For outdoor and mountain activities such as hiking, trekking, or mountaineering, the practitioner needs to have good visibility and not get lost. To this end, he must ideally have suitable equipment, among which the GPS is essential, and hiking poles. Portable GPS is of great use in hiking and other mountain activities.
To regain visibility and choose the ideal path in high-risk landscapes, GPS is essential equipment for any hiker.
It has various advantages compared to other devices like smartphones. Route planning, easy insertion of new waypoints are all possibilities offered by this device. However, you have to be able to choose your GPS well to benefit from these different advantages. This assumes knowledge of the most efficient models available on the market and the main methods to consider when making a choice.
Why equip yourself with a hiking GPS?
GPS is essential equipment for a fair and safe hike. The hiking GPS serves as a compass and reference point for the hiker and allows him to find his way on his route at any time. With the benefit of this equipment, the hiker quickly regains his visibility on rugged terrain. When a landscape turns out to be impractical, the GPS facilitates his location and allows him to find the right path at the hiker’s risk of getting lost.
It is hiking equipment that makes it easier for its user to follow their route. It is very precise since it integrates both a compass and an altimeter. This must be added as the classic GPS and map reading function that some models of this equipment traditionally offer.
It should be noted that the hiking GPS operates separately from that of a car. While the latter is focused on the destination, the hiking GPS has an entirely different purpose. He is interested in the path to be taken by the hiker. Thanks to this specificity, the hiking GPS is more precise and can be used in any season, making it possible to face all kinds of visibility.
It presents more precise information maps and, for some models, satellite images. This means that all hiking GPS does not offer the same performance. While some are limited to essential functions, others embed the latest technologies in terms of location. Of course, some models are more precise and more reliable than others. The hiker will then have to choose his GPS according to his needs and expectations. For this purpose, it is already necessary that he knows the different types of hiking GPS that exist.
Comparison of the best hiking GPS: TOP8 and Reviews
1- Garmin eTrex 20x Hiking GPS
It is a GPS known for its integrated cartography and its high resolution. It is an improved version of the eTrex 20 and stands out for its more optimized screen and larger internal memory, allowing it to integrate more maps. It is a GPS with the Garmin TopoActive Western Europe map preloaded and anti-glare technology. Waterproof and resistant, it has a 2.2-inch screen for 65,000 colors.
Equipped with a high sensitivity GPS receiver, this hiking device has a wide range of compatible mounts, which allow the hiker to attach it anywhere. Global base map with shaded relief, 4 GB of internal memory with an expandable micro SD card, City Navigator NT card for voice guidance are some of the other GPS features.
2- Garmin GPSMAP 64s hiking GPS
The Garmin GPSMAP 64s is a high sensitivity device that combines a GPS receiver and GLONASS and has a Quad Helix antenna for optimal reception and fast geolocation in dense forests and narrow valleys. It is a GPS that lends itself well to use in large spaces because it has an internal memory of 4 GB for storing routes and a micro SD card reader for adding maps. In addition to these characteristics, it is necessary to count the double power supply of the battery.
The GPSMAP 64s is especially suited to harsh conditions and offers unparalleled readability, thanks to a bright 2.6-inch anti-glare color display. It remains very efficient in cold, humid, and unstable environments and is compatible with gloves. It also includes a dual power system for convenient recharging directly on the device or traditional AA batteries.
3- Garmin Foretrex 701 hiking GPS
This is a hiking GPS designed according to military standards and integrating the Foretrex 601 and 701 GPS navigation systems. It embeds the AB Elite software and combines the GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo satellites. Being equipment of military manufacture, this GPS is characterized by its solidity and withstands extreme temperatures and shocks. With night vision and binocular support, this GPS allows hiking in the most hostile terrain, using its three satellite systems mentioned above. In navigation mode, this GPS battery has a battery life of two days, which extends for a full week when the hiker switches to UltraTrac mode. The device is also equipped with ABC sensors (altimeter, barometer, and compass). For sports shooters,
4- GPS for Garmin Oregon 700 hiking
The Garmin Oregon 700 is a GPS characterized by the efficient and precise navigation it provides to the hiker. It has an optimized GPS and GLONASS antenna, which promotes rapid reception of satellite signals. Its main features are multiple wireless connectivity, dynamic weather function with animated radar data overlay, 3-axis electronic compass, and barometric altimeter.
