In this article, we’re exploring the best handheld GPS for all the different users who need to use GPS when out and about. Hunters, explorers, hikers, anglers and many more people who love the great outdoors can find a GPS very useful.
Our team has spent a long time creating a detailed review of 8 handheld GPS options. The Garmin Montana 610 Camo is our editor’s choice product and is well worth checking out whether you’re into geocaching or exploring places on foot. It has fantastic accuracy, performs exceptionally well in terms of battery and has excellent map features, laying out waypoints on the easy-view screen. This is one of many top handheld GPS options we’ve reviewed, and you can read our thoughts below. There are some really impressive and accurate handheld GPS models out there as you will see from the reviews we’ve created.
Top 8 Handheld GPS Review 2020
Features we’ve considered when evaluating the quality of the handheld GPS products include the battery life (the longer the better) as well as the dimensions, ease of use, display size and the memory for storing maps and caching data. We’ve also looked at how accurate the models are. It is vital that they can show exactly where you are on the map. Our guide is presented as a simple overview of the best GPS models, before we dive into detailed reviews and finally a buying guide to help you to make the very best decision on which handheld GPS is most suitable for your needs. On to our reviews of the best handheld GPS for hunting, hiking and more!
The Garmin Montana 610 Camo is our editor’s choice product. It has some exceptional features and you can tell from using it that this is a very modern GPS. It’s relatively compact and can fit into a pocket or easily into a bag. It feels similar to using a smartphone when you are on your GPS.
This GPS is very easy to use, and they’ve thought of everything a user could wish for. It’s touchscreen, and can be used even if you are wearing gloves, which you may well be for hiking! It’s also totally waterproof.
It tracks GPS and GLONASS satellites and is accurate to an incredible 2M, making it the most accurate handheld GPS, so you never have to worry about being mapped to the wrong places.
It comes loaded with 100k US maps, and also has birdseye satellite imagery, with a one-year subscription to access this.
This GPS from Garmin is also a really great tool for planning your trip. It shows topographic data on a computer via BaseCamp software and this even has elevation profiles and more data to help you plan your next trip. This makes this one of the best GPS for hiking.
The battery life and memory are pretty big and impressive, too, meaning you don’t need to worry about running out of space.
Great battery life and 8gb memory.
Preloaded with 100k US maps.
Shows MPH, elevation detail and barometric information.
The touch screen can be a little tough to use with gloves on.
Not all SD cards are compatible. Big capacities may not be suitable.
We’ve named this the best multifunctional handheld GPS as it has so many different features and functions which can be useful whether you need the best hiking handheld GPS or the best marine handheld GPS. The Garmin GPSMAP 78sc could be improved by being slightly more accurate, the 10m of accuracy is fine for a general overview, though.
This is certainly a suitable handheld marine GPS. It is IPX7 in terms of waterproof rating and this means it can withstand rain and even float in water! It has built-in charts for shorelines so it is designed for marine use.
There is a 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter built-in, so you can see things like the altitude and weather and plan your trip accordingly.
The waypoints and even routes you create can be shared wirelessly with compatible Garmin devices, which is a very smart and modern feature.
A 20-hour battery life is suitable for most of our needs. It has a 1.7GB memory which can be expanded with micro SD cards. The display size of 2.6″ is a little small for some users, so make sure you can see small screens if you’re planning to purchase this GPS.
Share routes wirelessly with other devices.
20-hour battery life.
Barometric altometer inbuilt.
Screen size is slightly small.
Accurate to 10m, this could be better in an ideal world.
The Garmin GPSMAP 64st with TOPO U.S. 100K maps has a lot of very modern features. It is similar in design to the 78sc model, but has slightly more technology driving the design and making for an amazing hiking experience.
It has a dual battery system meaning you can use either the rechargeable battery or plug-in AA batteries.
Like some of the other Garmin options, you can expand the memory with up to 8gb of external memory. It is waterproof and also very lightweight, making it suitable for users to take out just about anywhere, including on the water.
The smart features include a heart rate monitor, a camera to allow you to cache and view pictures on your smartphone, and smart notifications. It also has a temperature monitor and a compass as well as an altimeter.
This is another model with built-in geocaching locations and it also has access to BaseCamp to allow you to plan a hike or trip. Waypoints can be added, making it one of the best Handheld GPS for hunters. You can set up tree stands, game cameras and trails ready.
The screen isn’t very high resolution, but this allows it to be read even when you are in bright sunlight, which is a big bonus!
Glare resistant screen to allow you to see in bright sunlight.
Heart rate monitor.
Dual battery system.
Plan your trips with BaseCamp.
Access to 250k geocaching locations marked in your GPS.
You are probably starting to see a pattern with the brand name! Garmin manufactures a huge percentage of the best handheld GPS models on the list and their products include the Garmin inReach Explorer+ which we’ve named the best GPS for battery life. It more than justifies this claim, too. The battery life is an incredible 100 hours!
