handheld gps attached to a mountain bike

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Welcome to the world of handheld GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) receivers. Any outdoor enthusiast needs one of these. Hunters, fishermen and women, hikers, mountain climbers, and search and rescue personnel can all enjoy being able to track their movements, navigate to set waypoints, landmarks and features or track their path and keep from getting lost.

Product FAQs for Handheld GPS Devices


What Are Handheld GPS Devices?

What Do Handheld GPS Devices Do?

How Do Handheld GPS Device Work?

Where Can I Buy Handheld GPS Units?

How We Reviewed


We judged the products us reviewed in this article on their battery life, ease of use, overall functionality, screen size, capabilities, extra functions and other specific features of each. Not every level of outdoor enthusiast will have need of every available feature but this article will help you decide which features would be most helpful to you in your outdoor adventures.

Overall Price Range Of The Handheld GPS Units Reviewed Here


Image from Amazon

The prices of the handheld GPS units listed vary according to a lot of factors. The differences are based on things like the memory, capabilities, and other functions. For instance, the high-end model also has a two-way radio and the low-end model does not. Models which can trigger a distress signal are more expensive but that is a function some may not need. The devices' 100 percent coverage of the globe can text from anywhere.

Some models have cameras and many have altimeters, accelerometers and compass functions. The features you need or want is for you to decide based on what your outdoor experience calls for. Keep in mind as your activities advance your hardware won't, so buy for the future not the present.

What We Reviewed


  • Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS
  • Garmin GPSMAP 64st
  • Garmin eTrex10 GPS
  • Garmin eTrex 20x
  • Garmin GPSMAP 64s
  • Garmin inReach Explorer+
  • Garmin inReach SE+
  • Garmin 3″ Garmin Rino 755t
  • Garmin Oregon 600t
  • Garmin Oregon 650t 3-Inch Handheld GPS
Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS
  • Features high-sensitivity GPS receiver with HotFix for improved performance and reception in heavy tree cover or deep...
  • Keeps track of routes, tracks and waypoints, and heart rate with add on heart rate monitor (sold separate). Uses...
  • TracBack feature retraces user's path on the easy-to-read LCD display;Display resolution 100 x 64 pixels;Battery life Up...

Features

The beauty of this device is it is always at the ready and never in your way. Conveniently mounted on a wrist strap, finding your position, direction and track is as simple as looking at your wrist. This handheld or rather wrist held GPS is water proof with a barometric altimeter and electronic compass.

The unit displays your track as a dotted path. Activate the back track feature and it will instantly navigate you on a reverse course to get back to where you need to be. It allows you to mark way points such as your camp, vehicle, tree stands and more. Also, you can wirelessly share your information to another Foretrex unit so you and your buddy can have access to all the same data. It tracks sunset and sunrise times and it can use wireless accessories (not included) to monitor your heart rate. The AAA batteries last up to 17 hours.

The LCD display is 100X64 pixels and the positioning capabilities will tell you elevation, distance traveled, vertical speed, current speed, and average speed. The memory is one gigabyte, and the weight is about 3.1 ounces.

Warranty

One-year limited

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Back track feature
  • Wrist mounted
  • Altimeter

Cons

  • Small screen
  • Small memory
Sale
Garmin GPSMAP 64st, TOPO U.S. 100K with High-Sensitivity GPS and...
  • Sunlight-Readable 2.6" color display. Display size-1.43 x 2.15 inches and 2.6 inch diag (6.6 cm). Battery life-16...
  • Expanded Internal Memory 8GB.Display resolution 160 x 240 pixels. Interface: high-speed USB and NMEA 0183 compatible
  • DUAL BATTERY SYSTEM Use with 2 traditional AA batteries (best with Polaroid AA batteries), or the optional rechargeable...

Features

You can read the color screen on this unit even in the harsh glare of the sun. The display dimensions are 1.43×2.15 inches and 2.6 inch diagonally with a resolution of 160×240 pixels. The internal memory is 8GB and you can use standard disposable batteries or a NiMH battery back capable of being charged while inside the unit. Optional ANT+ sensors allow you to use a heart rate monitor or control a VIRB camera (not included).

There is a barometric altimeter, and the unit comes loaded with TOPO US maps plus a 1 year subscription to BirdsEye Satellite Imagery to help you navigate even the most difficult terrain. The electronic compass is tilt stabilized and you can receive notifications wirelessly from your smart phone. The unit weighs in at 8.1 ounces and has about 16 hours battery life.

