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Top 5 GPS Navigation Devices of 2019 for Hiking and Backpacking

Having a GPS navigation device on hand while hiking can make things more convenient as it helps you navigate anywhere. The article lists the top 5 GPS navigation units and you can find the best one that meets your needs.

By Joy | @Joy

Updated on Oct 22, 2020

Want to explore new trails and know your exact geographical location when you are hiking in the mountains? Actually, GPS navigation is becoming as common as map-reading. Hikers often use portable GPS maps, because hiking is an adventure for people and there is nothing more terrible than losing your way in the mountain or woods and not knowing which direction to turn. Make sure you have a multifunctional GPS navigation device on hand as it can make things a lot more convenient and help you navigate anywhere. It even potentially save your life under certain conditions as some GPS devices have their own apps that can be enabled on most smartphones and then you can communicate with team members, even send an SOS signal via app. 

With a variety of options on the market, it might be quite difficult for you to find a hiking GPS device that suits your budget and preference well. Keep reading. In this article, we share you with the top 5 GPS navigation devices to help you easily and quickly find your way while hiking.

1. Garmin GPSMAP 64st Handheld GPS Navigation Devices for Hiking - Best Display 

Garmin GPSMAP 64st is one of the best handheld hiking GPS navigation units designed with the 2.6 inch color screen that is very fluid when zooming in and out. When it comes to navigation, the 64st comes with the TOPO U.S. 100k maps, 250,000 preloaded caching and a one-year BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription, helping determine your exact location and navigate you to the destintion. It is also equipped with a helix antenna that can track both GPS and GLONASS satellites at the same time and allow for an additional signal boost in a difficult environment, which increases the satellite lock speed as well as the positioning accuracy. 

Handheld GPS Navigation Devices for Hiking

With 8GB of expanded internal memory, it offers a dual battery system and can be used with 2 traditional AA batteries or a rechargeable NiMH battery pack. The battery life is not so long, just around 16 hours. Additionally, it features a three-axis electronic compass, barometric altimeter and Bluetooth chipset that allows you to wirelessly connect it to your smartphone or other Bluetooth devices. It also supports some notifications from your smartphone that can be directly displayed on this GPS map locator, such as text messages, missed calls, other alerts, etc.

  • Durability
  • Accurate navigation
  • Better reception
  • Bright display
  • Large
  • Heavy
  • Poor battery life

2. Garmin Montana 680t - the Most Expensive GPS Navigation Device for Hiking

The Garmin Montana 680t is also a good GPS navigation for hiking, possessing a great deal of properties that allow you to fastly find the position with precision, such as high-sensitivity, WAAS-enabled GPS receiver, Hotfix satellite predictions and GLONASS support. Its 8 megapixel digital camera helps you capture high quality images for your hiking. In addition to this camera, it preloads more than 100,000 topographical maps, 250,000 worldwide geocaches and a one-year subscription to Birdseye satellite imagery so that you can find your way easily. It also has a three-axis compass, barometric altimeter and automatic geotagging of your photos.

 the Most Expensive GPS Navigation Device for Hiking

The 680t adds extra functionality like pre-planning with its basecamp software so that you can share with your friends and family. This device is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery but also can run on 3 standard AA batteries. The lifetime of the lithium-ion battery is approximately 16 hours, which is shorter than that of 3 AA batteries (about 22 hours).

  • Readability
  • Glove-friendly display
  • Big screen
  • Heavy
  • Expensive

3. GoFindMe GPS Navigation Device - Best Battery Life

GoFindMe is a great option for you when choosing GPS navigation device for hiking, camping, mountain climbing, skiing, etc. It is equipped with high precision GPS positioning chip, as well as many useful features like durable OLED light, default built-in antenna, convenient Speaker with built-in commonly used voice, and much more. In general, it’s difficult for people to get a good signal while hiking, but GoFindMe is designed to realize the real-time location monitoring, tracking and navigation, text or voice transmission, etc. under the condition of no signal. With its app, you can clearly see the route on map, set a geofence, communicate with your team members, and even send an SOS signal.

GoFindMe GPS Tracker Real-Time Tracking for Outdoors and Families
  • • Track, locate and find people in real time
  • • No SIM card, no subscription and no monthly fees
  • Learn More >

With a built-in quick release clip, it is easily accessible at all times because of its compact size and can also be quickly and conveniently attached to your backpacks, handbags, hiking buckle, pet collar. What’s more, the battery life can last up to 72 hours, but note that it all depends on your device settings.

  • Best battery Life
  • Small volume
  • No monthly fee
  • No SIM card
  • No network required
  • Durability
  • Waterproof, dustproof and shockproof
  • Supports low temperature
  • No custom voice 

4. Garmin eTrex 30x - Best Multi-use GPS Navigation Device for Hiking

The Garmin eTrex 30x provides good resolution for a 2.2 inch, 240 x 320 pixels display and can show 65,000 colors. Although it is not particularly large, it offers sufficient readability so that you can use it well in direct sunlight. The eTrex 30x includes a built-in basemap with shadow relief, plus a 3.7GB of onboard memory and an expandable memory microSD slot for adding maps, which allow you to quickly find your destination with the help of maps.

