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Published Jan. 15, 2021

If you’ve ever tried to rely on on a smartphone as a GPS while hunting, you’ve likely discovered how limited its navigation capabilities can be. When you’re far from cities and cell towers it can be nearly impossible to get service — and that makes a phone’s GPS useless. Don’t get lost in the woods the next time you’re hunting. Instead, get a handheld GPS for hunting. These unique, rugged, and capable devices are built specifically to provide navigation and location data for hunters who don’t have access to cell service. They allow you to easily find your way out of the woods and back to your starting point. Check out some of the best handheld GPS devices for hunting below.

The Best Handheld GPS for Hunting

More information is better when you’re hunting in new terrain, and in these cases, the Garmin inReach Explorer+ Handheld Satellite Communicator is a great choice. This handheld GPS for hunting is both a GPS with extensive satellite coverage and a topography maps device, giving you more value and versatility in a single product. You can track your location and share it with others; download maps, U.S. NOAA charts, and more when paired with a mobile device; and be prepared for anything with GPS routing, a digital compass, a barometric altimeter, and an accelerometer. Powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and rated IPX7 waterproof, you can trust this hunting GPS to survive. A set of preloaded DeLorme TOPO maps gives you detailed topography data. Just keep the high price tag in mind when deciding if all these features are right for you.

Key Features
  • Measures 1.5 x 2.7 x 6.5 inches
  • 2.3-inch screen
  • Runs on a lithium-ion battery
  • Pairs with mobile devices
Specification
  • Brand Garmin
  • Model 010-01735-10
  • Weight 8 ounces
PROS

Very versatile thanks to its many features

You’re covered anywhere you trek

Rugged enough for hunting in any conditions

CONS

Extra features require a subscription, extra costs

Expensive

The Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator has it all. It’s hard to top this handheld GPS device, especially if you’re looking for the perfect hunting companion at an affordable price. Built to be rugged and suitable for even the toughest outdoor conditions and situations, this compact GPS device comes with a preloaded worldwide base map and a WAAS-enabled GPS receiver that uses HotFix and GLONASS for very fast positioning. It always gets a reliable signal, so you can accurately pinpoint your location in seconds. On the 2.2-inch monochrome display, you’ll be able to see not only your location but also the surrounding terrain, like high and low elevation points, and estimates of time and distance between your desired waypoints. There’s just one drawback: if you’re looking for a more advanced, high-tech GPS, this will likely be too basic for your needs.

Key Features
  • 2.2-inch monochrome display
  • 25-hour battery life
  • Uses GPS and GLONASS satellites
  • IPX7 waterproof
Specification
  • Brand Garmin
  • Model 010-00970-00
  • Weight 5 ounces
PROS

The display is easy to see in any lighting

Can set auto-tracking for easy backtracking

The device is very durable

CONS

Best for entry-level GPS needs

The worldwide map is very basic

The Garmin Rino 755t may cost more than many other handheld GPS devices for hunting, but it’s well worth the price if you want a premium, top-tier product. This GPS is built to handle rugged hunting environments, and it’s also extremely capable. It’s both a two-way radio that allows you to communicate with others you’re hunting with and a GPS that can track your location even in the most difficult environments. The high-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS satellite reception offers more coverage, and it even allows you to find other Garmin Rino devices nearby. You’ll enjoy map-guided navigation while you’re out in the woods, and you can even send your location to others so they can find you on their maps. Other cool features, like a three-inch sunlight-readable touchscreen, dual-orientation, and a long-lasting rechargeable battery provide great versatility.

Key Features
  • Two-way radio with a range of up to 20 miles
  • GPS and GLONASS satellite tracking
  • 3-inch touchscreen display
  • Uses AA batteries or included lithium-ion battery
Specification
  • Brand Garmin
  • Model 010-01958-15
  • Weight 1.49 ounces
PROS

Works well out in the wilderness

The touchscreen is easy to use

Pairing AA batteries and the included battery creates a longer lifespan

CONS

Upgrading maps can be slow

Takes some time to learn

Sometimes basic and simple is best, and that’s where the Bushnell Bear Grylls Edition BackTrack D-Tour Personal GPS Tracking Device shines. This handheld GPS for hunting isn’t fancy or loaded with tons of features. But when you’re out hunting, it can be convenient. Built for rugged outdoor settings, it’s weather-resistant and features a grayscale LCD screen that can store up to 48 hours of trip data. This compact device pinpoints your location using GPS, and it allows you to mark and store up to five different locations. A breadcrumbs feature records your route while you hunt and then creates a map around the path so you can always find your way back to where you started. This handheld GPS also automatically records the time, temperature, and altitude of wherever you go. Though it might be limited in its capabilities, this GPS for hunting can be handy if you don’t need anything fancy.