This is a clever model which allows you to send and receive text messages if you have a satellite subscription. This can be very helpful in remote areas, and your phone is likely to die long before this GPS.
A safety feature includes SOS triggering to a search and rescue center. Also, you can share your location and let people track it. This makes it one of the best handheld GPS for hiking as you can stay safe at all times.
You can pair this model with your phone, and an Earthmate app which lets you download maps and access charts and aerial imagery. The inReach Explorer+ has preloaded TOPO maps, and as well as GPS routing it has barometric data and a compass. It even gives up-to-date weather for marine use as well as hiking.
Exceptional battery life which can last 100 hours.
Send and receive text messages and also connect to SOS services.
Pair with your smartphone and download additional maps and data.
Features like the text messaging require paid subscription.
Satellite only picks you up if you are out in the open.
The Garmin etrex touch is an exceptional model if you are looking for a small and compact handheld GPS. It weighs just 5.6 oz and adds virtually no bulk to your hiking or hunting setup. You can carry it anywhere and the features are still pretty impressive! It benefits from lots of the features and functions of the other Garmin options and as such is a useful tool for planning your trips as well as using while you are out and about.
It has a 2.6 inch touchscreen display which allows the model to be even smaller as no added controls are required. It cleverly has some extra ‘activity profiles’ which allow you to change the settings for activities such as climbing, hunting, fishing and even geocaching.
As you would expect, it has a compass included and barometric altimeter. Also, this model comes with a worldwide base map and 100k US and Canada topo maps already built in.
Though this isn’t the most modern tech available, it’s a good quality, small GPS which is suitable for a variety of purposes.
Very small, fits into your pocket, or into a bag or case with ease.
Comes with access to BaseCamp for planning your trips as well as using while out and about.
Access to thousands of US and Canada maps.
Quite low resolution.
The technology has been described as being a few years old. Not the most modern GPS.
This is a very high-quality handheld GPS with some modern connectivity features as well as a very small and compact design. We’ve named it the best handheld GPS featuring Connect IQ. This technology is made by Garmin and lets you customize the device. You can put your own apps and widgets on the machine, much like a smartphone.
Because it needs to get online, this has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, which allows you to login and customize the widgets, for instance. It functions a little bit like a smartphone in this regard.
The accuracy of this comes from the GP and GLONASS reception. This gives an accurate reading to within 3m of where you are. You can get online with the Garmin Connect online community. It lets you share your data and use the data other people have shared.
The Garmin Oregon 700 Handheld GPS is pretty rugged and is both dustproof and waterproof, with a rating of IPX7. The features rival many of the other Garmin GPS options on the market.
Expandable with a micro SD card.
Customize by adding widgets you want to.
Excellent accuracy (within 3m or your location)
Can be used with the Connect IQ technology provided by Garmin.
Very compact and lightweight.
The product doesn’t show all roads on the GPS.
Some of the functions can be tough to get used to and the documentation it ships with is lacking. It’s hard to get the most out of this.
Having a GPS with smart features such as notifications on your wrist was the stuff of science fiction just 20 or 30 years ago. Now, we are able to navigate to virtually any destination using a small device sitting on our wrist. This works in a similar way to a smartwatch, and has some of the same features. The Garmin epix is a wonderful option.
The small screen is actually a touchscreen and lets you control the GPS. It is high resolution and works even when there is glare from the sunlight.
This watch has 8GB of memory inbuilt. There’s no option to add to the internal memory, naturally, this is down the small size.
You can load TOPO US maps with the memory you have.
This is another GPS that’s compatible with Connect IQ. This means you can change the watch faces, data that is available and even widgets and apps that can be added to your watch.
Garmin connect also lets you upload and download data from the Garmin community. You can even connect your email and text alerts to this GPS and access them right there on your wrist.
This is perfect for hiking and has a long 24-hour battery life.
Extremely lightweight and doesn’t even take pocket space!
Load up TOPO US maps with ease.
Connect to your notifications from your phone.
Small display size can be difficult to get used to controlling.
Yes, there is a product on our list which is not made by Garmin! Magellan eXplorist 310 Summit Series Topo Map Bundle has some good features and does a fairly accurate job. One of the main selling points of this GPS is the fact that it is quite affordable compared to a lot of the similar Garmin options.
It’s a little bit bigger and bulkier than some of the other options. It isn’t really pocket-sized, so you need to store it in a bag.
It features a lot of different details and waypoints on the map including roads, water bodies and rural/urban land. The summit series TOPO maps are included.
It has a sunlight readable screen which is 2.2”. This can be a little tough to see if you don’t have the best sight.
The 18 hours of battery life is pretty generous, but it takes AA batteries and isn’t automatically rechargeable. You have to buy separate rechargeable batteries.
A lot of people like this GPS for geocaching as it is easy to download geocaches and maps online. More and more people are enjoying paperless geocaching as a result of models like this.
The Magellan eXplorist 310 Summit Series Topo Map Bundle definitely offers something a bit different from the Garmin options and is a good choice on a budget.
Great for geocaching.
