Finding The Best GPS Hiking Units
What is the best GPS hiking unit? That depends on what you mean by “best.”
Do you mean “best price GPS”, “best value GPS”, or “coolest GPS?” Do you just want a basic GPS for hiking or one with all the bells and whistles?
Best Price GPS: Garmin eTrex H
Garmin makes a basic, no-frills hiking GPS device at an unbeatable price: the Garmin eTrex H
Despite the low price, it has a high-sensitivity receiver that can lock satellite signals even in canyons and tree cover.
It has a good battery life (up to 17 hours), and handles basic navigation quite well.
It’s simple and easy to use, although some features are not as user-friendly as they could be; for example, marking a waypoint requires accessing an on-screen menu instead of an external button.
The eTrex H is a great hiking GPS device for beginners, but advanced users will be disappointed by the lack of map details. It does not come with a basemap and there is no way to load maps into it.
Best Value GPS: DeLorme Earthmate PN-40
If you want the best GPS hiking unit for the money, the DeLorme Earthmate PN-40 is the best value GPS unit available.
What sets this device apart is that it comes with DeLorme Topo USA software included. That’s right, you get full U.S. topo and street maps at no extra price!
You can also download unlimited detailed USGS quads, nautical charts, and hi-resolution aerial imagery with a $29.95 annual subscription to the DeLorme Map Library.
The unit comes with 500mb of onboard flash memory and a 1GB memory card. It accepts high-capacity SDHC cards up to 32GB.
Other cool features like a dual-core processor for fast map redraws, a tri-axial compass, and barometric altimeter make this the best value GPS for hiking, hands down.
Best All-Around GPS: Garmin Oregon 400t
If you’ve got money to burn, then the best GPS hiking unit would have to be the Garmin Oregon 400T.
This top-of-the-line device comes pre-loaded with seamless topographic and 3D maps of the U.S. or Europe.
Satellite acquisition is extremely fast thanks to HotFix technology, which predicts your location before you turn the unit on.
There is only one button for power on/off; all other functions are accessed via the 3 inch color touch screen. You can pan and zoom the map view and minimize the size and labels of waypoints for clearer navigation in challenging terrain.
It has a barometric altimeter and electronic compass, and you can share data wirelessly with other Oregon or Colorado units.
Despite its advanced features, it is also easy for beginners to learn and use right away with very simple, intuitive menus and icons.
A whopping 850MB internal memory and microSD card slot handle all your maps and data, and it is optimized for geocaching use.
Step up to the Garmin Oregon 550T to add a 3.2 megapixel camera that automatically geo-tags photos.
As you can see, there are several contenders for the title of “Best GPS Hiking Unit”. Think carefully about what your needs are before you buy one.
Then, get lost!
(Remember that a GPS unit is not a substitute for a map and compass; you should carry all three and know how to use them together.)