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Best handheld Garmin GPS

Which handheld Garmin GPS is best?

Garmin is one of the leading manufacturers of GPS units for automobiles, and is internationally renowned for the quality of their consumer electronics. Whether you are a search and rescue professional, an avid outdoors person or you simply like to keep track of your exact location, a handheld GPS from Garmin can help you stay on track. In fact, with the rugged and reliable Garmin GPSMAP 64sx, Handheld GPS with Altimeter and Compass, you can travel and explore to your heart’s content while enjoying some valuable peace of mind.

What to know before you buy a handheld Garmin GPS

Overall battery life and power options

As anyone who loves exploring the great outdoors can attest, getting outside and enjoying the wonders of nature can be a life changing experience. However, the joy of exploring a new wilderness trail can be swiftly undercut by the dawning realization that your handheld GPS device has run out of power.

Rather than potentially having to navigate your way back by luck and memory, consider purchasing a unit which offers sufficient battery life and alternate power saving mode. By purchasing a Garmin unit that can last for days or even weeks on a single charge, you can help ensure you are never left in the lurch.

Memory capacity and tracking features

Regardless of whether you prefer to stick to established hiking and biking trails or prefer to strike out into the great unknown, it’s always good to know where you are, just in case. However, some models of handheld GPS devices lack both sufficient memory capacity to hold large amounts of coordinates as well as keeping a regular log of your progress.

Fortunately, the selected models of Garmin handheld GPS unit offer impressive amounts of memory, letting you lay out complicated, multi-point excursions as well as periodically marking your location. By investing in a GPS unit backed up by excellent features, you can enjoy adventures while keeping a safe route home in your back pocket.

Emergency communication

While no one likes to imagine they might be stranded in a remote area without the means to summon assistance, this is an all too common occurrence in the modern world despite existing technology. Though a GPS unit is certainly helpful to locate where you left your vehicle, it is fairly useless in the event of a serious, debilitating injury.

Thankfully for you, several models of handheld Garmin GPS units also possess the ability to send emergency SOS signals and even facilitate direct communications via satellite connection. Some advanced services may require you to purchase a monthly subscription to use, but as the saying goes, better to have and not need than to need and not have.

What to look for in a quality handheld Garmin GPS

Types of connectivity options

When you are looking to purchase a handheld GPS unit for outdoor adventures, desirable features include having multiple options for connecting your unit to transmit or receive coordinates. That being said, while many handheld devices of all kinds rely on the increasingly ubiquitous Bluetooth to achieve communications, others include newer technologies such as ANT+.

For those who are unfamiliar, ANT+ is a wireless method of data transfer which operates in a similar manner to NFC or Near Field Communications. GPS units equipped with ANT+ are capable of trading data simply by being placed next to each other and offer much great power efficiency than other communication methods.

Multiple satellite systems for referencing locations

While the GPS network was originally founded by the U.S. military, civilians across the world have been able to use the system of satellites to track objects, map coordinates and much more. However, did you know that there are other equally impressive satellite networks like the Russian GLONASS that have a higher orbit inclination than GPS?

In fact, many handheld Garmin GPS units make use of both GPS and GLONASS simultaneously to reduce the time required for coordinate acquisition and other calculations. GPS is certainly an amazing technology, but why not enjoy the best of both worlds for an affordable price?

Maps with routable roads and trails

If you are particularly interested in expanding your running, hiking or biking routines to unfamiliar territory, you might be rightfully apprehensive about becoming lost. This is especially true if you are attempting to navigate an area of natural beauty while on vacation to someplace you lack familiarity with.

Thankfully, several models of Garmin GPS unit offer users in both Australia and the United States the ability to program in trails, roads and other outdoor travel destinations so you can exercise without becoming disorientated. If enjoying your favorite nature spots with the best possible routes sounds like a great idea, these unit will help you get out on trail with ease.

How much you can expect to spend on a handheld Garmin GPS

Depending on your desired features and budget, a quality handheld Garmin GPS unit can cost between $219-$500.

Handheld Garmin GPS FAQ

How accurate is my handheld Garmin GPS unit?

A. Your GPS unit is capable of calculating the location of a given set of coordinates to within three meters of its exact location, assuming it is commercial grade. Otherwise, the accuracy can be up to 10 meters.

Is the GPS in my smartphone the same as a handheld GPS unit?

A. They are about equal in terms of ability, but handheld units are designed to endure more rugged conditions and pick up signals in areas where phones would be rendered useless.

What is the best handheld Garmin GPS to buy?

Top handheld Garmin GPS 

Garmin GPSMAP 64sx, Handheld GPS with Altimeter and Compass

What you need to know: This is a rugged and reliable Garmin GPS unit.

What you’ll love: This unit comes preloaded with Topo Active maps (in the US and Australia only) featuring routable roads and trails for cycling and hiking. In addition, it offers multi-GNSS support (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo) and three-axis compass with barometric altimeter.

What you should consider: The maps aren't necessarily preloaded and customer service complaints.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top handheld Garmin GPS for the money

Garmin eTrex 22x, Rugged Handheld GPS Navigator

What you need to know: An affordable Garmin GPS unit with impressive features.

What you’ll love: In addition to 8GB of internal memory for map downloads and a Micro SD card slot, this unit offers up to 25 hours in GPS mode with two AA batteries. It also has support for GPS and GLONASS satellite systems.

What you should consider: Issues with accurate distance tracking and batteries being drained have been reported.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Garmin InReach Mini Handheld Iridium Satellite Communicator

What you need to know: This excellent GPS unit and satellite communicator has great features.

What you’ll love: As well as having free access to Garmin cloud storage and trip planning software, users can also send and receive messages using compatible Garmin handhelds, wearables or other mobile devices.

What you should consider: This Garmin has a small display screen and poorly designed user interface.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Daniel Martin writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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