Besides, the Oregon 700 has the TracBack feature, which helps hikers retrace their steps when they get lost. If he wishes to return to particular points, this Garmin GPS allows him to mark these locations. Thanks to its dual power supply (rechargeable lithium-ion battery and conventional AA alkaline batteries), it offers excellent autonomy. It also has a wireless connection to Geocaching.com for a more straightforward interpretation of routes. With the BaseCamp software, it allows hikers to prepare their maps, trails, and paths. This model is often considered the best hiking GPS by the most seasoned hikers.
5- Garmin eTrex 30x GPS
The eTrex 30x is a preloaded cartographic GPS with 3-axis electronic compass with a high-resolution display on a 2.2-inch screen for 65,000 colors. Easy to use and affordable, the eTrex 30x offers advanced features compared to the eTrex 30; it also has an anti-reflective screen. It is resistant to water, humidity, and dust, thanks to its stable housing.
When the hiker is at a standstill or does not hold his GPS horizontally, the 3-axis electronic compass integrated into the device displays his heading. This hiking accessory has an internal memory of 4 GB and can take a micro SD card.
6- Garmin Montana 680T hiking GPS
Thanks to the new GPS and GLONASS, the Montana 680T is a GPS that provides faster and higher quality satellite data. It is designed with a 4-inch dual-orientation screen and is optimized for the outdoors. A guarantee of increased visibility, this GPS ensures remarkable readability foolproof. 8-megapixel camera, optimized track manager, universal navigation, highly versatile editing, ABC system, the Garmin Montana 680T also has interesting preinstalled content. This is evidenced by the Leisure Map of Europe, the 250,000 Geocaching.com treasure hunts, and the one-year subscription to BirdsEye satellite images. This device can be used without recharging for 16 hours in a row because it has a dual battery and battery power supply.
7- GPS for the Garmin ForeTrex 401 hike
The ForeTrex model is a GPS watch recommended for experienced hikers. It is an innovative product, distinguished by remarkable precision. ForeTrex is designed in measured dimensions, which makes it light in weight. Equipped with high precision, this device is used in several armies. Reliable and precise, it is a GPS that is easily attached to the wrist and guarantees 17 hours of continuous autonomy.
8- Suunto Traverse Alpha Hiking GPS Watch
This is an outdoor GPS watch dedicated to walking and hiking. Waterproof and black, this Hiking GPS watch has excellent battery life (up to 100 hours). It is characterized by special functions such as route navigation, location and POU, route plotting with waypoints, and automatic fire detection function. This GPS watch measures steps or calories and is used to record the times of sunrise and sunset. Compass, barometric altimeter, weather trends, and storm alerts are the other features of this GPS watch. Added to this are a fast GPS / GLONASS system and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. Very efficient, this device ensures a safe walk or hike,
The different types of GPS for hiking
There are different versions of GPS on the market. They are distinguished from each other by their characteristics and the level of precision they offer.
GPS for hiking: Also called portable hiking GPS, GPS is a type of GPS used for trail running or treks. It is a variant of GPS that stands out for its memory because this allows it to load new maps. Likewise, it is interesting in terms of practicality, being a small piece of equipment that slips easily into the hiker’s pocket.
GPS for mountain biking: The GPS for mountain biking has similarities with the walking GPS. However, it differs from it because it must be fixed continuously and stable to be easily consulted without having to let go of the handlebars.
The GPS watch for all sports: The multisport GPS watch has the particularity of not being a GPS used to locate oneself or find one’s way. Instead, it is a sports performance tracking GPS. Most of the time, it is associated with a hiking GPS, which has different functions. The two accessories then complement each other.
How to choose your hiking GPS?
Many parameters are taken into account when choosing a hiking GPS. They are of various kinds.
Height and weight
Hiking is an activity that requires light equipment. They guarantee a more significant margin of maneuver for the hiker in terms of mobility and movements. This is why it is vital to opt for a reasonably sized, ideally compact GPS that can easily be transported.
The weight should ideally be below so as not to weigh too much on the hiker. The idea is to be able to walk faster and easier. For this, the GPS’s weight must be a mix between a sizeable multifunction GPS and a small, simple device according to the hiker’s profile. However, it must be said that a GPS model’s choice must combine both aspects of weight and that of dimensions. These are two modalities that must be in harmony.
The size of the screen is an essential criterion for choosing a GPS. Therefore, it is imperative that the GPS screen is of a suitable size to facilitate the readability of data and maps. For example, for touch screens, it is vital that they be large to simplify handling. The problem with oversized screens is the weight. They usually weigh a lot.
