The Best Handheld GPS Devices of 2022

Garmin's GPSMAP 66i is the most complete GPS on the market and our top pick

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Best Handheld GPSes

TripSavvy / Chloe Jeong

TripSavvy's Pick

Capable of delivering detailed navigational data, sending messages and SOS alerts, and displaying a host of other data like weather and altitude, the Garmin GPSMAP 66i is hard to beat, with solid battery life, pre-loaded maps galore, and app integrations. But if you’re not sure if you need a GPS with all the bells and whistles, consider the Garmin eTrex 10, which comes with a worldwide basemap, an intuitive interface, and connectivity to two satellite networks for pinpoint accuracy.

Sure, smartphones all come with GPS functionality and can host loads of GPS-powered navigation apps. Still, nothing beats the pinpoint accuracy of a dedicated handheld GPS device, especially if your forays regularly take you to places that are off the grid. This naturally frees up more space for your smartphone, but GPSes now display not only your location; they now show detailed topographic maps that call out geographic features and public land borders and also provide loads of other travel-friendly data, from info on the weather to three-axis compasses to elevation measurements. Some also add an additional layer of safety via two-way communication that’ll keep you in contact with your friends and family and—should the worst happen—provide the ability to send out an SOS emergency message with your current location so you can get help.

These are the best handheld GPS systems of 2022.

Best Overall: Garmin GPSMAP 66i

Garmin GPSMAP 66i

REI

What We Like
  • The GPSMAP 66i is the most complete handheld GPS on the market

What We Don't Like
  • All those features come at a cost, and to unlock some of the features, a subscription to a satellite service is required

Simply put, the Garmin GPSMAP 66i does everything. It comes pre-loaded with TopoActive maps for the US and Canada (including details on terrain contours, elevations, summits, parks, coastlines, rivers, lakes, and geographical points) along with a pre-loaded Wikiloc Trails app that lets you download hiking, cycling, and other trail beta. It accesses multiple global nav satellite systems to track in ways that GPS devices that only plug into one network can’t support and uses ABC sensors to help navigate, with details that include an altimeter, barometer, and a three-axis electronic compass. This all works with downloadable high-res maps that provide bird’s eye satellite imagery. 

You also get two-way messaging with an inReach subscription, interactive SOS alerts to a 24/7 staffed professional emergency response coordination center, and the ability to share your location. Pair it with a compatible smartphone, and you can also get real-time weather forecast info, or work with the Garmin Explore App to plan, review, and sync waypoints and routes. It’s built to military standard-toughness and can handle shocks, extreme temps, and water, with a battery life that can run for up to 200 hours when in Expedition mode (versus the default mode, which provides 35 hours of run time). It even comes with an LED flashlight.

Dimensions: 2.5 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches | Weight: 8.1 ounces | Average Battery Life: 35 hours | Screen Size: 2.5 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches | Pixels: 240 x 400

Best Budget: Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS

Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator

Amazon

What We Like
  • Easy to use and easy on the wallet

  • Runs on easy-to-source AA batteries

  • Lower-cost

What We Don't Like
  • Some may yearn for more features and the ability to communicate, which this device does not support

Boasting a 2.2-inch monochrome display and a worldwide basemap, the Garmin eTrex 10 offers an affordable, robust solution for GPS navigation support. The interface is intuitive, and the durable product will withstand shocks, dust, dirt, water, and humidity. It also supports geocaching PGX files, which are accessible via OpenCashing’s website. Pinpoint accuracy comes from a highly sensitive WAAS-enabled GPS receiver and can track both GPS and GLONASS satellites at the same time.

Dimensions: 2.1 x 4 x 1.3 inches | Weight: 5 ounces | Average Battery Life: 25 hours | Screen Size: 1.4 x 1.7 inches | Pixels: 128 x 160

Best for Messaging: Spot Gen 4

Gen 4

Amazon

What We Like
  • Simple and streamlined

  • Can take a serious beating

  • Provides essential paths of communication to handle both emergency and non-emergency situations

What We Don't Like
  • It doesn’t offer any navigation support

Built to assure that your friends and family know you’re safe—and to let emergency services know when things go awry—the Spot Gen4 is an essential security measure for when you’re off the grid and in the wild. A single push button triggers an SOS message to FocusPoint International, which coordinates rescues based on your location. Motion-activated tracking sends periodic updates to your crew while you’re en route, and a pre-programmed text message or email can be sent via GPS to up to ten contacts, sharing your exact coordinates—and you can set up custom messages as a secondary means of letting folks know you’re okay. And you can also employ that feature to transfer a personal help alert (when using the brand’s SOV service, which also communicates to others that you need help in a non-emergency way or need to contact professional vehicle support).

