Getting lost in the bliss of the wilderness is an enriching experience. As long as you’re not literally lost in the woods. To make sure you know where you are and where you’re going, you’ll need to have the proper navigation tools with you. For many, this means having a good handheld GPS. It doesn’t matter if you’re a hiker, a fisherman, hunter, or a backwoods explorer, having the right tools will help you find your route, and stay safe.

The best handheld GPS systems are manufactured by Garmin. A powerhouse in the industry, they have been leading the market of GPS systems for years and they still set the standard. The days of carrying a map and compass are long gone. Although they can be a good back up option. Now, professionals and amateurs alike enjoy the precision and convenience of a Garmin handheld GPS. Here is a list of our ten favorites Garmin GPS systems. Along with a buyer’s guide to help you figure out what is the best option for you.

View The Best Garmin Handheld GPS Below

1. Garmin Oregon 650t 3-Inch Handheld GPS

Garmin Oregon 650t 3-Inch Handheld GPS

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The Garmin Oregon GPS is a good entry option for people new to a handheld GPS. This one uses GLONASS positioning which is a very accurate satellite network. The 3-inch screen is easily readable in all weather including direct sunlight so you can always see where you are. It features a 3-axis compass, an accelerometer, and a barometric altimeter.

You can share your location and routes using Bluetooth and ANT transmission to other devices. You are able to switch between landscape as well as portrait views. It comes with geocache capabilities built in, as well as custom mapping abilities. this handheld GPS is rugged, strong, and easy to read. It has a built-in camera as well to take snapshots of the landscape you’re conquering.

Pros:
+ Rugged
+ Accurate mapping
+ Geocaching
+ Readable sunlight screen
+ Bluetooth route sharing

Why we like it – The best things about this GPS system are that it is lightweight and durable. Users have found it pretty easy to use, and it has a very accurate positioning system.


2. Garmin GPSMAP 64st, TOPO U.S.

Garmin GPSMAP 64st, TOPO U.S.

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On a 2.6″ screen you will be able to easily read in sunlight, this handheld GPS offers a professional level of ruggedness. It has a highly sensitive positioning system using the GPS and GLONASS satellites. A quad helix antenna gives the user extremely strong signal transmission.

It has a barometric altimeter, a 3-axis compass, and 100K topographic maps in the U.S. They maps include all of the U.S including Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. A worldwide base map is uploaded to the system with shaded relief on the map to give you extensive information wherever you go in the world. With other compatible devices, you can share your location and maps via Bluetooth and Wifi. It has an easy user interface and expanded internal memory of 8GB.

Pros:
+ Rugged design
+ GPS and GLONASS satellites
+ 100K Topo Maps of U.S
+ Worldwide Base Map
+ Shaded relief areas

Why we like it – It is a really user-friendly GPS system. It is not hard to learn how it works and figure out how to load your own maps of the U.S and go exploring.


3. Garmin eTrex 20x

Garmin eTrex 20x

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This is the middle of the pack for the Garmin eTrex series. It has an outstanding resolution on a 2.2″ screen which displays at 240×230 pixels and is readable in sunlight. It is able to hold more maps internally with an expanded memory capability. The positioning system is super strong and accurate, using WAAS enabled GPS and GLONASS satellites.

A preloaded worldwide base map with shaded relief is included for all of your worldwide adventures. Great for geocaching with its storage of key info, quick hints, and automatic lock on. It is compatible with Birdseye Satellite Imagery with a subscription which gives you amazing imagery of the maps you download. Lock onto your position and track your route easily and accurately with the eTrex 20.

Pros:
+ GPS and GLONASS
+ Easy to use
+ Compatible with Birdseye Satellite Imagery
+ Worldwide base map
+ Rugged design

Why we like it – For the size of this GPS, it has excellent ease of use, location lock, and durable build. The battery lasts a long time which allows you to not have to worry about it shutting down on you midway through your adventure.


4. Garmin inReach Explorer+

Garmin inReach Explorer+

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An excellent choice for people who are going on longer trips and want to have communication with family and friends. It has a two-way communicator and an emergency beacon built-in. It has pre-loaded maps of North America, a 3-axis compass, and a barometric altimeter. With each message you send to family or friends, location data is also displayed for them to know exactly where you are.

With a compatible Earthmate app, you can sync up your devices to store your routes and access your phone’s contacts for easier messaging. The housing is water resistant and dust proof to help keep it working when the weather gets frightful. It has a pretty reliable battery life which won’t leave you out n the dark and lost in the woods.

Pros:
+ 2-way messaging
+ Good battery life
+ Accurate positioning
+ Built-in emergency beacon
+ Weatherproof housing

Why we like it – This is a strong GPS system that gives you the messaging system you want. It is great for peace of mind for your friends and family to know that you’re safe when you’re taking a long adventure.


