Best Handheld GPS Reviews: Complete Buyer’s Guide

Which is the best handheld GPS currently on the market? That's what we will find out - Read our reviews of the top models currently available with Pros & Cons

Camping and hiking are both fun and relaxing activities, but getting lost in the woods doesn’t rank nearly as high on the list of enjoyable things to do. When you find yourself deep in the woods or trekking through a mountain range, your smartphone will eventually lose its signal and be rendered useless.

A handheld GPS is the next best thing! Investing in a handheld GPS for your next big adventure is a must, but you need to make sure that you’re getting a quality product that works well.

No two products are made exactly the same and each product has its pros in cons in terms of price, features, and performance.

In this guide, we’ll recommend our top choices for handheld GPS devices and review what you should be looking for in the ideal product when you officially start your search!

Top 3 Picks

If you are in a hurry, here’s our top 3 picks for overall best, runner-up choice and budget choice.

Best Pick: Garmin InReach Explorer+ Handheld Satellite Communicator Bundle

Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator with Topo Maps and GPS Navigation
  • 100 percent global Iridium satellite coverage enables two way text messaging from anywhere (satellite subscription required)
  • Trigger an interactive SOS to the 24/7 search and rescue monitoring center
  • Track and share your location with family and friends. Water rating : IPX7. Battery : Rechargeable internal lithium ion
  • Pair with mobile devices using the free earthmate app for access to downloadable maps, U.S. NOAA charts, color aerial imagery and more
  • In reach explorer+ device adds preloaded Delorme topo maps with onscreen GPS routing plus built in digital compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer

This device is our top choice overall because of its heavy-duty design and multitude of features that’ll provide you with great assistance while on your next journey. In addition to the incredibly useful power-charging pack, this device can also send and receive messages, check for weather updates, and keep you safe on your adventure. This device is truly difficult to match.

Runner-Up Pick: Garmin GPSMAP 66i GPS Handheld and Satellite Communicator

Garmin GPSMAP 66i, GPS Handheld and Satellite Communicator, Featuring TopoActive mapping and inReach Technology
  • Large 3 inch Sunlight-readable color display for easy viewing
  • Trigger an interactive SOS to the geos 24/7 search and rescue monitoring center, two-way messaging via the 100% Global Iridium satellite network (satellite subscription required)
  • Preloaded Garmin TOPO mapping with direct-to-device Birdseye satellite imagery downloads (no annual subscription), includes multiple global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) support and navigation sensors
  • Cellular connectivity lets you access active weather forecasts and geocaching live
  • Compatible with the Garmin explore website and app to help you manage waypoints, routes, activities and collections, use tracks and review trip data from the field

For the price you pay on this handheld GPS, you get a lot of bang for the buck. Not only does this device hold battery life for up to 200 hours at a time, but the 3” screen and ability to communicate with others makes this tracker a prime example of a high-quality and high-end handheld GPS.

Budget Pick: Garmin eTrex 30x

Garmin eTrex 30x, Handheld GPS Navigator with 3-axis Compass, Enhanced Memory and Resolution, 2.2-inch Color Display, Water Resistant
  • UPGRADED DISPLAY Features a 2.2” 65K color sunglight readable display offering increased resolution (240 x 320 pixels). Physical dimensions: 2.1" x 4.0" x 1.3" (5.4 x 10.3 x 3.3 cm)
  • LOAD MORE MAPS Large 3.7 GB of internal memory and microSD card slot lets you load a variety of maps, including TOPO 24K, HuntView, BlueChart g2, City Navigator NT and BirdsEye Satellite Imagery (subscription required)
  • PRELOADED BASEMAP Includes a worldwide basemap with shaded relief
  • BUILT IN SENSORS eTrex 30x adds a built in 3 axis tilt compensated electronic compass and a barometric altimeter which tracks changes in pressure to pinpoint your precise altitude, and you even can use it to plot barometric pressure over time
  • WIRELESS Wirelessly share your waypoints, tracks, routes and geocaches with other compatible devices simply press “send” to transfer your information also wirelessly connects to compatible Garmin devices, including VIRB and accessory sensors

If you’re on a bit of a budget but still need a handheld GPS to aid you on your next adventure, this device can provide you with all the basics. Though the device is fitted with a much smaller screen and fewer features than the average handheld GPS, this tracker will still get you from point A to point B without any trouble.

