The Garmin Vívoactive Black is our best handheld GPS and has an ultra thin design. Also, the display is of high resolution and easily readable in sunlight and in bright environments and in addition, you can pair this with your smartphone to get your daily notifications such as texts, e-mail and calendar items as well as social media. The display is also touch screen so it is very convenient and it is a great GPS device for use in biking, running, swimming and general activity tracking without using your phone.
Our step-up pick is the Garmin Fenix 3 HR Gray and the water rating allows you to take it to the water as it is rated up to 10 ATM or 100 meters. The chroma display is resistant to sunlight and is highly visible even in bright light due to its optically-bonded display measuring at 1.2 inches and the black silicone band does not discolor and is soft with a luxurious feel. It comes with an Elevate wrist heart rate technology that allows you to measure your heart rate at wrist level without the need for a chest strap in tracking your heart rate.
The budget pick is the Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS and with this, you can track your waypoints, routes as well as your heart rate if you purchase a separate heart rate monitor. The GPS receiver uses HotFix which has super high sensitivity and can even track your placement even under deep canyons or heavy tree covers and it also displays fishing and hunting information. The LCD display is very easy to read and uses a TracBack for easy finding of your path in case you get lost and it comes with an electronic compass as well as a barometric altimeter.
Table of Contents
- A Little Background
- How we picked
- Our pick
- Flaws but not dealbreakers
- Step-up Pick
- Budget Pick
- Best Handheld GPS for Golf
- Best White Colored Handheld GPS
- Ideal Handheld GPS for Trekking
- Handheld GPS with Bluetooth Capabilities
- Handheld GPS with Navigation System
- Best Portable Handheld GPS
- Best Touch Screen Handheld GPS
- The Competition
- Other Frequently Asked Questions
- Wrapping it up
A Little Background
Getting lost in the woods? No problem. Handheld GPS devices are your companion if you are stuck in the wilderness with little to no contact with civilization. Most people also use GPS devices not just for trekking, hiking or outdoor traveling but also for fitness programs and sporting activities such as running, cycling, swimming and most especially golf.
How We Picked
When we picked the best handheld GPS, we considered the following criteria:
Is the handheld GPS priced okay? Most handheld GPS devices are very pricey because they provide accurate GPS information compared to smarthpones.
What are the features of the handheld GPS? Do know the features of the handheld GPS before you buy and how high the accuracy is.
Are the displays of the handheld GPS okay even in sunlight? You have to make sure it displays vividly in the sunlight so that the handheld GPS will be useful and readable even in the open field.
What do the reviews say about the handheld GPS? Know if there are downfalls of the handheld GPS that might compromise its quality and price.
How long will the handheld GPS last on battery? Always expect any handheld GPS to have a long lasting battery that will last for weeks on your daily routine or for your camping and trekking experience.
For which activities can the handheld GPS be used on? For instance, some handheld GPS devices are only ideal for golf, while some are for trekking and hiking in the woods, but a lot will be usable for sporting and physical fitness training for personal records and tracking.
Top Pick: Garmin vívoactive Black
The Garmin vívoactive Black is our best handheld GPS in which the display is of high resolution and easily readable in sunlight and in bright environments. The display is also touch screen so it is very convenient. This is a great GPS device for use in biking, running, swimming and general activity tracking without using your phone which has an ultra thin design.
Additionally, you can pair this with your smartphone to get your daily notifications such as texts, e-mail and calendar items as well as social media. You can use the GPS3 feature for up to 10 hours of battery life or you can just use the watch and activity tracking mode in which the battery can last for as long as 3 weeks, so it is a very convenient handheld GPS watch .
You can automatically sync this with Garmin Connect so that it will display you a summary after running including the calories you have burned, the distance you have traveled, the total time, and others and in addition, you can also use an auto lap and auto pause feature for training convenience. It is colored in a sleek black finish. In addition, you can also download watch faces from the Connect IQ store as well as widgets, apps, data fields and more.
What’s more, there are sport apps that are built-in and suitable to your various operations and activities such as swimming, golfing, biking, running, walking as well as a find my phone feature in case your phone gets lost. Do know that this version does not have a heart rate monitor but you can also purchase a version with a heart rate monitor and it looks like a regular watch but with a sleek design as it weighs 1 oz. and additionally, there are also specifics for golf due to its golf app so you can easily tee off.
