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Magellan eXplorist 710 Waterproof Hiking GPS - backcountry mountain navigation

Hiking GPS Buying Guide

GPS devices fast turned into a necessity from being a luxurious gadget that only the rich can buy. Today, just about every person has some sort of GPS device that they would never leave the house without. In the previous years, GPS is being widely used for vehicle navigation. Today, it is used in all sorts of navigation regardless if by foot or by wheels.

Hiking is just one of the many sports/hobbies that benefits from GPS devices. If you have hiked at least once in your life, you know the various environmental and outside factors that may prove to be problematic in the trail.

With a hiking GPS device, you instantly eliminate the fear of getting lost in the middle of nowhere. Yes, having a map and looking at it during a hike may seem exciting and so like the previous centuries but a hiking GPS device is way easier, functional, and definitely more appropriate for this time and age.

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Garmin etrex Touch 25 with TOPO US 100K - biking hikes road directions

Factors to Consider in Choosing a Hiking GPS Device

Garmin GPSMAP 62St Handheld Hiking GPS Navigator - mountain maps directionsGPS devices are generally immensely useful for outdoor activities like running, cycling, and especially hiking. They provide the information that hikers need in traversing hills and mountains such as current location, directions to the destination, and even show hiking trails which all contribute in making hiking even more full of fun than before. In addition, hiking has been generally safer with the introduction of GPS units. Just make sure that you always have a proper map in your backpack in case your GPS device stops working because of empty battery or malfunction.

With the numerous hiking GPS devices available in the market today, it can be quite confusing to choose the one that is right for you. We’ve reviewed many GPS devices especially made for hiking and you should read the hiking GPS reviews before buying. But first, let us better educate you on the various factors that you should put into consideration in choosing a GPS device specifically for hiking:

  1. Durability

Given the fact that you will be out in the wilderness and will be subjected to all kinds of environmental factors such as rain, wind, and dust, durability should be on top of your list. While most hiking GPS units are designed and built for backcountry use, there still are selected ones that can withstand even more beating up in the wild.

Choose the one that is fully weatherproof and not just waterproof. That should give you more protection and peace of mind that your GPS unit would not bail out on you just when you needed it most.

  1. Battery Life

How long do you usually go for your hiking adventures? The answer will probably depend on which hiking trail you decide to traverse. Think of your hiking’s most usual duration and then look for a GPS unit that has a battery that can last longer than your usual hiking duration.

Most handheld hiking GPS devices today have a battery life of more or less 15 hours per charge. Some come with the option of putting AA batteries in cases of emergency while some use rechargeable lithium batteries. During our hiking GPS reviews we make use of the devices and we’ve checked the actual battery-life.

  1. Signal Coverage

Garmin Oregon 450t Handheld Hiking GPS NavigatorThis is the main reason why you should have your own hiking GPS device for navigation instead of just relying on a navigation app on your smartphone. In general, GPS devices offer better and much wider signal coverage than telecommunication providers. Have you ever noticed how a dense tree cover can sometimes jam up your location on your navigation app? Try to use a hiking GPS unit and you will immediately see the difference.

Regardless if it is raining or you are under thick bushes, a good GPS unit with a great signal coverage should be able to locate you accurately.

  1. Features

A common feature among most GPS devices for hiking today comes with a barometer to help track weather conditions and better assist hikers while in the wilderness. Other common and helpful features are electronic compass, altimeter, wireless connection/sharing, heart rate monitors, and other ANT-enabled devices.

If you are into other sports, then you might want to choose the GPS unit that comes with more features suitable to all your needs. Doing so is also more practical as compared to purchasing different GPS units for every sport you do.

  1. Mapping

Unlike other GPS units where maps would have to be downloaded, the ones that are specifically designed and made for hiking comes with pre-downloaded maps and hiking trails. With this being said, one can also download a specific trail that he/she is about to travel into so that the map is always available with or without a signal. Check out our hiking GPS review for the overview of mapping options.

The mapping options that are commonly included are topographic, road, and even waterway mapping and satellite imagery. Other options can be availed for a specific price or a membership fee.

  1. Screen

If you are particular about the images and trails, you probably would want a high-resolution colored screen especially if you will be using topographical maps. Check also for antiglare feature and if the screen can be viewable even under bright light or extremely low light.

  1. Comfort

Given the fact that you are hiking your way up mountains and hills, you do not want to make anything harder than it is. Choose a hiking GPS unit that feels totally comfortable in your hands. If touchscreens are not your thing, make sure to choose one with buttons that are well spaced for you to be able to select the functions easily.

  1. Customization Options

Frequent hikers love customization as it allows them to direct whatever they want on the GPS unit. With that being said, it allows more functionality and makes things easier for hikers.

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Usefulness of GPS

Magellan eXplorist 710 Waterproof Hiking GPS - road backcountry mountain hikes compassYes the good old maps still work and will always work. However, they are not as frequently updated as the GPS maps. For one, GPS maps are easier to update and made available to all the buyers via the manufacturers website. Yes, GPS devices cost much more but you do not have to throw them out if the map gets outdated, you simply need to update it (GPS devices now come with either free or by membership updates).

To help you further decide if you do really need a GPS, here is an enumerated list of its usefulness:

  • Provides valuable location-based information relative to your destination.
  • Makes trail finding an easy task regardless of weather and environmental situation.
  • Better satellite reception than GPS features on smartphones.
  • Better battery life than smartphones.
  • Ideal for extensive off-trail navigation.
  • Great even in low visibility conditions.

A hiking GPS unit gives highly accurate readings. However, it is always great to know more than one way of navigation. A GPS unit is great while its battery lasts. You should always carry the traditional maps with you when you go hiking and you can take a backup battery with you. Anyway, enjoy your hiking!

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