Stay Safe With a GPS for Hiking

Using GPS for Hiking

Hiking is a wonderful outdoor activity. It's a great source of exercise and a chance to get outdoors and explore nature. Using a rugged GPS for hiking can make experience easier and safer.

Certainly, there are a variety of things hikers need to take along on the trail but a GPS device allows them to map their way, mark waypoints, share information with others, and much more.

On this page you can learn a bit more about the features of these devices and how to go about choosing one to suit your needs.

Buying Tips

There are a number of reputable manufacturers of GPS devices that can be used for hiking, backpacking, and other outdoor activities. Here are some things to consider when choosing your rugged handheld GPS:

  • Size
    Certainly if you'll be hiking or backpacking with a GPS unit, you want it to be lightweight and small. However, you'll also want to be sure it provides a screen size that is adequate to easily read.

  • The Screen
    Clearly a larger screen tends to be more readable, but brightness and resolution count as well. A black and white screen can save you money and battery power, but a color screen can show much more detail as far as the terrain and elevations. Having any buttons on the sides of the unit can help reserve more room for the screen. If you get your hands on the unit before buying, it's wise to test in direct sunlight since this is the condition in which it will be used most often.

    Some of these devices provide a touchscreen which certainly allows for a larger screen as well. However, these are more difficult to operate with one hand if that is something you want to be able to do.

  • Durability
    A good GPS unit for hiking should be rugged. It should be able to survive being dropped as well as being exposed to moisture due to humidity, rainfall, or a douse in a stream.

  • Sensitivity and Accuracy
    One of these units requires a good signal to perform it's job. These devices need to work in environments where tree cover and canyon walls should not disrupt them. Devices with WAAS tend to provide the greatest accuracy. Shoppers should check manufacturer information to determine the level of accuracy the device typically provides. For instance, it should pinpoint locations within 10 feet or so.

  • Maps
    A GPS for hiking will be only as good as it's maps. Maps are the brains of the unit and what determines how much detail you can get from the unit. Most hikers and backpackers need topographical maps rather than just street maps. These maps will show trails, streams, rivers, lakes, parks, terrain contours, elevation, and such. The more points of interest included, the better the map will work for you. Some maps even include a 3D view to give hikers a better feel for the terrain.
  • Features and Functions
    Some of the best GPS devices used in outdoor sports and recreation include a compass and perhaps a barometric altimeter to help determine elevation/altitude, provide ascent/descent information, plot barometric pressure over time for projecting weather conditions, and so forth. It may include an odometer and a special mode for geocaching.

    Users should be able to mark waypoints. Shoppers should compare these devices by noting how many waypoints can be recorded. Clearly the more that can be marked and stored, the more detailed guidance the device can provide. Being able to store waypoints and routes allows the user to retrace their steps to find their way back or to return at a later date and enjoy the same hike. Many of these devices also offer wireless connectivity and the ability to share such information with other hikers.

  • Memory
    In order to store all of the waypoints, maps, routes, and so forth, a hiking GPS needs memory. Shoppers can compare internal memory capacities and also the availability of a slot to add flash memory in the form of an SD or microSD card.

  • Convenience
    Downloading maps online can take up time. If the unit you choose has a USB connection this will make the process faster and easier.

    Clearly these devices operate off of batteries. Rechargeable batteries can help hold down costs, but you'll also want to know how long the device will operate on a single charge. No one wants to be half way through a hike and have the batteries die.


Comments 6 comments

Ann Nonymous profile image

Ann Nonymous 6 years ago from Virginia

This would make a great gift for the campers in my family Thanks for the review and information, Mulberry!


BrianS profile image

BrianS 6 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

I should suggest this on my French holidays blog, there are a lot of woodland paths and trails around our holiday property but it is also quite easy to get lost. This would be the perfect solution to that problem.


Nancy's Niche profile image

Nancy's Niche 6 years ago from USA

Definitely a GPS for hiking and other adventures. If you have ever been lost in the wilds, you know what I mean….


Daddy Paul profile image

Daddy Paul 6 years ago from Michigan

Good hub!


Cheryl J. profile image

Cheryl J. 5 years ago from Houston, TX

These are really cool. Thanks for the nice written hub on GPS for hiking. No one will ever get lost again. Nice hub.


Corin profile image

Corin 5 years ago

I didn't know that there was GPS for hiking: I always use my old map. I would have to get one. Thanks for this useful review.

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