Top Five Garmin Handheld GPS

garmin handheld gps

Whether you are an avid outdoorsman and explorer who spends weeks at a time in the woods hunting or backpacking, or you just want to hang out with your friends or family for a day hike, you want to make sure you know where you’re going. There is nothing worse than making your way into the desert, forests, or mountains, ready to have the time of your life when you suddenly realize you’re lost. Even though our smartphones have many uses and have improved in their capabilities and range, there are still plenty of places where you are out of luck, and your cell phone either dies or you’re out of cell range. A handheld GPS tracker prevent you from getting lost. That way, you can focus all of your time and attention on staying safe and having fun on your outdoor adventure. 

A Garmin Handheld GPS is perfect for traversing the trails and keeping you on track while you explore the great outdoors. They have reliable reception, are easy to use, have excellent display quality, fit in the palm of your hand, and have plenty of versatile uses.

Benefits Of A Garmin Handheld GPS

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. A GPS can track and store positional data and timing. They are designed to be water-resistant, resistant to shock and thermal stress, and resist other harsh outdoor experiences. Some of the fancier high-performing GPS devices also have accessories like a camera, a topo map, more memory, better altimeters, antennas, and internal electronic compasses. A handheld GPS is essential to pinpoint your exact location to reorient yourself on a map so you won’t get lost. A Garmin handheld GPS is a great purchase for any of your outdoor excursions since you don’t want to be caught in an area where there isn’t cell reception or your battery dies. Some of the other benefits of a Garmin Handheld GPS include:

  • Planning Software: A Garmin device or GPS unit works by communicating with satellites orbiting the earth that read and triangulate the signals and send them back to the portable GPS unit. Garmin uses special software called BaseCamp. This software allows you to view maps and plan your trip by creating specific routes and marking out waypoints along the way. You can view maps that are 2-D or 3D and even view TOPO maps. With BaseCamp software, you can even view Geotag photos, which allows you to see what the scenery looks like at specific locations. By downloading the planning software on your PC or Mac, you can easily create routes and waypoints that you can import into your handheld GPS device. 
  • Battery Life: Your GPS unit has about 10-22 hours of battery life, depending on which GPS you choose, so you can go through a full hiking or backpacking day without needing to change the battery. Depending on the Garmin GPS devices you choose, some come with a rechargeable battery, but some you can also use disposable alkaline batteries or even a solar charger for longer outdoor trips.
  • Display Quality: Your Garmin GPS comes with a capacitive touchscreen, which means you can operate it easier and faster. With a high-quality display, you can see the screen, no matter the weather or altitude.
  • Weight and Size: When hiking or backpacking, you want to pack as light as possible so you’re not weighed down with a bunch of heavy equipment. That is why it is important to have a lightweight GPS receiver in your pack so you can hike easier and faster. You can wear it around your neck or tuck it away in your backpack since it weighs less than a pound.
  • Reception: Garmin GPS devices utilize the WAAS System. While most modern devices can locate your position to a resolution of 10-meters, Garmin devices are five times better, with an accuracy that is 3-meters better than most standard devices. This means that you can find where you’re at and not risk getting lost or wandering off the trail. While canyons or trees can sometimes interrupt or slow down satellite signals, clouds and weather should not affect your reception.
  • Versatile Features: Back in the day, a GPS unit could only store navigational maps. However, their technology has progressed, and your GPS unit can also include a flashlight, calculator, or even texting capability like a smartphone!
  • Barometric Altimeter And Electronic Compass: Speaking of extra features, nowadays, Garmin handhelds and watches may also include a barometric altimeter and an electronic compass. A barometric altimeter allows you to check your altitude and atmospheric conditions. This small sensor can be crucial to help you stay alert to incoming storms or other weather patterns. An electronic compass means that if a GPS signal isn’t available for some reason, you can still know where you are and successfully navigate to where you want to go. 
  • Waypoints: Waypoints essentially function like a breadcrumb trail, showing you where you’ve been as well as your future route. You can even place the waypoints before your hike along a predetermined path so that you can track your progress along your hiking trail. When combined with detailed topography maps and satellite imagery, you can paint a detailed picture of your trip so you can know exactly where you’ve been and where you want to go. A handheld GPS unit is the navigational device of choice with all of the durable, versatile features to make your camping, hiking, or hunting or fishing trip as enjoyable and carefree as possible since you don’t have to worry about going in the wrong direction and getting lost.

Which Garmin Handheld GPS Is The Best?

While there are plenty of GPS options available, several stand out due to their compact size, durability, reliability, and versatility.

  1. Garmin Montana 680

This high-quality GPS device turns a basic, practical handheld tracking unit into a versatile camera and GPS rolled into one. The Garmin Montana 680 comes with a built-in 8-megapixel digital camera, and every photo you take is automatically tagged with your coordinates, so you can travel back to the same spot again in the future to relive and take in the beauty. The camera autofocuses and provides you with high-quality images with clear resolution. There’s no need to worry about those photos getting lost either since your pictures are saved in the 4GB internal memory or a microSD card that you can insert into the built-in slot. It also includes a 1-year BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription, which allows you to switch views when looking at your surroundings.

Another benefit of this GPS handheld device is its 250,000 preloaded worldwide geocaches from This allows you to easily join in the fun treasure hunt as you explore the great outdoors. It also has a track manager, making it a piece of cake to organize and navigate through your waypoints and routes and see where you’ve been and where you want to end up. With a battery life of 16 hours, you can go anywhere and not worry about it dying on you. The Garmin GPS device has a dual-powered design, so you can either use the built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery after 16 hours, or you can use three AA batteries for 22 hours of use.

