15 April 2013 by Shifali Rao
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.