The Best Handheld GPS for Hiking: A Complete Guide 

If you want to discover the best personal GPS tracker for hiking, then welcome. This guide will take you handheld GPS reviews for all the top products on the market right now so you can find the best trail GPS to fit your needs and budget.  

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Best handheld GPS for hiking FAQs and reviews
Find the best GPS for hiking

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Finding the best handheld GPS for hiking 

Before we begin, let’s outline why this guide contains only Garmin handheld GPS reviews, and none from any other manufacturer. This is simply because Garmin is the global leader when it comes to quality and innovation in the field of handheld hiking GPS navigation systems, and makes top hiking GPS systems with the highest ratings and most genuinely useful features.  

Garmin have not sponsored this guide, so you can be confident of reading our unbiased opinion in every handheld GPS review included here. As always, only the products we have found to be the best are recommended here.  

What’s the best hiking GPS overall? 

The best GPS locator for hikers is the Garmin GPSMAP 66i.  View it here.

Why buy the Garmin GPSMAP 66i? 

The Garmin GPSMAP 66i is the best GPS unit for hiking overall because of its high ratings and impressive features. The best handheld GPS for hiking comes with satellite messaging and SOS signalling capabilities plus a clear three-inch screen as well as live weather forecasts and geocaching.  

>> Click here to see the Garmin GPSMAP 66i 

So Garmin make all the best rated handheld GPS devices. What else do you need to know? Also included among the best handheld Garmin GPS reviews are several wearable options, as well as compact handheld GPS systems that will fit into the palm of your hand.  

Stay right here to find the best GPS device for hiking – for you. First up is the handheld GPS comparison chart, for a quick hiking GPS comparison at a glance. Next we take a look at the frequently asked questions around the topic of what is the best handheld GPS to buy, to further help you in making your mind up.  

This is followed by reviews of the top products so you can find the best outdoor GPS for you. Whether you want to find a handheld GPS with maps, the easiest handheld GPS to use, the smallest handheld GPS, a handheld GPS that’s waterproof or the best budget GPS for hiking, this guide will help you track the right one down.  

Best GPS for Hiking Comparison Table 

NameImageKey FeaturesOur Rating
Garmin GPSMAP 66iSOS signalling & satellite messaging
Live forecasts & geocaching
Clear screen
Garmin eTrex 22xGood value price
Rugged & compact
Preloaded TopoActive mapping
Garmin Montana 700iSatellite imagery
Global connectivity
Military grade construction
Garmin inReach MiniUltra portable
Mobile device connectivity
Compatible with Geos SOS
Garmin Foretrex 701 Ballistic editionNight vision goggles compatible
Compass & barometer
Smart notifications
Garmin Instinct Tactical Wearable watch
Trackback function
Water, heat & shock resistant
Garmin Tactix SolarMilitary style
Solar charging
Superb connectivity & compatibility
Garmin Rino 755tPreloaded topographical maps
Large screen
2-way radio communication

Choosing the Best GPS for Hikers – Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the best handheld GPS on the market? 

If you want to know what is the best handheld GPS unit, then first of all you need look no further than Garmin. Their great range makes it easy to find the best portable GPS for hiking. Of all products, the Garmin GPSMAP 66i is very highly rated and offers genuinely useful features that we have found to help ensure every trip goes according to plan.  

Is a GPS useful for hiking? 

Using a portable GPS for hiking means you can navigate easily, even when there’s poor visibility and a distinct lack of landmarks to plot and track your route. Whether you enjoy day hikes in the mountains or longer treks across the country, a wearable or handheld GPS system will make life simpler as well as more rewarding.  

What is the easiest GPS to use for hiking? 

What makes the best handheld GPS unit will vary from one hiker to another, so it really depends on your preferences, budget and the conditions you hike in. For some the top personal GPS tracker for hikers will be a wearable unit rather than a handheld one. Or you may, for example, want to look for a device with a large, clear screen that’s viewable even in bright sunlight.  

How do I choose a hiking GPS? 

So which handheld GPS is best for you? When picking a personal GPS for hiking, the list of features to look out for includes the screen size, the life of the battery, the compatibility and connectivity of the device and of course whether or not it has the functions you would find most useful. Will it be easy to carry, help you find your way and keep you in touch with what’s going on? 

