Best Hiking GPS – a Review of Garmin GPSs

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One of your best friends in nature will be a GPS. They help you know where you are and direct you where to go. You can learn how to use one in under five minutes. However, all GPSs are not created equally. In this article, I will give an overview of the best different GPSs available and how to choose one.

Garmin eTrex Series

The Garmin eTrex series features a great set of GPSs to choose from. They are by far the best hiking GPSs in the market. I will first discuss their shared similarities and drawbacks found throughout all of them. Then I will go into detail about each one of them.

Shared Similarities and Drawbacks

All of them are versatile, durable, and waterproof (up to a meter and/or thirty minutes under water). This series is known for its sturdiness. Also, they are easy to read at night and day time. They can all be configured to follow your route, track your distance, and your speed.

The user manual is good generally, but not for particular interests. It is too broad a manual. People use their GPS for different purposes, so there needs to be a manual for each kind of user but there simply is not. On top of that, it usually takes a minute or two to connect with a Satellite.

Further, they can be off by anywhere from five to ten feet. Although, you have to remember that this is different from your smart phone’s GPS that goes off cell towers; Garmin eTrex GPSs go off satellites. At times, they can be hard to navigate with just like many other GPSs.

Unfortunately, the screen does scratch easily, so it would be wise to invest in a screen protector. All of them do not have touch screens, which is not the worst thing in the world; touch screens consume a lot of battery power, so it is saves you power.

Garmin eTrex 10x

Weight: 5 ounces
Dimensions: 4 x 2.1 x 1.3 inches
Price: $79.39
Battery Life: 20 hours
Battery Type: 2 AAs
Bluetooth: yes

The Garmin eTrex 10x is their basic model, featuring a black and white color formatting.

Pros: One of the biggest benefits of this GPS is its price. Compared to other GPSs on the market, it is a lot less expensive. The Garmin eTrex 10x will save you a lot of money that can be spent on other hiking equipment.

Cons: You cannot really load maps onto it as it requires replacing the SD card. It can only download GPX files, so, if you want to create a route, use ridewithgps.com to create routes to load onto it.

Recommendation: If you are looking for an inexpensive, reliable GPS, this one will do the trick. It does have some draw backs such as the user manual and issues with navigation like all the others. Overall though, this is a great GPS if you are on a budget.

Garmin eTrex 20x

Weight: 4.96 ounces
Dimensions: 4 x 2.1 x 1.3 inches
Price: $142.99
Battery Life: 20 hours
Battery Type: 2 AAs
Bluetooth: yes

Pros: Unlike the eTrex 10, it can be programmed to beep when you arrive at a way point. It balances price with increased product value. It has enhanced screen resolution in color and increased memory. Further, it can work on GPS and GLONASS satellites simultaneously. As well, you can install an SD card on it, meaning that you can put maps and routes into this GPS with no issue.

Cons: It does not have a topographic map, only a very basic one, so you cannot see elevation change on it. While this is an issue, many others in the Garmin series have it.

Recommendation: For a first time hiking GPS user, I would encourage you to choose a Garmin eTrex 20. They hold their own and are versatile. The 20 is a well-rounded GPS.

Garmin eTrex 30x

Weight: 4.96 ounces
Dimensions: 4 x 2.1 x 1.3 inches
Price: $194.98
Battery Life: 20 hours
Battery Type: 2 AAs
Bluetooth: yes

Pros: Unlike the eTrex 20, the eTrex 30 comes with a built in altimeter, the first in the series to measure your altitude. It acquires much faster and is much more accurate. Even in dense forest, this GPS works. On top of that, it has an electronic compass. Like the 10x, the 30x is also able to install an SD card.

Cons: The Garmin eTrex 30x is much like its little sisters, but a bit more expensive and better in some respects. If you can afford the higher price, then this is a fine product.

Recommendation: The Garmin eTrex 30x is a step up from its the 10x and 20x, but it also comes with a price increase. If you can afford it, then I recommend getting it.

Garmin GPSMAP 64st

Weight: 9.28 ounces
Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.4 x 6.3 inches
Price: $254.99
Battery Life: 20 hours
Battery Type: 2 AAs
Bluetooth: yes

Pros: This is the garmin with most features and add-ons in the series. It has the most memory, the largest screen, and heaviest weight. You can measure temperature, heart rate, altitude, and speed. It comes with 100,000 topographic maps and a one-year birds eye Satellite imagery subscription, which lets you get a color overhead view of the area you are in. Lastly, it finds your location quicker and keeps your fix longer than any other GPS in the Garmin series.

Cons: The biggest drawback by far is its price. It is much more expensive than other GPSs. That is a big barrier to buying this. It could be argued that weight is a bit of an issue, but not really; it is barely noticeable.

Recommendation: If you have no issue with price, then go for this one. It is versatile, durable, and waterproof. The Garmin GPSMAP 64st is an incredible hiking GPS. If you are going to the back country for an extensive period, this is a superb GPS to have in your pack.

Final Thoughts

While GPSs are an expensive piece of hiking equipment, they have proved time and time again to be an invaluable add on. They require no formal training unlike map and compass.

Overall, if you are on a budget, go with the eTrex 10x. For a starter with a bit more cash, then the eTrex 20x is an excellent choice. If money is not an issue, then the Garmin eTrex 64st is a great GPS to have. Thank you for reading and I hope you make today a great day.

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10 Comments on “Best Hiking GPS – a Review of Garmin GPSs”

  1. Great review and just what I need to read. I’ve been losing my mind on which GPS to pick before our next hike.
    The garman is the way to go. I think spending the extra all the topical maps if worth it.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Yes Vince, Garmin is the best option out there when it comes to hiking GPSs. It can be a bit expensive, but well worth the money if you will extensively use it. I appreciate your thoughts.

  2. Hi Alex, thanks for the review. I have a Garmin GPS but it’s for my vehicle. So maybe they are kind of different but what I am experiencing right now is a very slow initialization. But once that is done, it works like a charm. Regarding these Garmin GPS for hiking, how do they perform when trying to link them up with the satellites? Was it fast or did it also take a long time? Thanks, any advice would be great.

    1. Thank you for your question Jude. Their hiking GPSs differ from their vehicle GPSs in that they are more rugged, but all of them work well. Garmin’s hiking series of GPSs does perform well when connecting to satellites. With the eTrex 10x, it takes around two to three minutes. The eTrex 20x connects a bit faster at one to two minutes. The eTrex 30x connects in around a minute. And the GPSMAP 64st connects the fastest at under thirty seconds. With each increase in connection speed, the price also increases, but you also get a lot more benefits too. I appreciate you for asking that question.

  3. I have never even heard of hiking GPS. I had no idea there is even a such thing. My husband and I go hiking quite often, and we always study for hours on the map before we leave the house. With this tool, I never have to worry about getting lost. Thank you for the review. It was very helpful.

    1. Yes, GPSs are great for hiking in the wilderness with. They make the experience much more easy. While they are a bit expensive, they work for nearly a lifetime. I definitely recommend it as a navigation tool. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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