Top 7 Reviews

Garmin InReach Explorer+ Handheld Satellite Communicator Bundle

If you’re looking to get all your handheld GPS tracker needs in one package, this product is surely the way to go!

In addition to the device itself, you’ll also receive a wearable 2200 mAh power bank to charge your tracker while on the go as well as wall and car chargers to recharge your tracker before you leave for your next trip.

There’s no shortage of safety features when it comes to this device.

It comes with a two-way messaging feature that allows you to stay in contact with your loved ones via text or email. You can also check out the weather in the area to see if a major storm is on the horizon.

If at any time you find yourself in danger, you can use this device’s interactive SOS function to notify the 24/7 staffed monitoring center that you need assistance. They’ll then communicate directly with you to figure out how they can help you best.

  • Comes with a rechargeable battery pack and wearable power bank
  • Allows for two-way messaging with friends and family
  • SOS feature if you find yourself in a dangerous situation
  • Weather alerts feature
  • Additional services might end up costing more than the device itself
  • You could save some money by just purchasing the device, not the bundle

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Garmin GPSMAP 64st Worldwide Handheld GPS Bundle

When it comes to accuracy and being user-friendly, this device takes the cake.

When you use this device, you’ll be highly impressed by its high-sensitivity GPS connection that’ll be able to track your location as precisely as possible. It also comes standard with a 3-axis electronic compass, which means you don’t have to hold your GPS in a certain way to get a connection.

The 2.6” full-color display is easy to read in the sunlight and will display the topography of your physical location clearly. That means no surprises when you’re approaching an area of rougher terrain!

In this package, you’ll be getting an additional LED flashlight for late-night travels, a 32GB MicroSD card for greater GPD storage space, and four rechargeable batteries to keep your device active and functional.

Maps come preloaded on this device, but you’ll also receive a one-year subscription to BirdsEye upon your purchase of this device. That means clear satellite photos of your path as you continue on with your travels.

  • 6” full-color sunlight-readable display
  • Included LED flashlight and rechargeable batteries
  • Comes with a one-year subscription to BirdsEye
  • 3-Axis electronic compass
  • The battery life isn’t too impressive
  • Maps might take a bit longer than usual to load

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Garmin GPSMAP 64SC

This device is pretty high-end when it comes to a handheld GPS tracker. Of course, this handheld GPS does everything the average GPS can do. That means displaying your physical location on its 2.6” color sunlight-readable screen. But, it doesn’t stop there.

This device comes standard with an 8-megapixel camera that you can use to geotag your destinations and points along your journey. It can also connect to major geocaching platforms, coming preloaded with 250,000 geocaches that you and your friends can discover together.

In terms of GPS accuracy, this handheld GPS is one of the best.

Not only does this package come with a one-year subscription to the BirdsEye imaging system, but it also features a 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter to better predict your location and weather changes along the way.

You have two options when it comes to keeping your device powered up. You can opt for the traditional AA batteries or you can use the more environmentally-friendly rechargeable battery pack. The device’s battery can last up to 16 hours at a time.

  • Can receive texts and alerts from your smartphone
  • Comes with a one-year subscription to BirdsEye
  • 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter for unparalleled accuracy
  • A great option for Geocachers
  • Offers kind of an “old school” map feel
  • Maps tend to take a while to load
  • The signal can be shoddy and unreliable in certain areas

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Garmin Oregon 750t Hiking Armor GPS Bundle

This device is as close to a smartphone as a handheld GPS could possibly get. In addition to having preloaded maps to get you on your next adventure as soon as possible, this handheld GPS also comes with a 3” touchscreen that can be used in both landscape and portrait modes.

It also comes with an 8-megapixel camera feature to help geotag points along the way and built-in Wi-Fi for added connectivity for your smartphone device. On another positive note, this device comes with a one-year subscription to the BirdsEye satellite imaging system.

It doesn’t get much more heavy-duty than this device, which comes with a screen protector and device case to protect your device from all types of falls and environments. This handheld GPS is extremely rugged and is waterproof, so it’ll withstand almost anything you put it through.

When it comes to accuracy, there’s no denying that this handheld GPS does what it should. With an improved antenna, this device is able to hold its GPS connection much more easily and help to guide you on your journeys.

