🥇Best Portable Handheld GPS Units – We found the best deals online today!

gps watch
Being able to navigate accurately is essential in many survival and recreational situations. Handheld GPS devices have advanced sensors and long battery life. They are also very rugged and come with specialized software for creating and finding routes, keeping track of your paths and geocaching.

I’ve found great highly rated Handheld GPS navigators at three different price points. I’ve also included some wearable GPS units. You can Jump straight to each segment:

Best of the Best

Best Value

Best on a Budget

Wearable GPS Navigation Units

Some of these GPS units can be paired with your smartphone via Bluetooth and I’ve also included one that is a satellite communicator and SOS device all in one. Check back soon as I will be doing reports on other satellite communicators and satellite phones soon.

You might be asking why should I buy a specialized GPS tracker when I have GPS sensors in my smartphone. There are a number of reasons why a Handheld GPS is better for navigation:

  1. They are rugged and can last through very harsh weather conditions and for a very long time.
  2. A smartphone runs out of battery power very fast when using maps and GPS.  Handheld GPS have batteries that can be replaced in the field and are designed to use minimal power.
  3. They are extremely durable and have water resistance.
  4. They have more powerful sensors and get better reception in the most remote locations. They can also pickup satellites in dense foliage and other natural locations such as canyons etc. Smartphones GPS sensors don’t work well in these conditions.

Its important to remember that GPS devices can’t always completely replace a compass and map. There may be times where you lose the signal or run out of power. Its a good idea to have both that way you’ll always know where you and how to navigate the path. If you don’t have a compass you can grab one here:

Eyeskey Waterproof Multifunctional Military Aluminum Alloy Compass with Inclinometer

Garmin gps watch

You’ll notice that all the products I’ve chosen are made by Garmin. That’s because they completely dominate the Handheld GPS market. They really make the best quality and longest lasting Portable Handheld GPS units. Most of the devices in my report have the ability to pick-up signals from GPS (US system) and GLONASS (Russian system) satellites. I hope you enjoy my report and find the perfect Handheld GPS device for you. Happy Navigating!

BEST OF THE BEST



BEST OF

THE BEST

Weight

Battery Life

Screen Size

Touchscreen

#1 WINNER

Garmin 750T GPS


8 oz.

16 Hours

3 Inch

Yes

#2 WINNER

Garmin inReach Explorer+

7.5 oz.

100 Hours


2.4 Inch

No

#3 WINNER

Garmin Oregon 700

7.4 oz.

16 Hours

3 Inch

Yes

#1 WINNER
Garmin 750T Handheld GPS

 

Weight: 8 oz.

Battery Life: 16 Hours

Screen size/touchscreen: 3 Inch/Yes

Pros: Comes preloaded with US 100 K maps. Excellent touch screen. Comes with a one-year subscription to Birdeye satellite feature. Includes an 8 megapixel camera. Integrated antenna. Includes Flashlight. High-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS receiver.

Cons: Pricey. Takes some time to learn how to use it. Touchscreen may be harder to operate in extreme weather when compared to devices with buttons.

The Garmin 750 T is by far the best handheld GPS around. I really love how It includes an 8 Megapixel camera. Each photo that you take is automatically geo tagged so you can go back to the location in the future. The build quality is top notch. This device can handle rugged conditions including dust, humidity, and water. Its water rated to Ipx7. It also includes WiFi and Bluetooth. The touchscreen is easy to view and use even in bright sunlight. Its easy to see why the Garmin 750 T is my #1 Winner. Although it is pricey, it comes with so many features and truly is a state-of-the-art Handheld GPS Unit.

 #2 WINNER
Garmin inReach Explorer +

 

Weight: 7.5 oz.

Battery Life: 100 Hours

Screen size/touchscreen: 2.4 Inch/No

Pros: Unbeatable battery life. Includes SOS and Satellite messenger functionality.

Cons: Not the best for navigation. Buttons are hard to use (difficult to navigate the devices functions). No touchscreen. No GLONASS receiver.

The Garmin InReach Explorer + is a brilliant device overall. You can pair it with the Earthmate app on your phone. The Earthmate app includes downloadable maps, NOAA weather charts and other cool useful features. The battery life on this device is unbeatable. What really sets this device apart is that it doubles as a Satellite messenger and SOS device. You can send text messages via satellite (requires subscription). You can also activate an SOS for 24/7 Search and rescue. This is sort of a crossover device. The reason I included it here is because I wanted to give you the option of having a device that does navigation and which includes a Satellite messenger. This device does both things reasonably well. On the downside its a bit cumbersome to operate.  The buttons can be hard to use. It also doesn’t do navigation as well as other Garmin devices. It can’t receive data from GLONASS satellites- only from GPS satellites. That’s why it takes my #2 winner spot. This is a good choice if you need the added security of an SOS device/Satellite Messenger.

 #3 WINNER
Garmin Oregon 700 Handheld GPS

 

Weight: 7.4 oz.

