One of the necessary devices for the avid traveler is a GPS, whose task is to help you with achieving your goal and to show your location on the map. GPS unit will indicate the correct direction in the mountains, forest, and other unfamiliar areas. Every year new models with various functions appear on the market, which makes it difficult to choose.
To help you with your choices, I have compiled this list of the 4 best GPS units that are currently available on the market. They cover all levels of navigation from the quite ‘simple’ to use to the ‘I need a degree to use this! These are the best hiking GPS units in terms of quality, ease of use and reliability. Also, I will share my experience with one of these GPS units.
Best Overall No.1: Garmin eTrex 20x |Best GPS for Hiking and Biking – Editor’s Choice 🏆
GPS Type: Handheld | Price Range: Under $200
Personally, I have the Garmin eTrex 20x handheld GPS and for me this is the best buy I ever did in my life. Why I love this GPS? Because it’s powered by 2AA batteries which I can find in any part of the world for a cheap and I don’t need to search for a power outlet to charge this unit. I can just take spare batteries with me and do whatever I like. Middle of nowhere? That’s not a problem with this handheld GPS.
Garmin eTrex 20x Battery Life
In the “no navigation / off-road” mode (this is when GPS just shows your location and don’t calculate the best route) batteries last for around 24-30 hours. Yes, you read that right, with 1 set of batteries you can use this GPS for 24-30 hours without even turning this unit off! And that battery life was with average, cheap “Walmart” batteries.
In the navigation mode (when eTrex 20x calculating the route for best results) battery life is a little bit shorter maybe around 17-20 hours. Can’t remember the exact time because I almost don’t use navigation mode. I used navigation mode a couple of times and all I remember is that battery was draining faster.
Free custom maps
Another good thing about this handheld GPS is that there are lots of maps available on the internet for free. Maps that made from OpenStreetMap is the best and they are very informative. Especially I like the points of interest (POIs) function in this GPS, sometimes you can download essential POIs separately and search through them to find something you currently wish for. For example, a water source.
I have used this GPS for hiking, for biking, for walking and navigating through the cities and I really like this handheld GPS unit. With the eTrex 20x, you can find lots of beautiful places – parks, monuments and so on. For biking, this GPS provides good stats because this GPS can show a more accurate speed and distance traveled than a bike computer. GPS mount for a bicycle is sold separately.
And the Garmin eTrex 20x handheld GPS is waterproof so you shouldn’t worry about rain. The only thing I dislike about this GPS is it’s operated mostly by the small joystick which is a little bit uncomfortable to use sometimes. But that is nothing compared to how good this GPS is. The Garmin eTrex is available in 3 variation: eTrex 10, eTrex 20x and eTrex 30x with the price difference of around 30$ between the eTrex 20x and the eTrex 30x.
The eTrex 10 is the basic model with the monochrome display. Without barometric altimeter, electronic compass and custom maps can’t be used.
The eTrex 20x have the 2.2-Inch 65K color TFT display. Custom maps compatible. Other features: Track log for 10000 points and 200 tracks
The eTrex 30x have the same TFT display as the eTrex 20x but also, this model has the barometric altimeter and electronic compass. These 2 features are the only difference between eTrex 20x and the eTrex 30x.
If you need them, then you can buy the eTrex 30x, otherwise, you can buy the eTrex 20x and save around $30 which you can spend for bicycle GPS mount and for a screen protection film (which I strongly recommend you to buy. I haven’t bought it and my screen was scratched very fast).View at Amazon back to menu ↑
Best Budget GPS for Hiking: Garmin eTrex 10
GPS Type: Handheld | Price Range: under $100
Well in the price range of under $100 you can’t go wrong with the Garmin eTrex 10. It has an affordable price and this GPS is reliable, geocaching friendly and it works from 2 AA battery and can work with GLONASS satellites.
Sadly, but for the price of under $100, there is nothing to choose from as other handheld GPS units in this price range is very old dinosaurs (made in the 2007 year) or have bad reviews. And only the eTrex 10 performs great. But keep in mind that you can’t use custom maps on the Garmin eTrex 10.View at Amazon back to menu ↑
Best Hiking GPS No.3: Garmin GPSMAP 64s | Best Handheld GPS for hiking, biking, fishing and walking
GPS Type: Handheld | Price Range: Under $300
If you ready to buy expensive GPS unit with lots of features then the Garmin GPSMAP 64s Worldwide is the best choice. This GPS unit has a good, sunlight-readable screen. And it works from two AA batteries or from the rechargeable NiMH battery pack.
In comparison to the Garmin eTrex 20x, this GPS unit has the buttons below the screen and it’s easier to use it than the eTrex 20x. Also, the GPSMAP 64s has the wireless data upload feature and possibility to use optional ANT+ sensor which can monitor your heart rate, cadence and bicycle speed.View at Amazon back to menu ↑
Best Overall: Garmin Oregon 550T GPS
Type: Handheld | Price Range: Under $600
This is the best Garmin GPS unit among all of them and this one is very expensive (at least for me). But this GPS unit has many advanced features and it’s very durable which means that you can use it on your dual-sport motorcycle and can go around the world with this GPS.
Also, the Garmin Oregon 550T has a camera built in along with 3-D elevation maps to give you a real sense of what the terrain ahead looks like. Cameras in GPS unit? Yes, this GPS unit has the inbuilt 3.2-megapixel camera with autofocus. This is an excellent all-rounder GPS unit and it’s great for geocaching. The Garmin Oregon 550T is pricey but has great reviews.View at Amazon
Best Hiking GPS | Summary
I know this list of the best handheld GPS units is not the biggest one. But the truth is there are only a few GPS units in this category that has the good reviews and great for hiking and cycling. There are hundreds of handheld GPS units, but most of them have an awful rating or look bad for hiking. For the price of under $200, your best bet is the eTrex 20x or the eTrex 30x. These GPS units support fast GLONASS satellites, and, also have good battery life.
And for those who want to have more powerful, more comfortable to use (because of additional buttons for navigating through menus) and GPS with more features then the Garmin GPSMAP 64s is the best pick. For those, who want universal GPS unit for everything and prefer expensive products with lots of features and want a durable GPS unit to use it on the motorcycle adventure (for example) then the Garmin Oregon 550T is the right choice.