Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our
review process here.
We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
If you're using your smartphone while cutting through the bush, you're bound to end up lost in the woods. Our collection of the best handheld GPS trackers will ensure that you never get turned around or stray too far off the beaten path.
Besides providing you with a way to keep track of your whereabouts in the wilderness, GPS trackers like the Garmin GPSMAP 64st at Amazon provide you with plenty of ways to get in touch with the outside world in emergency situations. Including providing you with an SOS beacon and NOAA weather alerts to keep you one step ahead of mother nature.
You'll also want to keep your eye out for durability if you happen to be taking an exceptionally long or hazardous trek. Above all, we'd recommend looking at a unit with above an IPX5 waterproof rating. Something like the Garmin eTrex 10 at Amazon can handle being submerged in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes without any issues.
Make sure to glance over our guide to how GPS works before you settle on one of the best handheld GPS trackers for your next excursion.
Garmin’s 64st is a top-notch, rugged and full-featured handheld GPS that excels in all the right places. The 2.6-inch color screen is very fluid when it comes to zooming in and out, which makes navigating direction easy and painless. The notable helix antenna features both GPS and GLONASS technology and allows for an additional signal boost in difficult environments. The 64st can find your position quickly and can maintain your signal even in heavy cover or deep canyons. With 16 hours of battery life, there’s enough juice to power through an entire day’s worth of traveling with room to spare.
When it comes to navigation, the 64st features 250,000 pre-loaded caching and 100,000 topographical maps, plus a one-year subscription to BirdsEye satellite imagery. Adding additional maps is easy, thanks to 8GB of onboard memory that allows for even more topographical and detailed navigation information. Additionally, the Garmin features a three-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass.
The Garmin eTrex 30x is a standout handheld GPS entry with a 2.2-inch, 240 x 320-pixel display (sure, it isn’t notably large, but it fares very well in direct sunlight). Included with the eTrex 30x is a built-in basemap with shaded relief, plus an additional 3.7GB of onboard memory and an expandable memory microSD slot for added maps. To make navigating and location identifying easier, the eTrex 30x supports a built-in three-axis tilt that works as an electronic compass and barometric altimeter to track changes in pressure and pinpoint precise altitude. Speaking of identifying your location, the GPS receiver and HotFix satellite prediction helps maintain a signal even if you’re in heavy cover or deep canyons.
As one of the first consumer-grade handheld GPS trackers that operates on both GPS and GLONASS satellites, the eTrex 30x identifies or “locks on” to your location approximately 20 percent faster than just standard GPS. And planning your next trip is a breeze, thanks to free trip-planning software that allows you to connect with other friends or family that utilize Garmin GPS devices to share your plans and itinerary with Garmin Adventures. Beyond travel planning, the eTrex can store up to 200 routes and 2,000 waypoints to make your next trip even easier to plan before you head out on the trail or over the water. Running on two AA batteries, the eTrex runs 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 around 30 minutes.
If it’s bells and whistles you want, the Garmin Montana 680 is the best way to spend your money on a handheld GPS that’s built for all kinds of activity. Capable of picking up both GPS and GLONASS networks, the Montana offers some of the best reception available on today’s handheld GPS devices. At 10.2-ounces, it’s slightly heavier than most of its competition, but, with a large four-inch dual-orientation and glove-friendly touchscreen display, it offers a large view of the world around you. There’s just one button on the side for power, while the rest of the functionality is all handled on the display itself (although it lacks multi-touch, which means operating the display requires just one finger).
In addition to an eight-megapixel camera, Garmin pre-loads more than 100,000 topographical maps, 250,000 worldwide geocaches, as well as includes a one-year subscription to Birdseye satellite imagery. Add in a three-axis compass, barometric altimeter and automatic geotagging of photos and you’ve got a bevy of options beyond just the standard GPS tracking. Additionally, Garmin adds extras like trip pre-planning with their basecamp software, so you can share it with friends or family. Battery life is around 16 hours.
The Garmin inReach Explorer+ and its 100 hours of battery life make for an exceptional handheld GPS tracker. Unlike other traditional GPS units, the Explorer+ offers a host of features beyond typical GPS navigation, including two-way satellite messaging and SOS tracking capabilities that connect to a search and rescue center. Additionally, the Explorer+ acts as a GPS tracker and offers 10-minute to four-hour intervals for location transmission. If there’s one limiting factor to this unit, it’s the display, which at 1.8-inches, is relatively small for today’s GPS. But, it’s worth overlooking for the longest-running battery life on this list.
