Hiking basically translates to conquering tracks and trails that are less traveled. Normally, there would be minimal to no civilization where one is left alone to appreciate the beauty of Mother Nature. However, it is not always easy to follow or find trails especially if it we are talking about roads and tracks less traveled.

Hiking is not an easy hobby but a very rewarding one. It gives unparalleled thrill and contentment that people still continue to do it despite and in spite of various problems that could be encountered along the way not to mention the danger that awaits.

Finding and following trails has been the number one problem in hiking especially for those hiking in several groups. For this, the handheld GPS devices were invented. These devices let hikers find and follow the correct trail to their destination.

With the continuous advancement in technology, most modern handheld GPS devices today even have the capability of sending their locations to another device (most probably to the other hiking group or to your friend to know your location and let them know you are safe).

With the comfort and convenience that handheld GPS devices offer, a new problem has surfaced. How do you choose the best handheld GPS device for hiking today with the numerous ones available in the market?

The Features You Need

Before we proceed to discussing each of our narrowed choices for the best handheld GPS that you can use for your hiking trips, let us first discuss how we come about our choices. Here are the things we had to consider as we have to choose only the best ones.

  1. Reception

This has been and still is a common problem for most GPS handheld devices. Given that you will be traversing unchartered territories, mountains, and most probably secret paths to find nature’s paradise, signal is a thing that may not be found all the time. With this being said, you need handheld GPS devices that can work at any given day, time, altitude, and even weather situation.

Most of these devices today are dependent on how the satellite constellation is positioned.

  1. Navigation

There are basic GPS handhelds and there are those really pricey ones. Remember that not every GPS handheld device accommodates topo maps. If you are the type who wants to continuously add more maps, you need to choose those that have the topo map feature.

Choosing Only the Best of the Best

Now that you know what our priorities in looking for the best handheld GPS device for hiking, let us get down to our narrowed down choices:

  1. Garmin Monterra

This is indeed one pricey GPS handheld but it means serious business. The Garmin Monterra is powered by Android OS for a more efficient GPS mapping, map merge, and even produce high quality photos for your eyes’ pleasure.

Here are its specific details:

  • Brilliant 4-inch touchscreen display with dual orientation
  • Android operating system with Google Play Apps
  • Wi-Fi connectivity (802.11 gbn)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • High sensitivity GPS/GLONASS receiver for better positioning
  • 3D MapMerge for multiple maps in 3D
  • MicroSD card slot for up to additional 64GB memory
  • ANT+ or NFC or Near Field Communication
  • 8-megapixel autofocus camera with automatic geotagging feature
  • BirdsEye Satellite Imagery with subscription
  • Optional Trailhead Series TOPO maps
  • Downloads from OpenCaching.com (link)
  • LED flash/torch
  • Full 1080p HD video capture capability
  • 3-axis compass with accelerometer
  • Gyro and Barometric Altimeter
  • Built-In UV sensor
  • Built-In Waterproof Microphone
  • Speaker with 3.5 mm jack
  • Dual battery system – 3 AAA batteries or rechargeable Li-Ion pack which is already included in the package
  • Battery Life of 16 hours
  • Designed for mounting on ATVs, boats, cars
  • FM Radio (with NOAA – Same weather alerts for US)
  • Weighs approximately 1.5 pounds only
  • Measures 6.4 x 3.3 x 6.4 inches

As per customers who have actually bought this and used it on several hiking trips, this has got the best GPS interface ever especially with the addition of the Android operating system. Map scaling is fast even if you are moving at different directions and the details are simply amazing.

  1. Garmin eTrex 30

This is the best and high end model for the eTrex series. Garmin adds a barometric altimeter with 3-axis compass and wireless sharing to make the Garmin eTrex 30 the best of the best only for the serious GPS navigators and hikers who would not take any mediocre GPS system.

Rated an excellent 4 stars out of 5 stars at Amazon, this just goes to prove that Garmin just keeps innovating with regards to GPS handheld devices as we have another bestseller here.

