LAST UPDATED: November 27, 2019
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
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON November 27, 2019
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.
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.
- 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
- Most of the bells and whistles require extra subscriptions
- Large and heavy
A budget-friendly handheld GPS that has 4GB of internal storage memory and a 2.6-inch touchscreen monitor.
- Able to connect directly to a smartphone to view and share data
- Comes with advanced apps that better determine location
- Allows you to plan future trips by setting waypoints
- Doesn’t come with any Bluetooth or camera capabilities
- Batteries are not included
- Screen could be bigger
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.
- 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
- At 3 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
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Garmin Handheld GPS
- Durability. You might be wondering why you can’t just use your phone to find your way. However, Garmin handheld GPS devices are shockproof and waterproof, making them more durable and reliable to use in a range of weather conditions.
- Activity recording. A handheld GPS device enables you to accurately log your speed and distance. Although many wearable GPS devices offer these features, they don’t also come with a map, making them unsuitable for navigating in a foreign location. However, handheld devices can also monitor your pace, pedal cadence, heart rate, and more.
- Navigation. The main benefit of a handheld GPS is the number of maps available that makes it possible to reach your desired location. Many come with free base mapping that’s suitable for both on-road and off-road activities. Unlike a smartphone, you don’t need a signal or data to use these routes while you travel.
Types of Garmin Handheld GPS
A high-end, expensive Garmin handheld GPS comes equipped with a camera. The Oregon 650 device features a built-in 8-megapixel autofocus camera, so you can take picture-worthy results. Each photo is geotagged with the location it was taken. Cameras that are designed with a built-in camera feature maximum internal storage memory. You can also view the pictures from other devices, thanks to the microSD with Garmin’s picture view.
Portable Battery Charger Bundle
You can also purchase a Garmin handheld GPS device that comes with a portable battery charger bundle. Offering around 10,000mAh, the power bank is designed to keep your handheld GPS charger working all the time you’re out. With double USB ports, you can conveniently charge your portable power bank while charging the handheld GPS. These high-capacity portable banks are also small and lightweight, making them ideal for traveling with you on your adventures.
Garmin also has a wide range of handheld GPS devices built with wireless connectivity. Most of their rugged designs feature multilink wireless connectivity, such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ANT+, and more. To feel a part of a community, these devices allow you to automatically share your location and routes with an online community, helping you to keep safe on route.
Garmin is an American technology company founded in 1989, and its headquarters are in Olathe, Kansas. The company delivers high-end GPS technology across a range of markets, including aviation, fitness, outdoor reaction, and marine. Its tracking and mobile apps make it a trusted go-to brand for handheld GPS devices.
We recommend the Garmin inReach Explorer+, which enables two-way text messaging from anywhere once you’ve downloaded the satellite subscription. It’s preloaded with on-screen GPS routes and maps, a built-in digital compass, and an accelerometer.
DeLorme is a highly reputable technology company that was founded in 1976 and is headquartered in Maine. The company products personal satellite tracking, messaging, and navigation technology to outdoor enthusiasts.
We recommend the DeLorme Earthmate Handheld GPS Unit. This features an IPX-7 waterproof standard and is impact-resistant, thanks to its rubber casing. The product includes a dual-core processor for lightning-quick map redraws, and you can pan and zoom as you wish.
Magellan was founded in 1986, and its headquarters are in California. Magellan is a leading portable GPS navigation consumer electronics company that currently sells more than 200 key products in GPS technology.
Of its wide range of technology devices, we recommend the Magellan eXplorist 200 GPS. This device is convenient and easy to use, making it suitable for everyone. It can also store up to 500 waypoints, 20 routes, and five tracklogs.
Best Garmin Handheld GPS Pricing
- $40 to $80: For this price range, expect a maximum internal memory of 24MB with a 64 x 128 pixel resolution screen. Devices weigh around six ounces and do not feature additional features, such as a heart rate monitor and distance tracker.
- $80 to $200: Increase your budget and purchase a Garmin GPS device that’s water-resistant and shockproof. It will typically feature 3.7GB of internal memory, along with a highly sensitive WAAS-enabled GPS receiver. It will also feature a heart rate monitor and last around 70 hours before running out of battery.
- $200 and up: For the most expensive Garmin GPS device, expect a sunlight-readable touchscreen display with dual-band GPS/GLONASS satellite positioning. It will come equipped with Bluetooth technology, so you can wirelessly share routes and tracks. The handheld GPS device will feature a high-quality camera to take snaps along the way.
