450. I used it on my trip to southern Caspian sea and found it to be very accurate and loved using it on my hiking and driving trips in the forest and along the coast. On a previous trip to the same area I used an eXplorist 500 which, to my amazement, was in error by as much as 1200 feet!

  42. Hi Rich, I have an Oregon 450 and use it mostly for geocaching and hiking (but also to drive close to the cache or hike area). I want to use the “auto zoom” function but it doesnt seem to work in the “off road” mode. That is the only mode I can use because the others say “no routable roads in this area”. After talking to Garmin about this issue, they say I need to have City Navigator or thier 24K Topo to be able to use this function (funny how my older Colorado performs that function in all modes). I have the basemap and also use the gpsfiledepot TOPO and Trails maps. Is there any other way to get the auto zoom to work? I appreciate your input.

  43. Hi Rich, Thanks again for your help in choosing a handheld GPS for sightseeing. Just got back from 3 weeks touring Europe. We did a lot of navigation on foot around a number of cities and found the Garmin GPSmap 62s excellent. Some comments that may help others:
    – the save waypoints from GoogleMaps feature very useful. Look up hotel address on Goggle Maps click on send then GPS and save waypoint directly to 62s via USB. Needs Communicator Plugin for Windows. Download from Garmin Home=>Support=>Additional Software
    – great to arrive at a railway station in a strange city, select the hotel and just head straight there. The turn by turn arrows are very large and easy to read. Great for getting off the main streets and taking short cuts without getting lost.
    – I used the City Navigator Europe NT map and found it very accurate. Lots of useful POIs. Good for finding restaurants and ATMs.
    – make sure you select pedestrian mode and on Road for Distance as Car/Motorcycle routing will have you unnecessarily obeying one way streets.
    – I found the menu system on the 62s very fast to use once you got used to the buttons. If you are going to buy one to use for
    – In built compass on 62s worthwhile to get heading in the right direction when you come out of a building.
    – The fast GPS lock on the 62s worked very well. If you moved a few hundred km with the GPS off it would take 2 mins to get a new fix but after that it was pretty much immediate. As soon as it finished powering up you would have a fix. Held its GPS lock in very narrow streets. Even worked on high speed trains and jets provided you had a window seat. Fun to clock Eurostar at 310kph and surprisingly useful to track your location so you knew when your stop was coming up.
    – Battery life very good. Lithium batteries were worth the extra cost but it was great to be using AAs. If you ran out it was easy to buy some ones almost anywhere.
    – If you are planning to use one as a tourist buy one a few weeks before you go and get used to using it. I had never used a handheld before and there is quite learning curve involved.
    – Very comfortable to hold while walking and fits easily in jacket pocket.
    – In summary I was pleasantly surprised how effective it was and used it much more than expected. It gave us a lot of freedom, flexibility and confidence to navigate around strange cities without wasting valuable sightseeing time.

  44. Rich, i am looking for a GPS u it to help be define boundaries, trails and other landmarks on heavy forested land with moderate elevation changes – 500 acres. Im willing to spend up to 700-600 for the unit. I love the idea of tagging pictures to physical locations. Whats ur pic of the litter fornthis purpose?

    • First of all, be aware that consumer-level units will give you an accuracy of about 10-30′, depending upon terrain and the satellite constellation that day.

      The Oregon series MAY have the most mature firmware and therefore the greatest accuracy. The 450 would be good; the 550 if you want the geotagging camera.

      Otherwise I’d consider the GPSMP 62s or 62sc (the latter has the camera).

      For the biggest screen, I’d look at the Montana 600 or 650.

  45. what is a good handheld gps for marking fishing spots is it a etrex h

    • I’d stay away from it because of the serial interface. The new eTrex 10 would be a good choice. If you want to spend more, the eTrex 20 would allow you to add satellite imagery, which a lot of folks spending time on the water find useful.

  46. I just got the iphone 4s and wanted to know if you have a recommendation for an app that I can download instead of buying a hand held unit. I’m a fisherman that would like to store points of success on the lake. I’ll probably only use it a handfull of times per year and would like it to be fairly simple to use. Any thoughts?

    • Trail Maps and Gaia GPS are two popular apps, but I’m not an iPhone user and haven’t had any direct experience with them.

      Here’s a question though. Can you just tap and hold on the maps app to save your location? If so, that would probably be simpler.