Dimensions: 3.48 x 2.66 inches | Weight: 5 ounces | Average Battery Life: 168 hours | Screen Size: n/a | Pixels: n/a

Best for Navigation: Garmin GPSMAP 65s

Garmin GPSMAP

REI

What We Like
  • Color display makes it easy to read

  • Provides impressive amount of data

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't support messaging, but can sync with compatible devices to receive push notifications on the device

Built to work with multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, and AQSS), the GPSMAP 65 Series from Garmin will keep you oriented in the most challenging of environments, with multi-band frequency support and ABC sensors that provide data on elevation and the weather, along with a three-axis electronic compass. The device comes preloaded with TopoActive maps of the U.S. and Canada (including details on terrain contours, topographical elevations, geographic features, and parks) and an optional display of federal public land boundaries. You can supplement those features with additional topo maps via the MicroSD slot, and a preloaded Garmin Explore app lets you plan, review, and sync waypoints. 

Dimensions: 2.4 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches | Weight: 7.7 ounces | Average Battery Life: 16 hours | Screen Size: 1.43 x 2.15 inches | Pixels: 160 x 240

Best Screen: Garmin GPSMAP 276Cx

Garmin GPSMAP

Garmin

What We Like
  • Five-inch screen and full-color display make it easy to read

  • Massive array of map options make it easy to track your movement

What We Don't Like
  • It’s heavy

  • Works best when your adventures include vehicles

Boasting a five-inch-diagonal full-color screen, the Garmin GPSMAP 276Cx employs an internal antenna that captures GPS and GLONASS satellite reception. The device supports Active Weather forecasts and animated weather-tracking, a boon that boaters will appreciate. It supports loads of maps, including Garmin TOPO maps, HuntView, BlueChart g3 marine charts, turn-by-turn directions via City Navigator NT, custom maps from Garmin, raster maps, and vector maps. Wi-fi capability allows you to push updates and database syncs wirelessly, and you can pair it with your mobile device to engage with features like LiveTrack. Bonus: Swap the in-unit-charged lithium-ion battery pack for standard AA batteries.

Dimensions: 7.5 x 3.7 x 1.7 inches | Weight: 15.9 ounces | Average Battery Life: 16 hours (lithium-ion), 8 hours (2 AA batteries) | Screen Size: 4.4 x 2.45 inches | Pixels: 800 x 480

Best Entry-Level: Garmin eTrex 22x

eTrex 22x

REI

What We Like
  • Inexpensive

  • Easy to use

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn’t allow for any sort of communication

Outfitted with a 240x320-pixel, 2.2-inch color display that’s readable in bright sunlight, the eTrex 22x from Garmin makes it easy for first-time GPS users to get their bearings. It comes pre-loaded with TopoActive maps with routable roads and trails for cycling and hiking and has 8 gigabytes of storage and a microSD card slot to let you load more maps. Rather than relying solely on GPS satellites, it also plugs into GLONASS systems to track your location in more challenging environments, and a three-axis compass and barometric altimeter help orient the user quickly. And fun is also part of the equation with the eTrex 22x—it supports paperless geocaching. Just upload GPX files to the device, and you can view geocache info like location, terrain, and hints from sites like Geocaching.com

Dimensions: 2.1 x 4 x 1.3 inches | Weight: 5 ounces | Average Battery Life: 25 hours | Screen Size: 1.4 x 1.7 inches | Pixels: 240 x 320

Best for Hiking and Backpacking: Garmin Montana 700 Series

Garmin Montana

Amazon

What We Like
  • Touchscreen makes it easy to use

  • Navigation and communication makes it ideal for intrepid hikers

What We Don't Like
  • Some of the features require separate subscriptions

If you travel minimally or need to use both hands, you’ll appreciate the Foretrex 401 wrist GPS, which weighs a mere 2.2 ounces. The 401 allows you to manage routes, tracks, and waypoints with a simple, easy-to-read LCD display that retraces your path. It stores up to 500 waypoints and features a high-sensitivity GPS receiver, allowing for optimal performance and reception in deep canyons and heavy tree areas. It’s also weather-resistant, which makes it perfect for hikers, skiers, and campers who travel in rain or snow.

The GPS also features a barometric altimeter, electronic compass, and wireless data communication. Because of the device’s size and lower price, there are logistics to consider. The small black-and-white screen won’t allow advanced onscreen navigation or preloaded maps. Another drawback is its relatively weaker battery life of 17 hours.

Dimensions: 3.6 x 7.2 x 1.3 inches | Weight: 14.5 ounces | Average Battery Life: 18 hours in GPS mode, up to 300 in Expedition mode | Screen Size: 2.55 x 4.25 inches | Pixels: 480 x 800

Best Lightweight: Garmin inReach Mini

inreach mini

Garmin

What We Like
  • Two-way communication and an interactive SOS feature

  • 90-hour battery life

What We Don't Like
  • No navigational functionality with this device

Weighing in at a feathery 3.5 ounces, the Garmin inReach Mini provides a lightweight way to stay in contact with your loved ones—and to reach emergency services—while out in the wild. It supports two-way messaging (and social media posts), location sharing, and an interactive SOS trigger that plugs into a 24/7 staffed professional emergency response coordination center (pending a satellite subscription). The device runs on a 100 percent global iridium satellite network to ensure your communications go through. You can also access inReach weather forecasts and request weather info on your current location, other waypoints, or future destinations that might lie in your path. You also get free access to the cloud-powered Garmin Explore website, which you can use to plan your trip, set up preset messages and texts, and sync and manage your device settings.

