Navigating the Great Outdoors: The 5 Best GPS Devices in 2024

Humans are such a curious species wouldn’t you say? From ancient nomads wandering continent to continent, fearless explorers using the stars to navigate the dangers of chaotic oceans, to curious Indiana Jones types exploring the deep jungles of the Amazon. We’ve always wanted to seek out new lands and go where no one has ever been before. It’s in our blood.

Best GPS devices

Mother Earth doesn’t make it easy on us, however. There’s an inherent risk in the unknown. One of which is getting lost, never to return home. Luckily in today’s digital age, there’s a tool that works worldwide and that is of course GPS.

These devices have become the norm in modern-day navigation. Every single person who owns a smartphone carries one in their pocket or purse. How else are you going to avoid the traffic jam on your way to work, or search for a local bite to eat? But are these the best GPS devices for roaming the countryside? I think not.

Phones are great for the urban setting, but not in the wild. Sure some phones come equipped with an off the grid location beacon built in for emergency situations, but these devices are extremely limited the farther you go off the beaten path.

This article aims to fill in the gaps from common smart devices to the more complex and feature-heavy characteristics of well-made global positioning tools. Traits like accurate navigation, tracking, safety, and more. Any and everything you could possibly ask for in remote wilderness areas.

So whether you’re hiking, camping, or backpacking, having the right GPS device can enhance your outdoor experience and help you navigate with confidence and assurance. In this guide, I’ll review the best GPS devices for various outdoor scenarios, highlighting their advantages, disadvantages, special features, prices, and of course user reviews.

Best Overall Basic Unit

1. Garmin inReach Explorer+

The Garmin inReach Explorer+ is great for those who want or need the assurance of communication with friends and family out in the wild, with the additional features of simple navigation. It’s reliable, has a great battery life, and is easy to use. You’ll have no problems with getting from point A to point B or sending simple message to loved ones back home. The SOS emergency feature is also an added safety net you can count on from anywhere in the world.

It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of some of the more complex systems out there, but it’ll get the job done! It’s like your favorite 4-door sedan or standard pick-up truck. The best of the middle of the road.

Best GPS devices

Advantages:

  • Two-way messaging capability via satellite communication.
  • SOS emergency response feature with 24/7 monitoring by GEOS.
  • Detailed topographic maps and navigation tools.
  • Long battery life, lasting up to 100 hours in tracking mode.
  • Rugged and waterproof design suitable for outdoor adventures.

Disadvantages:

  • Relatively high initial cost and subscription fees for satellite communication services.
  • Small screen size compared to some other GPS devices.
  • Steeper learning curve for users unfamiliar with advanced GPS features.

Features:

  • Built-in digital compass, barometric altimeter, and accelerometer.
  • Preloaded with DeLorme topographic maps.
  • Ability to pair with mobile devices for additional functionality.
  • Weather forecasting and location sharing capabilities.
  • Tracking and breadcrumb trail features for route recording.

Price: Approximately $449.99 (as of writing)

User Reviews:

My most-used outdoor accessory!!” , “Great product. Must have in many cases.

Very Impressed with device

Best For Mounting on Bicycles, Boats or other Modes of Transportation

2. Garmin eTrex 32x

The Garmin eTrex 32x is designed for those who mostly stick to roads and trails and need something that can attach to basically anything. It allows you to focus on navigation without the clutter and is tough enough to withstand the elements. Since it runs on AA batteries, you won’t have to worry about getting into situations where you need an hour or two to recharge during your travels.

What sets it apart from other models is the inclusion of an electronic, 3-axis compass and a barometric altimeter, allowing for pinpoint accuracy in deep valleys or tall mountain ridges. A great bang for your buck so to speak!

Advantages:

  • The compact and lightweight design is ideal for backpacking and hiking.
  • Affordable price point compared to more advanced GPS devices.
  • Long battery life, lasting up to 25 hours on two AA batteries.
  • High-sensitivity GPS receiver with GLONASS and Galileo satellite support.
  • Preloaded with Garmin TopoActive maps for detailed terrain information.

Disadvantages:

  • Limited screen size and resolution compared to more expensive models.
  • Lack of advanced features such as satellite communication or touchscreen interface.

Features:

  • 2.2-inch color display with customizable data fields.
  • Ability to add additional maps via microSD card.
  • Geocaching-friendly features for treasure hunting enthusiasts.
  • Water-resistant design with IPX7 rating.
  • Garmin Explore website and app compatibility for trip planning and sharing.

Price: Approximately $249.99 (as of writing)

User Reviews:

When it counted most, this really worked“, “Very happy with this“, “Worth every penny

Best GPS Watch

3. Coros Pace 3

This ultralight GPS watch is ideal for those that want a streamlined experience without all of the distracting issues you run into with a typical “smartwatch”. It has exceptional battery life, a clear and legible display, and comes with a wide variety of health tracking like sleep, heart rate, steps, etc.

Its price point is also a highlight, especially for those purchasing their very first GPS watch. You don’t have to be an athlete to appreciate the breadcrumb navigation function that’ll alert you from diverting from your course. An excellent buy.