5. Garmin eTrex10 GPS

Garmin eTrex10 GPS

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This is your entry level GPS system. It is affordable, simple to use, and gives you an accurate positioning so you always know where you are. It has a highly sensitive WAAS GPS receiver to pinpoint your position. HotFix satellite prediction gives you an accurate and strong lock on your position. Even if you’re in heavy cover, under a large canopy or deep in a canyon, your position will still be strong and accurate.

It has a large display screen and is pretty waterproof with an IPX7 weatherproof rating to keep it working stong through rainy days. It comes with a battery life of up to 24 hours and takes AA batteries which will be enough to keep you going for a day. Just pack extra batteries to make sure you can replace them once they run low. It is great for people who are doing simple hikes and just want a reliable tracker to keep your position locked.

Pros:
+ SImple to use
+ Accurate mapping and location
+ Highly weatherproof
+ Large display screen
+ Good battery life

Why we like it – As an entry-level GPS system, this is a great option, it is relatively cheap, but does everything you need it to as long as you’re not looking for heavy hitting features and just want to accurately track your location.


6. Garmin eTrex 30x

Garmin eTrex 30x

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The Garmin eTrex 30 is the strongest of the eTrex series. It offers the same high level of reliability with larger displays, greater resolution, and extra features that the eTrex 10 and eTrex 20 do not have. You have access to a ton of satellites for the location with the GPS and GLONASS compatibility.

Even in high cover areas, you will have an excellent signal to keep track of where you are and where you’re going. It comes with a 3-axis compass and a barometric altimeter to help you will your location as well. Even in high-glare situations, the large display screen is easy to read and navigate. With compatible devices, you can share data such as location, routes, and maps. It has lots of memory and a battery life that will last for an entire day.

Pros:
+ Large and accurate display
+ Strong location pinpointing
+ Lots of memory
+ Good battery life
+ Location and map sharing

Why we like it – This is a powerful Garmin GPS system which does everything you need it to do for higher level hikes and adventures. The display is fantastic and offers a great resolution to keep you on the map at all times of your trip.


7. Garmin Montana 680t

Garmin Montana 680t

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This GPS system is great for geocachers. It has been built with over 250K geocaches worldwide. It includes a 1-year Birdseye Satellite Imagery subscription when you buy. That gives you insanely detailed maps of the areas you’re tracking. It has super accurate location tracking with WAAS enabled GPS and GLONASS satellites keeping tabs on you. It keeps the signal strong even in high cover areas life canopies and deep canyons.

It comes with an 8MPX digital camera for you to photographically document your location and your sites along the way. It has strong weatherproofing and will keep working in sunlight, rain, and snow. Super easy to use with the user interface that uses the touch screen to navigate through the options.

Pros:
+ Strong location
+ 1-year Birdseye subscription
+ Digital camera included
+ 250K Geocaches uploaded

Why we like it – This GPS system is perfect for geocaching and comes with all the necessary features to help you find your way on a trail. It is strong, weatherproof and durable enough to get you where you need to go.


8. Garmin GPSMAP 78sc Handheld GPS

Garmin GPSMAP 78sc Handheld GPS

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The GPSMap casts a wide net when it comes to the features included. It has a highly sensitive receiver and very crisp color mapping. It has a slot where you can insert a micro SD card when you want to upload more data to and from your devices. It has a built-in worldwide base map with shaded relief so you can navigate the globe accurately.

It is strong enough to maintain your location under heavy cover as well. The structure is built durably with rubber grips on the sides so you don’t let it slip. You are able to connect the GPS up to your computer to get a detailed analysis of your routes and past treks. It supports geocaching GPX files so you can keep up to date with the latest geocaches. It also floats when dropped in water so you can take it fishing or cross the water with peace of mind.

Pros:
+ Detailed worldwide base map
+ Crisp color mapping
+ Strong signal
+ External memory
+ Geocaching GPX files compatible

Why we like it – The display is very clear and detailed. You always know exactly where you are with these devices. It has all you need when it comes to uploaded maps, and it works well for geocaching as well.


9. Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS

Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS

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This GPS system works great for adventurers who want to wear their coordinates right on their wrist for easy readings. It has a velcro strap that secures right onto your arm. It has a highly sensitive HotFix GPS receiver for excellent transmission. On top of tracking routes and waypoints, it helps you track your heart rate and other vital signs.

The LCD display is super easy to read and features trackback technology to help you retrace your steps. It has a small display screen, but that’s okay since this system is meant for simplicity and ease. You are able to read your current position in multiple formats as well as have them read out audibly.

It also features a trip computer, fishing information, sunrise and sunset times, and many other essential pieces of information to keep you locked onto your position. Great for people who love simplicity and ease of use while having all the information right there like they’re wearing a watch.

Pros:
+ Easy to read display screen
+ Attaches to your wrist
+ Simple design
+ Fishing info, route maps, and waypoints
+ Multiple display formats.

