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Traveler Advice I What is the Best GPS for Hiking?

When you like the mountain you often ask yourself the question, what is the best GPS for hiking? Paper maps are certainly necessary since the batteries of a GPS do not always last all you need, But a good GPS on the mountain can not only save your life, Can be an excellent companion wherever you go. Being in high mountains and having a map with slope curves where you can make all kinds of measurements, A compass or an altimeter makes getting lost unlikely, even on days with a lot of fog or lack of visibility.

best GPS for hiking

www.outdoor-magazin.com

The Best GPS for Hiking

There are many reasons why you need to have a GPS for hiking, although being realistic we only see it necessary for those who like to explore, enter the high mountains, adverse weather conditions or, if they decide to undertake routes they do not know. We like to talk about brands, but when we talk about mountain GPS inevitably come out brands like Garmin since few brands are able to match it. If we talk about clocks with GPS, it is another thing, but they are different devices for very concrete scenarios.

There are few decent brands to choose from

In this article it seems that we are going to talk about Garmin alone, but it is true that today they have almost no competition due to the lack of brands in this specialized sector. If we talk about running, but this is a very different thing. Nowadays in specialized mountain shops there is only Garmin and sometimes Magellan or CompeGPS. The reason? It’s variety of maps, software available, and the large user community and above all for the quality and finish. Maybe the Garmin do not have the screen of a mobile like an iPhone, but I assure you that the latter does not withstand adverse climatology, snow, ice, mud or water.

The tendency to carry a mobile like GPS

For many, the best GPS for hiking is the mobile itself, since it has a multitude of map applications. But look at this. They can cover most of the scenarios, but there are situations that are very lame for the following reasons:

  • Battery shortage: A mountain GPS holds up to 16 / 25h with two batteries. A cell phone carries lithium battery that last little and do not get along with the cold. You can carry an external battery, but the weight at the end orders.
  • Meteorology: Clearly they cannot stand it. It rains if it rains. If it is sunny, the screen cannot be read. But the worst, if it is very cold the battery does not last even television news.
  • They are weak: So is. They may fall or scratch you; you just do not want to break it.
  • Screens: They do not get along well with either the cold or the gloves.
  • Hardware: The GPS of a mobile is not as accurate as those of a mountain GPS both by the antenna and by the processor. In addition, new generations of GPS for hiking or trekking support both GPS satellite and GLONASS coverage.
best GPS for hiking

I do not recommend it if you are going to make long trips or if you go hiking in cold places. That yes, there is one thing in your favor without a doubt, the variety of apps. Many of the apps are competing from you to your usability and functionality of an advanced GPS, but at the hardware level I'm afraid they're still light years away.

From the High End to the Cheapest

We can speak first hand of most of them, since they have been indefatigable companions in our adventures. Unfortunately I've already lost two in the last three years, maybe that's why we have time enough to try out several of the models we see today. To this day Miguel has a GPSMAP 62 and in my case an Oregon 600. Which is better? To taste the colors, let's see which one you like best.

Android arrives to the hiking GPS at a high price, so expensive that it barely sells. If you add this to your size you end up deciding for an Oregon or a GPSMAP. But not everything is bad, if not quite the opposite. Taking Android allows you to have countless apps and a much friendlier environment; in fact we can say that this is the future of Garmin. Having Android is a plus, a plus that I'm sure will add other GPS ranges.

Android arrives to the hiking GPS at a high price, so expensive that it barely sells. If you add this to your size you end up deciding for an Oregon or a GPSMAP. But not everything is bad, if not quite the opposite. Taking Android allows you to have countless apps and a much friendlier environment; in fact we can say that this is the future of Garmin. Having Android is a plus, a plus that I'm sure will add other GPS ranges.

best GPS for hiking


Garmin Monterra - http://dutapersada.co.id

From my point of view, it is expensive, but it is nice and very attractive. That if, having a 4 "screen seems a bit big, something to be valued as it also affects their weight. Is it really a GPS for hiking?

It is a very good tactile option. It is my GPS for hiking and very comfortable in most situations. The 3 "screen looks a bit small, but the operation is optimal. You can handle it with rain without problem and apart it is capacitive, so you can use two fingers when expanding a map.

best GPS for hiking

Garmin Oregon - http://gpsradler.de

In addition to having a large screen it is possible to use it as a browser for the car, since you can install the same maps as the traditional browsers. It has a very useful profile option, which you can exchange between trekking, leisure or car among others.

At the level of features there are several ranges currently, the 600-650 and the 700-750 *, where the T range stand out for having included maps. Besides, between the x50 and the x00 the main difference is that the former carries a bit more internal memory, a battery charger and a camera, something unnecessary because of its poor quality. From my point of view, better the 600-700, you avoid carrying a bad camera and you save money.