One more addition to that is the large golf database that has information on over 38,000 golf courses all over the world. The stroke count will also be counted due to its swimming app and you can easily sync with your smartphone for up to 30 feet. You can easily swim with this handheld GPS due to its water rating of 5 ATM and you can also wear it on the shower with convenience.
It also has a tracking app for your step count so you can set milestones and goals for yourself and it has a functionality that alerts you if you have been sitting for too long. Your biking speed will also be monitored due to its cycling app and also, the notifications have a vibrate feature so you are easily alerted. It is generally great for monitoring your daily workout activities. When you order the vivoactive, it comes with a charging and data clip as well as a user’s manual
Flaws but Not Dealbrakers
The only known complaint about the Garmin vivoactive is that some users think that the colors of the screen are not too vibrant or bright. But if you consider the battery life, then that’s not a deal breaker at all.
Garmin Fenix 3 HR Gray
The Garmin Fenix 3 HR Gray is our step-up pick in which the chroma display is resistant to sunlight and is highly visible even in bright light due to its optically-bonded display measuring at 1.2 inches as it comes with an Elevate wrist heart rate technology that allows you to measure your heart rate at wrist level without the need for a chest strap in tracking your heart rate.
Do know that the black silicone band does not discolor and is soft with a luxurious feel and also, the water rating allows you to take it to the water as it is rated up to 10 ATM or 100 meters. The construction build is made from highly detailed bezel stainless steel. It has been colored in gray finish that is sleek and visually-appealing as this is a base model and is also available in performer bundle.
The Garmin Fenix handles connectivity through wireless due to its use of Wi-Fi hot spot connections so you can connect and update your software with Garmin Connect and it also uses a lithium ion battery to power it up. It weighs 3 oz and it also has features such as VO2 max tracking, vertical oscillation and vertical ratio for its advanced running dynamics as well as a recovery advisor. It comes with a 3-axis compass as well as a TracBack, a barometer and an altimeter and you can track your calories burned using its super accurate heart rate monitoring.
It also measures the performance condition, cadence (number of steps per minute), ground contact time, stride length, balance, and stress score and the ABC sensors provide super accurate information that makes it not just for running or sporting, but also for hiking, trekking and travelling in general. It also has an external temperature sensor for reading temperature and it also displays your swim profile (such as stroke count, distance and average race time) as well as for rowing and displays the stroke count both for swimming and for paddling.
Additionally, it also has a ski and board mode which measures your vertical drop, distance and speed.It is great for golfing due to its use of ANT+ wireless connectivity that can be integrated with VIRB action cameras as a glove-friendly remote. The battery life is up to 3 weeks and the bezel material is made from steel and also, the lens material is made from glass and strap material is made from TPU.
It also has sleep tracking other than its activity tracking and you can easily download watch faces, activity tracking, data fields, widgets and all other extras and is great for training and fitness activities as well as adventurers who seek the great outdoors. The Fenix 3 HR comes with an EXO antenna which is fully integrated and provides a very high accuracy GPS tracking when connected with EPO and GLONASS.
Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS
Our budget pick is the Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS in which the GPS receiver uses HotFix which has super high sensitivity and can even track your placement even under deep canyons or heavy tree covers. It also displays fishing and hunting information and comes with an electronic compass as well as a barometric altimeter.
You can easily track your waypoints, routes as well as your heart rate if you purchase a separate heart rate monitor and the LCD display is very easy to read and uses a TracBack for easy finding of your path in case you get lost.
The Foretrex 401 GPS requires 2 AAA batteries to run and is colored in dark green and silver finish. It is absolutely waterproof as a handheld GPS. It also comes with a trip computer so you can save more on your travel expenses and the sunrise and sunset times are also displayed for your convenience.
It comes with an easy to read display and weighs 3 oz. Do know that the battery life can last up to 17 hours and it also has MGRS or military grid reference system for military coordinates use. The back light can be set to go out from 30 seconds or a few minutes and is very easy to read in any situation and the waterproof rating is IPX7 so you can submerge it for 1 meter for up to 30 minutes.
It is great and ideal for trekking in the woods or in the wilderness and it also has a cadence sensor and is easily attachable to your bike with a bike mount. The waypoints can be saved to memory such as your campsite so you won’t get lost easily and you can easily connect your handheld GPS device through the USB port to your computer or you can also send data to another device via wireless method.
