person holding compass while hiking

Test Your Limits with the Best GPS for Hiking (2020)

Do you crave the challenge of exploring new terrain? Going off the beaten path can be a wonderful experience. But the threat of getting lost can put a damper on your enjoyment.

Having a reliable GPS device will put your mind at ease. But there is a huge selection out there. So which is the best GPS for hiking?

This article will look into a few high-quality options. Additionally, we’ll briefly cover some things you should keep in mind while shopping.

Best Handheld GPS: DeLorme AG-008727-201 InReach Explorer


Let’s be honest. You want to bring a GPS in case you get lost.

However, that’s not all that these devices can do. If you’re going hiking, it’s a good idea to go for a GPS that can send satellite signals as well as receive them. In case of emergencies, you should be able to call for help.

The DeLorme InReach Explorer is a two-way satellite communicator. If you’re in need of help, you can contact a search and rescue monitoring center called GEOS. GEOS stays on call 24 hours a day, all year round. If you are lost on Christmas, these are the guys to call.

But a good GPS has uses outside of emergency situations. This communicator also lets you stay in touch with people you care about.

You can send text messages and even update your social media accounts. Since the device is iridium-powered, you will have coverage even in the most remote locations. You can also pair this GPS with your smartphone if you install the Earthmate app.

The navigation system will let you choose your routes well in advance. You’ll also have a digital compass that will help you find your way if something goes wrong.

Let’s look into some of the upsides and downsides of this GPS.


  • Versatile

This GPS device has a number of extra features. The texting and emailing options are particularly appealing to some campers.

  • Great Navigation Options

The DeLorme InReach Explorer will help you plan your route down to the smallest detail. There is also a MapShare option that lets your loved ones track your progress from home.

  • Smartphone Compatible

You can pair this device with your smartphone or tablet. By downloading the Earthmate app, you’ll have access to an extremely detailed topographic map. You will also receive accurate and up-to-date meteorological information.

  • Digital Compass

This digital compass will help you navigate the wilderness. There is also an accelerometer, which can help track your progress. Mountain-climbers will appreciate the barometric altimeter as well.

  • Truly Global Coverage

The iridium-based design guarantees that your GPS will always have access to satellite data. This makes it a great choice for globetrotters. After all, you won’t have to worry about having reception. You can communicate with your family and friends from anywhere in the world.

  • Lightweight

This device weighs around 7 ounces, so it won’t weigh you down. You can truly take it anywhere.

  • Great Battery Life

The DeLorme InReach Explorer is equipped with a lithium polymer battery. Thus, it can last around 100 hours without charging. You can use any USB cable to charge your device.


  • The Service Fee Might Be Too High

You have various subscription options to choose from. But if you want to use all the extras, you should be prepared to pay a significant monthly or yearly fee.

  • Complicated Sign-Up Process

In order to activate your GPS, you need to go through a registration process. Unfortunately, this can be confusing. Customer service might not prove helpful either. Good thing this is a very popular hiking GPS. Here’s a user video on how to activate it: 

  • Tracking Problems

This GPS can chart your route and store your waypoints. However, this feature might be buggy at times. If having very precise data is important to you, this isn’t your best option.

Who It’s Best for:

The DeLorme InReach Explorer is a great choice for international camping. Wherever your journey might take you, this GPS will help you stay in touch with your loved ones. However, signing up for the extra services can be complicated and costly.

To learn more about this product, go here:

Best GPS Watch: Suunto Traverse GPS Watch


While handheld devices are easy to use, they aren’t always convenient to carry. Your wristwatch will be with you even if you get separated from your backpack. Hence, getting a GPS watch is a good choice for campers who enjoy extreme conditions.

The Suunto Traverse is an extremely high-quality watch.

It’s waterproof and extremely durable. After all, it comes with a hard composite case and the face is made of mineral crystal glass. It’ll keep performing well even after years of use.

