Skip to Content

The Best Hiking GPS for 2024: Our Top 5 Picks

Whether you’re an experienced hiker or new to exploring the great outdoors, having a reliable hiking GPS is among the best adventuring devices you can buy.

When you’re hiking in remote regions, even the most explicitly detailed trail maps won’t help much if you get turned around or venture off the beaten path. Not only will a hiking GPS make your experience smoother and more enjoyable, but it can also prevent you from a potentially dangerous situation.

When it comes to the hiking GPS market, no other brands can compare to Garmin. Garmin-branded products offer top quality across several characteristics, from durability to location services, to safety features. Keep reading for our list of the best hiking GPS devices you can buy and why this product is necessary before your next backpacking venture.

hiking gps

Our Top Picks

Best Overall
Garmin eTrex 22x, Rugged GPS Navigator

Budget Option
Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator

Best GPS Smartwatch
Garmin Instinct GPS Smartwatch

Best Overall

Garmin eTrex 22x, Rugged Handheld GPS Navigator

Garmin 010-02256-00 eTrex 22x, Rugged Handheld GPS Navigator, Black/Navy

The Garmin eTrex 22x Rugged Handheld GPS Navigator earns a top spot on our list for the best overall hiking GPS because of its functional, user-friendly features and exceptional usability. This device allows you to track your movements and pinpoint certain locations for later reference, and it comes with a one-year warranty.

This handheld hiking GPS is equipped with support from GPS and GLONASS (GLObalnaya NAvigatsionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema in Russian) satellite systems, the latter of which allows for 20% faster satellite connection and offers tracking in more challenging environments than GPS alone. This hiking GPS is also preloaded with TopoActive Maps, which is ideal for hiking and riding ATVs, motorcycles, bicycles, and boats. By default, the device creates a track log when you move about, which allows you to reverse and use the track-back option to return to your starting location.

Another helpful feature of this hiking GPS is that it allows you to set waypoints. These waypoints are landmarks that you’d like to return to, whether it’s a waterfall or your own vehicle. These points can also indicate interesting finds you locate on your journey, such as a fork in a trail, a favorite fishing spot, or a campsite.

The GPS has a 2.2″ sunlight-readable color display with 240 x 320 display pixels for improved readability. It offers 8 GB of internal memory for map downloads and a micro SD card slot for additional storage; the SD card is sold separately. The device ensures general accuracy within 16 to 33 feet under normal conditions and maintains up to 25 hours in GPS mode with two AA batteries. If you should experience any issues, this hiking GPS device carries a one-year warranty.


  • Device tracks your movements, making it possible to back-track and return to your original location
  • Up to 25 hours of battery life; powered by two AAA batteries
  • Features preloaded TopoActive maps; ideal for hiking


  • Device supports BirdsEye Satellite Imagery, though it requires a separate paid subscription to use
  • The manufacturer (Garmin) cannot guarantee the compatibility of third-party maps and their efficiency
  • Must purchase a separate mini ID card to save and store maps

Best Budget Option

Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator

Garmin 010-00970-00 eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator

A hiking GPS is not a product you should skimp on. However, the Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator is a great tool for explorers that are adventuring on a budget. This small but mighty GPS navigator offers several capabilities at an affordable price point compared to the other products on this list.

This hiking GPS has a WAAS-enabled receiver, which means it accesses satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) reception by default. It also has GLONASS and HotFit support, which allow for faster satellite connections and positioning and a more reliable signal. The handheld navigator comes preloaded with Worldwide Basemap and supports downloading geocaching GPX files (a data file saved in the GPS Exchange format) directly to your device. These files allow you to store key information, including location, terrain, difficulty level, hints, and descriptions of locations.

The handheld device has a 2.2″ monochromatic display screen and rugged construction. It’s waterproof to IPX7 certification standards, meaning that it can withstand being submerged in water for 30 minutes at a depth of 3.28 feet. It’s also designed to withstand dust, dirt, and humidity. Power up your device with two AAA batteries which last for up to 20 hours of use; works best with Polaroid AA batteries.


