Garmin Oregon Hiking GPS Review

Garmin is the number one name is GPS devices all over the world. They’ve sold over 125 million Global Positioning System devices since their founding in 1989. They’re probably best known for their line of devices for vehicles, and many people refer to all car directional systems as The Nuvi, the name of Garmin’s bestselling car direction finder.

In addition to devices for finding your way around in a car or bike, Garmin makes a line of handheld navigation devices for the outdoor navigator. The Oregon Series started with the Oregon 400, and has been steadily updated for functionality and durability over the years. The two current Oregon series bestsellers, the 550T and the 650T, are mostly the same in function, with some additional bells and whistles on the 650T at a higher price point.

Garmin Oregon 550T Handheld Navigator

Garmin Oregon 550T

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The 550T is a very capable device for its reasonable price tag. All the free apps that smartphones offer are spoiling people, and many would wonder why they need a device like the Garmin 550T at all. Using a cellphone to navigate your way to the corner grocery store is fine. Going out in the wilderness with something as delicate and finicky as a smartphone is not. You cellphone probably doesn’t use satellite info to determine where you are, and where’ you’re going there’s probably not very good cell reception. A dedicated device like the Garmin Oregon 550 T can take a beating and still tell you where you’re going.

The Garmin Oregon 550T Has:

  • 3-inch touchscreen display
  • 3.2 megapixel autofocus camera
  • Barometric altimeter
  • 3-axis compass
  • 6.9 ounces
  • 4.5” x 1.5” x 2.3”
  • 16 hour battery life
  • Waterproof

It’s easy to read the colorful screen, and in a pinch you can use the 3-axis compass to find your way. All the Oregon Series devices have really capable waterproof cameras, and with their ability to geotag any location, you’ll finally be able to document your wild adventures without taking along a delicate camera and a notepad. If you’re a geocaching fan, you’ll love the 550T’s quick download of up to 5000 caches at a time.

Backup Battery Capability

If you’re an experienced outdoorsman, you know that no device ever holds a charge long enough to give you any real peace of mind, and outlets are in short supply in the wilderness. The Garmin 550T accepts conventional AA batteries, so you can carry a supply along and never end up stranded over a dead navigator.

Garmin Oregon 650T Handheld Navigator

Garmin Oregon 650t 3-Inch Handheld GPS

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The Garmin 650T is just like the 550T, with only incremental upgrades. Those upgrades might be minor, but they’re not trivial. The 650T has a bigger, brighter, easier to read screen than the 550T. For a device that’s used outdoors in bright sun, that’s a big advantage. When you’re hiking along, the need to hold your navigation device right in front of your face all the time can really slow you down and increase the chance of dropping the device. The screen isn’t just easier to read, either; it has a much more sensitive touchscreen, so you don’t even have to take off your gloves to operate the unit if you’re out in the snow or on top of a mountain.

The Garmin Oregon 650T Has:

  • 4-inch LCD touchscreen display
  • 272 by 480 pixels
  • 8 megapixel autofocus camera
  • Automatic photo geotagging
  • 3-axis compass
  • 10.2 ounces
  • 4GB internal memory
  • 5.7” x 1.4” x 2.9”
  • Takes 3 AA batteries
  • 16 hour battery life
  • Waterproof

The Garmin 650T allows you to use standard AA batteries after the NiMH battery pack loses its charge, just like the 550T. One big upgrade is the ability to charge the battery pack directly from the device, so you no longer have to carry a standalone charger. That would be a small detail for car GPS unit, but if you’re a serious hiker, one fewer thing to lug around is always better. Click here to read the complete review of the Oregon 650T.

As Capable as Any Underwater Camera

The 650T is waterproof, and has a capable camera, so it allows you to leave yet another device at home. If you factor in the price of a dedicated ruggedized camera, the 650T’s price tag doesn’t look that steep. The 650T offers 8-megapixel resolution, twice as sharp as the 550T. There’s more internal memory to make sure you can keep all the memories you collect along the trail, too.

Garmin Oregon 650t -33-D Maps Make Finding Your Way a Breeze

Either Garmin Oregon Series device will wow you with their very detailed topographic maps. If you’re accustomed to flat, directional maps on GPS devices for vehicles, you’ll love the 3D view capability. It’s much easier to find your way over rugged terrain if you have the lay of the land in your hand beforehand. The 550T has North America, the 650T adds Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico. You can always add more maps at any time. The maps are optimized for outdoor life, with details about national and state parks built in. Important points of interest off the beaten path, including elevation information, are included.

When you’re geocaching or just planning a long hike, you can store up to 4,000 waypoints, 200routes, and 200 tracks. The units use standard GPS satellites to determine where you are and where you’re going, but they also use the Russian GLONASS system to get more reliable and accurate readings, which helps greatly if you’re in a canyon, under canopy tree cover, or if it’s very cloudy.

Garmin Oregon 650t -2Know Where You’re Going When You’re Standing Still

The Oregon Series devices have solved one annoyance for hikers that like to use a compass. In order to an electronic compass, you formerly had to be in motion. Now you can stand in one spot and use the compass to get your bearings. The 3-axis compass also isn’t as fussy about how level it’s held when you’re reading it, another plus.

There are hunting and fishing calendars, sun and moon information, and various other minor utilities that might add a little spice to your outdoor adventure. Either the 550T or the 650T will make a more than capable navigational companion when you’re out in the wilderness, and get you back home safe with plenty of photos of your adventure.