Is a Garmin GPS worth it? 

With options starting from only a couple of hundred dollars upwards, investing in the best Garmin GPS for hiking you can afford is totally worthwhile. You have the reassurance of big brand back-up and access to the last technology, and in extreme circumstances this could even help to save your life.  

The Best Handheld GPS for Hikers 

Garmin GPSMAP 66i

Garmin makes many of the best handheld GPS units for hiking and among those the GPSMAP 66i is one of the most popular of all.  

This top handheld GPS unit has a three-inch color screen that’s easy to read even when the sun is shining, and the battery can last for up to 35 hours on a full charge. For those with a satellite subscription, it’s capable of two-way messaging via the Iridium network and can also send an SOS distress signal to Geos search and rescue. 

Satellite image downloads require no subscription and this handheld GPS from Garmin can also access numerous Global Navigation Satellite Systems and sensors. Live geocaching and active weather forecasting is also available.  


  • Good visibility in sunlight 
  • Satellite messaging & SOS signaling 
  • Live geocaching & active weather forecasts


  • Premium brand price tag

>> Click here to view the Garmin GPSMAP 66i on Amazon 

>> Click here to view the Garmin GPSMAP 66i on REI 

Garmin eTrex 22x

Garmin eTrex handheld GPS reviews and customer feedback place the eTrex 22x at the top of the list when it comes to finding the best Garmin handheld GPS for hiking. The eTrex handheld GPS certainly beats the GPSMAP 66i in terms of price. 

This Garmin handheld GPS eTrex 22x also has a display that’s clear to view even in sunlight, though the 2.2 inch screen is smaller than some. TopoActive maps are preloaded so you can plan cycling or hiking routes, and it’s compatible with GLONASS and GPS satellite systems. 

AA batteries supply the power, and it can go for up to 25 hours on these when used on GOS mode.  


  • Compact, rugged design 
  • Great value for a Garmin 
  • Preloaded TopoActive maps


  • Less functions than some

>> Click here to view the Garmin eTrex 22x on Amazon 

>> Click here to view the Garmin eTrex 22x on REI

Garmin Montana 700i

With a rugged design and a glove-friendly touchscreen, the Garmin Montana 700i is a serious contender as best Garmin GPS for hiking. The build is military grade, while the five-inch screen enables clear viewing. 

Messaging via the Iridium satellite network is enabled for those who subscribe and an SOS can also be sent to the 24/7 monitoring center run by Geos. TopoActive maps are also preloaded and users can access the City Navigator system. This device also works with the Garmin Explore app. 

The large screen is a real plus, and the Montana 700i from Garmin is also set up to use Bluetooth, WiFi and ANT+ technology. 


  • Good global connectivity 
  • Military grade construction 
  • Satellite imagery without subscription


  • Relatively expensive

>> Click here to view the Garmin Montana 700i on Amazon 

>> Click here to view the Garmin Montana 700i on Al’

Garmin inReach Mini

This is a truly portable option among the top Garmin handheld GPS models and can also be used with the inReach service for subscribers. Two-way messaging and SOS signaling is also available via the Iridium network and Geos search and rescue center respectively, also for those with a subscription. 

At 09. inches square, the screen is small, but that is the price paid for having such a compact model at your disposal: this GPS handheld Garmin can fit within the palm of your hand.  

You can pair the inReach Mini with the Garmin Pilot smartphone app, and others can track your progress via the MapShare system. The Garmin Earthmate app also lets you access color imagery, downloadable maps and more. 


  • Ultra portable 
  • Geos SOS compatible 
  • Mobile device pairing for Earthmate app access


  • Limited screen size

>> Click here to view the Garmin inReach Mini on Amazon 

>> Click here to view the Garmin inReach Mini on REI

Garmin Foretrex 701 Ballistic edition

If you’d like to find the most portable device possible, then surely a wearable option beats even the most compact Garmin handheld GPS units. 

This military grade piece of navigational kit should please even the most intrepid hikers, as it’s ultra tough, compatible with night vision goggles and certainly looks the part. You can also keep in touch when smart notifications are enabled to alert you to texts, emails and alerts. 

