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Wondering what factors to consider and what to simply ignore while purchasing a hiking GPS? We've listed out a bunch of features below to give you a heads up.

A hiking excursion is usually a fun journey on foot, so don't equip yourself with unnecessary features that add to the weight or cost of your GPS, unless you intend it to be a multipurpose unit. Think essential features!

Excellent mapping abilities are of utmost importance and are the inherent traits of the best hiking GPS devices. But for this, your unit must come with base maps of the regions you intend to visit. We also advise you to load detailed maps which are available at an added cost and can be purchased by the vendor or on the company website. Detailed maps provide all sorts of useful information like local roads, private roads, shopping centers,exact boundaries etc. The issue with detailed maps is that if you do not find one of the area you're looking for on the manufacturer's website, you might need a third party map, and all GPS manufacturers are not very amicable towards that. In fact Garmin is one of the very few brands that permit you to load maps of other vendors, and Garmin and Tomtom also have extensive map coverage around US and Europe. So if this GPS is going on many more hiking trips with you, it had better be capable of your mapping requirements.

Waypoints are another vital need, but today's GPS devices generally come with at least a 1000 waypoint capacity and also allow you to customize them. There are other beneficial features that are worth the extra buck, like a track log that gives you the distance between waypoints and also records your current position, so you can always retrace your path in the event of losing your way. Some units come with a buddy contactor, to connect with your team members if they're not with you by speaking to each other, send messages and tracking each other's whereabouts.

Another priority is the reception power of your hiking GPS: a 12 channel locking capacity is sufficient to ensure quick and accurate coordinates while an external antenna would be your succor in a thicket of trees.

To finish, lets consider the hardware of your GPS. Since you're hunting for a handheld unit, look for something that doesn't exceed 1lb, and allows you easy readability under all light conditions. A transflective touchscreen would be ideal in broad daylight as well as at night and is always a great interface. Make sure the GPS can run on external batteries (AA/AAA) too, since recharging the Lithium one is not very feasible on a hike. Add to this a rugged exterior with a waterproofing element and you're good to head off into the wilderness. GPS units mostly come with an IPX7 waterproofing standard which ensures perfect working condition after about 10 mins of submerging in water.

Apart from the above mentioned stuff, if you're looking for added features, there's always Bluetooth and camera options giving you freedom to connect with others, share stuff and use it in place of your phone; while the camera option gives you one thing less to lug around.

Most of the best hiking GPS units come with good inbuilt storage as well as a micro SD lot to upload tons of information from your computer.

Browse All Top Handheld GPS for Hiking »

Garmin Rino 610

Garmin Rino 610 GPS Receiver


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Garmin Rino 610
Garmin Astro 320
Garmin Montana 650
Magellan eXplorist 710
Magellan eXplorist 110
Garmin Rino 610 GPS Receiver
Garmin Astro 320 GPS Receiver
Garmin Montana 650 4 in. Handheld GPS Receiver
Magellan eXplorist 710 Handheld GPS Receiver
Magellan eXplorist 110 GPS Receiver
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Release Date
Aug 2011
Nov 2011
May 2011
Dec 2010
Jan 2012
Designation
Hiking, Outdoor
Hiking, Outdoor
Outdoor, Hiking, Motorcycle / Bikes
Outdoor, Hiking
Hiking, Outdoor
Form Factor
Handheld
Handheld
Handheld
Handheld
Handheld
Map capabilities
Internal
Internal, Map cartridges / Data cards
Internal, Map cartridges / Data cards, Download maps
Map cartridges / Data cards
Internal
Receiver type
22 Channels
Enhanced accuracy
WAAS enabled
WAAS enabled
WAAS enabled
WAAS enabled, EGNOS enabled, MSAS enabled
WAAS enabled, EGNOS enabled, MSAS enabled
Input Method
Keypad
Keypad
Touch Screen
Touch Screen
Keypad
Screen Size
2.6 inch
2.6 inch
4.0 inch
3.0 inch
2.2 inch
User interface
Keypad
Keypad
Touch Screen
Touch Screen
Keypad

  • The Garmin Forerunner 610 is an outstanding device. It's versatile, responsive, accurate and well-designed. It's not just the big things like how it's packed with features, and the way they are accessed and arranged in such a logical way. Small details matter, like being able to set the time manually while on a flight without having to connect to a computer or find a satellite signal, using a magnetic charger, or having the scrolling touchscreen menus. It's a great product with a hefty price.


  • Garmin's Forerunner 610 is pricy but if you're a serious athlete we can definitely see its value. It's able to track and store a huge range of workout metrics in combination with the bundled heart-rate monitor, and includes software to monitor your long-term progress via PC. The touchscreen may be a bit fiddly but our biggest concern is the short-ish battery life.


  • The Forerunner 610 is a huge improvement in terms of operability over the 410. The touch screen makes interacting with the menus, cycling through pages and accessing the data much much easier. But there are still the occasional problemsd with selecting options on screen, scrolling is one operation that, for me at leats, still proved fiddly and cumbersome but on a run, which is where it really counts, it works well. A single tap to select and change pages is easily performed and the data can be scanned quickly.


  • The Astro 320 handheld GPS has a removeable microSD card slot that allows you to add additional maps including detailed maps such as TOPO, Inland Lakes, BlueChart and City Navigator. You can also add Garmin BirdsEye Satellite imagery with subscription.

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    The Montana series has some great features a larger and somewhat brighter touchscreen that can rotate between portrait and landscape orientations, an interface that makes it much easier to access settings and switch functions, and a dashboard that can slide out of the way to give you a full screen map view. The ability, at additional cost, to set it up for a nuvi-like highway routing experience is another big plus. I love not having to send trailhead waypoints to another unit.


  • The Garmin Montana 650 is a high-end multi-use GPS unit similar to the Garmin Montana 600. The sole improvement that the Montana 650 offers over the 600 is its inbuilt 5 megapixel camera. Otherwise, the two GPS units sport the same features, including: a 4" sunlight-readable touchscreen display, a dual battery system and wireless waypoint sharing with other compatible Garmin GPS units.


  • Overall, the Garmin Montana fulfills its promise as a true, rugged and durable, multi-purpose GPS. It is nice to have one unit all set up for a big trip, with one set of charging cables and mounts to serve all nav functions, plus assurance that you'll have the battery power (with spare AAs) to go the full distance. Its construction truly is rugged and waterproof.


  • The eXplorist 710 is a higher-end model in Magellan's eXplorist series of handheld outdoor GPS devices. Like the 510 and 610, it features a waterproof design, 3.0" touchscreen with customizable physical buttons, and a 3.2-megapixel camera.


  • Apart from its 3.2Mpixel camera, video and voice recording abilities, the Magellan eXplorist 710 is a fairly standard premium hiking GPS. It's waterproof and ruggedised, has a three-axis compass and barometric altimeter, and offers the usual tracking, waypoint, Geocaching and routing functionality. However, the menu system puts most common functions within easy reach, and you can customise it to provide rapid access to your favourites.


  • The eXplorist 710 is a rugged GPS device, coming in a rounded, heavy, solid case, with the screen deeply recessed in the body for extra protection. Magellan claims it's waterproof enough to survive rain and occasional puddle immersion, but it also offers turn-by-turn navigation for those who want to leave it attached to a warm, dry car dashboard.


Top 5 handheld gps for hiking:

  1. Garmin Rino 610 GPS Receiver
  2. Garmin Astro 320 GPS Receiver
  3. Garmin Montana 650 4 in. Handheld GPS Receiver
  4. Magellan eXplorist 710 Handheld GPS Receiver
  5. Magellan eXplorist 110 GPS Receiver