Outdoors Gear The Best Handheld GPS Devices of 2023 By Nathan Borchelt Nathan Borchelt LinkedIn American University Nathan Borchelt has been working in the travel industry for more than 15 years as a writer, photographer, editor, and product manager. He covers everything from trail cameras to ski equipment. TripSavvy's editorial guidelines Updated on 08/31/22 Share Pin Email We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission. TripSavvy / Chloe Jeong 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 a GPS now displays not only your location but also detailed topographic maps that call out geographic features and public land borders as well as 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. The Rundown Best Overall: Garmin GPSMAP 66i at Amazon Jump to Review Best Budget: Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS at Amazon Jump to Review Best for Messaging: Spot Gen 4 at Amazon Jump to Review Best for Navigation: Garmin GPSMAP 65s at Amazon Jump to Review Best Screen: Garmin GPSMAP 276Cx at Walmart Jump to Review Best Entry-Level: Garmin eTrex 22x at Amazon Jump to Review Best for Hiking and Backpacking: Garmin Montana 700 Series at Amazon Jump to Review Best Lightweight: Garmin inReach Mini at Amazon Jump to Review Best for Golf: Canmore HG200 Plus at Amazon Jump to Review Table of contents Expand Our Picks What to Look For FAQ Why Trust TripSavvy Best Overall Garmin GPSMAP 66i REI View On Amazon View On 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 U.S. 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, a 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. Price at time of publish: $600 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 Amazon View On Amazon View On Cabelas.com 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. Price at time of publish: $120 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 Amazon View On Amazon View On Westmarine.com 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 Doesn’t offer any navigation support Built to ensure 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 non-emergency help or need to contact professional vehicle support). Price at time of publish: $150 Dimensions: 3.48 x 2.66 inches | Weight: 5 ounces | Average Battery Life: 168 hours | Screen Size: n/a | Pixels: n/a 10 Essential Safety Tips All Hikers Should Follow Best for Navigation Garmin GPSMAP 65s REI View On Amazon View On 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. Price at time of publish: $400 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 View On Walmart View On Garmin.com 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. Price at time of publish: $800 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 Navigation 101: Skills and Tools for Finding Your Way on a Hike Best Entry-Level Garmin eTrex 22x REI View On Amazon View On 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 Price at time of publish: $200 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 Amazon View On Amazon View On Best Buy 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. Price at time of publish: $600 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 Planning a Hiking Trip: The Complete Guide Best Lightweight Garmin inReach Mini Garmin View On Amazon View On Dick's View On Buydig.com 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 that 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. Price at time of publish: $345 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 The 8 Best Golf GPS Apps of 2022 for Android and iPhone Best for Golf Canmore HG200 Plus Amazon View On Amazon View On Canmore-sport.com 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. Price at time of publish: $130 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 slightly 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. 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 have 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 informed decisions. A GPS that supports communication also adds another layer of security and safety, allowing you to let friends and family know where you are (and that you’re safe) or sends 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 it taps 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. 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 they come at a sacrifice: much smaller screens. A handheld GPS is 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. 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 roundup is heavily weighted toward Garmin’s products. 20 Scenic Mountain Hikes in the United States Was this page helpful? Thanks for letting us know! Share Pin Email Tell us why! Submit Continue to 5 of 9 below. Continue to 9 of 9 below.