* The new 700-750 range has bluetooth, which makes it possible to connect it to your mobile with the Garmin Connect application. Parts are compatible with WIKILOC, so this model could be a very good buy.

It is possibly the toughest, toughest and most professional on the market. Maybe your antenna does not like many, but if you are in a closed forest or a canyon, your antenna Quad Helix will not lose coverage, something that is priceless. For the more adventurous is the preferred, even ahead of the new tactile ones, since in extreme conditions you always need to have with you the most resistant.

best GPS for hiking

Garmin GPSmap - http://gpstracklog.com

Its buttons are very comfortable although the Garmin interface leaves much to be desired. The new generation 64 already supports GLONASS. Its handling in extreme conditions, for example with gloves, unlike the tactile, is handled with ease, and at the level of functionality is very similar to the rest. As in Oregon there are several models, but we recommend the GPSMAP 64s, the intermediate, since with the 64st only difference in price, internal storage 4GB vs 8GB and maps are already included. Apart, the basic 64, which is not worth it, has no barometric altimeter or electronic compass.

By the way, as in the case of Oregon has a system of smart notifications to be able to see emails, text messages and anything else on your mobile over Bluetooth. There is no doubt that it is the best GPS for hiking or trekking.

It is Garmin's first dedicated mountain range that includes satellite communication, allowing you to send short messages, such as SMS, and send help messages. For the way it remembers the GPSMAP, the king of the range, but it differs in things like the size of the screen, which is smaller, the battery that is internal and something that has caught our attention, does not incorporate an SD card slot, something that greatly limits the product.

best GPS for hiking


Garmin inReach - www.mec.ca

Given these shortcomings, the only thing we see positive about this device is the possibility of connecting, but everything good is not always good, since in order to access this particularity you have to sign up for a satellite network with its corresponding cost, that is , You will have global coverage even if there is no coverage on your mobile.

The TwoNav Adventure is another high end model. The manufacturer, CompeGPS, has been manufacturing mountain GPS for more than a decade. A part is responsible for a widely used map application, CompeGPS. In this case the Aventura model is the top of the range. We are not talking about a cheap GPS, but many of its features are superior to Garmin.

best GPS for hiking

TwoNav Aventura - www.trail.ch

It has a screen of 3.5", is not bad, and internal memory of 64mb, very little truth. In appearance the Garmin look better built and is much cheaper. Both weight and size can be said to be similar, but where the thing changes is in maps. There are shared maps, such as the Alpina, but the wonderful Topo Maps 5 is only available in Garmin. In CompeGPS there is one very similar and with a lot of cartographic information but it is not updated since 2012. It still looks good.

It is a popular good, nice and cheap. It was our first GPS and possibly the best mountain GPS for beginners and even for people who have been practicing this sport for a long time. It has improved over time and although its handling would not call it simple, it is small and comfortable to keep in your pocket. The screen is small, only 2.2 ", but of sufficient quality. To handle the system you have a small joystick.

It has Geocaching features and access to the GPS and GLONASS network, but the best is its battery, since it can last for more than 24h, one pass. Although the lowest range we do not recommend for having a poor graphic quality to be monochrome.

best GPS for hiking

Garmin eTrex - http://gpsradler.de

In the background if compared to the high end the main difference is the size of the screen and its construction. The rest is almost the same; even the Etrex wins them face in weight and battery life.

Finally as in many models of Garmin there are 3 ranges - The best choice, the top range, the Etrex 30 model. The most basic is insane, by the screen for the quality graphics commented. We are in the 21st century and there are still screens like this. The intermediate model, the Etrex 20, has no barometric altimeter or electronic compass, so if you run out of GPS signal or simply, it is not accurate, you will lose this appreciated functionality.

Magellan is one of the main competitors of Garmin, but Europe has never been its forte. In the United States they are very powerful, where they have an excellent cartography, including one that we like, the one of National Geographic. But Europe is a little far and the maps available for this region are not as good as those of Garmin or CompeGPS.

If we talk about features both the model 610 and the 710 are tactile devices. They do not support GLONASS but EGNOS, which helps us to position ourselves better in Europe, but at the level of battery life, internal memory or screen type is like a CompeGPS or a Garmin.

best GPS for hiking

Magellan eXplorist - http://gpstracklog.com

Before buying a Garmin we have always been hesitant in the Magellan, but the absence of user community, scarce support and few maps has always been a step so high that we have opted for other brands, But time to time.