Battery Life: 16 Hours

Screen size/touchscreen: 3 Inch/Yes

Pros: Great price. State of the art design. Integrated antenna. Includes Flashlight. High-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS receiver.

Cons: Lacks a camera. Maps are not preloaded.  Touchscreen may be harder to operate in extreme weather when compared to buttons.

The Garmin Oregon 700 is a fantastic state-of-the-art device. Its very similar to the Garmin 750 T. The main difference is that the 700 doesn’t have a built-in camera and also doesn’t come preloaded with maps. If you’re looking for an easy to use device with a touch screen and built-in antenna this could be the device for you. I really like the touchscreen functionality and the fact that the design is very compact. This device takes my #3 Winner position because it comes with less memory than the 750T (1.7 GB as opposed to 4 GB on the 750T), lacks a camera and also doesn’t come with maps preloaded.

BEST VALUE



BEST VALUE

Weight

Battery Life

Screen Size

Touchscreen

#1 WINNER

Garmin GPS Map 64 SC

8.1 oz.

16 Hours

2.6 Inch

No

#2 WINNER

Garmin eTrex 30X 

4.96 oz.

25 Hours


2.2 Inch

No

#3 WINNER

Garmin GPS Map 64

8.1 oz.

16 Hours

2.6 Inch

No

 

 #1 WINNER
Garmin GPS MAP 64SC With Bluetooth and Camera

 

 

 

Weight: 8.1 oz.

Battery Life: 16 Hours

Screen size/touchscreen: 2.6 Inch/No

Pros: Excellent easy to use buttons. Sunlight readable screen. Very reliable. Dual battery system capable. 250,000 pre-loaded geocaches. Includes camera. High-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS receiver.

Cons: Bulky (external antenna). No touchscreen.

The Garmin GPS MAP 64 SC is a great all-around device. Its extremely reliable. The buttons are easy to use in all weather conditions. It also includes a camera which automatically geo tags the photos. This is a great deice for geocaching. You can use rechargeable and traditional batteries with it. The screen is easy to view even in sunlight. It also includes Garmin BirdsEye satellite imagery, Garmin Connect Mobile, and BaseCamp mobile. On the downside, it doesn’t include a touchscreen and the antenna is external.  Its my number #1 pick for Best Value because it is a well-rounded device and comes in at a reasonable price.

 #2 WINNER
Garmin eTrex 30x Handheld GPS Navigator

 

Weight: 4.96 oz.

Battery Life: 25 Hours

Screen size/touchscreen: 2.2 Inch/No

Pros: Lightweight. Great battery life. MicroSd slot. High-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS receiver. Dual battery system capable (rechargeable and standard batteries).

Cons: No touchscreen.

The Garmin eTrex 30 X is a great overall GPS device. Its really reasonably priced and does a good job as a navigator. It comes preloaded with a world-wide basemap only. The joystick control is intuitive and easy to use. You can insert a microSD to load in more maps. The 30 X also comes with a digital compass and altimeter. You can wirelessly share your tracks, waypoints, geocaches, and routes. The great thing about the eTrex series is that its the first consumer-grade set of receivers that can pick-up signals from GPS and GLONASS satellites. This is usually only found on more expensive devices. It takes the #2 position because it doesn’t come with a free year of BirdsEye and isn’t preloaded with more maps. But, you can’t load them in yourself. Its a good device that gets the job done and will save you money.

 #3 WINNER
Garmin GPS MAP 64 Worldwide GPS

 

Weight: 8.1 oz.

Battery Life: 16 Hours

Screen size/touchscreen: 2.6 Inch/No

Pros: Excellent easy to use buttons. Sunlight readable screen. Very reliable. Dual battery system capable. 250,000 pre-loaded geocaches. High-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS receiver.

Cons: Doesn’t include a camera. Doesn’t have a compass/accelerometer/barometric altimeter.

The Garmin GPS Map 64 is the base model of the GPS Map 64 SC. It lacks some of the functions but comes in at such a great price. It doesn’t come with BirdsEye subscription or basecamp mobile and also lacks some sensors which may be important to you. That’s why it takes my #3 position. On the other hand, I really like the simplicity and ruggedness of the device. The buttons are easy to use in any weather condition. It also doesn’t have a camera. But, it does a great job of navigating and saves you money. A great value buy overall!

BEST ON A BUDGET



BEST ON

A

BUDGET

Weight

Battery Life

Screen Size

Touchscreen

#1 WINNER

Garmin eTrex 20x

4.96 oz.

25 Hours

2.2 Inch

No

#2 WINNER

Garmin eTrex 10

5 oz.

25 Hours


2.2 Inch Monochrome

No


 #1 WINNER
Garmin eTrex 20x

 

Weight: 4.96 oz.

Battery Life: 25 Hours

Screen size/touchscreen: 2.2 Inch/No

Pros: Lots of features and isn’t expensive. High-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS receiver. Dual battery system capable (rechargeable and standard batteries).

