Best Garmin Handheld GPS: Never Get Lost Again

To help keep you from getting lost around town and in the backcountry, we show you our picks for the best Garmin handheld GPS

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Whether you’re going across town or crossing a continent, a Garmin handheld GPS will keep you on the right course. Without some sort of map, be it an ancient paper map or a modern GPS device, you can lose your way. Check out our selection of the best Garmin handheld GPS devices on the market. 

  • Best Overall
    Garmin inReach Explorer+
    Summary
    Summary
    This Garmin handheld GPS talks to iridium satellites, so you can send and receive texts. This little beauty can also trigger SOS alerts to emergency centers.
    Pros
    Pros
    Your family can follow your route. IPX7 waterproofing rating means it can take a swim with you if necessary. Full topographical map support as well as weather features.
    Cons
    Cons
    Most of the bells and whistles require extra subscriptions. It’s also a  large and heavy Garmin handheld GPS.
  • Best Value
    Garmin GPSMAP 64st
    Summary
    Summary
    This is one tough little cookie. This handheld GPS can be powered by two AA batteries or the included rechargeable long-life NiMH pack.
    Pros
    Pros
    The GPSMAP 64st has an expanded eight GB internal memory. When paired with a mobile device, it can also receive smart notifications and can monitor your heart rate and body temperature.
    Cons
    Cons
    A small display is hard to see. Too big for a pocket, and the setup process takes a while. 
  • Honorable Mention
    Garmin GPSMAP 66st
    Summary
    Summary
    This premium handheld GPS has a birdseye satellite imagery subscription as well as preloaded TOPO maps (USGS topographical maps). Compatible with the Garmin mobile app for increased functionality.
    Pros
    Pros
    A Multiple Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) pinpoints your location better than GPS alone.  Active weather keeps you on top of the forecast. Expedition mode gives you a week of battery power.
    Cons
    Cons
    At three inches, the screen may be difficult to read for those with eye problems in bright sunlight. Connecting between devices is tricky. Not exactly pocket-sized.

Tips

  • Don’t buy a poorly-built handheld GPS device that will break easily. Choose a robust design and quality materials to stand up to the backcountry.
  • You want at least 10 hours of battery life, if not more. Any less and you’ll be changing batteries too often.  
  • Route-planning software for the PC or Mac can help you map out your travels beforehand. You can then program waypoints into your GPS to keep you on track.
  • Devices that support both GLONASS and GPS are quicker and more accurate at locating your position, especially in difficult terrains like valleys and forests.
  • Touchscreens are difficult to use when you’re wearing gloves. Buttons are usually easier to use and navigate.  

FAQs

Q: What is mapping GPS?

A: Mapping GPS lets you overlay maps on your route. This lets you see obstructions like mountains and rivers. There are many types of maps available.  

Q: Do I have to pay for maps?

A: Maybe. Most Garmin handheld GPS devices have some maps preloaded and new/updated ones can be downloaded. However, if you want new maps of other areas, you’ll have to pay for them.

Q: What’s better: a touch screen or buttons?

A: That’s a personal preference. Touch screens can be hard to use with gloves on. Touch screens also consume more power but they do allow for more detailed mapping.

Final Thoughts

The Garmin inReach Explorer+ has all the bells and whistles you’d expect from our pick for the best overall Garmin handheld GPS unit.

The budget-friendly Garmin GPSMAP 64st is an excellent starter handheld GPS unit that has all the basic functions you need.