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Choosing The Best GPS For Mountaineering And Hiking: A Buyer’s Guide


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Hyacintha Read



When it comes to exploring the great outdoors, few activities can rival the thrill and challenge of mountaineering and hiking. Whether you’re ascending a towering peak or trekking through serene wilderness, being properly equipped is essential for a safe and enjoyable adventure. And one of the most valuable tools for navigating and tracking your progress is a GPS (Global Positioning System) device.


A GPS device is designed to provide accurate location information, helping you stay on track, avoid getting lost, and even find your way back to safety in case of an emergency. With advancements in technology, today’s GPS devices offer a wealth of features specifically tailored for outdoor enthusiasts.


In this buyer’s guide, we will delve into the world of GPS devices for mountaineering and hiking, exploring the key factors to consider when making a purchase and highlighting the top features to look for. Additionally, we will provide recommendations on popular GPS brands and models that have proven reliable and efficient for outdoor adventurists.


Choosing the right GPS device can make a significant difference in your mountaineering and hiking experience. It can provide you with the confidence and peace of mind to explore new terrains, push your boundaries, and navigate diverse landscapes. So, let’s dive in and discover how to choose the best GPS for your next outdoor adventure!


Understanding GPS for Mountaineering and Hiking

Before delving into the features and factors to consider when choosing a GPS device for mountaineering and hiking, it’s important to have a basic understanding of how GPS technology works and its relevance to outdoor adventures.


GPS, or Global Positioning System, is a network of satellites that orbit the Earth and provide precise location data. Each GPS device receives signals from multiple satellites to determine its exact latitude, longitude, and elevation. This information is then displayed on the device, allowing users to pinpoint their location on a map.


In the context of mountaineering and hiking, GPS devices are invaluable tools for navigation. They provide accurate coordinates of your current location, allowing you to plan your route, mark waypoints, and track your progress along the way. This can be particularly useful in remote or unfamiliar terrains where traditional navigation methods, such as maps and compasses, may be insufficient.


Moreover, GPS devices for mountaineering and hiking often come equipped with additional features specifically designed for outdoor enthusiasts. These features may include altimeters, barometers, compasses, preloaded maps, and even weather forecasting capabilities. Such functionalities can provide valuable insights and assist in making informed decisions during your adventures.


It’s worth noting that while GPS devices are powerful tools, they should not be relied upon as the sole means of navigation. They should be used in conjunction with other navigation methods, such as map reading and compass skills. Additionally, it’s crucial to have a basic understanding of how to operate a GPS device and interpret the information it provides.


To ensure optimal performance and reliability, it’s advisable to keep your GPS device updated with the latest firmware and map data. This will ensure that you have access to accurate and up-to-date information during your outdoor excursions.


In the next section, we will delve into the key factors to consider when choosing a GPS device for mountaineering and hiking, helping you make an informed decision that suits your specific needs and preferences.


Factors to Consider when Choosing a GPS

When it comes to choosing a GPS device for mountaineering and hiking, there are several factors to consider to ensure that you invest in a device that meets your specific needs. Here are some key factors to keep in mind:

  1. Durability: The ruggedness and durability of the GPS device are essential as it will be exposed to various weather conditions and potentially rough terrain. Look for devices that are waterproof, shockproof, and built to withstand outdoor elements.
  2. Battery Life: Consider the battery life of the GPS device, especially if you plan to embark on multi-day adventures. Look for devices with long battery life or the option to use disposable or rechargeable batteries.
  3. Screen Size and Resolution: The screen size and resolution of the GPS device will impact visibility and readability, especially in bright sunlight. Opt for a device with a large screen and high resolution for clear and detailed map display.
  4. Connectivity: Determine the type of connectivity that is important for your needs. Some GPS devices offer wireless connectivity options such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, allowing you to connect to other devices or download additional maps and data.
  5. Mapping and Navigation: Consider the mapping and navigation capabilities of the GPS device. Look for devices that offer detailed topographic maps, trail networks, and the ability to upload custom maps. Additionally, ensure that the device has easy-to-use navigation features, such as route planning and waypoint marking.
  6. Accuracy: GPS accuracy is crucial, especially when relying on it for navigation. Look for devices with high receiver sensitivity and multiple satellite reception for optimal accuracy, even in challenging environments such as canyons or dense forests.
  7. User Interface and Ease of Use: Consider the user interface and ease of use of the GPS device. Look for devices with intuitive menus, easy-to-read icons, and responsive touchscreens or buttons. A user-friendly interface will make navigating through menus and accessing features more seamless during your adventures.
  8. Weight and Size: The weight and size of the GPS device are important, particularly if you want to minimize the overall weight of your gear. Consider devices that are lightweight and compact, without compromising on durability or functionality.
  9. Additional Features: Explore the additional features offered by the GPS device. These may include built-in compasses, altimeters, barometers, heart rate monitors, and compatibility with other accessories or sensors. Determine which features are most valuable to you and ensure the device has them.