Warranty

One-year limited

Pros

  • TOPO maps included of US 
  • Satellite imagery subscription of 1 year included
  • 8GB of memory
  • Smart phone notifications on screen
  • Optional ANT+ sensors
  • Rubber grips

Cons

  • Needs better owners manual
Sale
Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator
  • Rugged handheld navigator with preloaded worldwide basemap and 2.2-inch monochrome display
  • WAAS-enabled GPS receiver with HotFix and GLONASS support for fast positioning and a reliable signal
  • Waterproof to IPX7 standards for protection against splashes, rain, etc.

Features

Extra rugged design and comes with a worldwide basemap. The display is a 2.2 inch monochrome screen. The unit has a battery life of 20 hours on 2 AA batteries. The receiver is WAAS enabled and has both GLONASS and HotFix support for reliable, accurate positioning. The unit is IPX7 standards waterproof. The unit is lightweight and fits in your pocket no problem. This is a great no frills device with a low price point to get anyone started in using handheld GPS technology.

Warranty

One-year limited

Pros

  • Price
  • Durable and rugged design
  • Accurate

Cons

  • Hard to operate with gloves on
  • Limited display features
Sale
Garmin eTrex 20x, Handheld GPS Navigator, Enhanced Memory and...
  • UPGRADED DISPLAY - Features a 2.2" 65K color sunglight readable display offering increased resolution (240 x 320 pixels)
  • LOAD MORE MAPS - Large 3.7 GB of internal memory and microSD card slot lets you load a variety of maps, including TOPO...
  • PRELOADED BASEMAP - Includes a worldwide basemap with shaded relief. Display size:1.4 x 1.7 inches

Features

This Garmin eTrex 20x is the next model up so to speak from the Garmin eTrex 10x. The color display of 65k is readable in sunlight and is 2.2 inches diagonally in measurement and the resolution comes in at 240×320 pixels with an overall dimension of 1.4×1.7 inches. Several map types are available you can subscribe to depending on your specific use and needs. For instance City Navigator, TOPO24k, HuntView, Blue-ChartG2 and more can be loaded into memory.

You can also connect the unit to an external computer to upload data, waypoints, etc. The internal memory is 3.7GB and there is a Micro SD slot for packing on any additional memory you might need. This WAAS enabled unit is a cut above the eTrex 10x but still at a good price plus 20 hours of battery life is not bad.

Warranty

One-year limited

Pros

  • 65k color screen 
  • Micro SD slot for extra memory
  • Extra rugged
  • 20 hour battery life

Cons

  • Scrolling is difficult with gloves
Garmin GPSMAP 64s Worldwide with High-Sensitivity GPS and GLONASS...
  • Sunlight-Readable 2.6" color display. Expanded Internal Memory 4GB
  • Display type is transflective, 65k color tft. Display resolution is 160 x 240 pixels
  • DUAL BATTERY SYSTEM Use with 2 traditional AA batteries, or the optional rechargeable NiMH battery pack that can be...

Features

The 2.6 inch (1.43×2.15) display is readable in sunny conditions and it renders the colors at 65k with a resolution of 160×240 pixels. You can use NiMH batteries which can be recharged onboard the device or 2 standard AA batteries. Interconnectivity between devices is wireless and the barometric altimeter, 3 axis electronic compass and optional ANT+ sensors for heart rate, temperature etc give this unit lots of capability. The onboard memory is 8GB with a Micro SD expansion slot. They estimate battery life to be 16 hours.

Warranty

One-year limited

Pros

  • Pre-loaded base maps 
  • Can be wirelessly connected to cameras

Cons

  • Too complex for beginners
Sale
Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator with TOPO...
  • 100% global Iridium satellite coverage enables two-way text messaging from anywhere (satellite subscription required)
  • Trigger an interactive SOS to the 24/7 search and rescue monitoring center
  • Track and share your location with family and friends. Water rating : IPX7. Battery : Rechargeable internal lithium ion

Features

The Garmin inReachExplorer+ is feature laden, lightweight with a full color, 2.3 inch screen and two way text messaging via satellite (with subscription). Need rescuing? Activate the SOS feature to alert the 24/7 search and rescue center. Track your location and share it with friends or family or the local authorities if you are lost or hurt. Pre-loaded TOPO maps, accelerometer, altimeter, compass, lithium ion battery, access to EarthMate along with IPX7 waterproofing standards round this unit out for lots of flexibility and capability. Up to 100 hours battery depending on the mode you select.

