The 8 Best Handheld GPS Trackers to Buy in 2017

Don't head out on your adventure without one

Whether you’re hiking in the woods or deep water fishing, knowing where you are at any given time is a must. In today’s world, a handheld GPS is the technological equivalent of a map and a compass all rolled into one. The addition of new features in recent years, including potential hazards, water depth and a thermometer have increased the use cases for the GPS beyond just navigating direction. When you’re heading into unfamiliar territory, a handheld GPS unit isn’t just a good suggestion, it’s an essential item so that you can find your direction, whenever, wherever. Take a look at our best picks below, which are mostly from Garmin, the industry experts when it comes to handheld GPS trackers.

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 on-board memory that allows for even more topographical and detailed navigation information. Additionally, the Garmin features a three-axis tilt compensated electronic compass.

If you’re looking for a handheld GPS that’s packed with features, the Garmin Oregon 650t is calling your name. At just 7.4-ounces, the 650t features a three-inch 400 x 240-pixel touchscreen display with multi-touch capability and a LED backlight. The touchscreen is ideally suited for multiple environments and can even be used with gloves in freezing or wet elements that are not suited for direct finger contact. Additionally, the display itself adjusts for both vivid sunlight and shade so that it allows the same accuracy in both types of lighting conditions. Powering the display and the rest of the IPX7 waterproof body are two separately purchased AA batteries or an included NiMH battery pack that offers 16 hours of life on one charge.

The 650t excels at pinpointing your exact location utilizing both GPS and GLONASS satellite positioning along with a three-axis compass, accelerometer and barometric altimeter for additional sensor information. The inclusion of 100,000 pre-loaded topographical maps with shaded relief pairs well with the multi-touch interaction capability. Alongside the pre-loaded maps is 3.7GB of onboard memory, as well as expandable memory via a microSD card for a slew of additional maps, including topographical information or turn-by-turn routing on roads. Add in an eight-megapixel camera for capturing the wild and Bluetooth for sharing maps with friends and the Oregon 650t is well worth the price of admission.

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.

While Garmin typically dominates the handheld GPS industry, DeLorme’s inReach Explorer and its 100 hours of battery life make for an exceptional unit. Unlike Garmin’s traditional GPS units, DeLorme 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 DeLorme acts as a GPS tracker and offers 10-minute to four-hour intervals for location transmission. If there’s one limiting factor on the DeLorme, 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 seven ounces, the DeLorme 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. DeLorme 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.

While all handheld GPS units can serve multiple purposes, the Garmin eTrex Touch 35t specifically includes activity profiles. In that sense, the eTrex offers easy-to-use navigation for different types of activities, including climbing, hiking, hunting, biking, geocaching, fishing and more. At just 5.6 ounces, the handheld eTrex can easily be mounted on a bike or locked in place on a boat and it allows navigation utilizing any of the pre-loaded 100,000 topographical maps. The body itself is both rugged and waterproof and utilizes both GPS and GLONASS signal receiving through a hotfix antenna for pinpoint GPS accuracy.

Adding the three-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass and barometric altimeter and the eTrex can identify your heading even if you’re standing still. The navigation itself is handled on a 2.6-inch capacitive touchscreen display that offers clear visibility in all types of weather conditions (even under the bright sunlight). The 16 hours of battery life through two separately purchased AA batteries is right around the average for GPS units. Beyond battery life and display, the eTrex also offers accessories such as a heart rate monitor, foot pod and external thermometer for additional sources of information while on the move.

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.

The Garmin 72H marine GPS offers a host of similar features to today’s GPS unit with one big exception, it floats in water. The 72H offers the same minimum standard of IPX7 standard durability that allows the unit to be submerged in up to one meter of water for up to 30 minutes. Where the 72H goes beyond the defacto minimum of today’s GPS is the floating body that makes it perfect for boating, watersports or any sort of hiking where rivers, ravines or lakes are likely to be encountered. Weighing just six ounces, the 120 x 160-pixel grayscale display is a major differentiator between the color displays of other GPS units without sacrificing any necessary capabilities.

As a marine-friendly handheld GPS unit, the built-in celestial data includes tide information, as well as sunrise and sunset times and a fishing and hunting calendar. The high-sensitivity receiver offers quick GPS signal acquisition and can handle challenging conditions such as heavy tree cover or deep canyons without skipping a beat. Additionally, the 72H is built to save up to 500 of your favorite destinations in its memory and point you to your destination. Unlike other GPS units on this list, there are no street or terrain maps since this one is geared for a different, more marine-friendly purpose.

A handheld GPS that doubles as a two-way radio for communicating by voice call or unit-to-unit text messaging? It might sound like Garmin is getting a little carried away with new features, but if you’re on the trail with other hikers and far away from cell range, the Garmin Rino 750 just might be everything you want and more. Featuring a large three-inch touchscreen display with dual orientation (landscape or portrait view), the Rino 750 offers all the standard fare of a GPS unit with some extras you won’t find on other units. Garmin’s inclusion of active weather forecasts and animated weather radar are perfect for reviewing on-the-go, so you can plan just how far you want to travel on any given day or skip a day’s travel altogether if there are approaching inclement conditions. Additionally, the Rino 750 includes Bluetooth connectivity via an audio headset for improved voice communication. To top things off, Garmin even included smart notifications and automatic uploads for Garmin’s Connect online network.

At the end of the day, it’s the two-way radio that’s most notable about the 750 and the opportunity to communicate with other users or to report emergencies. Rino 750 users on the same channel can find and notify you that help is on the way. You can also set your exact location on a map and let Rino 750 owners see you on their own map page. Beyond the two-way communication, the 750 offers GPS and GLONASS positioning, three-axis compass for identifying position without holding the unit level and a pre-installed worldwide, shaded-relief map. Lastly, the Rino offers IPX7 waterproofing and durability, as well as 14 hours of battery life in the field.

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