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Handheld GPS Receivers

Top Picks

How we choose: The best handheld gps receivers highlighted here were selected based on 246 reviews of 87 products. Our top picks are those that are readily-available in the United States and have received the highest overall ratings from reviewers.

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Top Locator Beacon / Handheld

Garmin inReach Explorer+

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (3 reviews)

If you're looking to combine your messaging and GPS needs into one device, this is it.

Reasons to Buy

  • Rugged design
  • Trustworthy mapping
  • Detailed maps
  • Good battery life

Reasons to Avoid

  • Not as user friendly as some Garmins
  • Not as many bells and whistles
  • Almost exactly the same as the older one?

I've acquired this GPS for a solid price of $300 through incentives of my workplace, and its the best $300 I've spent on gear. This GPS has accompanied me on any challenging hike, backpacking trip, backcountry skiing, or any trip into the mountains.  Communication (Requires subscription) As shown in some pictures I've uploaded, this GPS doesn't anything special in terms of features. But what it does do it does well. The communication aspect of this GPS is easy if you have a phone, and still very manageable when only using the device.

Read more: Garmin inReach Explorer+ reviews (3)

Garmin eTrex 10

user rating: 4 of 5 (6 reviews)

A quality entry level GPS that will will satisfy any expert.

Reasons to Buy

  • accurate and reliable
  • easy to read
  • easy to use
  • good battery life (~25 hours)
  • inexpensive (~$115)
  • durable
  • waterproof
  • light weight

Reasons to Avoid

  • not all functions are covered in the user manual
  • joist stick needs improvement

The Garmin eTrex 10 is a great product. It's best used in conjunction with a map and compass as it lacks extra features such as detailed, color maps that are available on more expensive models. But let's face it, you should never haphazardly wander into the wilderness relying solely on a GPS to begin with, so get a map as well.  It has a fairly small B&W screen but it is not so small that it hinders ease of use or readability. The unit fits in hand comfortably and is small enough to place in your pocket when not in use.

Read more: Garmin eTrex 10 reviews (6)

Top Handheld GPS Receiver / Dog Gear

Garmin Alpha 100

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

When used with the TT15 or T5 dog tracking collars this is a great tool for those off-leash moments when hunting or just enjoying recreation with your dog. The Alpha 100 receiver can also function as a stand alone GPS with mapping.

Reasons to Buy

  • Waterproof
  • Outstanding durability
  • Reliable
  • Good maps
  • Excellent range
  • Tracks up to 20 dogs
  • Has training mode

Reasons to Avoid

  • Pretty expensive

The Alpha 100 with the TT15 tracking collar allows you to track up to 20 dogs within a 9-mile range. It displays the track of each dog in a different color and lets you know when the dog has stopped and when the dog is barking. It has a training mode that can deliver a variable vibration or shock to the collar BUT I caution against using the shock unless you really understand dog training. Most dogs will never need such a correction. 2024 Update: I lost my hand unit in 2022 during a leek picking outing.

Read more: Garmin Alpha 100 review (1)

Garmin Oregon 600

user rating: 4 of 5 (2 reviews)

Mixing performance, size and features makes the Garmin Oregon a win in my books. Overall, I am really happy with this unit. It fulfills the need I have to be able to accurately see where I am, find where I am going, and give me interesting information along the way such as watering holes, sunset times, elevation and other helpful details. It lasts a long time on a set of good quality batteries and will hold up over the long run for me.

Reasons to Buy

  • High mix of thoughtful features, like profiles, battery type adjustments and profiles
  • Size and feel, not too heavy and comfortable to use in the hand
  • Visibility—in good and bad light, screen is easy to see
  • Quick GPS signal lock
  • Reasonably accurate and signal coverage impressive
  • Battery Life

Reasons to Avoid

  • Screen gets wonky when moisture present
  • Back cover slightly difficult to get back on
  • Rail to use accessories challenging to learn at first
  • Base camp could use work (not specific to this unit though)

REI had these on a deal earlier this year and couldn't pass it up. I had been looking for a GPS unit to take backpacking as well as using it to track extended mountain bike rides into the back country of Arizona, where the trails can get sketchy. This GPS has really impressed me since I got it. Especially coming from really early generation etrex 10s, and the likes. Let me tell you why. Ease of Use: First of all, one of the things that makes this really easy to use is Garmin's new user interface.

Read more: Garmin Oregon 600 reviews (2)

Garmin Oregon 450

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Sturdy. Nice-sized screen. Touch-sensitive screen. Waterproof.