Cons: No camera, compass or barometric altimeter.

I really like the simplicity of the Garmin eTrex 20x. It can pick-up GPS and GLONASS satellites. Its an accurate device and it isn’t expensive. It basically gets the job done even though its missing some of the features of the more expensive devices. If you need the camera or other sensors you may want to go for a more expensive device. You can add more maps to the devices large 3.7 Gb internal memory and the antenna is built-in. This makes the eTrex 20x a lightweight and compact unit. Its easy to see why this is my pick for #1 winner of Best on a Budget.

 #2 WINNER
Garmin eTrex 10 GPS

 

Weight: 5 oz.

Battery Life: 25 Hours

Screen size/touchscreen: 2.2 Inch Monochrome/No

Pros: Accurate. Compact. Can pick-up GPS and GLONASS satellites. Dual battery system capable (rechargeable and standard batteries).

Cons: No colour display. Only basic functionality.

The Garmin eTrex 10 is a simple yet accurate device. It has a great battery life and is easy to use. This is a good device for beginners or those that just want barebones navigation capability. It takes my #2 spot because you can’t add new maps to it and it doesn’t have a colour display. You can use it for geocaching and load GPX files via USB into the device. A great money-saving option!

WEARABLE GPS UNITS



WEARABLE

GPS

UNITS

#1 WINNER

Garmin Foretrex 701

#2 WINNER

Garmin Foretrex 601

#3 WINNER

Garmin Foretrex 401

#4 WINNER

Garmin Epix GPS Watch

 #1 WINNER
Garmin Foretrex 701 Military Ballistic Edition

 

The Garmin Foretrex 701 is built to last with military-grade standard materials (MIL-STD_810G). The screen is easy to read in sunlight its also compatible with night vision googles. It includes an accelerometer, compass, and barometric altimeter. The 701 also includes Applied Ballistics Elite software that calculates solutions for aiming. Battery life exceeds 48 hours when its navigating.  It can pick-up GPS, GLONASS and Galileo satellites. The Foretrex 701 also can be used to receive emails, alerts, and texts. On the downside, its expensive but its worth it if you need the ballistic calculations. Also, you can’t load TOPO maps into it. But, you can connect it to your phone through the Garmin Connect App. It takes my #1 Spot because of all of the features it comes with.

 #2 WINNER
Garmin Foretrex Military 601

 

The Garmin Foretrex 601 is built to last with military-grade standard materials (MIL-STD_810G). The screen is easy to read in sunlight. On the downside, you can’t download maps onto the device. It includes an accelerometer, compass, and barometric altimeter. The 601 has an amazing battery life of 48 hours in navigation mode. It can pick-up GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo satellites. The only issue with it is that you can’t add TOPO maps so you have to use the trail and compass for navigation. Also, you can’t load TOPO maps into it. But, you can connect it to your phone through the Garmin Connect App. The Foretrex 601 takes my #2 Winner position because it doesn’t have as many features as the 701.

 #3 WINNER
Garmin Foretrex 401 Hiking GPS

 

 

The Garmin Foretrex 401 is a powerful and affordable military grade navigator. It includes a high-sensitivity GPS sensor. On the downside, it doesn’t pick-up GLONASS or Galileo satellites. There have also been some complaints that once in a while it turns off by itself. Also, that its sometimes inaccurate.  For those reasons its my #3 Pick. But, many people love this device and it has overwhelmingly positive reviews. It will get the job done and save you some cash.

 #4 WINNER
Garmin Epix GPS Watch

 

The Garmin Epix is a cool on the wrist GPS Unit. It has an awesome 50 hours of battery life and a generous 8Gb of memory. Its very convenient not to have to carry around a handheld GPS unit. The Epix can pick-up both GPS and GLONASS satellites. Its also equipped with an altimeter, barometer, and compass. I think its really cool device. On the downside, its not cheap. Also, the screen is very small and isn’t very easy to read and navigate with. There have also been complaints about the user interface being illogical. So maybe this device is the future of GPS units but its just not polished yet. For those reasons it takes my #4 Winner spot.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Its essential to have the ability to navigate during an emergency or during recreational outdoor activities like backcountry camping and hiking. In emergencies the cell network may go down and you can’t rely on your phone in all situation for GPS navigation. During hiking or camping you may be out of the range of cell networks or WiFi signals. Handheld GPS units have much more powerful sensors that can pick-up satellites in much harsher conditions. They can also work in dense canopy or canyons and in harsh weather. Additionally, they have much more battery life than cellphones while navigating. You can also replace the batteries when they go flat. I hope you enjoyed my report on Portable Handheld GPS devices and found the perfect one for you!

Want to know more about Handheld and Wearable GPS devices and Geocaching?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_navigation_assistant

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GLONASS

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Positioning_System

Using a GPS Unit- The Basics

How to Use Handheld GPS Systems

https://www.geocaching.com/play