We’re very keen on “losing yourself in the backcountry,” when it comes to hiking or camping, whenever we find some time away from the office. However, actually getting lost in the great outdoors can quickly turn a relaxing trip into an all-out stress-infused nightmare for any and all parties involved. Thankfully, there’s a handy little device that will keep you on track with what’s around the corner, where that trail will lead, and what’s the best way out of the no man’s land when the time comes to reconnect with society.
In terms of the tech, GPS isn’t something incredibly new. These days, this technology is found in our phones, drones, and even modern skateboards. Regardless, having a handheld GPS tracker is always a good idea when out exploring. From here, these GPS receivers offer additional elements to assist you in any outdoor excursion. Common features include barometers, altimeters, Bluetooth technology, and even included compasses for supplementary navigation assistance. So, which ones are the best? Well, Garmin clearly dominates the market here, so we’ve included a handful of our favorites that are trusty, offer a variety of useful features, and are durable enough to survive the outdoors.
First Thing’s First
We’d be lying if we claimed common issues during navigation couldn’t be rendered in this day and age successfully with a smartphone or tablet. In fact, in certain areas, these devices can function fantastically as viable options for navigation. However, there are several advantages to using a handheld GPS that phones and tablets simply can’t offer. For instance, the majority of handheld GPS options out there are built for the outdoors – meaning they’re rugged and highly abrasion and water-resistant. Additionally, they offer some of the best satellite reception around in even the most remote places and run off of field-replaceable batteries so as long as you come prepared, running out of power won’t be an issue.
That isn’t to say that a good old-fashioned compass or your topographic map should be thrown by the wayside. Technology can be unreliable, no matter how advanced it may be, so it’s always wise to bring along some analog navigation tools to assist with the journey. Handheld GPS devices do make a huge difference in an unfamiliar and remote territory, though. They’re also relatively easy to set up, afford you the confidence to push your navigation limits, and are quite intuitive even for the novice hiker or camper. Plus, some even boast thousands of geocaches readily available for the adventurous spirit.
Garmin eTrex 20x
Serving as an upgraded version of the eTrex20, the eTrex 20x is an even more reliable handheld GPS device boasting both enhanced memory and 240 x 320 display pixels for an even higher resolution than before. In addition to its enhanced readability, the device keeps you on track, thanks to a high sensitivity WAAS-enabled GPS receiver with both HotFix and GLONASS support along with a worldwide basemap. And with 3.7 GB of memory and a microSD card slot, you can load a variety of maps onto the device without worry – including the likes of TOPO 24K, HuntView, City Navigator NT, and Birdseye.
Garmin GPS Map 64S
It’s always an added bonus when a device that would otherwise be a bit time-consuming fresh out of the box comes standard with some helpful features to aid in immediate use. At least that’s the case with the GPS Map 64S – complete with a worldwide basemap and complimentary subscription to Birdseye Satellite Imagery. From here, navigate just about anywhere in the world with ease, thanks to a high-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS receiver along with a quad helix antenna. Additionally, each GPS Map boasts 4 GB of internal memory, up to a quarter million pre-loaded caches from geocaching.com, and a 3-axis compass with a barometric altimeter. From the backcountry to navigating foreign city streets, this is one travel buddy you’ll want to include on every journey.
Garmin Oregon 600T
Boasting a clean and straightforward design, the Oregon 600T is a handy multi-touch navigation assistant that’s both reliable and highly intuitive. It utilizes dual-band GPS/GLONASS satellite positioning and features a 3-axis compass, an accelerometer, and a barometric altimeter in addition to its standard functionality. Also, users can wirelessly share routes, tracks, waypoints, geocaches, and custom maps thanks to its Bluetooth connectivity features and, with a simplistic dual battery system (2 AA batteries), keeping this device powered up is as easy as it is to navigate.
DeLorme InReach Explorer
Functioning as an all-in-one satellite communicator and navigator, the Delorme inReach Explorer is powered by the world’s farthest reaching commercial satellite constellation – Iridium. Because of this connectivity, you’ll receive complete global coverage and two-way communication no matter where the adventure may lead. From here, the inReach Explorer lets you send and receive text messages, trigger an interactive SOS, plan your route ahead of time, and keep up with current conditions, thanks to a built-in barometric altimeter and accelerometer. You can even keep your friends and family up to date on your journey with MapShare – where you can exchange messages and share you planned routes and waypoints.
Garmin Montana 680
To assist in the ever-growing interest in geocaching, Garmin went ahead and hooked up their Montana 680 with upwards of 250,000 preloaded geocaches for your enjoyment in this handy device. And that’s not all, either. Thanks to its high-sensitivity WAAS-enabled GPS receiver paired with HotFix prediction and GLONASS support, your location is maintained through even the heaviest of forest covers and the deepest of canyons. The Montana 680 also comes stock with an 8-megapixel digital camera, an in-device track manager, a 3-axis compass with a barometric altimeter, and a 1-year Birdseye Satellite Imagery subscription.
Garmin inReach Explorer+
If routine journeys into the vast unknown are a regular occurrence for you, odds are your nearest and dearest are worried about your safety every step of the way. Thankfully now you can finally offer them some peace of mind with a little help from the inReach Explorer+. Not only is this device a GPS tracker and a navigation tool, but it’s also a 2-way satellite messenger and SOS device, as well. Here, you can share your location and text in areas without cell reception. And, on top of all that, the inReach Explorer+ also comes equipped with a myriad of preloaded topography maps, a digital compass, barometric altimeter, and accelerometer. Finally, a rechargeable lithium battery allows for up to 100 hours of use in tracking mode and up to 30 days in power-save mode.
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