Key Features
  • Measures 4.13 x 2.75 x 0.88 inches
  • Includes a USB cable for updates and data downloads
  • Runs on AAA batteries
  • LCD screen
Specification
  • Brand Bushnell
  • Model 360310BG
  • Weight 4 ounces
PROS

Makes it easy to return to your starting point or waypoints

Very lightweight and portable

Tracking is accurate and simple

CONS

Backlighting for the screen is weak

Altimeter and temperature recordings aren’t accurate

Hunting can put your clothes, your gear, and everything you have on you through some seriously tough wear and tear — but with the Cobra MR Handheld Floating VHF Radio and GPS, you don’t have to worry. This is one durable and long-lasting GPS device for hunting, and it can survive everything you throw its way. Built for the outdoors, this VHF radio and GPS can survive everything from dirt and weather to being submerged in water. When it comes to performance, the device features a built-in GPS receiver that allows you to see your current coordinates right on the screen. It also offers Bluetooth connectivity, which means you can send your coordinates to others and use the device to make calls without picking up your smartphone. Keep in mind, though, that the screen is quite small and limited in what it can show.

Key Features
  • Features a wide range of radio channels
  • IPX8 waterproof
  • Includes emergency weather alerts
  • Instant access to emergency channels
Specification
  • Brand Cobra
  • Model MR HH600W FLT GPS BLT
  • Weight 11.6 ounces
PROS

Offers easy communication

Gives exact coordinates and can transmit them to others

Includes handy emergency and weather features

CONS

Has a learning curve

Small screen

Not as in-depth with location data

The Garmin GPSMAP 66st Rugged Multisatellite Handheld will have you covered no matter where you hunt. This feature-filled GPS hunting device is loaded with both international maps and topography maps, and it even provides you with images of where you’re at thanks to Birdseye Satellite Imagery. As you hunt, the 3-inch color display will help you track your path even when you’re in challenging, limited-service environments. It also includes a three-axis compass and barometric altimeter. You’ll enjoy up to 16 hours of battery life, and you can even switch to the lower-power expedition mode for more. Keep in mind that this handheld GPS for hunting does require additional services to activate some features, like the satellite imagery, which come with an extra cost.

Key Features
  • 3-inch color display
  • Includes GPS and TOPO U.S. and Canada maps
  • Optional Birdseye Satellite Imagery downloads
  • Wireless connectivity
Specification
  • Brand Garmin
  • Model 010-01918-10
  • Weight 8.2 ounces
PROS

Lightweight and compact

Can tackle waypoints, tracking, routes, and more

Can use the GPS service without paying for extras

CONS

Additional features require additional subscriptions, which are costly

Battery life can be less than estimated

Hunting can take you pretty far from cell service and WiFi — but with the Homly GPS Tracker, you can still find your way and know exactly where you are. Designed as an off-grid GPS tracker that’ll keep tabs on any outdoor enthusiast, this little device is simple. All you have to do is carry it with you and it’ll offer real-time tracking, giving you your exact location. It can even communicate your location to others, all without WiFi or cell service. Compatible with smartphones, you and anyone else who’s hunting with you can see real-time locations (and trajectory if you’re on the move). You can even communicate locations with each other over SMS text messages. Even more importantly, this GPS device functions quietly, allowing you to stay in position without scaring away your targets. Unfortunately, this GPS doesn’t offer routing, so you can’t follow a set path with it.

Key Features
  • Real-time GPS locations and tracking
  • Built for outdoor use
  • Waterproof
  • Compatible with iOS and Android
Specification
  • Brand Homly
  • Weight 13.6 ounces
PROS

Great range

Doesn’t require a cell signal

Real-time updates and location sending

CONS

You need at least two GPS devices for this product to work

Doesn’t offer routing or waypoints

When you’re heading off the beaten path, the Garmin eTrex 22x Rugged Handheld GPS Navigator is a great companion. A reliable choice for anyone who’s heading into off-grid locations like the woods or areas with no trails or paths, this handheld GPS device is a solid choice for hunters. It features a 2.2-inch color display that you can read even in bright sunlight, and you’ll be able to explore both the area around you and nearby routes, roads, and trails thanks to a set of preloaded Topo Active maps. With built-in support for both GPS and GLONASS satellite signal, you’ll have wide-ranging coverage. And you can put the device through its paces; this handheld GPS is meant to be tough enough for activities like boating, hiking, and even ATV riding, giving you a lasting lifespan.