It is recommended to consider the sturdiness when choosing a GPS hiking device, knowing that it will be used as part of intensive activity. For this, a GPS distinguished by its robustness is an asset, which is more when it is designed with materials having a high resistance to abrasion and shocks.
The criterion of solidity goes hand in hand with that of waterproofing. Thanks to a good seal, it will be possible for the hiker to fully enjoy his device’s advantages, even in rainy weather. In this sense, a GPS device with the IPX7 standard supporting temporary immersion up to 1 meter would be a perfect choice.
This is a criterion that determines the quality of the hiking experience, but also that of the GPS. As a general rule, most GPS devices available on the market offer a battery life of between 6 and 22 hours. To avoid unpleasant surprises, it is advisable to choose GPS offering a dual power system (battery + batteries). Also, devices using rechargeable AA or AAA batteries are fascinating since the hiker can set off with several recharges.
This is GPS’s ability to connect to devices such as smartphones, sports cameras, heart rate monitors, and other temperature sensing devices. Thanks to the connectivity, these devices can be directly controlled by the GPS, displaying various information on the screen. It is also possible for hikers with specific GPS models to receive notifications from their smartphone to their GPS via Bluetooth.
There are GPS models that come with mapping software as well as a preloaded map. Thanks to the software, the hiker can plan his hike by creating routes, waypoints, and waypoints and then import them into the device. Often the planning software also provides the hiker with advanced information related to the paths he has created. These include distance, altitude, etc.
More and more, the new models of hiking GPS are at the cutting edge of technology. They go beyond the simple map and positioning provision and are now equipped with other beneficial functions. Among them are the barometric altimeter and the electronic compass. When the signal is lost, they continue to operate. Their usefulness is remarkable when hiking in narrow valleys and dense woods, where signal reception is problematic.
Likewise, depending on the level of use and the hiker’s experience, certain features of the GPS can be real assets. These features are in addition to those already mentioned above. These include topographic maps, data sharing systems, compass, camera, touch screen, etc. These are the details that make the difference and determine one GPS’s choice to the detriment of another.
Positioning technology is understood here as a GPS’s ability to integrate GLONASS, an alternative to GPS. A device that incorporates GLONASS and GPS has the gift of being more precise and ensuring a speedy location. On rugged terrain, devices that combine these two functions are more accurate and can quickly locate the hiker. Thanks to the WAAS function, it is even possible for the hiker in some cases to take advantage of the GPS signal corrections. Likewise, the positioning speed can be optimized using the Hotfix function, which calculates and records the satellite positions over three days.
The advantages of hiking GPS over smartphones
Compared to the smartphone, the hiking GPS is much more waterproof and more robust. It has a longer lifespan. Besides, it can be used with rechargeable AA or AAA batteries. This means that the batteries can be replaced when they run out, which is not the case with a functional smartphone using a non-replaceable lithium-ion battery. To be operational when discharging, the smartphone must be accompanied by a portable charger.
Also, the hiking GPS is more reliable than the smartphone. A hiking GPS can easily survive harsh weather conditions, knocks, and splashing water. However, at the slightest shock, the screen of the smartphone cracks easily.
Also, the hiking GPS is designed to capture several satellites at the same time. Therefore, it is naturally more precise than the smartphone, which, in rugged terrain, can be useless.
What budget to plan?
To buy a hiking GPS, it is recommended to choose a mid-range model or high-end, depending on the hiker’s financial capabilities. A mid-range GPS generally offers good value for money, while a high-end GPS also meets this criterion, in addition to having several options and features. This is what makes the high-end models so unique. In any case, you have to plan between 50 and 500 euros to afford a hiking GPS.
Garmin, the best brand of hiking GPS
Given the GPS models presented, the Garmin brand stands out remarkably. Already, it offers a wide range of hiking GPS with variable characteristics that adapt to the requirements of each hiker. Also, it should be emphasized that the Garmin brand GPS are all the latest generation equipment. To this end, they are equipped with the latest technologies in terms of location and route recording.
Likewise, the integration of specific software and GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo satellites, depending on the model, is a significant advantage of Garmin GPS.
The Garmin Montana 680T perfectly illustrates the quality and level of performance of the American brand’s GPS. Besides, the brand’s GPS watches meet all these criteria of quality, modernity, and performance, making Garmin the benchmark in terms of hiking GPS.