Comes with thousands of US maps.
Bulkier than some of the other options on this list.
Doesn’t come with a rechargeable battery.
As well as providing reviews of individual handheld GPS models for hiking, walking or fishing, we’ve also created a full buying guide. This can help you to understand how to make the right choice for your own needs. Depending on your own personal preferences, and what you wish to use the GPS for, you may need specific features. You may also prioritize some functionality over others depending on what you need. If you’re going for long trips, for instance, you might need a long battery life. This buying guide is designed to help you to make the right choices for you. It isn’t as simple as just recommending one handheld GPS and saying that it is the best, but your needs might be different.
Choosing the best handheld GPS
Choosing the best handheld GPS is a matter of matching up your own needs to the features and functions. Depending on what you need your GPS for, some features may be more vital.
Also, it’s good to have a full understanding of what all of these features are before you make your purchase, so that you know exactly what to expect, and how to compare one handheld GPS to another.
Battery life is always an important feature, and not something to ignore. However, for some people it is more vital than for others. If you’re going on a hike and staying somewhere overnight, you may need a GPS that will last for multiple days. The Garmin inReach Explorer+ has the best battery out of all of the products on this list. Incredibly, it can last 100 hours between charges.
Most Garmin models have fairly good batteries. 16 hours is standard. Think about whether you will have the chance to charge up your phone in between hiking or whether you need something to last multiple days.
As battery life continues to improve, the most recent handheld GPS models have better batteries than previous generations.
Display size and visibility
The display size of a handheld GPS can vary greatly depending on which model you buy. Some are tiny, and there is even a wristwatch design in the Garmin epix which is tiny. Many of the products have a 2.6″ display size. It isn’t huge, but is simple enough if you are used to a small smartphone.
Many of the models of GPS come with anti-glare screens which can be used even in bright sunshine, or when glare comes off of a lake, for instance.
The inbuilt memory allows you to download extra maps, geocaching locations and updates from the manufacturer. The Garmin Montana 610 Camo has an 8GB memory and is expandable with SD cards. This is pretty common, and many of the best handheld marine GPS and hiking GPS models are starting to incorporate expandable memories.
This is a self-explanatory feature. Having the most accurate handheld GPS will allow you to map exactly where you are as well as where different locations and waypoints on the map are. Most of the Garmin models are accurate to within 3-10M, but the Garmin Montana 610 Camo, our editor’s choice, is the most accurate handheld GPS on the list. It is accurate to within 2M.
Waterproof functionality is measured in an IPX Rating. IPX7 or above is usually understood to be totally waterproof, and this means that you can even use the product in heavy rain.
Some won’t even get damaged if you drop them in the water. Our editor’s choice, the Garmin Montana 610 Camo, is IPX7 waterproof.
Dimensions and weight
Obviously, products such as the Garmin epix wrist watch GPS is a bit of an outlier. This is a tiny design. Other models include the Garmin Oregon which has dimensions of 4.5 х 1.3 х 2.4. This is small enough to fit in your pocket.
Some of the other GPS models are larger and need to be kept in a bag really. Big and bulky models include the Magellan which is 7.1 x 10.6 x 7.2 inches. Not huge, but considerably larger.
Some handheld GPS models have extra features aimed at certain types of user or even to try and stand out from their competitors. For instance, Connect IQ technology provided by Garmin is included in many of their products. These allow you to share maps details and information with other users.
Products such as the Garmin inReach Explorer+ include the ability to send and receive messages, but a lot of the handheld GPS options can be linked to other devices to show notifications.
The price of handheld GPS products can vary hugely. The cheapest products can be picked up for around $200-300, but the products can be much more expensive depending on what sort of features you are looking for. A very high-quality handheld GPS can be bought for around $500. As you would expect, the less money you spend, the less features you’re likely to get included. At the very cheapest end of the market, some of the products are very basic. We recommend sticking to the well-known and highly rated brands.
Some models require subscriptions. The Garmin inReach Explorer+ is an example of a monthly payment GPS. It has the ability to receive and send messages, and you need a network connection for this extra functionality.
This is tricky. Not many models have this functionality, but some can be used in a car when they are mounted and hooked up to the car’s audio system. It is probably better to buy a specific car GPS too, though.
Most maps display 2D maps, for instance, the Garmin Epix features a “BirdsEye Satellite Imagery” view.
Our top-rated product is the Garmin Montana 610 Camo. We particularly like the accuracy of this handheld GPS which can locate to within 2 meters. It also has a brilliant waterproof design and is able to show sun and moon information. We’ve rated it 9.8/10.
At 9.6/10 is the Garmin GPSMAP 78sc. This is also waterproof and is one of the best handheld GPS for hiking and marine use. It has an impressive 20-hour battery life.
9.5/10 rated is a very similar product from Garmin, the GPSMAP 64st with TOPO U.S. 100K maps. It has some smart extra features including a heart rate monitor. There are loads of maps built in as well as expandable memory. Yet another fantastic Garmin option!