What’s the Best Handheld GPS? Top 10 Revealed

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When searching for the best handheld GPS receiver, the trick is to know exactly what to look for.

Not all devices will offer the same streamlined features. Here we’ll investigate the top ten best handheld GPS devices on the market.

BEST HANDHELD GPS: COMPARISON TABLE


HOW WE REVIEWED


The best handheld GPS devices were reviewed based on features, maps, battery life, pros, cons, price, and warranty. We’ve looked at some modern, technologically advanced handhelds as well as some old trusty models to find the very best product on the market today.

OVERALL PRICE RANGE OF HANDHELD GPS DEVICES


Handheld GPS devices come at a wide variety of prices. We’ve reviewed navigation receivers that range in prices from around $70 to around $650. ​

Know that price isn’t always indicative of the absolute best-functioning GPS device. Although all the receivers in this review are among the best-selling, only one will be named the best handheld GPS device.

handheld gps on a mountain bike

Image by IADE-Michoko via Pixabay

WHAT WE REVIEWED


  • Garmin GPSMAP 64s Worldwide
  • Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS
  • Garmin eTrex10 GPS
  • Bad Elf 2200 GPS Pro
  • Bushnell BackTrack GPS Digital Compass Navigation Original G2
  • Garmin Monterra WiFi-Enabled GPS Navigator
  • Garmin Oregon
  • DeLorme inReach SE Satellite Tracker
  • Garmin eTrex 20x 
  • Magellan eXplorist 310 Summit Series

1

GARMIN GPSMAP 64S WORLDWIDE

Features

The Garmin GPSMAP 64s Worldwide is an extra-sensitive GPS equipped with maps for world travel.

This handheld GPS device promises to provide accurate location tracking from the deepest canyon depths or in heavily shrouded terrain. 

The GPSMAP 64s comes in a base model and with a variety of optional add-ons. We’ve highlighted the GPSMAP 64s with ANT and Bluetooth. The device has a 2.6-inch trans-reflective color display and an expandable 4GB memory.

Features of this device include high-sensitivity GPS, GLONASS, 250,000 pre-loaded geocaches, additional map support, smart notifications, smartphone synching, ANT+ sensor compatibility, three-axis compass, wireless connectivity, and Live Track.

The GPSMAP 64s Worldwide functions with two AA batteries or a rechargeable NiMH battery that offer up to 16 hours of use.

Pros

  • Smartphone connectivity
  • Many built-in maps
  • Provides accurate and fast location information

Cons

  • Even with many maps it still doesn’t pick up all hiking trails
  • Doesn’t come with sufficient instructions or documentation
  • PRICE
  • WHERE TO BUY
  • warranty

Garmin offers a limited one-year warranty for manufacturer’s defects.

2

GARMIN FORETREX 401 WATERPROOF HIKING GPS

Features

The wearable Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS receiver comes with high-sensitivity GPS and HotFix for precision location services in any terrain.

It’s powered by AAA batteries that can last up to 17 hours. Features for the device include a trip computer, electronic compass, barometric altimeter, sun times, hunting and fishing information, and 3.5 megabytes of useable storage space. Included with the device are a USB cable, user manual, and wrist expansion strap.

Pros

  • Provides MGRS grid coordinate
  • Back-lit screen
  • Wearable, lightweight, and convenient

Cons

  • Battery life falls much shorter than advertised
  • Instructions and manuals for this product are lacking
  • Low map and tracking storage capacity
  • PRICE
  • WHERE TO BUY
  • warranty

Garmin offers a limited one-year manufacturer’s warranty on the Foretrex 401.

3

GARMIN ETREX10 GPS

Features

The durable and waterproof Garmin eTrex10 GPS has a 2.2-inch black and white display. 

The device is WAAS-ready and comes with high-sensitivity HotFix and GLONASS tracking and positioning. A global basemap is preloaded on the eTrex10 as well as 200 routes.

Two AA batteries power the machine for up to 25 hours. Features for the device include a barometric altimeter, electronic compass, and custom map adding.

Pros

  • Tough and waterproof
  • The battery life is much longer than many other devices
  • Affordable 

Cons

  • Some users find the positioning joystick difficult to use
  • No color display
  • Only provides the most basic functionalities
  • PRICE
  • WHERE TO BUY
  • warranty

The Garmin eTrex10 GPS comes with a limited one-year warranty. 

