GPS systems are useful for all sorts of applications. Hikers and campers use recreational GPS navigation to guide them to landmarks, find campsites, or keep them from getting lost. Geocaching, a type of modern treasure hunt, would be absolutely impossible without GPS technology. Recreational GPS uses can be expanded to include many forms of recreation: horseback riding, off-roading, hunting, fishing, boating and more.
It can be really fun after the hike to see exactly where you went on Google Earth or other mapping applications. Your GPS will also display the total elevation you gained or lost, your average speed on the hike, and your moving time and stopped time, among other things. Most GPS receivers can also display your location, whether it is on a topographical map or street map, to help you navigate the forest or urban jungle.
In this site, you’ll find the best GPS for hiking, geocaching and a tight budget. You can also explore our articles on recreational GPS systems to help you make an informed decision on which GPS unit is right for your needs.
Best Hiking GPS
Garmin’s GPSMAP is a rugged handheld device and a top choice for a reliable hiking GPS. This handheld GPS has a three-axis, tilt-compensated electronic compass, which means that even when you are not moving, it will point the way and perfectly pinpoint your location on the map. It syncs to iPhones (4S or later), so you can see your text messages and other alerts directly on the GPSMAP screen. It also offers wireless sharing, so you can send your routes and checkpoints to your friends as you travel.
This GPS comes preloaded with over 100,000 topographic U.S. maps. You can add more maps, including ones that cover different continents, from the Garmin website. The GPSMAP has a dual-battery system, so you will not have to worry about it running out of juice during an extended hike.
Best Geocaching GPS
The Garmin Oregon is packed full of features to guide you on your geocaching adventures. This geocaching GPS comes preloaded with topographic maps. When you purchase it, you can select U.S. or Canada maps.
The Oregon handheld GPS has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities. It connects with Geocaching.com automatically, so you always have the latest information about the latest caches. Additionally, you do not have to worry about manually entering your coordinates or printing out maps to find geocached locations, since the Oregon downloads them automatically. This makes it a great fit for even the most serious geocaching enthusiasts.
This GPS also has a built-in 8MP camera. It automatically geotags every photo that you take, so you will know exactly how to make your way back to where you took the picture. You can also easily share pictures on Garmin Adventures, Garmin’s online community.
Best Budget GPS
Many handheld GPS units are not cheap, but the eTrex is a reliable GPS that won't break the bank. This handheld GPS carries the Garmin name, indicating its high quality. Though it does not offer advanced features like the Oregon or GPSMAP, it is still a solid GPS to guide your way if you are a novice geocacher or just looking for something to take with you hiking.
The eTrex has a full-color, 2.6-inch screen. Its water-resistance rating is IPX7, which means that it will not malfunction if it is raining or snowing while you are out hiking or geocaching, though it will not withstand a swim or full underwater submersion.
This handheld does not have advanced connectivity features, but it does come preloaded with geocaching maps. It does not update your location or latest finds like the Oregon does, but these maps save you the trouble of printing out maps.
The Garmin eTrex is a good beginner GPS. It offers plenty of features to help you find your way around the city or woods, but it's streamlined enough to be easy for even the newest users. In addition to being easy to use, this handheld GPS is less expensive than other Garmin products.
Other Considerations When Selecting a Handheld GPS
The best GPS systems for recreation are designed to take you anywhere. Every handheld recreational GPS we have listed will safely get you from point A to point B. However, when it comes down to selecting the best GPS for your recreational needs, it is important to consider how you will be using it and your lifestyle.
Maybe you are always on the go or value connecting to the active community, so you need your GPS to have wireless connectivity. Some GPS devices require you to hook them up to a computer to input information, whereas others allow you to do it directly with the GPS unit.
Other important things to look for are durability and display options. Most GPS systems now have large, well-lit displays and simple menus. Some variations occur in the way you input coordinates or locations. You also want to pay attention to battery life and weight, since these are significant portability factors that could be important to the kinds of recreation you enjoy.
We looked for the best GPS units with the most logical combinations of features for the outdoor enthusiast. The best recreation GPS systems can make any kind of recreational activity better and save you from getting lost as you take on the great outdoors. These palm-sized pieces of equipment help you to know exactly where you are and how to get to the most gorgeous summit, the geocaching treasure of a lifetime, or at least back to your car in one piece.