Also worth noting about the Garmin Foretrex Waterproof GPS is that it has a super lightweight design and an activity tracker can be downloaded using Garmin Connect. When you order, the package includes the handheld GPS (Foretrex 401), user’s manual, wrist expansion strap and USB cable.
Best Handheld GPS for Golf
Bushnell Neo Ghost Golf GPS
The Bushnell Neo Ghost Golf GPS is available in black, yellow, white, orange and charcoal colors. It is great for golf due to its GPS being preloaded with over 30,000 courses and more. The size makes it legal for tournaments as it is pocket-sized.
With this handheld GPS, you can play up to 3 rounds before charging it due to its long battery life as it also displays layup distances per hole as well as up to 4 custom hazard distances. It also comes with a auto-hole advance and an auto course recognition and you can read distances easily from the back of the greens and to the front center.
It is ideal for golfing and comes with a USB charging cable as well as a multi-function clip for mounting. This GPS weighs 8 oz in which the hazards can be displayed by the GPS device and is very accurate in its data overall.
Best White Colored Handheld GPS
Garmin vívoactive White
The Garmin vívoactive White is available with heart rate monitor for an optional price. It is also available in black as the battery can last up to 3 weeks when you use the activity tracking and watch mode.
On GPS3, it can last up to 10 hours as the GPS is ideal for golf, cycling, running, swimming and other daily activities as well as a find my phone feature. The display is of color touch screen and can be easily readable even in sunlight and it is super high resolution and has an ultra thin design. With this, you can use the Connect IQ to help you download watch faces, widgets, apps and data fields from their store for free and also, you can use the smart notifications feature to get and sync updates from your phone such as calendar events, e-mail, texts and calls, as well as from social media.
The vívoactive White weighs 1 oz and the profile is 8 mm thin. It comes with an accelerometer for measuring cadence for cycling or running and is also applicable for treadmills or indoor tracks and also comes with an auto pause and auto lap feature. All in all, it has a variety of apps for various sports and activities and gives you a summary of calories burned and other personal records for sports training such as time and distance.
This device is great for golf because it displays all the needed information and it also has a very large golf course database with almost 38,000 courses worldwide and the golf app senses distance from back of the green, front and middle and also tracks your steps. It is easy to use even for swimming due to its 5 ATM water rating that is submersible on water and the app has a stroke count for swimming as well as interval and length pace and other info.
It also has an activity tracker that also warns you if you have been sitting for too long and also tracks if you have been sleeping properly due to its monitor where you can also swap bands aside from choosing between black or white leather bands. It comes with the user’s manual as well as the charging and data clip and is able to sync within 30 feet of your phone.
Ideal Handheld GPS for Trekking
Garmin eTrex 20x
The display has a resolution of 240 pixels by 320 pixels and is readable even in sunlight in full color at 65 K and measures 2.2 inches. It is a very high sensitive GPS receiver is also WASS-enabled. It comes with a HotFix satellite prediction as well as support for GLONASS for easier tracking.
You can have a more precise GPS tracking with its technology that will help you be located even in deep canyons or heavy covers and its internal memory measures up to 3.7 GB so you can load more maps and it also has a micro SD card slot for additional storage. Also, you can load maps from BirdsEye satellite imagery, City Navigator NT, BlueChart g2, HuntView, TOPO 24K and others.
The worldwide base map is preloaded so you can easily track on the go and it is colored in orange and black finish. Additionally, you can also download geo caches and it supports GPX files as you can easily mount it on bicycles, ATVs, boat sand cars and others. It weighs 5 oz and has a rugged design for the wilderness and sporting.
Handheld GPS with Bluetooth Capabilities
Dual Electronics XGPS150A Universal Bluetooth GPS
The Dual Electronics XGPS150A Universal Bluetooth GPS has a good price and comes with a dashboard pad that is non-slip and can be mounted onto your car dashboard, boat or cockpit. Do know that this GPS receiver is very portable in design and is super high sensitive and accurate that it supports WAAS where you can easily connect with your other Bluetooth enabled devices.
The battery is rechargeable and will last at the most up to 8 and a half hours and it charges via USB cable that is included. Being coated in red and black finish, it weighs 1.76 oz and the water resistant design will take most light splashes of water so you can take it outdoors. It is easily paired with a lot of devices and apps that require information on your location and the nonslip pad also attaches to windows and vertical walls.