By considering these factors, you can narrow down your options and find a GPS device that aligns with your specific needs, preferences, and outdoor activities. In the next section, we will explore the top features to look for in a GPS device for mountaineering and hiking.


Top Features to Look for in a GPS for Mountaineering and Hiking

When it comes to choosing a GPS device for mountaineering and hiking, certain features can significantly enhance your outdoor experience. Here are some top features to consider:

  1. Preloaded Maps: Look for a GPS device that comes with preloaded topographic maps. These maps should include detailed information on trails, elevation contours, water features, and landmarks. The availability of preloaded maps saves you the trouble of purchasing and downloading maps separately.
  2. Waypoint Marking: Ensure that the GPS device allows you to mark waypoints, which are specific locations on your route or points of interest. This feature enables you to save important locations, such as campsites, water sources, or scenic viewpoints, and helps you navigate back to them easily.
  3. Tracking and Route Planning: Look for a GPS device that offers tracking capabilities, allowing you to record your hike and review your progress. It should also provide route planning functionalities, letting you create and follow a route to your destination, complete with turn-by-turn directions.
  4. Altimeter and Barometer: An altimeter measures altitude, while a barometer measures barometric pressure. These features provide valuable data for gauging your elevation gain, assessing weather patterns, and monitoring changes in atmospheric pressure. This information can help you make informed decisions during your adventure.
  5. Wireless Connectivity: Consider a GPS device that offers wireless connectivity options, such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Wireless connectivity allows you to sync your device with compatible apps or share data with other devices, such as smartphones or smartwatches.
  6. Weather Forecasts: Some GPS devices are equipped with weather forecasting capabilities. These devices can provide you with real-time weather updates, including temperature, humidity, wind speed, and precipitation forecasts. Having access to this information can help you plan your hike accordingly, considering weather conditions.
  7. Geocaching Support: For those who enjoy geocaching, a GPS device with geocaching support is essential. Look for a device that can download geocache coordinates and display them on the map, allowing you to locate hidden treasures while exploring the wilderness.
  8. Battery Saving Modes: Battery life is a crucial factor, especially for longer hikes or multi-day trips. Look for a GPS device that offers battery-saving modes, such as power-saving screens, adjustable backlight settings, or the ability to switch off unnecessary features to conserve power.

Remember, the importance of each feature may vary depending on your specific needs and preferences. Consider which features align best with your outdoor activities to choose a GPS device that will enhance your mountaineering and hiking experiences.


Next, we will explore popular GPS brands that are trusted and renowned for their quality and reliability in the outdoor adventure community.


Popular GPS Brands for Outdoor Adventures

When it comes to choosing a GPS device for your outdoor adventures, opting for a reputable and trusted brand can give you confidence in its performance and reliability. Here are some popular GPS brands known for their quality and innovation:

  1. Garmin: Garmin is one of the most recognized names in the GPS industry, offering a wide range of devices tailored for outdoor exploration. Their GPS devices are known for their robust build, advanced mapping capabilities, and user-friendly interfaces. Garmin devices often come with preloaded maps, tracking features, and durable construction suitable for rugged environments.
  2. Suunto: Suunto is a Finnish brand known for its high-quality outdoor and sports-oriented devices. Their GPS watches and handheld GPS devices offer a range of features such as topographic mapping, route planning, altimeters, and barometers. Suunto devices are particularly popular among hikers, mountaineers, and trail runners for their durability and accuracy.
  3. Magellan: Magellan has been a leading GPS brand for outdoor enthusiasts for several years. Their devices are renowned for their accuracy, durability, and user-friendly interfaces. Magellan offers a variety of GPS devices designed specifically for hiking, trekking, and mountaineering, with features such as preloaded maps, waypoint marking, and intuitive navigation systems.
  4. Garmin inReach: Garmin inReach devices provide an additional level of safety and communication for outdoor adventurers. These GPS devices offer two-way satellite communication, allowing you to send and receive messages, share your location, and request help in emergency situations. Garmin inReach devices are popular among those venturing into remote areas with limited cell phone coverage.
  5. Satmap: Satmap specializes in handheld GPS devices designed for outdoor activities, including hiking and mountaineering. Their devices feature large, high-resolution screens, preloaded topographic maps, and extensive battery life, making them ideal for longer expeditions and challenging terrain. Satmap devices are known for their robustness and resistance to harsh weather conditions.