  • Built-in camera and geotagging features
  • One-year subscription to BirdsEye
  • 3” touch screen with landscape and portrait modes
  • Comes with screen protectors and a case for added durability
  • The battery indicator seems to be inaccurate
  • Has a somewhat short battery life

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Garmin eTrex 30x

This is our top choice if you’re looking for a high-quality handheld GPS on a budget.

This handheld GPS comes with a 2.2” 65K color display that can easily be read in the sunlight. It also boasts a brand new, greater resolution for a higher quality picture and greater ease of use while you’re traveling.

The device is capable of supporting up to 3.7GB of internal memory, but you might want to load new maps as you hike in new locations. By adding your own MicroSD card, you can greatly increase the storage space in your handheld GPS.

This device has it all when it comes to accuracy!

You’ll be getting a device with a 3-axis electronic compass as well as a barometric altimeter. That means you’ll know your exact altitude as you hike and be able to predict upcoming weather changes as they’re occurring.

With a high-sensitivity GPS receiver, you can be sure that your device will connect at least 20% quicker than other similar devices. You can also use this advanced connection to easily send your location and messages to other devices.

  • HotFix satellite prediction for extra accuracy
  • 7GB of storage, but the option to add more space with a memory card
  • 3-Axis electronic compass and a barometric altimeter
  • All the features of a quality device, but with a lower price tag
  • Maps can take a long time to load

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Garmin GPSMAP 66i GPS Handheld and Satellite Communicator

This handheld GPS is practically unbeatable when it comes to its rechargeable lithium battery’s lifespan.

In its 10-minute and 1-minute tracking modes with the display turned off, this device will maintain its battery for up to 35 hours. But, it doesn’t stop there. In the Expedition mode, the battery can last an astounding 200 hours at a time, meaning it’s perfect for several days out in the wilderness hiking.

With a 3” color screen, you’ll easily be able to keep track of your current location without squinting or shielding the screen from the sun. You’ll also be able to receive a cellular connection, which can allow you access to weather and geocaching features.

Safety is no issue with this device either.

This handheld GPS comes with a 24/7 SOS monitoring system to alert others when you’re in danger. You can also take advantage of the two-way messaging system to keep others in the loop about your location along the trail.

For added location accuracy, the altimeter, compass, and barometer sensors will keep you up-to-date with your current location and where you’re headed.

  • Impressive 3” color screen
  • Comes with a 24/7 GPS monitoring system
  • Up to 200 hours of battery life on a single charge
  • Capable of cell connection
  • Doesn’t connect too well in remote areas
  • Sending messages takes a bit of time
  • You can only send messages if you have a subscription

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Garmin eTrex H Handheld GPS Navigator

This device is as basic as it gets and is a great alternative for beginners or less-serious hikers. This handheld GPS maintains its charge through AA batteries and has an approximately battery life of about 17 hours. That makes it perfect for shorter trips and adventures.

With its simple five-button construction, you can easily control this handheld GPS with one hand. Add that to its lightweight and waterproof design, and you’ve got the perfect handheld GPS for newbies.

Just because it’s lacking in advanced features doesn’t mean it’s incapable of doing everything a GPS should be able to do.

The GPS functionality of this handheld GPS is of decent quality. This device can help you to keep track of your distance traveled, utilize the compass to determine the next direction in your hike, and store 500 waypoints to help you to return safely back to your starting point.

The screen, though a bit small, will accurately display any relevant data on its bright backlit screen. It’s not a color screen, but that doesn’t take away from its accuracy.

  • Can hold a charge for 17 hours on AA batteries
  • Basic and simple, but does everything it should
  • Capable of storing up to 500 waypoints along your journey
  • Built to be lightweight and waterproof
  • Doesn’t allow you to upload maps
  • The screen is rather small at 2.1”