4

BAD ELF 2200 GPS PRO

Features

The small but powerful Bad Elf GPS Pro can Bluetooth connect with up to five Apple or Android devices simultaneously.

While connected to devices, the rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasts up to 16 hours. 

When used alone, the battery can last up to 36 hours. Included with the receiver are a mini-USB charging cable, a vehicle charger, a detachable neck lanyard, and instructions.

Features include tracking, data logging, backlit LCD screen, customizable settings, and fast 2- to 33-secondlocking times.

Pros

  • Long battery life
  • Easy to use
  • Built to last
  • Connectivity to multiple devices is great for group outings

Cons

  • Location accuracy is limited in heavily covered areas
  • Works better with Apple devices than Android devices
  • Not suitable for aviation
  • PRICE
  • WHERE TO BUY
  • warranty

5

BUSHNELL BACKTRACK GPS DIGITAL COMPASS NAVIGATION ORIGINAL G2

Features

The BackTrack Original G2 GPS features a high-sensitivity receiver and a grayscale LCD.

It functions with AAA batteries and provides up to 20 hours of usage. 

This simplistic and no-frills handheld GPS device is small, light, and can store up to three individual locations. Features include GPS locating, backlit LED display, and a self-calibrating digital compass.

Pros

  • The BackTrack retrieves information quickly
  • Long battery life
  • Fits comfortably in a pocket

Cons

  • Low storage capacity
  • It doesn’t offer many features
  • PRICE
  • WHERE TO BUY
  • warranty

6

GARMIN MONTERRA WIFI-ENABLED GPS NAVIGATOR

Features

The heavy-duty IPX7 water-resistant Garmin Monterra WiFi-Enabled GPS Navigator has a four-inch touchscreen display and is compatible with Android phones and multimedia devices. 

It can function with a lithium-ion batter or two AA batteries and last up to 22 hours. Monterra features include high-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS, an eight-megapixel autofocus camera, auto geotagging, 3D MapMerge™, 200 routes, large tracking log and waypoints, basemap, map adding, barometric altimeter, tilt-compensated triple –axis compass, area calculation, paperless geocaching, and Bluetooth, WiFi, and ANT+ connectivity.

This GPS device has six gigabytes of storage with the basemap and three gigabytes with the TOPO US maps. It also has a microSD card slot.

Pros

  • The screen is easy to read even in bright sunlight
  • Delivers coordinates quickly
  • Great for geocaching

Cons

  • Not compatible with Apple devices
  • The battery doesn’t last as long as claimed
  • PRICE
  • WHERE TO BUY
  • warranty

7

GARMIN OREGON 700

Features

Garmin’s IPX7 water-resistant Oregon 700 is a modern and resilient handheld GPS with a three-inch touchscreen adjustable display. 

The receiver uses high-sensitivity dual GPS and GLONASS and features an accelerometer, barometric altimeter sensor, live geocaching, triple-axis electronic compass, and weather reporting.

The Oregon 700 can connect through ANT+, Bluetooth, and WiFi to easily download maps and connect to supplemental devices. Internal memory in this GPS receiver is 1.7 gigabytes.

The machine can function of lithium-ion batteries, AA batteries or NiMH and use can extend up to 16 hours. Included with the receiver are a battery charger and a carabiner clip.

Pros

  • Using a lithium-ion or NiMH battery will extend battery life
  • Many connectivity options
  • The GPS information is retrieved quickly from this device

Cons

  • The provided documentation for the Oregon 700 is lackluster
  • Oregon 700 software requires frequent needs upkeep
  • May freeze up during use
  • PRICE
  • WHERE TO BUY
  • warranty

8

DELORME INREACH SE SATELLITE TRACKER

Features

The DeLorme inReach SE is more than merely a GPS. The device is capable of sending SOS signals and text messages.

DeLorme advertises full-coverage worldwide through the satellite network Iridium. 

The color screen provides coordinates, elevation, location, speed, and tracking. inReach is compatible with Apple and Android devices through Bluetooth and the Earthmate app. A USB cable is included to charge the inReach SE. The battery can last up 100 hours.