At just over seven ounces, this robust tracker doesn’t add or remove anything that would alarm a handheld GPS shopper. Beyond the battery, the standard fare of GPS navigation is all here, including creating and viewing routes, dropping waypoints and navigating with an on-screen map. Additionally, you’ll find route details such as distance and bearing to your location. Garmin also offers Bluetooth pairing with your smartphone for the Earthmate mobile app, which provides additional statistics, as well as unlimited topographic and US NOAA chart downloads to your smartphone. DeLorme also includes a digital compass, barometric altimeter, and accelerometer for additional navigation support.
Tthe 310 Summit Series caught our eye because it brings to the table a variety of expanded maps and functionality that you shouldn’t ignore when you’re in the market for a dedicated hiking GPS. What are those features? Well, the flagship inclusion in this pack is the bundled-up topographic map set that Magellan calls their Summit Series maps. This gives you a detailed set of topography throughout a variety of popular hiking mountains throughout the world, which is better than a blanketed, one-size-fits-all topography approach.
In addition, you’ll get detailed road work, water features and even insanely remote rural mapping. The brilliant, sunlight-readable 2.2-inch display is on-par with many of the Garmins, and there’s even a paperless Geocaching option that lets you pull maps for use and reference when not connected to the outside world. The user-friendliness isn’t quite as tried and true as Garmin, but that’s to be expected. It’s the bundled up topographical maps that set this GPS apart from the rest of the Magellan line.
The Oregon line is somewhat known for its screen quality as they all feature full, super-bright (as in fully sunlight readable) displays that are all three inches. And the Garmin Oregon 600t is no different. It's also multi-touch enabled, so you can pinch and slide to find the exact location you’re looking for. The 600t comes with ANT and Bluetooth functionality for some additional connectivity, and there are topographical maps to go with your location-based scouting to ensure that your climbs go to plan.
Now, there is a 650t, but as best as we can tell, the only major difference here was the inclusion of an 8MP digital camera in the 650t. If you’re hiking, chances are you’re bringing your phone with you which almost certainly has a better cam, so you want your hiking GPS to focus on doing what it does best: positioning you on a map. So, going with the 600t, because you’ll get into Garmin’s gorgeous Oregon line for a lower price point than the 650t without the arguably unnecessary digital camera.
The rugged Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS meets IPX7 standards of waterproofing and can be immersed in one meter of water for 30 minutes. So you know it won’t be harmed by either rainfall or heavy splashing that you might experience while roughing it in the great outdoors.
The Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheled GPS weighs 9.1 ounces and measures 1.4 x 1.7 x 2.2 inches with a 2.2-inch monochrome display face. It features 50 routes (200 with its eTrex 30x version) and has a 20-hour battery life with two AA batteries. Users can save over 10,000 points and 200 saved tracks in its logging system, allowing them to re-visit old sites. Its GPS receiver is WAAS-enabled with HotFix and GLONASS support, so you’ll always have fast positioning and a reliable signal in the middle of nowhere. It comes with a one-year consumer limited warranty.
If you plan on taking an extended hike through unfamiliar territory, you can't do much better than the Garmin GPSMAP 64st, which brings together an intuitive interface, excellent durability, and lengthy battery life. However, if your trip is taking you over water or through a particularly damp climate, we'd recommend the Garmin eTrex 10 for its IPX7 water resistance rating.
Battery life - Considering you’ll likely be relying on your handheld GPS tracker to navigate — as well as help you find your way if you’re lost — battery life is incredibly important. The type of battery is important, too; rechargeable batteries can be more convenient, but swappable batteries mean you can carry an extra set on the go.
Map features - It may seem like mapping software is pretty standard, but you’d be surprised how many features you can add on. Do you want topographical maps? What about built-in geocaching information? If you spend a little more, you can get a really nice set of maps for your device.
Weight - When you’re hiking, you want to carry as little as possible so as not to be overburdened. That extends to your handheld GPS. Most of these devices are pretty lightweight, but you want to make sure you’re making proper tradeoffs. A tiny device might have too small a screen to be able to see in bright sunlight.