Dimensions: 2.04 x 3.9x1.03 inches | Weight: 3.5 ounces | Average Battery Life: 90 hours at 10-minute tracking, 35 hours with 1-second logging, up to 24 days at 30-minute tracking in power save mode | Screen Size: 0.9 x 0.9 inches | Pixels: 128 x 128

Best for Golf: Canmore HG200 Plus

CANMORE HG200

Amazon

What We Like
  • Includes a score card

  • A well-versed caddy in the palm of your hand

What We Don't Like
  • Solely focused on course navigation

  • Doesn’t support traditional GPS functionality

Built to help you navigate golf courses worldwide, the Canmore HG-200 Plus comes with more than 40,000 global course data pre-loaded onto the device, supporting both fairway and green map displays. It provides accurate distance-to-green measurements, identifies hazards, and records shot distances. Everything is laid out on a color two-inch display and features several languages. It also has a powerful magnet that attaches to a sturdy clip, so you can attach the device to your belt or mount it on a golf cart.

Dimensions: 3.26 x 1.85 x 0.8 inches | Weight: 2.6 ounces |  Average Battery Life: 14 hours | Screen Size: 1.74 x 0.98 inches | Pixels: 176 x 220

What to Look for in a Handheld GPS

Size and Weight

By design, most handheld GPS devices offer enough screen size to make the data easily legible and are lightweight enough not to weigh you down too much. But if you’re an ounce-counter who simply wants a GPS-enabled tool to communicate to your friends and family and to contact emergency services, devices can weigh as little as 3.5 ounces. If you’re willing to carry a bit heavier device, you’ll benefit from larger screens, more storage options, and other potential features, which may work well for travelers who use a vehicle rather than while on foot.

Ease of Use

Most GPS devices utilize complex layers of data (topo maps, elevation, barometric pressure, and more) but deliver that info in a way that’s easy to use. Push-button controls are most common, letting you toggle through the different modes and settings, though some have touchscreens, making it easier to send text messages. That said, if you’re new to a device, be sure to spend some time practicing before you go out into the field. Devices that support communication also typically come with auto-send functionality (which shares your location with a group of contacts, sent pre-programmed intervals or on demand), as well as buttons for sending pre-written text messages and one button SOS emergency support. Most devices also come pre-loaded with topo maps, support extra memory so you can download custom maps or apps, and micro USB slots to further increase the volume of maps you can access.

Connectivity/Bluetooth

All GPS devices link to a network of GPS satellites to pinpoint your position, but some of the more advanced options can sync up to multiple satellite networks (GLONASS, GALILEO, and AQSS), which makes them more reliable if your travels take you to truly remote locations. They also can use cellular service when in range. And some devices can be paired with your smartphone, allowing you to get push notifications on the GPS or display weather info.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Who needs/should use a handheld GPS?

    Anyone who plans to travel without cell service should consider using a handheld GPS. They’re the most reliable method of navigating when you’re off the grid and typically provide loads of additional data—the weather, altitude, public land boundary lines, and waypoints like trailheads and bodies of water—that can help you make an informed decision. GPSes that support communication also add another layer of security and safety, allowing you to let friends and family know where you are (and that you’re safe) or send an SOS emergency message to a rescue resource center. But even if you plan to stick to cities when you travel, a GPS can add another layer of support if you don’t have a comprehensive data/cell plan or are visiting locations with notoriously spotty service.

  • If I already have a smartphone GPS app, do I need a handheld GPS?

    While smartphone apps that utilize a device’s GPS features have improved, and most cell phone GPSes operate even when you’re not covered by cellular or data services, a dedicated device is far more reliable because they tap into one—or several—GPS satellite systems, which makes you pinpoint your location with near-perfect accuracy. Using a GPS also frees up your cell phone for other purposes versus using a battery-draining navigation app, and GPS apps can also eat into your data, which can be troublesome and costly if you have a limited plan.

  • What's the benefit of a handheld GPS versus a watch GPS?

    The conveniences of a watch—the ability to use the device hands-free and glance at it mid-motion—carry many benefits, but those come at a sacrifice: much smaller screens. Handheld GPSes are better at providing a larger picture of your terrain, helping you see where you are, where you’ve been, and what lies ahead. And that larger display size also makes it easier to view other data like the weather, waypoints, altitude, and geographic features, which will help inform your navigational decisions mid-trip.

Why Trust TripSavvy

Nathan Borchelt has been rating, reviewing, and testing outdoor and travel products for decades, emphasizing off-the-grid exploration. Both professional reviews and verified customer input were considered, as were key GPS functionality, ease of use, battery length, weight, and extra features. It should also be noted that Garmin now largely dominates the handheld GPS market; former brands like Magellan and a few others that used to compete in the space no longer offer comparable models, which is why this round-up is heavily weighted toward Garmin’s products.

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