Why we like it – You don’t have to worry about taking this system out of your pocket to check your progress. Everything is displayed right there in front of you so you are always up to date with the most important information for your venture.


10. Garmin GPSMAP 78S Marine GPS

Garmin GPSMAP 78S Marine GPS

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This is great for fishermen, hunters, and hikers. It comes with a ton of information about shorelines, depressions, and terrain. It has a 3-axis compass as well as a barometric altimeter. Crisp color mapping allows you to easily read your position and keep track of where you’ve been. With other compatible devices, you are able to share your routes and waypoint wirelessly.

It has a worldwide base map built in with shaded relief so you can see elevation gains and losses. Whether you’re in heavy cover or not, the signal is strong and accurate. You also get a micro sd slot for added memory and storage.

Pros:
+ Worldwide base map with shaded relief
+ Shoreline information
+ Strong signal
+ Durably built
+ Crisp color display

Why we like it – This Garmin handheld GPS has a ton of accuracy and detail. You can see everything perfectly and it offers you a ton of maps to track your location. Professional fishermen and seriously hikers will love this GPS system.


Garmin Handheld GPS

What to look for in a Garmin Handheld GPS

Garmin is at the top o the food chain when it comes to manufacturing and providing high-quality GPS systems. They have some of the best technology and options for amateurs as well as professionals.

They are trusted by millions of people worldwide and offer a level of reliability that is hard to match. With so many options available, how you do decide which is the perfect one for you? Here, we discuss some of the factors.

Budget

The first thing you will need to look at is the budget you are on. Garmin handheld GPS’s come in massive varieties of capabilities. You don’t necessarily need to shell out a mortgage payment in order to get a good system. If you’re an amateur hiker and just looking for a little bit of help with your location, then a more budget-friendly option will do just fine.

If you’re in need of a super reliable, highly versatile option for high elevation and intensely covered terrain, you’ll want to spend more on the better features like a good antenna and strong signal. With GPS systems you generally get what you pay for. So, consider your needs beforehand.

Durability

If your handheld GPS is not durable enough to handle your ups and downs, you will be investing in something for nothing. If your GPS system breaks midway through the trail and you are relying on it solely to keep you safely tracked, you may be in for some trouble. Especially if you’re going off the beaten path and you aren’t near easy access to help.

Waterproof ratings are very important. If it starts to rain or you drop your GPS in water, you need to make sure it can still work after getting wet. You can find out your waterproof rating based on the IPX rating. Really strong waterproofing is rating at IPX7 or higher. With ratings at that level, you’ll be able to stave off defects due to rain, and possibly even submergence. Check with the manual or with the manufacturer before going diving though.

Map Availability

Most of the best Garmin handheld GPS systems come with preloaded worldwide base maps. This could mean a lot of things. Some of designed to give you extra detail in certain regions like North America, but may not have quite the detail that you may need for South America or Asia.

If you’re planning on doing backcountry hiking and you need to have the map uploaded, be sure that you will either have the kind of detail you want, or you’ll be able to get it. This will come down to the amount of memory or storage that you have in your device. Generally, the more memory and storage you have, the more detail and the more maps you will be able to upload.

Messaging

One of the greatest strengths of the best Garmin Handheld GPS systems is their messaging ability. It can be really helpful if you’ve got family at home wondering where you are to be able to keep in touch. Some systems allow two-way messaging and others only allow one-way. In any case, if you’re able to get a system that transmits messages along with your location, then you could be giving you and your family some peace of mind, as well as an added layer of safety for treks that are not so close to main roads.

Also, if your system is able to broadcast an emergency beacon, it could literally save your life. Emergency beacons transmit your signal directly to search and rescue teams so they can come and find you at your exact location.

Signal Strength

There are three types of satellites that your system can lock onto. GLONASS is the name of the Russian satellites system, GPS is the original satellites tracking network, and WAAS is extremely strong connectivity. If you have all three, then your signal will be extremely strong and accurate.

A lot of systems are only able to connect to a single GPS system, or possibly two. If you are lacing in the transmission category, you may lose a little bit of accuracy and strength, meaning you could lose your location if you go into heavy cover. Try to find a system which features the strongest and most versatile signal so your beacon doesn’t go dark.

Conclusion

The best Garmin Handheld GPS systems are all laid out for you now. No matter what your outlander activity is, you should be able to find the proper system for you. Don’t forget to keep the buying factors in mind to ensure that you make the right decision. Happy tracking!

Expert Tip

One of the most useful things you can do is make sure that you have a backup plan. This could mean pre-routing your trail on a paper map and actually bringing a compass with you. In this case, if something goes wrong with your handheld GPS system, at least you always have a backup.

Did you know?

The GPS receiver on your cell phone is almost as strong as a handheld worldwide GPS. It is generally accurate within 5m. However, the signal worsens close to objects. Professional GPS systems use multiple tracking satellites to more closely pinpoint your location.

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