Presenting at CES 2015, may not be the best GPS for hiking but of course is original. It is the closest thing to a mountain GPS on the wrist. Del Garmin Epix features its color screen, storage capacity up to 8GB, hands-free, GPS and GLONASS. But the best is not only that, but it uses the same maps as the Oregon, Dakota, Etrex or GPSMAP, a pass. We have not seen it yet, but we anticipate it. That if, although it lasts 24h the battery and has many functionalities, to see a map in such a small screen is worth? Of course I do not see it as a substitute for a handheld GPS, but it's a big step.

best GPS for hiking

Garmin Epix - http://mehr-berge.de

Tips and Tricks for GPS Hiking

Before you go for the first time with your GPS device you should familiarize yourself with your GPS device. The most important GPS functions, tips and tricks to get everything from your GPS device can be found here.

GPS Position Determination

The accuracy of the GPS position determination during walking depends mainly on satellite reception. The more satellites are received the better. But you need at least four satellites. However, reception can be disturbed or completely interrupted by environmental influences. No reception is possible in buildings or caves. In ravines or in dense forests the reception is often disturbed and inaccurate. The accuracy of the determined position can differ more than 20 meters. Rain, snow and fog could also reduce reception. Put simply, the better one sees the sky, the more accurate is the location.

There are three different satellite systems:

  1. Global Positioning System (GPS) is the first and most used system to date. Developed by the Americans, it still sets standards.
  2. Glonass is the Russian system which has been in operation since 2011.
  3. Galileo is the European satellite navigation system which unfortunately is still not fully operational.

Most GPS devices are now able to use both and in the future all three systems to improve the accuracy of the positioning.

best GPS for hiking


GPS Track Recording

Analyze, recommend or save your hike at home? This is not a problem if you record the GPS tracks while hiking. The track recording is a really useful thing to look at the tour again. Garmin also offers in its program BaseCamp the possibility to create tracks, adventures. Adventures can be enriched with photos and short stories and then put online. This is a simple way to share his "adventure" with others. The easiest way to go is to load a GPX track on your GPS. The GPS device guides you safely along the selected track with sufficient reception. You can also create tracks yourself. With programs such as Garmin BaseCamp, this is easy after a short training.

GPS Compass

The current GPS devices have an electronic compass. Nice thing but personally I've never needed it. If you want to use the electronic compass you should calibrate it regularly.

GPS Barometer

For hiking in the mountains, a GPS barometer is a really useful function. The GPS also calculates the actual altitude using the satellites without barometer but these measurements are often inaccurate. Especially in the mountains when the satellite reception is not so good, the measured values differ considerably. GPS devices with barometers measure the altitude using the air pressure. This measurement is more accurate and not dependent on satellite reception. Regular calibration is also necessary. I calibrate my altimeter before each tour. For the calibration of the GPS device you need a place whose height you know exactly.

GPS Map Material

You can choose between the manufacturers' cards or the OSM cards. I use now only for hiking only OSM cards since these are free and in the meantime no longer have to hide from paying cards. OSM is a project which provides the map material and is constantly updated and further developed. One can support this project with its own GPS records and thus participate in more and more accurate maps.

Corrective Systems for Position Determination

EGNOS / WAAS both systems are located in most GPS devices and improve the accuracy of the positioning. Unfortunately this works just when one needs it (in gorges or in the dense forest) because of missing reception.

GPS Geocaching

For geocaching you can basically use any GPS device. Some devices offer useful features like paperless geocaching. Important is the correct setting of the GPS device. You should see the setting "Show on Road: Select "Off", otherwise the position will always be displayed on a road or path. But since caches are often hidden a few meters from the road, the location on roads / roads is a hindrance.

The USB Port

There is no more modern equipment which does without this. Simply connect it to the PC and the device is recognized by plug-in play. Now you can download simply recorded tracks or OSM map material. Fortunately, the GPS manufacturers have agreed on one format. The GPX format is a standard format. In this format, tracks, waypoints and routes can be saved. All track downloads on Sepp am Berg are stored in this format.

Video: Guide to GPS

About the Author Donna Owens

Hello, I'm Donna; A traveler addicted to adventure, diving, and mountain. I've been touring the world for six years and I hope to inspire you to travel with fascinating stories, photographs, and mountain routes.

2 responses to “Traveler Advice I What is the Best GPS for Hiking?”

  1. Brian says:

    Nice article Donna. I myself am a mountaineering enthusiast and GPS/Barometer/Altimeter are very important for. Late last year I decided to try out the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier and I must say it’s an excellent device, better in fact than the various Garmin devices I’ve used in the past and with a 3 day battery for a weekend of climbing I’ve no complaints plus it’s rugged and can handle temperature extremes. Last week while climbing in Turkey we got a timely warning from my Gear S3 of a sudden pressure drop which gave us the time to find shelter before a real stinker of a storm hit us! You should check it out.

  2. Donna says:

    Hey, Brian, Many thanks for sharing your experience.

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