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Handheld GPS Reviews 2016

Updated on December 15, 2015

In handheld GPS reviews 2016 we are going to look at the benefits of owning a handheld GPS device and then we will review the best new handheld GPS units on the market.

Benefits of owning a good handheld GPS

  • You can take it with you anywhere. These hand held GPSs are about the size of a mobile phone, so they are very easy to carry around. Unlike car GPSs they work with removable batteries, you take spares with you and the device keeps on working, for as long as you need it to.
  • If things go wrong, the authorities can track you down using your GPS.
  • A good handheld GPS is the ultimate tool for planning trips. They contain all the information you need in a very compact, simple to use, package.
  • With all of the GPS units reviewed here, you are looking at a rugged waterproof device that won't break when you drop it.

Topographical map on the Oregon
Topographical map on the Oregon

Garmin Oregon 550T

This is the flagship top of the line handheld GPS from Garmin.

The difference between the 550T and the 550 is that the 550T comes with preloaded topographical maps of the USA. It does however cost an extra $100.

What Garmin is trying to do with this device is to combine a GPS with a waterproof digital camera. Two devices you frequently carry around with you, when you go hiking. The Oregon records the GPS coordinates whenever you take a picture so you can later see the picture and show someone where it was taken. The high-end built in camera is a 3.2-MP autofocus digital camera.

The camera has 4x digital zoom, and pictures can be viewed in portrait or landscape orientation. The Oregon has 850 MB of internal memory to store the pictures on, you can use an optional micro SD memory card to increase the available memory.

One thing you notice about the Oregon is that it has no buttons. The interface is it's touch sensitive screen. In my opinion this feature improves the use of the device. Compared to earlier Garmin touchscreens this one is about 15% brighter.

The Oregon uses a 3-axis compass. With a 2-axis compass you need to hold the GPS completely horizontal, to get an accurate reading. With the 3-axis feature you don't need to do that anymore.

Whether you are going fishing, hunting or hiking; if you are willing to pay the Garmin Oregon is 2016's best handheld GPS unit.

Smaller cheaper Dakota
Smaller cheaper Dakota

Garmin Dakota 20

The Dakota is a smaller and cheaper version of the Oregon, but uses many of the same technologies.

The Dakota runs off 2 rechargeable AA batteries. You can get 20 hours of use out of a charge which is better than the Oregon but worse than the eTrex. The screen goes into power saving mode after 15 seconds of inaction and you just touch the screen to get it going again.

The Dakota has 850MB of unused internal memory for uploading additional maps. It does have a micro SD-card slot if you want to download and use a large map, you can add extra storage capacity. Uploading maps on the Dakota is slower because it uses an older USB version, while the Oregon’s uses USB 2.0. I also found the Dakota slightly more sluggish zooming and scrolling maps.

The Dakota also utilizes the improved 3-axis built-in compass.

Cheaper older alternative
Cheaper older alternative

Garmin eTrex Venture HC

If the newer Garmin GPSs are to pricey for you, I recommend going with the eTrex Venture HC. It's dependability makes it the best cheap handheld GPS of 2016.

One problem that the previous eTrex GPSs had, was that if you walked into a forest the trees would block the GPS signal. With this version Garmin started using a more sensitive GPS receiver which means your signal won't drop.

The eTrex only has 24 Mb of internal memory and you can't upgrade that with an SD card.

This unit is water resistant, but not waterproof. If you drop it in a river for a couple of seconds it's OK, but you can't leave it under water for any length of time.

Unlike other handheld GPS units in this price range, the eTrex does have a color screen.

Magellan eXplorist GC

This GPS was specifically made for Geocaching. Geocaching is similar to the 150-year-old game letterboxing, in it you use clues and references to landmarks embedded in stories. Geocaching was conceived around May 1, 2000. With the improved accuracy of GPS systems you could find a small container which was specifically placed to be found.

It's a lot of fun if you enjoy exploring and hiking. If you are able to complete the challenge there is generally a log book in a waterproof container that you sign, to show that you where there. New Geocaching challenges can be downloaded online.

I hope you found the right GPS unit for your needs in handheld GPS reviews 2016. You might also enjoy reading best Garmin GPS 2016 and car GPS reviews 2016.


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    • jGaunt profile image

      jGaunt 7 years ago from London

      This review is about handheld GPS units what you want is a car GPS check out:

      No GPS devices do the learning thing yet. The newest Garmin nüvi more or less performs the other functions you want.

    • Pcunix profile image

      Tony Lawrence 7 years ago from SE MA

      I want my next GPS:

      To learn. If it doesn't know a road exists and I am driving on it, remember that.

      Have a customizable display. Maybe I'd rather have my speed on the right instead of the miles to the next turn

      Show me the speed limit on this road. Warn me if I am exceeding it.

      Make route comparisons. That's particularly true when there is a stop we need to make on the way. Let's say I'm coming down Rte 24 heading home but need to stop at BJ's. There are two BJ's, both of which are slightly out of my way. Given that Home is my ultimate destination, which one should I go to?

      Any of them do these things?