Knowing where you are, whether you’re hiking, fishing, boating, offroading, or geocaching, is quite useful. Fortunately, we live in a time when modern technology is more accessible than ever before, and even a basic portable GPS unit can track your location on accurate topographical maps, draw routes, remember waypoints, and do much more.
Emergency SOS notifications, accurate weather predictions, nautical information such as depth charts and marina locations, and more can all be found in advanced devices. Extras usually scale with the device’s price, with high-end devices costing over $500 and more basic models costing less than half that.
Why acquire a standalone GPS unit when most of us have smartphones with GPS capabilities? For starters, the greatest handheld GPS systems are made to resist the weather, with humidity, rain, heat, and drops all being no match for them.
What about that brand-new iPhone? Not at all!
Another significant advantage of a high-quality GPS unit over a conventional smartphone is battery life. Many GPS devices have a battery life of 20 hours or more, however a smartphone with a mapping app open would quickly drain the battery. Finally, GPS systems are generally more reliable in locations with little to no phone connection, which is often where you need accurate GPS tracking the most!
There are many of handheld GPS systems on the market, yet they aren’t all created equal. That’s why we spent so much time assessing and narrowing them down to identify the finest handheld GPS devices of 2021.
1.Best Handheld GPS: Garmin GPSMAP 66st
Garmin is a frontrunner in the GPS sector (as evidenced by the fact that they make four of the five devices on this list!) The GPSMAP 66st is one of the most versatile versions offered by the firm. Exceptional reception even in isolated locations, built-in detailed topographical maps for the United States and Canada, a huge full-color display, a three-axis compass, and a barometric altimeter for measuring your height are just a few of the highlights.
The battery life is good as well, lasting up to 16 hours in active GPS mode or one week in battery-saving Expedition mode. The 66st’s high-quality topographical maps and accurate altimeter make it possibly the greatest handheld GPS for trekking, but it can handle just about everything you throw at it.
It’s water-resistant to IPX7 standards and features expanded wireless connectivity for displaying live weather forecasts, including animated weather radar. The only significant drawbacks to this item are its high cost and bulkiness. It’s perfect for individuals looking for a high-end, adaptable, and feature-rich tablet.
- Large display
- Excellent reception
- ~16 hour battery life, or up to 1 week in Expedition Mode
- Detailed topographical maps for the US and Canada
- IPX7 water resistance
- Somewhat bulky
2.Best Handheld GPS for Hunting: Garmin Oregon 700
The Garmin Oregon 700 is a mid-range GPS unit with a wide range of applications. It boasts a great battery life of up to 16 hours, despite its small size (4.5 x 1.3 x 2.4 inches), and a durable build that can withstand the outdoors. For several reasons, this is the ideal handheld GPS for fishing and hunting.
It’s water-resistant (IPX7), making it equally at home in the woods as it is on the lake. It has a 10,000-waypoint capacity, making it simple to record and bookmark your favourite hunting and fishing sites. The Oregon 700 also includes profiles for hiking, fishing, and hunting, among other activities.
When you select a profile, you’ll see a filtered view that only shows data relevant to that activity, ensuring that the screen doesn’t feel cluttered. There are only a few small drawbacks to be aware of. First, the device is operated by a touchscreen, which might be difficult to use with gloves on in cold weather. Second, the battery life is adequate but underwhelming given the small display, lasting up to 16 hours.
- Activity profiles for simplified views for hunting, hiking, fishing and more
- Animated weather radar overlays
- Touchscreen display for ease of use (in good weather)
- Stores up to 10,000 waypoints
- Touchscreen is difficult to use with gloves on
- Battery life could be better
3.Best Handheld Golf GPS: Izzo Swami 6000 Golf GPS
For golfers, the Izzo Swami 6000 is one of the greatest GPS solutions when it comes to hitting the green. The device includes precise course maps for more than 38,000 golf courses across the world. Hole locations, distances, and other details are included, albeit the level of detail varies each course. Not only does the Swami 6000 display you the course map, but it also keeps track of your score and performance.
Individual shot distance measures provide useful data to study over at home, and the built-in scoring feature eliminates the need for paper and pencil. Auto hole advance automatically tracks whatever hole you are on and changes the display accordingly. Range finding to the front, back, and centre of the green is built-in.
The Swami 6000 also comes with a built-in belt clip, so it’s easy to get to when you need it and out of the way when you don’t. While the auto hole advance option is convenient in most cases, it can also be a drawback of this gadget. The Izzo Swami 6000 has a habit of jumping to the next hole or another hole adjacent too soon.
This can cause tracking functions to malfunction, however it only appears to happen on specific courses. Another disadvantage of this technology is that it is not particularly useful for anything other than golf. It’s hardly the kind of item you’d take hunting or trekking with, and it’ll probably wind up in your golf bag.
- Preloaded with 38,000+ golf course maps
- Auto hole advance and individual shot distance measurements
- Scorecard and range finding features
- Belt clip
- Can prematurely jump to tracking nearby holes
- Not useful for other activities besides golf
4.Best Handheld Marine GPS: Garmin GPSMAP 78sc
For boating and other sea activities, the Garmin GPSMAP 78sc is the ideal handheld GPS. It has BlueChart g2 coastal charts built in that cover the United States and the Bahamas, with shorelines, depth contours, marina locations, and more. Additional map segments are available for purchase on SD cards, which may then be loaded onto the device.
Advanced capabilities like wireless GPS waypoint sharing (with other Garmin devices) sound cool, but they’re unlikely to be utilised much. The device meets the IPX7 standard for water resistance, which means it can be immersed up to 1 metre underwater for up to 30 minutes.
It also floats, so you have a good chance of recovering it if it ever goes overboard. There have been a few reports of the rubber seal around the charging port leaking, however considering the IP certification, this is more likely a quality control issue on specific devices than a product flaw.
- Water-resistant (IPX7)
- Floats in water
- Built-in BlueChart g2 U.S./Bahamas coastal charts
- Wireless sharing of GPS waypoints
- Rubber port covers can leak on some units
- Use outside U.S./Bahamas requires purchasing additional charts
5.Best Handheld GPS for Off-Grid Travel: Garmin inReach Explorer+
The Garmin inReach Explorer+ is a wonderful choice for people who spend a lot of time off the grid or travelling internationally.
With 100 percent global Iridium satellite coverage, this modern device is possibly the greatest handheld GPS for travelling.
Detailed weather predictions keep you ahead of shifting conditions, while a barometric altimeter allows you to properly track altitude during long excursions. All of the standard functionality are available, such as waypoint generation, route following, and preloaded topographical maps.
The inReach Explorer+’s emergency and off-grid features, however, are where it really excels. With an Iridium satellite subscription, you can use the Garmin app to track and share your location with family and friends, as well as send and receive basic text messages from the device no matter where you are in the globe. In the worst-case scenario, interactive SOS alerts can provide location information to search and rescue teams.
This robust unit’s design and build are outstanding, and the battery life is excellent, with up to 30 hours of continuous usage. It’s also water resistant to IPX7 standards, which contributes to the device’s sole true flaw: its tough build might make it feel a little cumbersome.
- Worldwide operation via Iridium satellite network
- Two-way emergency text messaging
- Interactive SOS alerts for search & rescue operations
- Track and share location with family and friends
- 30 hour battery life
- Bulky design
- Iridium-based features require a subscription to use