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Best Handheld GPS Units

(Image credit: Garmin)

How do you get home from a backpacking trip when the trails are poorly marked, the rain has washed away markers, and there's minimal visibility due to bad weather? That's when a GPS unit is a lifesaver. Outdoor professionals never leave home without one. We have researched a number of these GPS units and listed the best handheld options available today.

(Image credit: Garmin)

Garmin GPSMAP 64st High-Sensitivity GPS and GLONASS Receiver

Best overall

A large 2.6-inch color display is the first thing you notice on the Garmin GPSMAP 64st unit. Highly readable in sunlight, this GPS comes with 16-hour battery life and a water rating of IPX7 (which protects from water ingress when immersed to 9 feet). Set it up to receive smart notifications and pair it to sense heart rate, temperature, and travel speed. A 3-axis compass will keep you informed of your position, and the barometric and altitude measurements will ensure you are aware of the environment.

(Image credit: Garmin)

Garmin eTrex 30x, Handheld GPS Navigator

Best for budget

As one of the first consumer-grade GPS systems operating on both GPS and GLONASS satellites, the Garmin eTrex 30x locks onto your location faster than any other method. It can store up to 200 routes and 2,000 waypoints to make your trip easier. The device is water-resistant (IPX7), has a 3-axis electronic compass, and allows you to share your tracks and waypoints with others who are using compatible devices.

(Image credit: Magellan)

Magellan eXplorist 310

Includes its Summit Series maps

The innovative Summit Series Topographic maps bundle is unique to the Magellan eXplorist 310. It includes detailed roads, water features, urban and rural land use, and a realistic shaded relief background. An 18-hour battery life and the brilliant sunlight-readable 2.2-inch color screen removes any needless stress.

(Image credit: Garmin)

Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS

Wrist mount

Have your hands free but still be in the know with the Garmin Foretrex 401 GPS unit. With a black and white screen, the GPS features a barometric altimeter, electronic compass, and wireless data communication. Audible tones give feedback for compass-level accuracy. This 2.2-ounces unit is weather-resistant, which makes it a favorite amongst skiers, hikers, and campers.

(Image credit: Garmin)

The rugged Garmin InReach Mini GPS enables two-way text communication using the global Iridium network (subscription service). Receive detailed weather forecast updates directly or to a paired device, and trigger interactive SOS communication with the rescue monitoring center if you encounter any problems.

Never venture into the wild country without a handheld GPS unit

A GPS device can be the difference between life and death, so don't take chances if you like to venture into wild rural areas. Know your location at all times, and don't let a fun hike turn into something else. The best handheld GPS unit is the Garmin GPSMAP 64st High-Sensitivity GPS and GLONASS Receiver. The large display screen is easily readable in direct sunlight, and the battery lasts up to 16 hours. You can also wirelessly update data to Garmin Connect and view it on your smartphone.

If you want to travel light and have your hands free, then wear the Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS on your wrist. And don't worry about getting tired, it only weighs 2.2-ounces.

Be safe and sensible. Taking a GPS on your travels makes good common sense.