Here are its incredible features that truly make it a top-of-the-line GPS handheld system:

  • Rugged handheld navigator
  • Preloaded with worldwide relief basemap
  • 2-inch color display which is sunlight readable
  • Display Resolution of 176 x 220
  • Internal Memory
  • MicroSD slot
  • High Sensitivity WAAS-enabled GPS receiver
  • HotFix and GLONASS support capability for fast positioning and an always reliable signal anywhere
  • Built-In 3-axis electronic compass for efficient headings
  • Barometric Altimeter for precise altitude
  • Compatible with most topographic, marine, and road maps for example TOPO US, 24K, BlueChart g2, and City Navigator
  • Ergonomic buttons
  • Paperless geocaching
  • BirdsEye Aeriel Imagery ready with subscription
  • Advanced Track Navigation
  • Garmin Custom Maps
  • Calendar
  • Customizable Profiles
  • Management Tools for routing, tracking, and waypoints
  • Free maps at GPS File Depot
  • Garmin Chirp Compatibility
  • Wireless sharing
  • Uses two AA batteries
  • Battery Life of 25 hours
  • Waterproof to IPX7 standards
  • Weighs only 5 ounces
  • Measures 1.3 x 4 x 2.1 inches
  • 1-year limited warranty for parts and labor

Bottom line is Garmin remains on top of the handheld GPS game with the eTrex 30. It has a compact size yet does not scrimp on features. It literally has everything a hiker will possibly ever need and more. Experts say that this is indeed an excellent option for outdoor lovers.

With Garmin’s notable excellence in fixing things, this eTrex 30 gives us more reason to stay with the brand.

  1. Magellan eXplorist 710

This is another rugged but premium GPS handheld device that we just have to include in this list. The Magellan exploits 710 has a reliable and efficient GPS, camera, electronic sensors, and navigation maps that will take you from your doorstep to unknown hiking trails all over the country, hence, putting sense in the model’s name.

This device’s principle is pretty simple but straightforward. It basically combined high sensitivity GPS reception with accurate navigation through maps that are easy to read. A hiker does not want to see complicated maps on the screen. But with this Magellan eXplorist 710’s 30 navigational data fields, one would have to thank both simplicity and complexities of such a modern device.

Here are its other must-know features:

  • Rugged
  • Waterproof
  • Core Outdoor Navigation
  • 3-inch Touchscreen
  • Display Resolution of 240 x 400
  • Flash Card Memory Slot
  • Built-In Memory of 3 GB
  • Two Programmable Button Controls
  • Quick One-Touch Menu
  • Electronic Compass
  • High Sensitivity GPS Reception
  • Aesthetic Mapping
  • Accurate Navigation through 30 Navigational Fields
  • Create Waypoints
  • Record Tracks and Route From One Point to Another
  • Preinstalled 24k US topo
  • Integrated 3.2-megapixel camera
  • Comes with microphone and speakers
  • Records Geo-Referenced Images and Voice Notes
  • Superior Maps with 3D Perspective Views
  • Automatic Routing
  • Weighs only 6.9 ounces
  • Measures 1.4 x 2.6 x 5 inches
  • Requires two AA batteries which is included
  • Battery Life of 15 hours
  • 1-year Limited Warranty

The Magellan eXplorist 710 may not be as famous as the Garmin handhelds but it has something that Garmin has yet to offer and that is the one-touch menu that you just have to love. Every hiker appreciates it for the easy access it offers. In addition to that, the preinstalled topo here is rumored to be way better than the 100k preinstalled of other brands.

These handheld hiking devices are suitable for outdoor trails, backcountry hiking and of course geocaching. This is a relatively new ‘game’ and the idea is that you, together with family, friends or by yourself, search a hidden item. More about geocaching can be found here.

As you should have noticed by now, Garmin still gets the larger chunk of our choices. However, that does not mean that the Magellan eXplorist 710 comes last. Know your specific GPS handheld hiking device needs and you can better choose which among these three will perfectly fit you on your next hiking adventure.