It has a 4-inch color touchscreen that’s glove friendly and a sunlight-readable touchscreen display, so it’s easy to use no matter the weather. The handheld device also has dual-orientation, which means that you can use it both vertically and horizontally. Additionally, it has a barometric altimeter, a 3-axis tilt-compensated digital compass, and uses both GPS navigation and GLONASS satellites so you can always know and maintain your exact location. You can choose to have your GPS display your topographic may data in 2-D or 3-D, allowing you to see the contour lines, elevation profiles, and your optimal route. This GPS device has it all and can even be used with auto/RV mounts or in an ATV or boat. The one downside of the Garmin Montana 680 is it is more expensive than other available options, but it is well worth the price for the high-end quality and versatile device you’ll be receiving. This top-of-the-line Garmin Handheld GPS is the perfect addition for any hunting, geocaching, or backpacking adventure.

2. Garmin GPSMAP 64csx

This handheld GPS device has a sunlight-readable color display and a water rating of IPX7, which means that it can be splash on or rained on. It has an expanded internal memory of 8 GB and a resolution display of 160 x 240 pixels. This GPS device also has a dual battery system, so you can use two AA batteries or a rechargeable NiMH battery pack that can actually be charged while it’s inside the device. 

It contains a 3-axis compass, a barometric altimeter, and 100K topographic maps in the United States. They include charts in the entire United States and even Puerto Rico, with a worldwide base map that is uploaded to the system and connected to GPS and GLONASS satellites. A quad helix antenna will give you a strong signal transmission so you can find a signal wherever you are. Shaded relief on the map will provide you with detailed information, and you can share your location via Wifi and Bluetooth. You can also receive Smart Notifications and pair your device with ANT+ sensors, like your heart rate monitor, temperature sensor, and control your camera. This user-friendly also has 250,000 preloaded caches, so you can go geocaching whenever you want. 

3. Garmin Oregon 650t 3-Inch Handheld GPS With 8MP Digital Camera

Ideal entry-level handheld GPS. It has a 3-inch screen that you can read in any weather, including direct sunlight, and the touchscreen display also has multi-touch capabilities for easy use. With an accurate satellite network through dual-band GPS and GLONASS satellite positioning, you can know where you are at all times. It also features a 3-axis compass, an accelerometer, and a barometric altimeter so that you can measure your location, as well as the atmospheric conditions.

Additionally, you can share your location and route with others using ANT or Bluetooth technology. You can wirelessly share your geocaches, waypoints, routes, and custom maps and photos. It also features dual-orientation, which means that you can easily auto-switch between landscape or portrait views. This GPS device also has a built-in 8MP camera that autofocuses and has an LED flash/touch and digital zoom. It features a dual battery system to either use 2 AA batteries or a rechargeable NiMH battery pack. This GPS device is the ideal choice for exploring rugged terrain.

4. Garmin eTrex 10

While one of the cheaper options on the market, don’t let its budget-friendly price fool you. It has an incredible preloaded worldwide BaseMap and internal memory, so you can easily plan your next adventure from the palm of your hand. It is perfect for any terrain with a durable and waterproof design to IPX7 standards (which means it can be rained on or splashed on). Even though the display isn’t in color and is monochrome, it is easy to read, even when the lighting is low. The touchscreen has shaded relief so you can read the screen, even if there’s blinding sun outside. 

The Garmin GPS unit has a battery life of up to 20 hours with two AA batteries. It uses both GPS and GLONASS satellites that lock onto more than 24 satellites, so it loads your position 20% faster. It also means you can use the device even in deep canyons or dense tree cover. Another feature that backpackers love about this device is its geocaching features. Since it supports “GPX” geocaching files, you can upload a geocache file to your Garmin eTrex 10, and it will store and display critical data, like difficulty level, location, terrain, and descriptions. This reliable GPS tracker is the perfect beginner GPS companion for any hunter, fisher, or backwoods explorer.

5. Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS

This is probably one of the lightest and smallest handheld GPS devices on the market. It even comes with a strap so it can sit on your wrist while you’re hiking! With a dual-position readout, you can view your current location from multiple formats. You can receive quick and accurate GPS locations as well as tracking your tracks and waypoints. It has increased reception and improved performance through HotFix, so you can still receive a signal even in deep canyons or heavy tree cover. It also has extra features, like a heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, cadence sensor, and electronic compass. It will even give you hunting and fishing information and tell you when sunrise and sunset are. 

You can also share your waypoint and routes wirelessly to another Foretrek GPS device or connect it to your computer with a USB drive. You can also store and analyze your past trails and even view them on Google Earth. It has up to 17 hours of battery life and requires AAA batteries, so you don’t have to worry about your GPS device dying in the middle of your day trip. The display screen is sunlight-readable and will display your trail as a dotted line on the screen. You can save locations in the internal memory as a waypoint, so you can make it back to your campsite or to a stunning site you don’t want to forget. It also includes TracBack, which will allow you to retrace your path back to where you started. This GPS unit is small by mighty!

As you can see, there are plenty of benefits of having a Garmin handheld GPS. You’ll want to be sure that the GPS unit you purchase is shock and water-resistance, so it won’t fail while you’re out in the wilderness. With high-quality planning software and topography maps, you can go anywhere you want and immediately know your exact location. You can track waypoints and routes, as well as have access to thousands of geocaching maps. Some of the GPS devices also include a camera, so you can capture the beautiful landscapes for everyone to enjoy. 

By choosing a durable GPS unit, you’ll be able to hike wherever you want and not have to worry about getting lost. You don’t have to be weighted down with a map and compass but instead can carry a lightweight device with a sunlight-readable screen so that you can read the display no matter the weather. Be sure to buy a Garmin handheld GPS unit today, so you can be prepared to explore the great outdoors safely!