To make navigating and location identifying easier, this GPS device supports a built-in 3-axis tilt that works as an electronic compass and barometric altimeter. The electronic compass will show your heading even when you are not moving or when the device is not completely leveled. Its barometric altimeter will track changes in pressure so that you can know your exact altitude and can also be used to predict weather. 

Best Multi-use GPS Navigation Device for Hiking

When it comes to identifying your location quickly and precisely, the GPS receivers and HotFix satellite prediction can help maintain the signal even if you're in deep canyons. The eTrex is powered by two AA batteries and can run up to 25 hours on a single charge. With an IPX7 rating, the device is water-resistant and can be submerged up to one meter for about 30 minutes.

  • Longer battery life
  • Portability
  • GLONASS support
  • Small screen

5. Satmap Active 20 - the Heaviest GPS Navigation Device for Hiking

Satmap Active 20 weighs 11 ounces, equipping with a 3.5 inch high resolution display. It is a simple but effective handheld GPS device that is suitable for beginners as well as professionals. There are big buttons designed on the device that allow you to easily use the navigator in any cases, even when you are wearing gloves or when your fingers begin to grow numb.

the Heaviest GPS Navigation Device for Hiking

It is also equipped with Bluetooth smart capabilities that allow you to share routes wirelessly over Bluetooth and connect additional devices, like a heart rate belt. A built-in barometric altimeter provides accurate readings for you while hiking. Note that the included rechargeable battery can last for up to 16 hours and can be replaced with 3 AA batteries.

  • Big screen
  • Big buttons
  • Heavy

What Are the Consideration Factors When Purchasing Hiking GPS Navigator?

After reading through the top 5 GPS navigator for hiking, you probably still don’t know which one is the best for you. Or do you know what factors should be considered when you are selecting a hiking GPS device. Keep reading. We list some important consideration factors here to help you choose the best one quickly.

 What Are the Consideration Factors When Purchasing Hiking GPS Navigator

1. Durability, waterproof and shockproof

Make sure that your GPS navigation device have a robust design and is made of materials with good impact and wear resistance. It’s important to choose the device that can withstand even the hottest or coldest weather conditions as you will use it outside. In addition, the GPS device should be waterproof so that you can use it safely in rainy weather. 

2. Portability

Smaller device is more suitable for people who like hiking and mountaineering. To hike faster and easier, you’d better choose lightweight hiking GPS navigator as mini GPS devices can always be attached to your clothing, shoes, bags, dogs, kids, etc. leaving your hands free.

3. Battery life

Longer battery life will be one of the most consideration factors when choosing a GPS device. Do you want to the battery of your GPS navigation device run out while you are in the middle of an unknown location? The answer should definitely be “No”. Choosing a device with rechargeable battery will be a great option for you.

4. Network requirement

Some devices will transmit data over a cellular network, which means that they will fail to transmit data in real time when you enter an area with very limited network signal. This factor can be crucial for outdoor lovers, especially for some people who prefer to find new paths in some faraway places. In such situation, you need to make sure you choose a GPS navigator that can help you find the way under the condition of no signal.

Bonus Tip: A Beginner’s Guide to Using Hiking GPS Navigation Devices

Long time ago, people navigated the road by following the position of the sun and the northern star. After that, hikers learned to use a compass, astrolabe, topographic maps to find their way while on adventure. Today, GPS navigator is being used to help hikers find the right direction, so it's better to know how to use them before hiking in a forest or mountain area.

 Beginner’s Guide to Using Hiking GPS Navigation Devices

Step 1. Be sure to have your equipment ready before you leave and make sure it is fully charged or has a new battery. If you have access, you can also upload topographic maps of hiking trails, or get a laminated map from the local bookstore for backup.

Step 2. Make sure that you clearly know how to use devices to navigate the road while hiking. It will be easier for you if you have detailed topographic maps on your GPS navigation device or on the app, because you can zoom in and out to see where you are on the map.

Step 3. Choose one GPS navigation device listed above to help you determine your exact location. Most topographic maps come with latitude and longitude information and you’d better use degrees, minutes, and seconds to read this. Note that the stronger satellite signals will offer more precise navigation.

Step 4. You can verify your location by using landmarks. GPS navigator also tends to use its compass function to help you. After determining your location, use this feature to check landmarks and carefully check your location. Just look at the map to see what's going on.

Step 5. Remember to check your location from time to time so that you can make sure you're on the right track. Drinking water and snacking regularly is a good way to check your location. The longer you wait between checks, the longer it takes to get back.

Also read: How to Use a Compass [Beginners’ Guide]

Our Top Pick

GoFindMe is a good portable GPS navigator that can work well under the condition of no signal, even can work in extremely low temperature. Furthermore, you can communicate with your team members anytime and send a SOS rescue in the case of an emergency via its app.

Go Get GoFindMe Real-Time GPS Tracker at the Best Price

Bottom Line:

The goal of this article is to make your life easier when it comes to choosing the best GPS navigation devices for hiking and backpacking. After reading through the whole options, hope you can find the one that can easily and quickly navigate your way while hiking. If you have any question, just leave us a comment below.

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