Warranty

One-year limited

Pros

  • SOS rescue feature 
  • Full color screen
  • Rechargeable lithium ion battery
  • 100 hour battery life

Cons

  • Tried to find a con here and just couldn't!
Sale
Garmin inReach SE+, Handheld Satellite Communicator with GPS...
  • 100% global Iridium satellite coverage enables two-way text messaging from anywhere (satellite subscription required)
  • Trigger an interactive SOS to the 24/7 search and rescue monitoring center
  • Track and share your location with family and friends. Display type : Transflective color TFT

Features

One step down from the Garmin inReachExplorer+. It has a 2.3 inch screen with 2GB of onboard memory. It has the same ability to signal for help via satellite and to send and receive texts with a subscription and has 100 percent global coverage. Unlike its upgraded counterpart, this unit has no accelerometer, barometer or compass. It is impact resistant and waterproof with a lower price. Battery life is up to 75 hours depending on the mode you are using.

Warranty

One-year limited

Pros

  • SOS capability
  • 100 percent global coverage
  • Send receive texts (with subscription)
  • 75 hour battery life
  • Price

Cons

  • Lack of compass, altimeter and accelerometer
Garmin 3" Garmin Rino 755t
  • LARGE TOUCHSCREEN DISPLAY - 3-inch sunlight-readable touchscreen display with dual orientation (landscape or portrait...
  • ABC SENSORS - 3-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass with accelerometer and barometric altimeter sensors
  • CAPTURE THE MOMENT - 8 megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash/torch;Range Up to 2 miles over FRS; up to 20 miles over...

Features

The Garmin Rino 755t comes with an 8MP camera and flash, massive 3 inch touchscreen with rotational capabilities, SD slot for extra memory, altimeter, accelerometer, compass, along with being Bluetooth capable make this an outstanding unit. 4.5 GB of memory and waterproofing rounds this beauty up to a real contender for your consideration. But wait, there is more! This unit can also function as a two way radio to give your party even more fun and capabilities. Battery life is approximately 14 hours.

Warranty

One-year limited

Pros

  • 8MP camera with flash 
  • Big 3 inch touchscreen
  • Bluetooth ready
  • Two-way radio

Cons

  • Instruction manual is confusing
  • Expensive
Garmin Oregon 600t 3-Inch Worldwide Handheld GPS with Topographic Maps
  • 3-Inch sunlight-readable, touchscreen display with multi-touch capability
  • Dual-band GPS/GLONASS satellite positioning
  • Sensors (3-axis compass, accelerometer, barometric altimeter)

Features

This device has a huge 3 inch touch screen that works well even with gloves on, it is impact resistant and has the dual battery feature so you can use standard AA batteries or an internally recharged NiMH pack. The display can function in portrait or landscape orientation. The accelerometer 3 axis compass and altimeter complete the bells and whistles for this unit. The battery life of this unit is around 16 hours.

Warranty

One-year limited

Pros

  • Big screen 
  • Touch screen controls
  • Dual batter capable
  • Landscape or portrait screen orientation
  • Impact resistant

Cons

  • Manual is poorly written
Sale
Garmin Oregon 650t 3-Inch Handheld GPS with 8MP Digital Camera (US...
  • 3-Inch sunlight-readable, touchscreen display with multi-touch capability
  • Dual-band GPS/GLONASS satellite positioning
  • Sensors (3-axis compass, accelerometer, barometric altimeter)

Features

The Garmin Oregon 650t has several memory configurations it comes in from 3.5GB down to 300MB. In choosing a product like this you can't go wrong with more so we think everything else being equal, the 3.5GB is the best choice. 16 hours of battery life, a big 3 inch screen, 8MP camera and you know this beauty means business. The battery life for this unit is approximately 16 hours.

Warranty

One-year limited

Pros

  • Big screen 
  • 8MP camera
  • Multiple memory configurations

Cons

  • Price for features

Comparison Table


The Verdict On Handheld GPS Receivers


Every handheld GPS unit reviewed here can get you from point A to point B and back again. Some do it with more style, bigger screens, touch controls, altimeters, cameras and a myriad of other bells and whistles. Two of them, though, can call for help. A camera, altimeter, and accelerometer can't get you out of trouble usually. We chose Garmin inReach SE+. It might lack a few of the niceties, but being able to alert the authorities from anywhere in the world because of that 100 percent global coverage; well, that is priceless.

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