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Other Best Selling Options

SaleBestseller No. 1
Garmin 010-02064-00 Instinct, Rugged Outdoor Watch with GPS, Features Glonass and Galileo, Heart Rate Monitoring and 3-Axis Compass, Graphite
  • Rugged GPS watch built to withstand the toughest environments
  • Constructed to U.S. Military standard 810G for thermal, shock and water resistance (rated to 100 meters)
  • Built in 3 axis compass and barometric altimeter, plus multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, Glonass and Galileo) support helps track in more challenging environments than GPS alone
  • Monitor your estimated heart rate, activity and stress; Train with preloaded activity profiles. Strap material: Silicone
  • Stay connected with smart notifications (with a compatible smartphone) and automatic data uploads to the Garmin connect online fitness community
Bestseller No. 2
Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor for Golf Indoor and Outdoor Use with GPS Satellite View and Professional Level Accuracy, iPhone & iPad Only
  • Awarded 2021 best personal launch monitor by My Golf Spy
  • PROFESSIONAL-LEVEL ACCURACY- Distance accuracy is within 2% of Trackman at just 2% of the price
  • SET UP IN UNDER 30 SECONDS- Simply open the app, connect your device via bluetooth and start hitting
  • INSTANT FEEDBACK- The real-time video feedback comes with a SHOT TRACE and DATA OVERLAY making it easier than ever to understand cause and effect. Access your stat history to view AVERAGES, DISPERSION, TRAJECTORY and STANDARD DEVIATION for each club.
  • GPS SATELLITE VIEW- Use your phone's GPS to see where all of your shots land on your actual range or course
SaleBestseller No. 3
Garmin Approach S10, Lightweight GPS Golf Watch, Granite Blue
  • Simple, easy-to-use golf watch
  • Sleek, lightweight and comfortable with a high-resolution, sunlight-readable display
  • Provides yardages to the front, back and middle of the green -as well as hazards and doglegs -on more than 41,000 preloaded courses worldwide
  • Keep score on the watch for a summary of your round, total distance played and total time
  • Upload your scorecards to Garmin express to keep track of rounds. Display size - 0.9 x 0.9 Inch (23 x 23 millimeter)
Bestseller No. 4
Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator
  • Rugged handheld navigator with preloaded worldwide basemap and 2.2 inch monochrome display
  • WAAS enabled GPS receiver with HotFix and GLONASS support for fast positioning and a reliable signal
  • Waterproof to IPX7 standards for protection against splashes, rain, etc.
  • Support for paperless geocaching and Garmin spine mounting accessories. Power with two AA batteries for up to 20 hours of use (best with Polaroid AA batteries)
  • See high and low elevation points or store waypoints along a track (start, finish and high/low altitude) to estimate time and distance between points
SaleBestseller No. 5
Garmin Instinct Solar, Rugged Outdoor Smartwatch with Solar Charging Capabilities, Built-in Sports Apps and Health Monitoring, Orchid Purple
  • Solar charging capabilities allow you to extend battery life beyond traditional charging, Strap material: silicone
  • Rugged GPS Watch is water-rated to 100 meters and constructed to U.S. military standard 810 for thermal, shock and water resistance
  • Built-in 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter plus multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo) track in more challenging environments than GPS alone
  • Track your activities for running, biking, swimming, strength and more. Memory/History 16 MB
  • Help understand your health and wellness better with all-day health monitoring and Pulse Ox (this is not a medical device and is not intended for use in the diagnosis or monitoring of any medical condition)

Handheld GPS Buyer’s Guide

The devices we reviewed above are all pretty solid, but you want to make sure that you’re getting a device fit for your needs. In this section, we’ll review the major features common in handheld GPS trackers and how large of a role each one could play.

How They Work

We all take for granted smartphone apps like Google Maps and Waze. We know they work, but we don’t take the time to understand how GPS location actually is tracked.

Handheld GPS trackers all work in the same way.

At all times, there are GPS satellites orbiting the Earth. If you have a GPS-enabled device, such as a handheld GPS, your device will constantly be receiving signals from these satellites.

As your handheld GPS receives these signals, it tries to determine just how far away you are from each satellite that your device is connecting to.

When your device receives signals from more than four satellites, your device will be able to track what your current location is, usually within 25 feet or less.

Though smartphones are able to perform these duties pretty well too, their ability to connect to GPS satellites is nowhere near as advanced as devices built purely for GPS connections.

GPS is a great tool for Hikers
GPS is a great tool for Hikers

Screen Size & Capabilities

The screen size is all relative to what you’re looking for and what’s easiest to use for you. For the most part, screens for handheld GPS devices range from 2” to 3”.