Key Features
  • 2.2-inch display
  • Includes Topo Active maps
  • MicroSD slot
  • Up to 25 hours of battery life
Specification
  • Brand Garmin
  • Model 010-02256-00
  • Weight 5 ounces
PROS

Easy to grip

Allows zooming in on areas or points

Long-lasting battery life

CONS

Screen is small

Topo Active maps don’t provide topography information

If you’re looking for a basic handheld GPS for hunting at an affordable price, consider the Spot 3 Satellite GPS Messenger. Designed primarily for letting others know where you are, this device won’t help you plan a route or hit waypoints while hunting. However, it’s a great GPS to have on hand if you get lost or have an emergency. This compact device tracks your location automatically, saving the points where you pause or stop. It connects with others’ smart devices and can let others track you via Google Maps. If you get lost, you can send out an SOS with your GPS location via a message to contacts of your choosing. You can also send messages to others with your location data, a helpful feature if your hunting group splits up. Though this handheld GPS is limited and can’t show you maps, it’s a great budget buy.

Key Features
  • Measures 2.56 x 1 x 3.43 inches
  • Can contact emergency responders
  • Google Maps location tracking
  • Sends messages to others’ devices
Specification
  • Brand Spot
  • Model SPOT-3 ORANGE
  • Weight 4 ounces
PROS

Communicates with satellites approximately every 30 seconds

Lightweight

Can be clipped onto any gear

CONS

Requires a subscription service

Updating location comes with delays

Not waterproof

Best Handheld GPS for Hunting Buying Guide & FAQ

Hunting can lead you pretty far from home — and pretty far from where you initially started your hunt. You have to be outdoors, willing to head deep into the woods or off familiar trails to catch your prey. And if you’re trying to rely on your smartphone for directions and navigation help while you’re hunting, you can wind up with no signal and no understanding of where you are.

Fortunately, a handheld GPS for hunting can help you avoid this common problem. With one of these compact devices, you can always pinpoint your location, and you can easily find your way back to your starting point. Wondering which handheld GPS for hunting is the best? Follow our buying guide to pick a quality product.

The Advantages of Owning a Handheld GPS for Hunting

Above all else, there’s one pretty huge benefit to carrying a GPS with you when you hunt: you can eliminate the risk of getting lost. No one wants to wind up wandering in the great outdoors with no direction or path home. A handheld GPS for hunting will keep you on track and always informed, giving you the ability to see your location or even send your location to others. Instead of fretting about finding your way back, you can use one of these devices to efficiently navigate or lead others to where you are.

man in the wood looking to gps
A handheld GPS for hunting will keep you on track and always informed.

But the benefits of carrying a handheld GPS device don’t end there. With convenience, versatility, and even some cool high-tech features, you can take hunting from basic to more informed.

  • A handheld GPS for hunting gives you an accurate reading of wherever you are, even when you’re away from cell towers and internet connections.
  • Maps can give you insight into the area you’re traversing, including topography information on more advanced GPS models.
  • Long battery lifespans mean you can hunt for a long time and rely on your GPS.
  • You can share your location over the GPS device and let others know where you are.
  • Hunting GPS devices come with emergency alerts to help you alert others when you need help.

Types of Handheld GPSes for Hunting

Most handheld GPS devices for hunting are similar. They can pinpoint your location using GPS satellites, and they can do so even in hard-to-detect locations so you always know your coordinates. However, some of these devices are more versatile or more advanced than others — and the right type for you depends on your needs. 

GPS Tracker

Some GPS devices for hunting are simple trackers. These GPS trackers are slim and very compact — some don’t even include a screen and instead work with a smartphone or SMS messaging. A tracker will update in real-time, making sure your location data is accurate anytime you need it.

Unfortunately, GPS trackers come with quite a few drawbacks. They don’t include any maps, which makes it difficult to determine where you need to go if you wind up getting lost. They can offer your location, but that may not be of much help when you’re somewhere unfamiliar. And you may only be able to send your location to others so they can track you down.

GPS and Radio

Some handheld GPS devices for hunting are two devices in one, offering both a radio and a GPS device. This means you can actually communicate with others over radio channels while you’re hunting, and you can also enjoy the location data and maps of a GPS device. The capabilities of these devices will vary, but they can offer all the perks of a traditional GPS with even more functionality.

When you hunt in a group or with a friend, a handheld GPS, and radio for hunting can be very valuable. Most operate pretty quietly, and they can allow for easy, cell-free communication when service isn’t available.

Topography GPS

A topography GPS device is one of the most advanced options for hunters. You’ll get not only GPS location data and maps of your surrounding area, but also special topography maps and information. That means you’ll be able to see where you are and where you’re going, plus any inclines, declines, or terrain obstacles in your way.

When you’re hunting in a new area, it’s especially helpful to have a GPS device with topography maps. You’ll get a wealth of information you can use to plan the best route, and you’ll know everything about your surroundings in detail so you can adapt with ease. 

How We Tested The Handheld GPSes for Hunting

When it comes to determining which handheld GPS for hunting is the best of the bunch, it’s important to look at accuracy above all else. If a GPS device isn’t accurate, how can you trust its information? How can you know you’re in the right place? These handheld devices need to be accurate — and real-time updating is also a critical detail, as this can help with accuracy, especially when you’re on the move.