The long-lasting battery works for up to 48 hours in navigation mode or up to a month when worn and used as a watch. Other helpful functions include a 3-axis accelerometer, a barometric altimeter and a 3-axis compass.   


  • Night vision goggles compatibility 
  • Smart alert, text & email notifications 
  • Compass, barometric altimeter & accelerometer


  • No color display

>> Click here to view the Garmin Foretrex 701 on Amazon

>> Click here to view the Garmin Foretrex 701 on Sportsman’s Warehouse

Garmin Instinct Tactical GPS watch

If the best GPS tracker for hikers is one that can easily be carried, then how about taking this a step further to wear one on your wrist? Enter the GPS smartwatches from Garmin, that are available in various price ranges to suit your budget. 

The Instinct Tactical is available in an astonishing array of colors and whichever you pick, it’s water, shock and heat resistant. It’s also been built to comply with US military standards and can be worn to a depth of 100 meters. 

Navigational features on this Garmin smartwatch include a barometric altimeter, a 3-axis compass, compatibility with satellite systems such as Glonass and Galileo, smart notifications and trackback so you can retrace your steps.  


  • Wearable GPS smartwatch 
  • Shock, heat & water resistant 
  • Trackback to retrace your steps


  • Not technically a handheld device

>> Click here to view the Garmin Instinct Tactical on Amazon 

>> Click here to view the Garmin Instinct Tactical on REI

Garmin Tactix Solar 

If you like the look of the Instinct Tactical but have more money to spend, the Tactix Solar from Garmin is a highly specialized and intelligent GPS smartwatch. It has solar charging capabilities built in to prolong battery life, for a start. 

When charging via solar power and used in watch mode it can last for up to 24 days, or runs for up to 15 or 16 hours in GPS mode.  

The impressive list of features on this military-style watch include Jumpmaster and stealth modes, a dual-position format, a public land map, waypoint projection, advanced navigation sensors, preloaded topographic and ski maps, and multi-GNSS support.  


  • Military-style features 
  • Solar charging screen 
  • Outstanding compatibility & connectivity


  • Most pricey option

>> Click here to view the Garmin Tactix Solar on Amazon 

>> Click here to view the Garmin Tactix Solar on REI

Garmin Rino 755t

This one isn’t a smartwatch – it’s also a walkie-talkie. The Rino 755t is a more modern model of the Rino 700, and offers a considerable upgrade on the former. This one has a color screen and preloaded mapping, and can also be used as a 2-way radio. 

The radio function works within a range of up to 20 miles and allows either voice or text message communications. You can also view position reporting to see where others are when they also have a Rino device. 

The three-inch screen is a good size and is readable in sunlight. This device can be powered via AA batteries or a lithium-ion pack, and runs for up to 18 or 14 hours respectively. 


  • 2-way radio communications 
  • 3-inch screen is clear in daylight 
  • Preloaded topographical mapping


  • Rather bulky

>> Click here to view the Garmin Rino 755t on Amazon

>> Click here to view the Garmin Rino 755t on Sportman’s Warehouse

Which is the Best Handheld GPS Device for You? 

We hope this guide – and the best handheld hiking GPS reviews within it – have helped with your search for the best backcountry GPS for your trips into the mountains, national parks or wilderness.  

Whichever of the best GPS portable units you pick, you can be confident of buying a reliable, practical product from the leading experts in the navigational field. This may help you to stay safe – as well as on-track while hiking.  

Happy hiking!   

Do you have any recommendations for the best handheld GPS tracker for hiking?  I’d love to hear them.  Join my private Facebook group National Parks Collectors and comment and let me know (you can also pick up extra planning tips, share your photos and stories with other national park lovers and more).   

If you liked this post, please share the love and Pin It to your Hiking board!   

Find the best GPS for hiking
Best handheld GPS for hiking FAQs and reviews

 About the Author

James Ian Yosemite

James Ian has traveled to 82 countries and all 7 continents.  He has visited all of the main national parks in the United States, as well as many national monuments and state parks.

He has rafted through the Grand Canyon; rappelled down slot canyons near Zion and Arches; hiked among the hoodoos in Bryce and the enormous trees in Sequoia; admired the waterfalls in Yosemite and the colored hot springs in Yellowstone; seen moose in Grand Tetons and seals in the Channel Islands, and much more.

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