Reasons to Buy

  • Does what it is intended for
  • Waterproof
  • Touch screen
  • Good battery life

Reasons to Avoid

  • Useless installed maps for hunting
  • Only basic "Quick User" guide included

Ease of Use: I think this is a great hunting and hiking GPS unit. Everything is easy to use and understand. The icons are large, and pretty self-explanatory. You install the batteries, turn it ON, wait a minute for it to acquire the satellites, and you are ready to go. If you want to be more accurate, take the extra minute to calibrate the 3-axis compass and fine tune some more of the instruments). If you ARE NOT GPS savvy, then it bites that Garmin did not include their full User Manual with the device.

Read more: Garmin Oregon 450 review (1)

Garmin eTrex Vista HCx

user rating: 4 of 5 (5 reviews)

RainBuzz review... Hello All this is my unbias review of this unit. I know what readers want to see, a unbiased thorough report. Lets face it, the ".com"s relies on ads for revenue and have restrain from a totally honest review. I'll tell you the good, the bad and what is acceptable. Good ------- Small - fits in the palm of your hand, even a female can easily grasp this device without fear of dropping it. Ergonomics - its a one handed device. Unlike many other GPSs that require two hands, or is unsecure with just one handed operation, the Etrex is designed for one handed, comfortable and secure operation.

Read more: Garmin eTrex Vista HCx reviews (5)

Locator Beacon / Handheld

DeLorme inReach SE

user rating: 4 of 5 (5 reviews)

The safety of an SOS button connected via satellite to a monitoring response team combined with features you can use on every trip. Those features include two-way texting including localized weather reports, live updating of your personal online map and others you can choose or ignore as desired. The device and subscription service are not cheap, but for those venturing far afield, especially those who go alone, it gives a good return on the investment.

Reasons to Buy

  • Good connectivity to stable network
  • Settings allow for customized use
  • Good battery/power efficiency even in cold
  • Online mapping features both live and after the trip
  • Social media connectivity for social folk
  • Bluetooth capability

Reasons to Avoid

  • Keying process is time consuming when messaging
  • Web site has many features that are hard to undersand at first

Lots of function packed into a pretty small package, the Delorme inReach SE is either a safety device with lots of useful functions or the other way around. Whether you carry it for safety or for the other functions it isn't that big of a load for what you get as far as I'm concerned. Measuring roughly 6"x2.25" if you count the antenna it weighs 6.8oz/194g on my scale when full charged. Not sure of the weight when the battery is empty :) Subscriptions Rates as of Feb 2017. Since a lot of people were asking I've added their current list of plans and prices for the needed subscription service.

Read more: DeLorme inReach SE reviews (5)

Garmin Oregon 450t

user rating: 5 of 5 (2 reviews)

The Garmin 450T (T="Trail") was released to the public in late January, 2010. Because it is so new, the price is identical, everywhere: $499. However, if you are an REI member (And who isn't?), your 10% off translates into a $50 savings at the end of the year. That's reason enough to buy this from them. The 450T feels comfortable in your hand. It's about the same size and weight as an Apple iPhone. There is only a power/lock/brightness button, all other commands are all done using the touch screen.

Read more: Garmin Oregon 450t reviews (2)

Handheld GPS Receiver / Locator Beacon

DeLorme inReach Explorer

user rating: 5 of 5 (2 reviews)

This is a must have item on a backcountry thru hike! GPS satellite communication device with tracking and text messaging capability and SOS.

Reasons to Buy

  • Create multiple routes
  • See your tracks and navigate with onscreen maps
  • Trigger an SOS
  • Send and receive texts
  • Post social media updates
  • Share your location, GPS coordinates, course, elevation and speed

Reasons to Avoid

  • Expensive

I bought this device at a recent REI Garage sale for a steal! I've been wanting one for a long time and now I own one! I activated it immediately, which was easy to do. There are multiple different plans to choose from. I have loaded more than 50 trails and routes to the device and it is amazing! I'm super excited to have this device for my upcoming JMT thru hike in August. Piece of mind out in the backcountry will be nice for sure. Also the capability of letting my family back home know I'm OK and where I am exactly is pretty sweet! 

Read more: DeLorme inReach Explorer reviews (2)

More Reviews of Handheld GPS Receivers

Trailspace reviewers have shared 246 reviews of 87 different handheld gps receivers.

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Other Types of GPS Receivers

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