1. Advantages:

  • Lightweight and sleek design suitable for all-day wear during outdoor adventures.
  • Long battery life, with up to 20 days of regular use and up to 30 hours in GPS mode.
  • Accurate GPS tracking with support for GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo satellite systems.
  • Advanced training metrics, including VO2 max estimation, training load analysis, and recovery advisor.
  • UltraMax battery mode extends battery life for up to 60 hours of GPS tracking while conserving power.

2. Disadvantages:

  • Limited touchscreen functionality compared to some other GPS watches.
  • Limited onboard storage for music or maps; primarily focused on fitness and navigation features.
  • Limited compatibility with third-party apps or accessories compared to some other brands.

3. Features:

  • Optical heart rate monitor with 24/7 monitoring and advanced metrics such as heart rate variability (HRV).
  • Built-in altimeter for accurate elevation tracking during hikes and climbs.
  • Coros app compatibility for data analysis, route planning, and syncing workouts.
  • Water-resistant design with 5 ATM rating, suitable for swimming and water sports.
  • Interval training, workout programs, and customizable data screens for personalized training experiences.

4. Price: Approximately $229.99 (as of writing)

5. User Reviews:

Lovely running watch“, “Light and practical“, “Easy to Use, Extremely Reliable

Most Versatile

4. Garmin GPSMAP 66i

The Garmin GPSMAP 66i is the granddaddy of handheld GPS devices. It combines fully functional satellite communication AND satellite navigation. This thing does almost everything from uploading custom maps, crystal clear satellite imagery, auto-routing with turn-by-turn instructions, and near-instant GPS fixes.

Think of this as your personal little navigator and communicator. You can store up to 10,000 waypoints so pre-planning long treks are no problem. The screen is very clear with nearly twice as many pixels as its competitors. A true adventurer’s piece of gear.

Advantages:

  • Integrated satellite communication with two-way messaging and SOS capabilities.
  • Large 3-inch color display with sunlight-readable technology.
  • Detailed topographic maps and Birdseye Satellite Imagery subscription included.
  • Long battery life, lasting up to 35 hours in GPS mode and up to 200 hours in expedition mode.
  • Rugged and waterproof design with MIL-STD-810G durability rating.

Disadvantages:

  • High initial cost and ongoing subscription fees for satellite communication services.
  • Larger and heavier than some other handheld GPS devices.
  • Complex interface may be overwhelming for beginners.

Features:

  • Built-in three-axis compass, barometric altimeter, and accelerometer.
  • Compatible with Garmin Explore website and app for trip planning and sharing.
  • Wireless connectivity for syncing data and receiving notifications from a paired smartphone.
  • Expedition mode for ultra-long battery life during extended outdoor trips.
  • Compatibility with Garmin Connectâ„¢ IQ for additional apps, widgets, and data fields.

Price: Approximately $599.99 (as of writing)

User Reviews:

SOS, text, and e-mail with very impressive GPS capabilities“,

Just a great device in all aspects, too many to count“, “Best Handheld GPS

Best Value for Your Money

5. SPOT X

The Spot X is a simple two-way communication device with a built-in keyboard, a la the famous Blackberry phones of the past. Designed for those that don’t need navigation so much, but those who need an escape tool in case they run into trouble. You can rest easy as this little guy can send SMS and email messages to any phone number or email address worldwide. Its battery life is one of the longest in the genre and its basic navigational features, like its digital compass, can always be trusted.

In short, this thing is will let you communicate with anybody, track you on your outdoor adventures and able to send a dedicated SOS message if needed. Think of it like a fancy body beacon.

Advantages:

  • Integrated satellite communication with two-way messaging and SOS capabilities.
  • Compact and lightweight design with a rugged exterior.
  • Dedicated keyboard for easy text messaging in remote areas.
  • Long battery life, lasting up to 240 hours in tracking mode.
  • Affordable price point compared to some other satellite communication devices.

Disadvantages:

  • Limited screen size and resolution compared to smartphones or larger GPS devices.
  • No built-in maps or navigation features; primarily used for communication and tracking.
  • Subscription fees required for satellite communication services.

Features:

  • Dedicated SOS button for emergency assistance anywhere in the world.
  • Ability to send and receive messages via satellite, SMS, or email.
  • Customizable tracking intervals and predefined messaging options.
  • Water-resistant design with IP67 rating.
  • Optional tracking and insurance services for added peace of mind.

Price: Approximately $249.95 (as of writing)

User Reviews:

Does what its supposed to do very well“, “I like not having to use a phone to message!“,

HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, think about what you need, what you can afford. Do you need a simple, yet reliable the best GPS device for your outdoor adventures depends on your specific needs, preferences, and budget. Whether you’re looking for advanced navigation features, satellite communication capabilities, or a simple and reliable device for basic navigation, there are plenty of options to choose from. Consider the advantages, disadvantages, features, and price of each GPS device carefully to find the perfect companion for your next outdoor adventure. Happy exploring!

Author

  • James Ryan

    A seasoned hiker and adventurer who loves to travel and experience new things. An extrovert and creative at heart, James is most definitely a "People Person". He started this blog in the hopes of making somebody's day just a bit brighter!

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