These are just a few examples of popular GPS brands that have established themselves as leaders in the outdoor adventure market. It’s essential to research and explore the specific models and features offered by each brand to find the perfect GPS device for your needs.


In the next section, we will provide recommendations on GPS devices that are highly regarded and recommended for mountaineering and hiking.


Recommended GPS Devices for Mountaineering and Hiking

Choosing the right GPS device is crucial for a successful and enjoyable mountaineering and hiking experience. Based on their features, reliability, and user feedback, here are some highly recommended GPS devices:

  1. Garmin GPSMAP 64sx: The Garmin GPSMAP 64sx is a rugged handheld GPS device designed for outdoor adventurers. It features a high-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS receiver for accurate positioning, preloaded topographic mapping, and wireless connectivity. The device also includes a 3-axis compass, barometric altimeter, and supports geocaching. Its durable construction and long battery life make it suitable for extended trips.
  2. Suunto Traverse Alpha: The Suunto Traverse Alpha is a GPS watch specifically designed for outdoor activities. It offers advanced navigation features, including breadcrumb trail tracking, digital compass, and barometric altimeter. The watch also includes preloaded topographic maps, activity tracking, and access to Suunto’s Movescount platform. With its durability, water resistance, and long battery life, the Traverse Alpha is a favorite among hikers, hunters, and anglers.
  3. Magellan eXplorist 310: The Magellan eXplorist 310 is a straightforward handheld GPS device ideal for entry-level hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. It comes with preloaded worldwide basemap, a 2.2-inch color display, and a high-sensitivity SiRFstarIII GPS receiver. The device is rugged, waterproof, and features a simple interface for easy navigation and waypoint marking.
  4. Garmin inReach Explorer+ The Garmin inReach Explorer+ combines GPS navigation, two-way satellite messaging, and emergency SOS capabilities in a compact handheld device. It provides worldwide coverage through the Iridium satellite network, allowing you to send and receive messages and share your location even in remote areas. The device features preloaded maps, a digital compass, and an altimeter. Its robust design and reliable communication make it an essential companion for adventurers exploring off-grid locations.
  5. Satmap Active 20: The Satmap Active 20 is a feature-rich handheld GPS device tailored for outdoor activities. It boasts a large, high-resolution TFT touchscreen, preloaded topographic mapping with 1:25,000 scale detail, and extensive route planning and tracking capabilities. The device is highly durable, waterproof, and offers long battery life. It also supports wireless connectivity for route synchronization and sharing.

These recommendations are a starting point to help you find a GPS device that suits your needs and preferences. It’s essential to evaluate the features, pricing, and availability of these devices, as well as read user reviews, to make an informed decision.


Remember, the right GPS device can enhance your navigation, provide valuable information, and contribute to a safer and more enjoyable mountaineering and hiking experience. Choose one that aligns with your specific requirements and embark on your outdoor adventures with confidence.


In the final section, we will conclude our buyer’s guide and summarize the key points to consider when choosing a GPS device for mountaineering and hiking.



Choosing the best GPS device for your mountaineering and hiking adventures is a critical decision that can greatly enhance your outdoor experiences. By considering factors such as durability, battery life, screen size, mapping capabilities, and additional features, you can find a GPS device that suits your specific needs and preferences.


Popular GPS brands like Garmin, Suunto, Magellan, Garmin inReach, and Satmap offer a wide range of reliable devices with features tailored for outdoor enthusiasts. These devices provide accurate positioning, advanced navigation functionalities, and durability to withstand challenging environments.


When selecting a GPS device, it’s important to balance your desired features with the weight and size of the device to ensure it doesn’t hinder your mobility. Additionally, always remember that a GPS device should be used in conjunction with traditional navigation methods and that it’s necessary to have a basic understanding of how to use and interpret the information provided by the device.


Ultimately, investing in a high-quality GPS device will provide you with confidence, peace of mind, and an increased level of safety during your mountaineering and hiking adventures. It will enable you to navigate accurately, mark waypoints, track your progress, and explore new territories with greater ease.


So, take the time to research and compare different GPS devices, read reviews and user feedback, and consider your individual requirements before making a decision. With the right GPS device by your side, you can embark on your outdoor excursions with confidence, knowing that you have a reliable navigation tool to guide you through the beautiful and challenging landscapes of the great outdoors.