Pros

  • Can send SOS messages worldwide
  • Extra-long battery life
  • Strong build

Cons

  • Subject to a monthly and annual usage fee
  • Works better for communication than for GPS
  • It is more expensive than a handheld GPS receiver
  • PRICE
  • WHERE TO BUY
  • warranty

A limited manufacturer’s defect warranty applies for the InReach SE.

9

GARMIN ETREX 20X

Features

In addition to the loaded worldwide basemap, the Garmin eTrex 20x is equipped with 3.7 gigabytes of internal memory and a microSD card slot for maximum map loading. 

As one of the best handheld GPS devices, this machine is WAAS-enabled and uses HotFix and GLONASS for ultra-swift location results.

The 2.2-inch color trans-reflective display shows routes, track log, automatic routing, custom maps, an electronic compass, and a barometric altimeter. Two AA batteries will power the eTrex 20x for up to 25 hours.

Pros

  • Small, lightweight, and extra portable
  • Easy to use
  • Excellent speed with a cold start
  • A lot of storage and loading space

Cons

  • The compact design is a pro and a con—it’s difficult to read
  • The pre-installed maps aren’t the best
  • PRICE
  • WHERE TO BUY
  • warranty

Garmin provides a limited one-year warranty for the eTrex 20x.

10

MAGELLAN EXPLORIST 310 SUMMIT SERIES

Features

The waterproof Magellan eXplorist 310 has a 2.2-inch trans-reflective backlit screen, 500 megabytes of memory, and a high-sensitivity three- to five-meter accuracy range. 

This device comes with a loaded world map, USB output NMEA messaging, filtering, waypoints, map loading, track recording, and track summary. The battery life can last up to 18 hours with two AA batteries. Use the Suspend Mode to save battery power.

Pros

  • Provides accurate locations even in covered terrain
  • Supports paperless geocaching
  • Sturdy and waterproof

Cons

  • The screen is difficult to read in bright sunlight
  • Doesn’t run as quickly as other receivers
  • Doesn’t have the most intuitive operation and can be difficult to figure out
  • PRICE
  • WHERE TO BUY
  • warranty

Magellan gives a limited one-year warranty to the original purchaser of the eXplorist 310.

BEST HANDHELD GPS DEVICE FAQS


handheld gps on a paragalider

Image by Edmund Fauland via Pixabay 

Many users have similar questions about the best handheld GPS devices. In this section, we address these most frequently asked questions about them.

1. What Is a Handheld GPS Device?

A handheld GPS device is a small technologically savvy machine that uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) to reveal location details and mapping information to the user.

2. How Does a Handheld GPS Device Work?

The simple answer to how handheld GPS devices work is satellites. We colloquially refer to “GPS” as the device we use to get mapping information, but GPS refers to an entire network of components.

According to NASA, a GPS device or receiver works by searching for signals from four or more out of up to 30 US satellites orbiting around Earth. GPS ground stations cross check the satellite location from the ground.

3. How Accurate Is a Handheld GPS Device?

Reaching over 13,500 miles into space, a GPS satellite can detect location coordinates anywhere on Earth with precision and accuracy. Many of the best handheld GPS receivers for personal use come with WAAS and have an accuracy range of only a few meters. The standard accuracy range is up to ten meters.

4. Where Can I Buy Them? 

Many of the best handheld GPS receivers are sold on Amazon.com. Each private company website also sells their own products.

THE VERDICT


handheld gps

Image by Dirk Mathienz viaPixabay

After reviewing 10 of the best handheld GPS receivers on the market, we’ve concluded that price isn’t everything in the realm of personal navigation.

Many of the more expensive and tech-heavy models don’t seem to function as reliably as the tried-and-true lower-tech versions. Touchscreen issues and software glitches prevent the more modern handheld GPS devices from shining.

Based on this review, the best handheld GPS receiver is the Garmin eTrex 20x. It comes with the essential features, proven reliability, good storage space, a long-lasting battery, and fast-acting and responsive GPS functions.

Combined with all these excellent features, the eTrex 20x is among the most affordable navigation units we reviewed.

Featured Image: CC 2.0 by Paul Downey via Wikimedia Commons

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Get the latest product reviews and advice for hunting, survival, camping and the great outdoors.

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