One of the potential downsides to spending time outdoors is getting lost — and it can be terrifying. These days, everyone has a GPS app on their phones, but those apps rely on you having a cellular signal. If you’re in a place without cell access, a handheld GPS ensures you can always still find your way around.
Of course, GPS units aren’t hard to find in the market, but how do you find the right unit that suits your needs? You start by browsing our list of the best GPS handsets out there, according to ratings and reviews by consumers like you.
Best Overall: Garmin GPSMAP 64st with TOPO U.S. 100K Maps
The Garmin GPSMAP 64st is arguably the best handheld GPS on the market — at least according to the 1,600 plus reviewers who gave it five stars. Impressive! The 8 gigabytes of memory allow you to download the maps you need, and you can power it with rechargeable batteries or disposable AAs.
If you’re in an area with cell phone access, you can even transfer GPS maps to your smartphone. The directions on the unit are easy to read on the vibrant color screen. Best of all, its high-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS receiver mean you can find your location just about anywhere.
Best Value: Garmin eTrex 20x
If you’re looking for a quality handheld GPS at a price that won’t break the bank, meet the Garmin eTrex 20x. This GPS unit has a full-color 2.2-inch display that you can even read in sunlight, and it maintains its signal even in the most remote places. Customers found it "easy to set up; easy to use," with five-star reviewers showering it with praise for effectiveness and sturdiness.
Best Altimeter and Compass: Garmin eTrex 30x
The Garmin eTrex 30x is a robust and convenient handheld GPS boasting plenty of features hikers and climbers love and need. Its built-in barometric altimeter lets you measure your altitude and air pressure, while the electronic compass accurately finds your position wherever you roam. It can also wirelessly transmit data to other compatible devices. Buyers especially appreciate how well this GPS works, from caves and remote areas to canyons and shady locales.
Best for Hikers: Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS
Out on the trail, it’s nice to have a GPS that you don’t have to hold, making the Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS an especially practical pick. It fits on your wrist like a watch, and you can retrace the path of your hike to easily return to your starting point. It also tracks your heart rate and distance throughout your hike. More than 800 reviewers gave this handy wrist-mounted model five stars, with many praising its convenience and the specialized features geared toward trekkers.
Best Satellite Communicator: Garmin inReach Explorer+ Handheld Satellite Communicator with Topo Maps and GPS Navigation
Out in the wilderness, it can be difficult to find a cell signal. The worry-free Garmin inReach Explorer+ boasts complete satellite coverage that allows you to reach the rest of the world with two-way text communication. You can also use it to set off an emergency SOS, 24/7. GPS navigation, preloaded maps and the ability to pair with your phone for access to additional navigational info ensure that you’ll reach your destination with ease. Consumers love its reliability as well as the amazing communication tools.
Best Dual Band GPS Radio: BTECH 7-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio with GPS
For those who are serious about the outdoors, the BTECH 7-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio with GPS is a crucial tool. It’s a dual band radio with plenty of accessories and recording capabilities, but it’s also a robust GPS that can help you get where you’re going without getting lost. Approximately 72% of reviewers gave it five stars for its effectiveness, and many of them left specific positive remarks about the manufacturer’s great customer service.
Best Floating GPS Radio: Standard Horizon HX870 Floating 6W Handheld VHF with Internal GPS
The Standard Horizon HX870 Floating Handheld VHF is more than just a radio. It’s a GPS handset that can help you find your way no matter where you are. Quick-charging with clear sound, its GPS function can help you navigate or respond to emergencies. As a bonus, it floats! Nearly three quarters of reviewers gave it five stars, with many of them praising its performance and crystal clear communication.
Best for Golfers: Garmin Approach G10
Need to read the green? Make the most of those 18 holes with the Garmin Approach G10. This portable handheld GPS can help you find your way around the golf course, even under the deepest tree cover, and it’s small enough to clip to your belt or slide into your pocket. Whether you’re a scratch golfer or the next best thing to a pro, this handheld GPS can be your best friend. Users praise it for accuracy, long battery life and its ability to gauge distances.
Best Marine GPS: Garmin GPSMAP 78s Marine GPS Navigator
If your idea of a good time is a day out on the boat, you’ll appreciate the Garmin GPSMAP 78s Marine GPS Navigator. This GPS handset allows you to find your way in the woods, the city or on the water with ease. The unit also floats, so you don’t have to worry about losing it, whether you’re shooting the rapids or searching for the perfect fishing spot. Two-thirds of buyers gave this durable, "hyper rugged" gadget five stars, touting its ability to "take any amount of water, rain, bashing, etc."
Best App-Connected GPS Tracker: PRIMETRACKING Personal GPS Tracker
Sometimes GPS isn’t about finding your own way but about keeping up with others. That’s the beauty of the PRIMETRACKING Personal GPS Tracker. Use it to keep up with your kids, your aging parents or your car with a subscription. The GPS tracking signal sends real-time alerts to your smartphone app. Reviewers appreciate the life-saving convenience and customer service that come with this device.