Garmin Montana 650T Hiking GPS Review

The Garmin Montana 650T is a versatile GPS device that blurs the line between a car, boat, and backcountry navigator. There are many devices that are suitable for one or two of those applications, and many smartphones can give you excellent directions if you have the correct apps installed, but a true navigation device needs to be sturdy, reliable, and accurate enough to trust when you’re outdoors and far from civilization. Ruggedized GPS devices like the 650T earn their keep by giving you accurate information no matter what conditions you find yourself in.

It’s hard to exaggerate the importance of reliable topographic maps and direction finders when you’re out in the country. Problems with directions are a minor annoyance when you’re in the city. In the country, knowing where you are and how to get to where you’re going can become a matter of life and death, so it’s important to have devices that are both accurate and built for heavy weather and rough country.

Garmin Montana 650T Hiking GPS

Garmin Montana 650t Waterproof Hiking GPS

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Specifications

  • GPS-enabled handheld navigation device
  • Full color, 4” dual-orientation 65k color TFT screen
  • Touchscreen enabled
  • 5 megapixel autofocus camera
  • Comes pre-loaded with 100K maps
  • 3-axis electronic compass
  • Barometric altimeter
  • Includes rechargeable Lithium-ion battery pack
  • Also accepts AA batteries
  • 2.9 inches x 5.7 inches x 1.4 inches thick
  • 272 x 480 pixel screen resolution
  • Up to 16 hours of battery life on rechargeable battery pack, 22 hours on AA batteries
  • Rated IPX7 waterproof
  • High speed USB connectivity
  • Saves up to 10,000 waypoints and 200 separate tracks
  • 3.5 GB internal memory
  • Accepts microSD cards to increase storage capacity
  • Paperless geocaching enabled
  • Compatible with custom maps
  • Includes a sun/moon and hunting and fishing calendar
  • Displays points of interest with information
  • Can be used as a picture viewer

Features

Designing a GPS navigation device for the car is a lot easier than for handheld models. In the car, battery life is an inconsequential feature, and size, weight, and rugged construction are relatively unimportant. Accuracy isn’t nearly as important in a car GPS as it is in a handheld unit. Roads are usually broad and well marked out, and they’re deliberately designed to make visibility easy, even at night. When you’re out in the wilderness, 25 feet could mean the difference between finding a trail and missing it, and missing trails in poor visibility can be a dangerous situation. The Garmin Montana is very accurate and gives the user peace of mind when they’re far from home and on their own.

Battery Life Is a Tough Problem in the Wilderness

Garmin Montana 650T Hiking GPS

Garmin Montana 650T is usable a hiking GPS but also as normal car GPS!

Garmin solved the problem of battery life for handheld navigation by avoiding it. The Montana 650T has a respectable 16 hours of use for its rechargeable Lithium-ion battery pack, and sidesteps the problem of running out of juice in a tight spot by allowing you to swap in as many AA batteries as you can carry when you run out of internal charge. Campers, boaters, fishermen and other outdoorsman are accustomed to carrying a stash of batteries when they’re far from the nearest outlet or store, so it’s a good compromise between keeping the unit small and light and making it run for a long time on one charge.

Scrolling Lists Make Navigation Easy

The Garmin Montana 650T makes using it easy by putting all the main functions on a scrolling list that you can navigate through on the big, colorful touchscreen, instead of putting items in menus or dropdown lists that take a series of button presses to enable. For users that just want to bring up a map or compass, it saves a lot of hassle that other units cause. Lesser-used but still useful applications like calendars and planners require opening up additional screens.

Turn Your Montana 650T Into Three Devices

The Montana 650T comes pre-loaded with TOPO US 100K maps. If you like, for a small sum you can add Garmin’s City Navigator maps, and that will allow you to use the 650T as a conventional turn-by-turn street navigation device as well as a wilderness navigator. You can add marine maps as well, and since the Garmin Montana is waterproof as well as rugged and shock resistant, you can use it as a marine GPS as well. That’s a formidable trio of uses that few devices can compete with.

It’s Like Getting a Free Underwater Camera

There’s a built-in 5 MP camera in the 650T, and since the case is entirely waterproof, for the price of a GPS device you get an underwater camera thrown in. While the camera isn’t likely to take award-winning wildlife photos, it’s perfectly capable of taking the place of a snapshot camera. When you’re tramping through the countryside, everything that you can leave home is beneficial, so the Montana is a winner on that score as well.

The Electronic Compass Is A Backstop Against Lack of Signal

If you find yourself socked in with heavy clouds, underneath impenetrable tree canopy, or in a slot canyon where a GPS signal is impossible to lock on to, you’ll appreciate the capable 3-axis electronic compass. Because the unit is equipped with an accelerometer, you can get a reading while you’re standing still, which was always a problem with older versions of electronic compasses. The 3-axis functionality means that the compass doesn’t need to be held perfectly level in order to give you a solid directional reading, another great benefit.

Pros

  • Excellent visibility even in bright sunlight
  • Extremely durable and waterproof
  • Very accurate GPS readings
  • Takes the place of a handful of devices
  • Can be used on the water, in the car, on a bike, or just walking
  • Perfect for geocaching
  • Takes great pictures, allowing you to leave a snapshot camera at home
  • Extremely accurate bearing information makes finding geocaches a breeze
  • BaseCamp software lets you share your info and user-generated maps with others

Cons

  • Customer service can be lacking
  • User manual isn’t as informative as it should be

Final Verdict

Garmin Montana 650T Hiking GPS

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The Garmin Montana 650T isn’t considered the top of the line of the Garmin brand, but many users prefer it to more costly but only slightly more capable models.

Over 60 percent of reviewers give the 650T four stars or better, and report that while the device isn’t inexpensive, it has replaced up to three other devices with its versatile applications. The 650T is very durable, so unless you lose it, you’re likely to enjoy it for a very long time. It’s highly recommended.