  47. Hi Rich,
    I’m trying to decide what kind of GPS to by for my husbands birthday (Dec 3rd). He currently has a GPS (I don’t know what kind).
    I know that he wants one with topo maps. I think he would prefer the 1:24 ratio. Are there free maps with this ratio?
    He goes hunting out west in wooded areas and out on the plains.

    I was considering the Oregon 450 or 450t and the 62s or 62st. Some websites recomend that hunters have a GPS with WASA, way point to waypoint and
    20 channel reception(?). DO any of these models have this stuff? Or any other suggestion would be helpful.
    I would prefer the least expensive route.
    Thanks for your help

    • Yes, you can get free 1:24,000 scale topos at And yes, the models you are looking at should meet all those requirements. I’d suggest the Oregon 450 or the 62s. I expect the 62s to go on sale Thursday for $249 and the Oregon to go on sale the next day for the same price. I’ll be posting the deals here and at my GPS Deals site. Hope that helps!

  48. Thank you so much! I will check your sites for the sales.

  49. this is a quote taken from a review: “The Gps unit (Garmin eTrex Venture HC) is very accurate if you use TOPO USA maps. If you use the MapSource maps the Gps is up to 500 feet off…Call and ask them to send the green GPS unit if you buy the bundle pack it comes with TOPO USA the yellow will come with MapSource in the bundle…” It is from 2009 so don’t know if still accurate?? Nervous about Mapsource…

    Anyway, I do get lost easily and lose track of time when fishing. My MINIMAL goals are: find way back to car when hiking. Mark put-in and take-out spots for my boat on small rivers/streams. Know distance to take-out spot via the winding waterway I’m on. Ability to mark an ‘important’ location on waterway for future reference. Longer battery life. At least water resistant.
    MAXIMAL goals would include: the ability to see map of canoe put-ins or DNR landings(which will probably make unit too $$). the general shoreline shape i”m travelling on. (don’t need fancy -actual detail photo. A winding blue line with x’s for landings/public areas is an example of something that would be fine.) Waterproof. Of course cost would determine what is purchased. If any suggestions to meet min or max goals that would be great.
    And yes, I will next read the links I found for novice handheld GPS users. Thanks!

    • All the Garmin 100K scale maps have inaccurate road placement based on TIGER data. Their new 24K scale maps or the free ones at are much better. If you can swing it, I’d look at the eTrex 20 or another recent Garmin that can accommodate aerial imagery. You’re unlikely to get accurate shoreline outlines with a map. Aerials are awesome for that use. There are some good deals going thru tomorrow…

      • Thanks. Looking to spend max of $300. 78 could be an option & was lking at the eTrex 20, then, although if I remember correctly, it is large.
        When the model has a ‘Barometric altimeter’, can I assume it also gives me readings of barometric pressure? I’m not concerned about altitude.

        • The eTrex is small; the 78 is larger. The 78 floats though. And yes, models with a barometric altimeter will give you barometric pressure and trending.

          • thx. Looked at eTrx and Dakota 20. Hard to learn much when they are on 12″ leashes & U know sales clerk doesn’t know much. But the Dakota seemed better for me. Worried about the toggle on the eTrex. Concerned about downloading maps vs. already having them. Feel like the GPS will be more about necessity than pleasure! LOL. Thanks for the advice. Happy Holidays.

  50. Hi, we own a ranch in Colorado and are interested in a GPS as a management tool. We would like to be able in find weed patches from year to year,maybe even map and photograph them and do the same with weak spots in pipelines. We would also like to mark sucessful hunting spots. We have three different pieces of property with a total of about 4000 acres. It would also be nice to be able to find the areas of field and pastures in acres. We are not technology people and don’t cre about bels and whistles. We just want it to do what we want. Thanks, Rebecca

    • First of all, realize that you will only get 10-30′ accuracy, depending upon conditions, including satellite positions which vary daily. If that is okay with you, almost any recent high-sensitivity GPS handheld will do.

      And while you don’t care about bells and whistles, one of the newer Garmins that allow you to add satellite imagery could be useful; the interface is better on the newer models too. That may be particularly important to you since you say you aren’t technology people, because handheld GPS are powerful and complex beasts, and can have quite the learning curve.

      There are some great deals today on the GPSMAP 62s (my top choice for your needs) and the Oregon 450 and eTrex 20 (either of which would serve you well too)…

      There are also some models that have a camera included for geotagged photos, like the Oregon 550 and Garmin 62sc.

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

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