A handheld GPS device can serve as a planner, navigator and recorder on your next trekking adventure. A hiking GPS device lets you see where you are, where you've been and where you're headed next, all on one screen.
We'll walk you through the key features of handheld GPS units, and discuss where they outperform smartphone counterparts. Read on to compare all the options and find the best handheld GPS for your next hike.
Compare some of the best handheld GPS
What is a handheld GPS device?
Global positioning systems (GPS) record and store spatial data. Similar to a GPS in your car, handheld GPS devices work by gathering information from multiple satellites that are continuously orbiting the earth. With a connection to three satellites, GPS units can construct a 2D reading of your position, while a fourth satellite connection can produce a 3D reading.
A handheld GPS device provides navigation assistance and land-survey data including geographic landmarks and topographic mapping.
Why should I consider a handheld GPS device?
- Navigation. Knowing exactly where you are can help you plan where to go next. Having the ability to pinpoint your location while you are out and about is a huge advantage when you're hiking or trekking.
- Safety. Generally, if you know where you are, you shouldn't get lost, but if you are lost, a GPS unit might help you get back on track. Some advanced models are also equipped with two-way radios, messaging systems and satellite communications should you ever find yourself needing to send for help.
- Tracking. GPS units allow you to track your every move, path and route. Research scientists can use this feature to monitor and track their progress out in the field, while hikers can download these recordings to keep track of their adventures.
Smartphones vs handheld GPS
As a rule of thumb, handheld GPS units are a better choice for long, challenging treks, whereas smartphones are better suited to day hikes. Handheld GPS units provide more advanced navigation features and tend to be far more robust than your average smartphone. However, smartphones offer convenience and allow you to choose from a range of navigation apps.
Here are the main advantages and disadvantages of handheld GPS units vs smartphones:
How to compare handheld GPS devices
The cost of a hiking GPS device starts at around $100, while more expensive options with advanced features can set you back over $1,000.
When choosing a hiking GPS unit, think about where you will be hiking and which of the following features will best suit your needs:
Even with a GPS unit, you shouldn't leave your map and compass at home. While handheld GPS units are at the cutting edge of technology, you never know what might happen on a hike. You could easily lose, drop or break your GPS unit, so we recommend keeping a physical map and compass on hand just in case.
If you want to buy a handheld GPS device, start comparing your options now.
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