It’s not all about the size of the screen, but also the features of the screen itself.

Here are some key characteristics you might see when looking for a new handheld GPS device and what they mean.

  • Touchscreen: You know what a touchscreen is, but you need to consider how the size of a handheld GPS screen can impact your ability to use the touchscreen features. With screens usually smaller than 3”, you need to make sure that you’ll be able to precisely click buttons that appear on the screen without mis-clicking.
  • Sunlight-readable: All handheld GPS trackers should have this feature at this point. When this feature is present, it means that you’ll be able to see your screen at all times without having to angle the device or shield it from the sun. Without having to shift locations, you can get more accurate data pertinent to your current path and direction.
  • Color: It’s not about understanding what a color screen is, but more about determining whether you truly need one. If you’re just looking for the basics and some assistance while hiking, you won’t absolutely need a color screen. However, it can be helpful when it comes to differentiating between the different types of terrain in the area.

Without a screen you can use properly, your device is practically useless. It’s so important that you pick a handheld GPS with a screen you appreciate and can use.

Map & Satellite Subscriptions

In order to maintain access to the high-quality and high-resolution maps displayed by your handheld GPS, you’ll need to purchase a subscription with a map satellite provider.

When it comes to the devices on our list above, specifically Garmin handheld GPS trackers, you’ll probably be getting a subscription with BirdsEye Satellite Imagery.

This product will allow you continual access to high-quality maps in the locations where you’re hiking. That means you’ll be able to see the terrain you’re coming up on before you actually get there.

By knowing what to expect in terms of the physical environment, you can plan your route accordingly to avoid rough terrain or trail blockages.

Lucky for you, many Garmin bundles come standard with a free one-year subscription to BirdsEye. That means you can get right to your next big hike.

Most GPS will require subscription
Most GPS will require subscription

Two-Way Communication

There’s no absolute need for two-way communication, but it can be pretty useful to have in emergency situations.

With such a feature, you might be able to send a text message or an email to any other phone number (or email address). You’ll also be able to receive messages from your contacts.

This feature isn’t only for making small talk with your friends and family. Many devices with this feature allow you to send your current location to a phone number or email to allow your family and friends to know where you are on your hike at all times.

This is one of those features that you don’t absolutely need, but it might be nice to have.

Barometric Altimeter​

When your handheld GPS comes with a barometric altimeter, it means you’ll be able to see your current elevation as you progress through your hike.

Additionally, you might be able to use this feature to predict upcoming weather changes. That’s because barometric altimeters measure the pressure of your current location.

As the pressure measured by your barometric altimeter increases, you know that the weather ahead is most likely decent. When pressure suddenly begins to drop, you can better prepare for the upcoming rain or storm system approaching nearby.

There’s no definitive need for this feature, but it can be pretty useful in many circumstances.

Additional Memory

Your handheld GPS comes with standard internal storage space where it holds your loaded maps and route data from your recent hikes.

When the storage space of your handheld GPS begins to get smaller and smaller, it doesn’t mean that you have to buy a new device altogether.

In fact, many devices are supportive of added MicroSD memory cards to increase the storage space for your handheld GPS. That means your device will be able to store much more and you won’t have to worry about deleting excess data while on a hike.

Electronic 3-Axis Compass​

This is one of the features you should be looking for if you value accuracy and convenience while hiking.

With a 3-axis compass, you won’t have to position the device a certain way in order to get an accurate reading of your direction. With this feature, you can hold your handheld GPS as you would normally without having to readjust its position to get your exact location or direction.

It saves you a little bit of hassle and lets you naturally hold your GPS tracker without any awkward movements.

Battery Life

This one is pretty straightforward. You want a handheld GPS that’ll hold a battery from the beginning to the end of your next hike.

There are plenty of different batteries used to provide power to handheld GPS trackers. Here are a few types of batteries that your device might call for and why you might want to lean toward them or stay away.

  • AA Batteries: We all know just how long AA batteries can last in the home, but you need to consider how often you’re using them. Some handheld GPS trackers require AA batteries but only provide a battery life of about 17 hours. Though that’s pretty decent, it means you’ll have to waste storage space in your hiking backpack to keep additional AA batteries if yours happens to die while on a long hike.
  • Rechargeable Batteries: These are the ideal choice because they have a much longer lifespan. Not only that, many GPS trackers with rechargeable batteries come with portable charges or power banks that’ll allow you to charge your device while you’re taking a break. That means you have a lower risk of being without your handheld GPS while out in the wilderness.

