We've all played the game where you contemplate being stranded in the woods or in the desert. I think the most popular is a deserted island. Then you ask yourself or the other person, "if you could only have one item what would it be?" Logical thinkers pick something that will help them achieve any of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, such as a fire starter. Fighters will think of something they can use to hunt or defend themselves with, such as a weapon of any kind. Others will choose something that aids in their rescue or ability to reach civilization such as the best hunting GPS available.
Why Hunters Need a GPS Unit!
It's the end of November. The second week of deer season. It's cold. The breeze is icy as it moves through the lifeless skeletons of trees, and picks up cold drafts looming over the frozen swamps. The sky is dark grey, almost black, with highlights of a withering sun beams that weaken by the minute as it falls beyond the horizon. You know the land pretty decent having hunted there last year, but that is far from expertise. It's a gorgeous 500 acre plot of farm and deep uncharted woods. The owner claims sight of massive trophies but so far they remain legends. That notion brought you back there and the longing for the ultimate score is what has kept you there far past the time you should've been heading back.
Getting back safely is the last thing on your mind, but your more than a mile in and any landmarks are fading into the shadows.
Now the game. Picture yourself in these woods at this time of year. You are dressed for the cold temperatures but that doesn't necessarily mean survival. you get one item. What do you chose?
All of which can easily help you survive if utilized the correct way.
Would you like to know my answer? I would pick a Garmin handheld global positioning unit.
Nah. I call it smart. GPS units can not only tell you where you are, they can plot points, create routes, show you where freshwater might be, and so on. Aside from the obvious lifesaving abilities a GPS unit might have, let's look further into why getting one for hunting, or anything outdoors, will benefit you. Most importantly we're going to look at why getting the best hunting handheld GPS is one of the smartest decisions you will make.
Why GPS Units are the Better Option
There are many reasons why, as a hunter, you should spend the money on a nice GPS unit. Aside from never being "lost", you can plot points such as bait piles, scrapes/rubs, tree stand/blind (yours or not), and so on. They can also help you communicate between multiple hunters in the same few mile radius. You can mark or favorite fishing spots and upload countless geocaches.
What makes a GPS unit a better option than say, a cell phone with accurate apps (maps, location, gps, compass, etc.), or traditional means of traveling such as a map and compass?
- They have extraordinary battery lives
- In most cases are rechargeable and/or you can swap replacements on the fly
- They are constantly linked to the satellites overhead
- You don't have to rely on having a cellular signal in order to utilize the units functions. This can be a big deal when you are out in the middle of nowhere
- Using traditional maps can be reliable, unless you're in dark situations. You have to constantly transfer your light from the map to your surroundings, and then you have to decipher where you are. Maps are reliable, to a degree. They can easily be damaged or even lost. That's not to mention being a little outdated
- A compass is great, but the thing a GPS has that a compass doesn't is the all-in-one feature. Where as compasses have one purpose and one ability
Alright, you're convinced.
Let's go over some things to think about and features to consider.
Things to Look For:
1. Geocache Options
Most GPS units have a sim card, or can be connected to the internet via cable, and can download predetermined plots on the map that have treasures waiting to be found. There are millions of geocaches across the globe and most likely near you. This is a fun option that can turn your GPS into a game, and turn your day of hiking into a treasure hunt. This is fun for all ages.
2. Proximity Alarm
This is a great feature that most newer GPS units offer, but it essentially allows you to choose a point on the map, determine a radius, and if you enter that radius you will get an alarm. This is especially useful for hunters who know where other stands/blinds are.
Again, many new GPS units have touchscreens but they are highly recommended as they can make using them much quicker/easier. Most even have technology where can swipe and tap with gloves on.
Some other features to think about, and determine if you want/need them, include wifi capabilities, memory, battery life, customizing places (points of interest), and step by step directions.
5 Best Hunting GPS Units
Now that I've thrown a bunch of knowledge your way let's look at the top 5 best hunting and hiking handheld GPS units.
The Garmin eTrex 20 is named for being 20 times faster at locating your position than traditional GPS. One of the ways it's faster is it predicts satellite placement 3 days after last use, which significantly cuts down on location time. This unit is built for the outdoors and has a rubber design so it can withstand small drops. It is also built to withstand dirt, dust, moisture, rain, and be submerged under water up to a meter at least 1 time for up to thirty minutes. It also has a longer single charge battery life of 25 hours.
This Garmin unit is one of the most affordable, and is the best hunting GPS under $200.00. If you're trying to save some money on a GPS purchase, this is the one for you. Other features include an internal memory of 3.7 gigabytes, with the option to add an SD card. It is also compatible with tons of aftermarket maps including nautical maps, birds eye HD maps, and turn by turn direction maps. This model does not have touchscreen but rather a joystick in the top right to toggle through all the screens on options.
The Garmin GPSMAP 64s is a fantastic next step up. Not too much more expensive than the eTrex, this is a great middle of the road option when it comes to great GPS units. The GPSMAPS 64s offers a wide range of features including a barometric altimeter which allows you to more accurately track your elevation. It's a pretty cool feature that solves a satellite problem in regards to tracking location when going up and down hills or mountains. It also has a tri-axis electronic compass which allows you to know your precise directional heading while standing still and without having to level the unit itself.
Some other cool features are its Bluetooth capabilities, it subscription to the HD birds-eye view map for a whole year, its ability to remotely connect to other devices, and its 4 gigabyte memory with SD card slot.
This model also has a stronger antenna so you can not only get connected faster but remain connected through thick cover and large canyons.
