Top 5 Best Handheld GPS Devices for Hikers and Climbers


Whether you’re planning on going on a hiking vacation or a new climbing adventure, if it’s too a new destination you’ll surely want to follow a specified route to ensure that you don’t get lost.  Whilst maps and compasses are great (and have been known to help extreme sporters out of the most difficult of situations), if you want to make your life a whole lot easier you might want to opt for a handheld GPS device.  Below are our top 5 picks for handheld GPS devices that are sure to make your expedition that little bit more luxurious.

handheld GPS

Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx

This high-end GPS device includes a sunlight-readable color TFT display, mapping designed for both marine and hiking use and an installed 64 MB microSD card for adding unique or special maps to the device.  The device is shaped like a walkie-talkie and features full topographic data and a USB interface for syncing with the computer.  Also included are applications such as an alarm, clock, calendar, barometer and pre-installed points of interest.  This Garmin unit is perfect for the professional hiker or climber and currently is in the $350-400 price range.

Garmin eTrex Summit HC

The eTrex Summit HC is a high-sensitivity WAAS-enabled GPS receiver that can supply hikers and climbers with “peak” performance regardless of situation. The built-in basemap shows you lakes, rivers, cities, interstates, highways, railroads, coastlines and altitude.  The screen of the device measures 1.7” x 1.3” and features 24 MB of internal memory for map storage.  Celestial tables are included for those who also like to hunt and fish while exploring nature and the device is backed by a one-year warranty. Currently, the Summit HC can be procured for approximately $125 and makes a great investment for those new to extreme sports.

Garmin Foretrex 401

A hands-free solution to having your GPS always in your reach, the Garmin Foretrex 401 comes with a wrist-wrap that keeps it attached without it being an inconvenience.  With this unit, you can create custom trails and upload them to the device for use outdoors.  The battery life on the device is approximately 17 hours and provides all the information any hiker will need.  The device is compatible with sensors (such as heart rate monitor and cadence sensor) and can share data with other Foretrex 401s wirelessly. At present, the Garmin Foretrex 401 is available for $175 at most major retailers.

DeLorme Earthmate PN-40

This high-sensitivity GPS device gives you access to the latest data available, including NOAA nautical charts.  Included are high-resolution topographic map sets for the entire United States and you have plenty of room to add more; the device supports memory cards up to 32 GB in size.  The refined barometric altimeter gives the most accurate readouts available and the device is completely waterproof, meaning no worries if you get caught in a rain shower or forget to take it out of your pocket before swimming.  The Earthmate PN-40 is a solid contender and can be found online and in stores for just $300.

Garmin Dakota 10

With a large 2.6” color touchscreen, the Garmin Dakota 10 is a great hand-held unit that feels like a full-fledged computer.  With a wide array of topographic, marine and road maps available for download and an 850 MB internal memory capacity, you can get all the data you need in one location and be ready for whatever climbing experience awaits.  Included with the device is a bike mount in the event you want to get on the road, while thousands of included caches are available and waiting for you to discover. Currently, the Dakota 10 can be picked up for $180 as a standalone unit or $210 for the “Bike & Hike Bundle”.

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