Handheld GPS with Navigation System
Garmin nüvi 65LM GPS Navigators System
If you want a turn by turn system, you would want the Garmin nüvi 65LM GPS Navigators System in which the display is a very bright and colorful graphical interface with its 6 inch screen that is also dual orientation. This handheld GPS comes with a turn by turn direction voice command, much like what you see in most vehicles and supports the lower 49 U.S. states when it comes to its navigation system.
It also has lifetime updated maps but also has a version with traffic navigation in real time and the updating of the maps are very important in case a business closes down or new roads are added up so you would not get lost in case you are new to a place or have been there from many years ago but forgot the routes.
This device also warns you if you are entering school zones so you can slow down and it will also display information about food and gas stations so you can have more convenience in your travel with its Up Ahead feature. It comes with a lane assist feature that has a junction view so you can drive more safely and help you make the right turn for your next exit.
The battery type is a lithium ion that lasts for a very long time with proper use and weighs 6.4 oz and if you are out of options and your cellular phone signal is out, you can use this GPS to navigate your way through the traffic of unknown destinations.
All in all, the nüvi 65LM GPS is very easy to use graphical user interface that also displays info such as speed limits, assistance on lanes as well as points of interests and is preloaded maps are detailed for the U.S. or Canada. It also has a pedestrian mode and comes with a mount. Furthermore, it can also store locations up to 30.
Best Portable Handheld GPS
Garmin GLO Portable GPS GLONASS Receiver
The Garmin GLO Portable GPS GLONASS Receiver can easily lock onto satellites 20 percent faster than most GPS devices and is able to connect through Bluetooth smartphones, laptops and tablets and most iPads and iPhones wirelessly. It comes with a vehicle power cable as well as a USB cable.
The battery is a lithium ion battery pack which has a battery life of up to 12 hours and the position update rate of this GPS device is up to 10X per second. It weighs 9.6 oz and the GLONASS satellite technology allows you to connect to 24 additional satellites for better GPS tracking while you can easily charge it onto your cigarette lighter adapter in your car with its 12/24 volts adapter or you can charge via the included USB cable. It comes with a friction mount and when you order, it comes with the GLO receiver, vehicle power cable as well as a USB cable.
Best Touch Screen Handheld GPS
Garmin Approach G6 Touchscreen Golf GPS
A device that is perfect for golf is the Garmin Approach G6 Touchscreen Golf GPS which is colored in a sleek black finish. It has a waterproof and rugged design.
The touch screen display is also glove friendly and has an adjustable back light and the screen measures 2.6 inches. The design is super slim and fits into your pocket and also, there are no subscriptions required for you to access over 25,000 worldwide golf courses that are preloaded with this handheld GPS device. There are two buttons to access the Green View feature as well the Digital Scoreboard and the Shot Measure and the touch screen displays colorful graphics even in extreme sunlight.
The Approach G6 Golf GPS weighs 3.4 oz and requires 1 lithium ion battery that is already included. In addition, you can even see the screen even with polarized glasses as the scorecard can be changed to various scoring options such as match play, stable ford, stroke play, skins and also has adjustable handicaps. Additionally, you can even set a target for 100 yards, 200 yards, and 150 yards or even up to 250 yards when available.
It will also display how far you need to hit depending on the target and comes with a Touching Target feature that keeps it lit even in sunlight and the Approach feature helps to measure distance in high precision from the back of the green, front as well as in the middle or in the hazards, landing areas or fairway. You can easily track your golf stats and even download them to your device or computer. Easily get more accurate yardage due to its zoom feature. When you order, it comes with an AC adapter, user’s manual, the Approach G6 itself, a belt clip and a USB cable.
Handheld GPS devices that were not included in this article were not too accurate and are not flexible when it comes to its usage for sports or trekking.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are some of the advantages of using handheld GPS devices?
A: It is great for use on cars, boats, bikes and for sports and daily activities and is specific to country or state so they are very accurate and overall, a very convenient companion for travelling.
Q: What are some of the things you need to consider when hiking with a handheld GPS device?
A: According to Gadling , most of them do not have a turn by turn navigation so they are not as real time compared to car navigation, if you intend to use it in the wilderness where there are no landmarks or obstacles. You will need a lot of batteries at hand because GPS takes a lot of battery life by default and the cold weather can also affect battery life so be careful.
Wrapping It Up
As a whole, the Garmin vívoactive Black is our best handheld GPS due to its portability, functions and ability to track you wherever you are and your daily activities with high accuracy.