  • Competitively priced compared to other models
  • Supports both GPS and GLONASS satellites, which works 20% faster than using GPS alone


  • Does not have topography mapping
  • Does not have the ability to add-on detailed mapping beyond Basemap

Best GPS Smartwatch

Garmin Instinct GPS Smartwatch

Garmin Instinct, Rugged Outdoor Watch with GPS, Features Glonass and Galileo, Heart Rate Monitoring and 3-Axis Compass, Graphite

The Garmin Instinct GPS Smartwatch has many amazing features, but one of the most functional details is its ruggedness and durability. Built to withstand harsh conditions, this hiking GPS boasts U.S. military standard 810G construction. It’s designed to hold up against heat, shock, and water up to depths of 328 feet, and it’s also scratch-resistant. Its high-contrast digital display provides visibility even in the brightest sunlight so that you can rely on its use, no matter the conditions.

This hiking GPS taps GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo satellite network capability, which offers tracking in more challenging environments than GPS alone. It has a TracBack feature, which tracks your route so that you can seamlessly navigate the same route back to your starting position. The smartwatch also has a built-in three-axis compass and a barometric altimeter to help you keep your bearings, and all the while, it monitors heart rate, activity, and stress throughout the day.

Another great feature of this watch is its long-running capability. It runs up to 40 hours in UltraTrac™ battery-saver mode, up to 16 hours in GPS mode, and up to 14 days in smartwatch mode.


  • GPS GLONASS and Galileo satellite network capability
  • Built-in three-axis compass and barometric altimeter
  • TracBack feature allows you to navigate the same route back to start


  • Some customers cite problems with the Bluetooth disconnecting after repeat use
  • Some users cite issues with the battery lifespan over time

Best Premium

Garmin GPS Map 66i GPS Handheld and Satellite Communicator

Garmin GPSMAP 66i, GPS Handheld and Satellite Communicator, Featuring TopoActive mapping and inReach Technology

As the top premium hiking GPS device to earn a spot on our list, the Garmin GPS Map 66i GPS Handheld and Satellite Communicator has a host of amenities that will make adventuring much easier, especially when navigating on foot. Among these features are preloaded maps, waypoint setting ability, two-way messaging, weather forecast alerts, built-in sensors, and outdoor recreation offerings.

This hiking GPS measures 2.5″ x 6.4″ x 1.4″ and weighs 8.5 ounces, making it slightly bulkier than the other devices on this list. But that added weight doesn’t come without benefits–and there are many. This handheld product is preloaded with topographic-detailed maps, which include direct-to-device BirdsEye Satellite Imagery downloads; no annual subscription is required. It also includes access to Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) support and navigation sensors.

With this device, you can access inReach technology, which allows you to connect and text with family and friends via two-way messaging. This feature requires a satellite subscription to use, though it also allows you to send SOS alerts in case of an emergency. If an SOS is triggered, an alert is immediately sent to the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center via the 100% worldwide Iridium satellite network. An optional inReach weather forecast service also delivers updates directly to the hiking GPS device or paired devices.

You can use this device to set 10,000 waypoints and navigate 250 routes. It also features a Barometric altimeter and three-axis compass, as well as outdoor recreation amenities, which include an area calculator, automatic routing (turn-by-turn on roads), geocaching, custom maps, a hunting and fishing calendar, sun and moon information, and a photo viewer. This hiking GPS has an internal, rechargeable lithium battery that provides up to 35 hours of battery life in 10-minute tracking mode and 200 hours in Expedition mode.


  • Allows you to set 10,000 waypoints and navigate 250 routes
  • Provides an array of outdoor recreation amenities
  • Battery life runs for up to 200 hours (more than eight days) in Expedition mode


  • Higher price point
  • MicroSD card not included
  • Features inReach technology, though it requires a separate satellite subscription for use

Best Mini

Garmin inReach Mini 2 GPS

Garmin 010-02602-00 inReach Mini 2, Lightweight and Compact Satellite Communicator, Hiking Handheld, Orange

If you’re new to hiking but you want to be equipped with a reliable device, then you can’t go wrong with the Garmin inReach Mini 2 GPS. This hiking GPS measures 2.04″ x 3.9 x 1.03 with a 0.9″ x 0.9″ display size, and it weighs just 3.5 ounces, which makes it small enough to fit inside your pocket.