This model does not feature touch screen but has a convenient arrow pad and quick access buttons.
The Garmin Oregon 600 is a sweet GPS choice. It has a large 3 inch touch screen with the ability to detect multiple points of contact on the screen. This is "multi-touch" technology, and it basically allows for an increase in functionality. For example using two fingers to zoom in and out. Being as it has a larger screen, Gamin took precautions to make sure the display is brilliant and easily readable even in sunlight.
The Oregon 600 also features the three-axis compass to give you precise directions and this added feature lets you know your direction even when not moving at all. This also has the barometer altimeter technology which can sense the pressure in the air and accurately determine your elevation. This GPS has increased satellite detection and prediction technology so you can get your location fast and stay connected regardless of where are.
Although this isn't the most durable handheld GPS it is still great, and has the fun ability to download over 2 million geocaches. This means you get them all on your screen and you won't have to waste time planning a route and choosing specific ones to download, making your geocache experience all the more fun.
The Garmin Rino 650 is a next-gen handheld GPS exclusively featuring a strong 2-way radio along with superb GPS technology. This feature alone makes this one of the best around, because you can not only stay in communication with your hunting party, the Rino 650 also sends your exact location to them as well. You can see everyone's position and in the most perfect conditions they are rated up to 20 miles for radio transmission, but that is far from average. In more open and flat lands people report getting 5-8 miles consistently and in the mountainous areas 1-3 miles.
Regardless of the average distance it is still a great tool and a unique feature. This handheld unit is not only one of a kind, but also the best GPS for hunting out west. This is because out west provides some of the best conditions to utilize the 2-way radio feature, maximizing your distance.
Say your hunting predator on state land hundreds of square miles, and you're in a party of four. You spread out and know your at least pushing a mile from another, however; as you move from one location to another that distance can get closer. Unless you all know exactly where you are at all times, it may come in really handy to have communication regardless of cell service.
Of course this is only when the feature is used responsibly and ethically, so please check with your state laws and hunting regulations.
The Garmin Rino 650 has a sensitive touch screen which is able to accurately accept commands even while wearing gloves. It too has the three-axis compass and the ability to determine elevation based on air pressure. It has a powerful antenna so it can locate satellites faster and maintain connection through all types of terrain and environments.
Other cool features that make this an amazing GPS unit include the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) radio built in, so you can monitor and avoid nasty weather. You can also download the software to your laptop and use it as sort of a home base where you can monitor and interact with other Rhino's out there. It also comes with a free trip-planning software so your next adventure takes less planning and is more fruitful in the end. It is very compatible, allowing you can download a wide range of maps and/or applications.
This is a great GPS with a ton to offer in terms of safety, features, applications, and practicality.
The Garmin Montana is an absolute beast when it comes to handheld GPS units, and it rightfully should be considering it is the most expensive on our list. However, do not let the price scare you off just yet. There are many reasons why the Garmin Montana is worth it. One of the most important features of this GPS is its extremely durable design, being able to withstand drops and falls. It also is weather proof and water proof for a short time, but not very deep water of course. That means you don't have to worry about the rain or snow anymore, and it means if you drop it in a puddle or it lands on rock that it will survive.
This solid built GPS unit has a 4 inch screen making for a total of seven square inches which makes for easy visibility and interface navigation. The screen itself is glare proof so you can read it even in direct sunlight and its built to touch operate while wearing gloves. A couple of unique product features include the customization abilities and the battery system.
- The screens and features are configurable so that, for example, you can have a home page set up the exact way you'd like with all the shortcuts and options you prefer. There are quick access buttons (also can be customized) which allow you to toggle in and out of menus or change certain aspects without leaving the maps or current screen.
- It comes with a rechargeable lithium ion battery, but was designed so that it can be swapped out with double A batteries. This is extremely convenient for long trips or lengthy hunts in the back-country.
- Tracks in both satellites: Not only does it use the standard GPS, it also tracks from GLONASS, which is the Russian ADF's satellite service. This makes for a great fallback to GPS and provides much better and quicker service and coverage than most GPS only units.
The Garmin Montana includes the three axial compass system as well as the barometric altimeter, but also includes a tilt screen option which allows you to view maps in landscape view as well as portrait view by simply tilting the screens orientation. This is a simple convenience but once you have it you won't want anything less.
The Montana has upgraded graphics with a great screen resolution that allows for more light to shine through images so as to be visible regardless conditions. It has an increased performance versus other models, including the ability to track and log more of your activity. This unit is designed to travel wherever you travel. It has a series of compatible mounts and is built with a system designed to handle everything from turn-by-turn directions in the city (including a speaker), to back country traveling on an ATV. It is marine compatible, a geocache beast, and is easily adapted to new maps which can be uploaded through a micro SD card slot (it also comes with preloaded with Garmins 100K TOPO maps).
Overall this is a fantastic model with so many positives it may make your head spin, but before you go drop hundreds of dollars consider what you will primarily be using your new GPS for. This one is designed for anyone and everyone sure, but do you need all the extra features? That is up to you. However, if you want the best in performance, build, user interface, and have the adaptability to go anywhere and do anything accurately, this is the handheld GPS unit for you. Due to the amazing array of features and tough design, the Garmin Montana 610t is the best GPS for hunting.
As you can see all of our top 5 GPS units are made by Garmin. We considered other companies but when it comes down to it, nothing compares to the products being put out by Garmin. There is clearly a lot to consider when choosing your next GPS purchase but at the end of the day if you go with Garmin, especially one of these top 5, you can not go wrong.
Thank you for reading and hopefully this helps you chose the best hunting GPS.