In terms of actual battery life, you need to select a device that has a battery life longer than your typical hikes. For longer hikes, you might want to invest in a handheld GPS that can hold a battery for up to 200 hours on a single charge.


When you think about where you’ll be using your handheld GPS, you’ll understand why durability is so important.

In the wilderness, in the mountains, or on the water, there’s plenty of environmental situations that might impact how an electronic device normally works.

When you choose a handheld GPS that’s heavy-duty, has a nearly indestructible screen and design, and is waterproof, you can be sure that your GPS will be able to handle just about anything.

But, it’s not just about the weather and finding yourself caught in a rainstorm in the mountains.

When you’re traversing rugged terrain, you might ultimately lose your balance or slip at some point. If you lose a firm grip around your handheld GPS, you want to make sure that it’ll be able to survive a reasonable fall.

For added durability, many devices come with screen protectors and device cases for these exact purposes.

GPS Accuracy

This is why we’re all here, right?

When you get a handheld GPS, you want to make sure that it’s accurate. It serves no useful purpose if it’s not even able to register your current location or a map of your area.

But, there’s more to a GPS than being accurate.

You also want to make sure that it can hold its signal and won’t spend an absurd amount of time trying to connect to local satellites. Not only will that waste your time, but it’ll also slowly kill your battery.

That means the ideal device would be incredibly accurate when it comes to identifying your current location, but also able to maintain a strong signal no matter where you find yourself on your next hike.

GPS model with buttons
GPS model with buttons

Touchscreen vs. Buttons

This comes down to personal preference. Regardless of where your journey takes you, most handheld GPS trackers are considered rugged and waterproof. That means your device’s touchscreen and buttons will hold up to the ever changing environment around you.

There are cases for both touchscreen and button handheld GPS trackers.

If you’re used to using your smartphone and don’t have trouble selecting an item on the screen, a touchscreen handheld GPS should work just fine.

When your handheld GPS has buttons, it doesn’t mean you have any fewer features. The buttons are much easier to use, especially if you’re holding your handheld GPS in one hand.

Both methods are incredibly functional and won’t limit your use if you purchase the type that’s best for your personal needs.


The first thing you should do is determine how much you’re actually willing to pay for one of these products. There are several factors that you should consider before setting a price range.

Here are some things you’ll have to think about.

  • Your absolute budget: If there’s a price you’re absolutely not willing to spend above, you need to stick to that number. That’s because there are other costs that come along with owning a handheld GPS and you need to make sure that you have the appropriate funds for those as well.
  • What features you’re looking for: The more features a device has, the more expensive it becomes. That means that devices with two-way communication, SOS features, 8-megapixel cameras, and geocaching compatibility will be much more pricey than other models. There are devices that’ll offer the features you’re looking for without an excessive price, so don’t worry!
  • Satellite subscription costs: Along with owning a handheld GPS comes with map and satellite subscriptions. Depending on how often you load new maps, the price of your subscription might lead you to exit your ideal price range. Take this into account when buying a handheld GPS.

Remember, there’s nothing that says that more expensive devices are of higher quality. You can find a $150 handheld GPS much more useful and functional than a $500 option.


Geocaching involves people supplying specific coordinates or clues to other users to lead them to a location of “hidden treasure.” The treasure isn’t usually substantial, but geocaching usually does make for an interesting journey and discovery.

With that said, practically all handheld GPS trackers are useful for geocaching if you’re able to put in your own coordinates and allow it to lead you to your destination.

Some devices, however, include features specifically for geocaching.

These devices have up to 250,000 preloaded geocache locations and the ability to connect to some geocaching platforms to track your journeys and discoveries.

If you’re looking for a device purely for geocaching, you might want to select a model that has these extra geocaching features.

Geocaching Guide
Geocaching for Beginners: Complete Guide to Get Started

SOS Features

This is purely for safety purposes, but it does come in handy if you end up lost while on a hike.

By engaging with this system, you’ll be able to contact a live person at a 24/7 SOS monitoring center and discuss your current situation.