This device features TracBack routing, allowing you to easily find your way back to your starting point. You can also share your location with loved ones back home using the MapShare page or by sending two-way messages that contain your coordinates. To be able to access the messaging feature, you’ll need to purchase a separate subscription, which also allows you to post to social media, send SOS alerts, and tap location-tracking and sharing. The worldwide Iridium satellite network transfers messages, SOS alerts, and location tracking.

Tough, durable, and impact resistant, this hiking GPS device meets the requirements of MIL-STD-810 and can withstand being submerged in up to 3.28 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. It’s powered by an internal, rechargeable lithium battery that provides up to 14 days of battery life in 10-minute tracking mode and up to 30 days in 30-minute tracking intervals.


  • Small enough to fit in your pocket
  • Battery life lasts 14 to 30 days, depending on the mode(s) used
  • TracBack routing allows you to find your way back to the starting point


  • A separate subscription is needed to send messages, post to social media, trigger SOS alerts, and track and share your location

Hiking GPS Buyer’s Guide

There are a lot of details to consider when selecting the specific Garmin-branded hiking GPS for you. Here are four of the most important characteristics that may influence your decision.


Durability is among the most important details to consider when you’re choosing a hiking GPS device. If the device is rugged enough to withstand conditions like high heat and cold temperatures, water exposure or submersion, and impact due to falls, then you’ll be able to rely on the device throughout your adventure. When considering a hiking GPS, you’ll want to know whether it’s been tested to meet certain standards, such as U.S. military standard 810G construction and waterproof to IPX7 certification standards.

Battery Life

Battery life determines how long your hiking GPS will be able to run before it requires a charge or a change of batteries. While it’s a good rule of thumb to bring extra batteries with you–if your device runs on batteries–or a portable power source to plug in and charge your GPS to, it’s important to know the basics of what you’re working with. The longer the battery life, the more time you’ll have to use the GPS to navigate back to camp or wherever your destination is. The last thing you want to deal with when you’re exploring an isolated area, especially, is a fully functional GPS with a dead battery.

Ease of Use

When you choose a hiking GPS, you’ll want to select one that’s user-friendly. While it’s important to power up, program, and play around with the GPS before any excursion, it should be easy enough for you to utilize during your travels. In regards to ease of use, you’ll want to consider features such as the weight, the size of the touchscreen and whether it’s glove-friendly, the size of the screen, and whether the device includes preloaded maps.

Safety Services

Although many people utilize hiking GPS devices primarily for tracking and location services, many of these products, particularly those that are Garmin-branded, offer additional safety services. If you’re traveling in a group or exploring someplace new, and even visiting a location you’ve been to 10 times before, you can never go wrong with adding safety features. Some of the features to look for include location-sharing capabilities, two-way text messaging, and the option to send SOS alerts, in addition to the signal coverage range.

hiking gps

Hiking GPS Frequently Asked Questions

At what height do hiking GPS devices stop working?

Most hiking GPS devices stop working at an elevation of about 60,000 feet, or 11 miles. For reference, the top of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, is 29,029 feet above sea level. If you choose a high-quality GPS, it should be able to work in most conditions. However, it’s important to check the features of the device you choose by reading the manual so you’re aware of any specifics.

Are there any factors that can prevent a hiking GPS from working properly?

A hiking GPS may be unable to work correctly if its signal is obstructed. A GPS will receive the most powerful signal under a clear, unobstructed sky. If the GPS signal is blocked by mountains, poor visibility, or other obstacles, it can produce a weak signal. A weak signal means that your hiking GPS will not update as quickly as it would otherwise, and your location may not be as precise.

Wrapping Up on the Best Hiking GPS Devices

A hiking GPS is a great way to ensure you and your hiking buddies stay on track. With a reliable hiking GPS, you can enjoy the sights and sounds and stay in the moment without fear of getting lost. As long as you charge the device beforehand, you’ll easily navigate your way back to camp.

Want to be as prepared as possible for your next adventure? Check out our page, 13 Wilderness Survival Skills Every Camper Should Know, to learn more!