A handheld GPS should have at least a 2-inch display with moderate resolution, so you can clearly and safely see your route. The last thing you want to do is mistake something on your map for a dangerous zone. Fortunately, most modern GPS devices feature a high-resolution screen with realistic features to help you safely discover your route.
Compass and GPS
A compass is one of the most important features of a handheld GPS device. An electronic compass and barometric altimeter is a great addition to a GPS as it accurately helps you to head in the right direction. Fortunately, these devices also feature GPS (as the name suggests) to locate your position precisely and fast. As such, you are much easier to locate in difficult terrains, such as dense woods and narrow valleys.
The handheld GPS device should be lightweight, so you’re not dragging yourself down with a heavy item. If you’re walking for long periods at one time, it’s best to choose the lightest design, and many of the best-quality GPS devices are equipped with lithium-ion batteries that are great for portability purposes.
Memory and Storage
Ideally, the handheld GPS device will have a lot of storage space, but this is all down to the memory card. Some products use an external memory card, some have internal memory, and others have a combination of both. Internal memory requires a data connection, which isn’t ideal for routes in the middle of nowhere. Make sure you choose a device with a decent internal memory and an SD card slot, so you can store more data if you need to.
- Memory and Battery Life. A bigger and brighter screen with more features means the handheld GPS will use more power. It’s not always essential to have a high-resolution screen to remain safe. These additional features can take up extra memory in the device, meaning you need to regularly change the memory card or batteries.
- Durability. A handheld GPS is supposed to keep you safe and prevent you from getting lost. But if you have to spend a lot of your time and focus on looking after the device, you’re in trouble. Opt for a product with a sturdy case that can handle being dropped. It should also be waterproof and fully functional in extreme weather, too.
- Buttons or Touch Screen. Most of us are used to touchscreen smartphones. This makes it easier to function with a device and more natural to use. However, if you’re in cold conditions and wearing gloves, you should double-check that the screen is still responsive. Alternatively, buttons are a sensible choice if you’re not tech-savvy.
Best Garmin Handheld GPS Reviews & Recommendations 2021
The Garmin inReach Explorer+ is an essential product if you spend time outdoors, whether alone or with others. The device is equipped with an interactive SOS that you can trigger 24/7 to a search and rescue monitoring center. You can also track and share your location with friends and family, which is ideal if you tend to travel alone.
Charging the device is convenient and easy, thanks to the rechargeable internal lithium-ion batteries. The manufacturer claims that this GPS tracker lasts up to 100 hours before it needs charging, making it great for the average traveler.
For the ultimate convenience, pair the device with the free Earthmate app, which allows you access to unlimited maps, aerial imagery, and U.S. NOAA charts. The Earthmate app also offers more features than the handheld GPS, while enabling you to save battery life when you’re on the go.
When we looked at customer reviews, some users were concerned with the customer service of the company. The device’s website doesn’t load fast, and it can take a while to sync data to your laptop, so ensure your plan well in advance to prevent this from inconveniencing you.
The Garmin 64 Worldwide High-Sensitivity GPS is another great looking device for travelers. It’s also set at a much more reasonable price considering it is a handheld tool. It comes with 4GB of memory for storing information and updating new location data. It also has a 2.6-inch color screen that is bright and clear.
One of the best benefits with the Garmin 64 Worldwide GPS is its ability to connect with your smartphone. It can wirelessly connect to your phone and share data between the two devices. It also comes with several advanced apps that make traveling the world just a bit easier. You can plot and plan your trip and even leave waypoints along the way.
However, it is the base model GPS from Garmin and is missing a lot of functions that other higher-end models do have. This includes Bluetooth and a camera. Also, batteries are not included with the device, so you will have to take that into account when you order this GPS. The screen could be larger as well.
If you’re searching for a high-quality handheld GPS with excellent customer feedback, the Garmin GPSMAP 66st is a great option. Specifically, the large 3-inch sunlight-readable color display enables a clear and easy-to-view screen, no matter the weather conditions. Compared to other devices, you don’t have to move the handheld GPS to a certain angle to perfectly view the screen when it’s bright outside.
The high-resolution, realistic views of your route promises to keep you safe and secure, even in a foreign location. This is all thanks to the direct-to-device downloads of BirdsEye Satellite Imagery. Plus, you don’t need to purchase an annual subscription to receive these benefits; it’s all included in your purchase.
As a result, you can easily locate parks, discover trails and clearings for campsites, and even create waypoints based on landmarks. This allows you to remain safe but continue having fun on your adventure.