It’s also important to consider the maps and other data a GPS for hunting offers. While plenty of GPS devices can offer you maps of roads and highways, not all can cover the terrain you explore while hunting. A handheld hunting GPS needs to cover places that are off the beaten path.

The Most Important Features of Handheld GPSes for Hunting

Like we mentioned above, every individual GPS device for hunting is different — and the primary way these devices different is in their features. Some hunting GPS devices are filled with features and are more high-tech. Others are more limited, but they can offer excellent results from the features they do include. If you’re wondering which features are the most important, you’ll want to look for the following.

Satellite Reception

You might assume all GPS devices operate off the same satellites. However, it’s important to look closely at the kind of satellite reception a handheld GPS for hunting gets. Limited reception means less reliability — and it also may be more difficult to pinpoint where you are.

The best handheld GPS devices for hunting will be able to get reception from the U.S. Department of Defense satellites. This means they’ll transmit where you are from just about anywhere. You’ll also want to take a look at the antenna, as a longer antenna can help pick up satellite reception faster and more easily.

Ease of Use

Any good hunting GPS should be easy to use. Unfortunately, some models have unclear buttons, menus that are hard to follow, and software that makes little sense. When you’re out in nature trying to track both your prey and your location, you need a handheld GPS that’s very easy to use. Touchscreen GPS devices are some of the easiest to master, while other models with large keyboards are also a good choice.

Don’t forget about the navigation menu and buttons when you’re considering ease of use in any device. A quality model will make it clear and easy to find different features and functions, like switching between modes and being able to mark waypoints or plan routes. Simple is always better when it comes to ease of use.

Speed

Lastly, you might not associate speed with a handheld GPS for hunting, but speed is quite important. If your GPS isn’t speedy and quick, it can deliver inaccurate results. Imagine trying to pinpoint your location while you’re headed to a waypoint and there’s a delay — you might miss critical directions and wind up lost.

To determine which handheld GPS devices for hunting are fast, the antenna is key. A longer, larger antenna will pick up satellite data faster. It’s also a good idea to assess the power, or wattage, of a device. That can help you determine how quickly it processes information.

Care and Maintenance for Handheld GPSes for Hunting

Taking care of your handheld GPS for hunting is pretty simple. There’s no fancy maintenance needed — just make sure to clean it after it encounters mud, dirt, and debris that could affect its ability to work properly. It’s also a good idea to charge or replace batteries regularly to ensure you always have lasting power while you’re out in the field.

Most hunting GPS devices are designed to withstand a lot of wear and tear. However, to keep them in good working condition, you’ll want to keep the battery life in mind along with other small maintenance tasks.

  • Know what kind of batteries your handheld GPS device needs; some rely on rechargeable batteries, some use AA or AAA batteries that need replacing.
  • A weather-resistant or waterproof GPS for hunting will be better suited for outdoor environments and more durable.
  • Even if a GPS is waterproof, it’s best to avoid water as some models can become damaged if they have exposed ports.
Hunter determine the route on the gps navigator
A huge benefit to carrying a GPS with you when you hunt: you can eliminate the risk of getting lost.

Best Handheld GPSes for Hunting FAQ:

Trying to decide between all of the different hunting GPS options isn’t easy, especially if it’s the first GPS you’re picking out for something other than the dashboard of your car. If you have questions, learn the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about handheld GPS devices for hunting below.

Q: Which handheld GPS is the most accurate?

  Our top pick, the Garmin eTrex 19 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator, is a very accurate handheld GPS for hunting.

Q: What is the easiest handheld GPS to use?

Plenty of handheld GPS devices are easy to use. We like our top pick as well as the Garmin Rino 755t Handheld 2-Way Radio GPS Navigator, which is equipped with a touchscreen.

Q: How do I choose a handheld GPS?

Make sure to look at the features of each GPS device before choosing one. Accuracy, speed, and satellite range are all important, and if you need more, you can always opt for an upgraded device.

Our Top Pick

We selected the Garmin inReach Explorer+ Handheld Satellite Communicator as our best overall handheld GPS for hunting for multiple reasons. Its wide-ranging capabilities make this GPS a fantastic device to have when you aren’t sure where you are or where you’re headed. It’s also very easy to use, and you can track your location as well as share it with others. This GPS for hunting has tons of features, including a digital compass, a barometric altimeter, and an accelerometer. It’s also waterproof, and you can download maps and NOAA charts when you pair it with a mobile device.

Final Thoughts

The Garmin inReach Explorer+ Handheld Satellite Communicator, our top pick, is one of the best GPS devices you can bring along on a hunt. The Garmin eTrex 19 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator is an affordable GPS that’s also great for hunters. 

Sources:

  1. How to Get Better Accuracy with a Handheld GPS – wikiHow

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