From there, the person you’re communicating with will determine your exact location and the ideal rescue strategy (if necessary).

If you’re far away from civilization and there’s a relatively small chance of another person finding you while you’re lost or injured on a trail, an SOS-enabled handheld GPS is an incredible feature to have access to.

Smartphone Connectivity

This is a convenience feature that saves you the trouble of having to reach into your bag or pocket for your smartphone while on a hike!

When you can connect your smartphone to your handheld GPS, you’ll be able to see some smartphone notifications on your GPS and maybe even be able to respond to some of them.

Smartphone connectivity also could provide you with other additional features on your handheld GPS. In particular, some smartphone-enabled GPS trackers will provide you with a weather report and even weather maps to help you to better plan the next portion of your hike.

Keep in mind that this could further drain the battery on both your smartphone and your GPS, so you should only be using this feature if you’re not going too far on your hike.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you’ve still got a few questions after reading our buyer’s guide, here are some answers you may have been looking for.

When should you use a handheld GPS?

Not all hikers or explorers will need a handheld GPS device, but you should consider investing in one if you go off the grid quite a bit. That’s especially the case if you tend to end up in places where your smartphone has no signal.

If you happen to find yourself out in the wilderness with no cell connection, a handheld GPS can help to lead you along your route and return to safety. Some devices even come with weather alerts, a messaging system, and an SOS function for optimal safety while exploring the unknown.

How can you use a handheld GPS?

Handheld GPS devices are perfect for hiking and exploring new places, but there are quite a few other features that can add to your hike.

Some handheld GPS trackers are supportive of geocaching apps that’ll allow you to track down hidden treasures in your area. Others have 8-megapixel cameras that you can use to capture images of your journey and geotag them to return at another time.

Are handheld GPS devices more accurate than smartphone GPS features?

In short: Yes.

Smartphones are able to track your exact location as a result of GPS satellite connections and cell phone tower triangulation. But, these methods of connectivity are only effective if your phone is in the right area.

As you begin to distance yourself from cell towers, your smartphone will struggle to provide you with a GPS location. It’ll also begin to drain your battery while in the process.

Handheld GPS trackers are built purely for the purpose of tracking your location and are not only successful at that, but also don’t experience such battery drainage when connecting.

How does a handheld GPS work if it doesn’t have an Internet connection?

GPS trackers can register your exact location because of their constant connection to heavy-duty GPS satellites. That means the system can function properly without even connecting to any type of Internet source.

How accurate are GPS trackers?

The accuracy of these devices depends on your location and how efficiently they send and receive signals from GPS satellites. If it’s a high-performance device, your GPS tracker might be able to identify a 25-foot radius for where you’re located.

As the quality of the device decreases, the GPS feature will also suffer. In addition to being much less accurate, the device might also struggle to maintain a constant connection between itself and GPS satellites.

How much do handheld GPS devices cost?

Well, that all depends on what you’re looking for in your ideal handheld GPS.

If you’re just looking for the basics, it wouldn’t be unusual to find a decent quality handheld GPS for under $200. When you add more features like two-way communication, SOS messaging, an 8-megapixel camera, or geocaching, you might be running up a credit charge of over $500.

With that said, there will be plenty of models available in your price range that can do everything you’re looking for.

How long does the battery on a handheld GPS last?

It depends on what type of battery your device uses and how you’re using the handheld GPS.

Most devices are capable of holding a charge for at least 15 hours. On the other hand, some have a battery life of up to 200 hours on a single charge.

If you want the most out of your batteries, you should lean toward getting a handheld GPS with rechargeable batteries and maybe even a power bank.


Now that you understand what a handheld GPS is truly for, you need to consider how you would use it and which features are most important to you. You want to get the most for the amount of money you’ll be shelling out.

You’ll want a device that’s able to withstand each environment you find yourself in, whether that’s rain, snow, or wind. You should also take the time to make sure that your #1 choice comes with the ability to load new maps to your device.

With your brand new handheld GPS, you’ll have much more peace of mind on your next big adventure!

Jake is an explorer, he loves all types of outdoor pursuits such as hunting, fishing & hiking. Jake has been a full-time writer & blogger for many years now and he's here to share his passions with the BeActiveOutdoors readers. Contact Jake@beactiveoutdoors.com

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