If you’re eager to purchase this handheld GPS, it’s important to consider that this device isn’t equipped with the latest high-end technology, so it’s prone to freezing. With a little patience, it’s soon up and running, although not knowing this in advance could cause some frustration.
The Garmin Rino 750 is a compact and durable little handheld device. It’s the next best thing if you don’t want to drain the battery by using your phone’s GPS function. Heck, it’s even better. A smartphone may be good in the city, but this has built-in ABC sensors that can pinpoint your exact location within seconds.
The GPS has a large and easy-to-reach 3-inch touchscreen that provides a crystal clear image. It can even be oriented from either landscape or portrait view, depending on your viewing preference. It has active live weather updates that animate specific weather events wherever you are. Plus, it has Bluetooth connectivity so you can go completely hands-free and leave the GPS on a mount.
As for the not-so-great things about the GPS, the first major one is its price. It is rather expensive when you compare it to other available GPS units on the market. There have also been reports that the software can be clunky and slow. It may take a while to update and charge the GPS as well.
The Garmin 78sc Waterproof Marine GPS is a handheld device built for those who like to get a little wet on their journey. As a marine GPS, it is at home near any body of water and is perfect for the fisherman, boat owner, or lake enthusiast. It is built with a 2.6-inch touchscreen display and even floats on water if you accidentally drop it.
It has all of the basic functions a high-end handheld GPS has as well. Whether you’re looking to plot your course or route, set up waypoints, or geocache, it’s built to handle anything and everything. It even has coastal charts configured into its system so you can know the exact depth and width of any lake you charter.
What it doesn’t have is any protection against blocking out the sun while looking at the screen. Speaking of the screen, it is a smaller size and can be difficult to read. It also does not come with an SD card, which is rather annoying given it needs one to store map data and information.
The Garmin Montana 700i Rugged GPS is a premium level device for the avid traveler. It’s one of the best handheld GPS units for those who are looking to get out and explore the world. It has a large 5-inch screen—one of the largest on our list—and is vibrant and provides a crystal clear image of what’s around. It’s 50 percent larger than the previous model of the same name.
It has plenty of built-in advanced features as well. One of its best features that one would hope never to need is the interactive 24/7 SOS signal. This is to ensure rescuers can find your location if you ever find yourself in need of help. It even has its own text message software so you can send messages. Plus, it can connect to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for extra versatility and functionality. It’s truly a life-saving device that any adventurer should have with them.
As a premium handheld GPS, it is expensive. Also, it is surprisingly difficult to understand at first. For a high-level device, we feel it should be easy to use, but that just isn’t the case. It has so many features that it may feel like operating a rocket ship. It may take some time to get used to the many functions and controls.
The Garmin eTrex 22x Rugged Handheld GPS is a compact and user-friendly tool for traveling. It has a 2.2-inch color screen that is able to be read even in sunlight. It has 240 x 320 pixels that provide a much more stable and easy-to-read screen as well. It’s ergonomic, too, and has rubber grips on the edges that make it fit more firmly in your hand.
However, one of its best features is how much data it can store. With an 8BG internal memory chip, the small device is big on CPU power and storage space. World travelers will have to download constant updates about their location, and having plenty of storage will save you time in the long run. It also has a lengthy battery life of around 25 hours and runs off of two AA batteries. Not to mention, it is set at a relatively low price for a GPS.
However, if you want access to more detailed maps, you will need to download more software. The bad news with this is that you will have to pay an extra fee to download it all. It may also be smaller than it looks in the pictures on Amazon. It is made out of plastic, which may not be the most rugged material if dropped on a hard surface.
For a sleek and modern-looking handheld GPS, check out the Garmin Oregon 700 Handheld GPS. It may be small, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in everything else. The device has a 3-inch touchscreen display that can be viewed in either the landscape or portrait mode. The screen is also rather easy to read outside in the sun as well.
When considering a new handheld GPS, price is always something to consider. The Garmin Oregon 700 is set at a surprisingly low and budget-friendly price considering what’s packed inside. From a built-in accelerometer and barometric altimeter sensors, the GPS is built for the adventurer. It’s rugged and fits securely in the palm of a hand due to its ergonomic design.
However, it does tend to chew through its battery life rather quickly, which may be the number one complaint. It also may not be the most user-friendly GPS available.
- 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.
Q: What is mapping GPS?
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?
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?
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.
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 Garmin 64 Worldwide High-Sensitivity GPS is a great budget handheld GPS designed for the traveler who may just be starting out on their adventure.