Here is a quick demonstration of its resilience:

In addition to GPS, this watch has GLONASS navigation. This might provide you with more accurate data in some parts of the world.

It also comes with a number of extra features that will help you plan your hiking trip. You can use the topographic map application to get a better idea of your location. This watch also notifies you when you get a call or a text.

You will also find the Suunto Traverse extremely comfortable to wear. The silicone strap is light and secure.

So what are the best things about it? And what are the downsides?


  • Very Sturdy

Are you looking for a GPS watch that will perform well in storms, at high altitudes, and underwater? If so, the Suunto Traverse might be perfect for you. You can even go diving with it, as it is submersible up to 100m. Additionally, it has a battery life of 100 hours. The watch will continue to show time and date when the battery is low (less than 2%), but all other functions are disabled. Its USB charging works with any portable power bank. Pack one if you’re going away for more than 4 days.

  • A Great Choice for Charting Your Progress

Many campers enjoy having detailed recordings of their progress. This watch will track your routes with great accuracy. There is even a step and calorie counter, which makes it a great option for jogging too.

  • Easy to Use

Since there is strong backlighting, you can use your Suunto Traverse in the dark.

You also won’t have to worry about getting confused. While it comes with a number of extras, this watch has a very intuitive design. You’re sure to master it very quickly.

  • Extremely Accurate Data

Suunto is a Finnish company that specializes in sturdy watches and precision instruments. They use very high-quality materials to ensure maximum accuracy.

  • Good for Mountaineering

This watch measures your altitude and your total ascent. You can also track changes in air pressure. There is a digital compass as well.


  • The Cost

The Suunto Traverse is a considerable investment. You can find good GPS watches at lower prices.

  • Problems with the Storm Alarm Function

Although this watch can alert you of upcoming storms, it’s not a great idea to rely on this feature completely. You should find a different way to keep track of the weather.

  • Buggy Software

Unfortunately, some of the apps on this watch tend to lag. If you’re planning to use it for communication, you might run into frustrating bugs. The movement-tracking app doesn’t always perform well either.

Who It’s Best for:

If you’re planning to go camping in tough conditions, the Suunto Traverse is perfect for you. You can safely take this watch diving, rock-climbing, or whitewater rafting. However, we consider it somewhat overkill for the average user.

Click here for more information about this GPS watch:

Most Affordable Hiking GPS: Garmin Foretrex 401 [Waterproof]


Here is a simple and durable option that covers all the basics. You can slip this 3-ounce GPS device on your wrist and trust it to guide you. There is also an electronic compass for additional accuracy.

If you’re an outdoor sports enthusiast, you will enjoy the Garmin Foretrex 401. This GPS device will provide you with detailed fishing and hunting information. Additionally, the barometric altimeter makes it a great choice for skiing and mountaineering.

Your Garmin Foretrex 401 will store all your waypoints when you’re hiking. Furthermore, you can connect it to your phone or tablet to share your progress on social media. This will also give you access to various useful apps.

If you’re looking for a waterproof and lightweight GPS device, the Garmin Foretrex 401 could be perfect for you. However, the short battery life is a serious downside. If you’re planning a multi-day trek in the great outdoors, this isn’t the best choice for you.

Here’s a quick overview of the pros and cons of the Garmin Foretrex 401.


  • Great Connectivity Options

You can easily synchronize this device with your computer. Hence, you can access Google Earth and create a plan. The GPS also gives you the option to store information about the routes you covered.

  • Lightweight and Weather-Resistant

This device is waterproof and it performs well in cold conditions. You can keep it on your wrist wherever you go. Additionally, you can clip it to your belt or your bike.

  • Good for Hunting or Fishing

The Garmin Foretrex 401 will allow you to access information on fishing and hunting conditions.

  • Simple to Use

If you’re looking for a straightforward GPS device, this one is a good option. The display has backlighting and uses a large, simple font. Hence, so you can even check your location while you’re skiing or biking.

