Best Hiking GPS for 2021—Top Easy & Affordable Units

There are countless units available for hiking and backpacking, but we’ve narrowed down a list of the most robust, intuitive, and affordable ones for 2021. 

Set Up Your Phone as the Best Hiking GPS

The onX Backcountry app is here to enhance your outdoor adventures. Those who yearn for more trails can tap the Discover button for a library of endless opportunities. Access detailed route descriptions, elevation profiles, photos, local weather, and more all in the palm of your hand. Use 3D to tilt and pan your map with a clear view of the terrain on iOS devices and computers. 

Offline Maps

Are you worried about unreliable cell signal on your hike? For off-grid excursions, maps can be downloaded for offline use and your routes can be recorded with Tracker. No explorer should have to depend on service to reach their destination.  

Discovery

Our hybrid Basemaps feature satellite imagery combined with 24k resolution topo maps to create a perfect balance of aerial detail and elevation information. Now you can have more confidence in the accuracy of your routes. Descriptions of those routes will feel like they came right out of a guidebook, because, well, they did.

Wind and Weather

Along with a seven-day forecast, the app lets you know exactly when you can anticipate the sun and moon—both rising and setting. This is in addition to forecasts for wind and rain. 

The shareability of onX Backcountry allows you to take a Photo Waypoint, share it with friends and family so you can relive that moment later.

We Turn Your Phone Into a Powerhouse
With onX Backcountry, you can save maps for offline use, track your progress through the wilderness, and save one-of-a-kind experiences in one place.

Benefits of Using a GPS for Exploring the Outdoors 

For those yearning to explore the outdoors, a GPS can provide an essential tool for a safe and fulfilling adventure by supplying reliable directions. GPS technology allows explorers to find their destination in a variety of conditions—even when distinguishable features are erased by bad weather. However, deciding which GPS to buy can present challenges. The technical lingo and litany of options may make picking out the right device a stressful experience. Hikers may not even know what kind of advanced features are best for the trails they enjoy and plentiful options can create more confusion as to what technology will best for them. And considering the cost of a quality device, balancing price and the needed technical features is paramount. 

How a Hiking GPS Works

In the early 1970s, the U.S. military first developed GPS technology to answer the need for reliable navigation through weather fluctuations. The current system consists of over 30 satellites orbiting the earth that communicate with a receiver to calculate its distance from four or more of the satellites. With this information, a GPS unit can determine the receiver’s location and present a user’s coordinates on a map in almost any scenario. 

Which GPS Is Right for Me?

Garmin GPSMAP 65s

Garmin GPSM

Price: $404.49

Highly durable in the rain, the Garmin GPSMAP 65s thrives with an additional altimeter and three-axis compass. Location speed now works significantly faster with new satellite tools. This satellite technology not only is faster, but accurate as well. The GPS comes with expanded GNAA support which means it can access satellites from GLONASS, GPS, QZSS and IRNSS constellations. 

With detailed maps that zoom easily, you have a very accurate update of where you are in any terrain. Additionally, you will get to find out what river or contour line is in your view. The GPS will work underwater for about 30 minutes with IPX waterproofing and is built to get you through whatever weather is thrown your way.

Suunto 9 Baro Titanium

Suunto 9 Baro Titanium

Price: $599

With robust capabilities that fit right on your wrist, this is a wonderful GPS for hikers who want to make the most out of their adventure with as little weight as possible. The GPS features a rechargeable battery, touchscreen, and is water resistant to 100m. 

The battery life for this GPS is 25 hours but can extend to 170 hours if the responsiveness is turned down. This will give you the same features as a sports tracking watch. The GPS also provides barometric altitude, weather alerts, heart monitoring, and training tools.  

Garmin eTrex 10

Garmin eTrex 10

Price: $95.13

If you’re looking for the best cheap hiking GPS, the Garmin eTrex 10 is worth paying attention to. The GPS is water resistant (IPX7) and can get 25 hours out of a pair of AA batteries. The buttons can be easily pushed with one hand with a clear 128 x 160mm screen. 

Garmin Montana 680

Garmin Montana 680

Price: $439.90

Those who enjoy hiking with a sturdy GPS will enjoy the Garmin Montana 680. Heavier than most, the GPS offers a touchscreen and 4GB of memory. 

Like the touchscreen, the interface is easy to use. The accuracy and reception offered by the GPS performs at an exceptional level. The GPS is meant to take up some extra room in your bag with an 8MP camera and 4GB of internal memory, but is worth it for those who don’t mind a heavier device and want to capture the moments that words simply can’t articulate. 

Garmin Instinct 

Garmin Instinct 

Price: $171.28

If you want your navigation right on your wrist with impressive features, the Garmin Instinct has your answer. Garmin’s smartwatch is built for shock and water-resistance. The GPS looks like a regular watch and can function as one but is made for so much more. The Garmin Instinct includes an altimeter, barometer, and three-axis electric compass.  

The GPS makes the most of battery life with its smaller size. The rechargeable battery can stay alive for 14 days when functioning as a watch, and 16 hours when in GPS mode. Those who don’t need a large screen and enjoy using watches will make great use of this GPS.  

Related and Frequently Asked Questions

Should I get a GPS for hiking?

You should. The fact is a GPS can be essential for your safety by preventing you from getting lost in potentially dangerous settings. 

Can you use a car GPS for hiking? 

A dedicated hiking GPS will provide the best experience in the woods and on trails. An automotive GPS will not feature maps customized for navigating off the road. 

Are GPS trackers worth it?

Indeed, GPS trackers are worth it. While some may feel hesitant to spend money on such a device, knowing you have a reliable way to avoid getting lost has no price tag.

What is the most accurate GPS device?

The Garmin GPSMAP 64sx has a 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter. The multi-GNSS support features GPS, Galileo, and GLONASS. Routes and waypoints can be shared with friends. This device has an IPX-7 waterproof rating and works wonders in different weather conditions. If somebody wants reliable navigation on a hike, climb, or any other adventure, this device will provide outstanding accuracy.

How do I choose a hiking GPS?

Overall, you need to think about what features are best for you. Between weight, battery life, total memory, cameras, price, and other factors, there are many features to consider. You should first identify what you value most in the device. From there, you should be able to look up the top hiking GPS that aligns with your needs. Also, fellow hikers may be more than willing to share their recommendations. 

While all of these GPS models make a great investment, the value of onX Backcountry is unmatched. With Offline Maps, Tracker, Waypoints, and a handful of other great features it makes the $29.99/year price tag a great entry point into backcountry travel.

The Best Value in The Backcountry
Purchase today to start tracking routes, dropping Waypoints, and navigating offline.