  • Affordable

We recommend the Garmin Foretrex 401 to campers with a limited budget. It is relatively durable and performs better than other products in the same price range. There are also many useful extra features.


  • Very Short Battery Life

This watch uses two AAA batteries and the maximum battery life is 17 hours. Hence, this isn’t a good fit for many campers. If you’re going on a long hike you may want to pack two extra batteries.

  • Confusing Manual

To access some of the extra functions, you’ll need to consult the manual. Unfortunately, it wasn’t written very clearly. Hence, you may need to do some extra research before you leave home with your Garmin Foretrex 401.

Who It’s Best for:

This is a good waterproof option for one-day trips. It’s particularly great for hunting and fishing. Don’t forget to pack backup batteries if you decide to go for this GPS device.

Click here for more information about the Garmin Foretrex 401:

Some Runners-Up

When it comes to buying a GPS for hiking, you have a wide variety of options to choose from. Here are some more GPS devices you may want to consider.

Are you a fan of Apple products? The Apple Watch Series 3 – GPS is an extremely stylish GPS watch with many useful features. Unfortunately, the battery life isn’t too impressive, considering the price.

The Bad Elf 2200 GPS Pro is a very sleek handheld GPS device with lots of connectivity options. It is durable and fairly affordable. However, you might not get accurate data if you take it to a remote location.

If you want a high-tech touchscreen GPS device, you might enjoy using the Garmin Oregon 750t. This device comes with a number of extras, including a high-quality camera. But the high price is a serious downside.

Why Is Using a GPS a Good Idea for Campers?

GPS (global positioning system) was initially used by the US military. However, it quickly became popular among scientists and travel enthusiasts. Today, there are many significant applications of GPS technology.

You might already have some experience with using apps that help you navigate. Google Maps is one of many popular choices. But if you’re planning to explore the wilderness, your smartphone might not be the best navigation tool due to limited coverage.

GPS devices can help you chart your routes with a considerable amount of detail. Even more importantly, they’ll help you find your way in unexpected situations. They’re a great choice for fans of kayaking and similar sports.

However, there is one significant downside you should keep in mind. Even the most durable GPS devices require batteries. Thus, we recommend taking a few backup options that will help you if you have an unexpected technical failure.

How to Choose the Best GPS for Hiking

There is a dizzying selection of GPS devices you could use when you go camping. So how do you select the best one? Here are a few important considerations you should keep in mind as you shop.

  • Is the GPS Device Durable?

You will have to rely on it even in extremely bad weather. Hence, make sure to choose high-quality materials.

  • Will You Be Able to Keep It on Hand?

Never buy a GPS that’s too heavy or too fragile to take with you wherever you go. The best solutions are always simple. Hence, GPS watches are a great choice for anyone.

A handheld GPS looks a bit like an old-fashioned walkie-talkie. You can easily clip it to your belt, but losing it might be a concern.

  • Does the GPS Come with Satellite Communication?

In many cases, you won’t have cell phone reception while you’re camping. A good GPS can keep you in touch with the world. You also need to be able to ask for help if you need to.

  • What Extra Features Do You Get?

Many GPS devices come with built-in electronic compasses. You might also get barometers and other sensors. These are crucial for mountaineering and for scientific trips.

A Final Word

Every year, thousands of hikers get lost in the great outdoors. This can be a harrowing experience.

But you shouldn’t let the fear of getting lost stop you from having adventures. After all, modern technology makes it fairly easy to send out search and rescue teams in time.

Your GPS will help keep you safe. It will also give you the confidence boost you need to explore new locations. This will lead to many unforgettable experiences.

So which GPS should you take on your adventures? Our top choice is the DeLorme InReach Explorer. Click here to find out more:

Article Description:

What is the best GPS for hiking? This article looks into GPS watches and handheld devices. Our top choice is durable and great for international hiking trips.

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