5 Best Hunting GPS Reviews (2018 Ultimate Guide)
Looking for the best hunting gps that easy to use, or marking your waypoints while scouting? This guide is for you. I'll share with you top detailed reviews as well as how to choose a good one below. So check this out:
Best GPS Units for Hunting:
The 5 Best Hunting GPS Reviews:
1. Garmin InReach Explorer+
Garmin InReach Explorer+ is a reasonably priced hunting GPS unit that is sure to assist you while out in the field. You will need to pay the additional cost for an active service plan in order to use the device though.
There is an integrated and very detailed 24k scale map of North America supporting you to determine your location and you can download additional maps if needed by linking the unit to your Smartphone (both iOS and Android) and utilizing the EarthMate app that is included.
The best part?
You can SMS or e-mail your family/ friends from anywhere in the world. All the messages you send will have your exact current location included which can be essential when needing to be rescued.
This Garmin hunting GPS will allow you to accurately locate yourself on a topo map and show you how to get to any other location on the map. You can drop a waypoint as well and receive a straight line route to follow. The hunting data can be added by purchasing the Earthmate Hunt subscription.
The battery is rechargeable but not replaceable, and the single charge will allow for about seven days of inactive use. Although it might seem like a drawback, the reason why you are not able to remove the battery lays in the fact that this GPS is waterproof for up to 30 min in 3 feet of water. For the same reason, there is no SD card slot either.
The InReach has a bit smaller screen that might not be as bright as some of the other units but will prove just fine in direct sunlight. The device can connect to your smartphone and tablet via Bluetooth when you need a larger screen or a keyboard. There is a personalized website you can use to set waypoints, routes, add and check frequent contacts, as well as manage your text messages.
- DeLorme TOPO maps included
- Built-in digital compass, barometric altimeter, and accelerometer
- 2-way text messaging via satellite subscription
- One button SOS
- Family and friends can track your location at all times
- Small screen
- No SD card slot
2. Garmin Oregon 650t 3-Inch Handheld GPS with 8MP Digital Camera (US Topographic Maps)
Garmin Oregon 650 is another hunting GPS unit made by this famous manufacturer. It is highly sensitive due to a dual-band GPS/GLONASS satellite positioning and has incorporated interactive maps including the topographic 100K U.S. maps and a worldwide base map.
The 3-Inch multi-touch screen reads well even in the direct sunlight and allows you to zoom in and out, rotate and pan out with no issues whatsoever. The unit will also auto switch between portrait and landscape view to help your orientation. If you subscribe, you can use BirdsEye Satellite Imagery to add satellite images to your maps as well.
Here's the deal: Integrated 8MP Camera
The Bluetooth enable you to share all the relevant data such as routes, waypoints or your geotagged photos. And your photos are sure to look great as this GPS has an 8MP autofocus camera with LED flash/torch that is sure to come in handy once you have yourself a trophy catch and want to share the good news. It also means that you do not need to take your camera with you and can travel lighter!
Double Battery Power
The unit goes with a NiMH battery that can be recharged, but you also have an option to use two AA batteries when your battery goes empty, and you are not in a position to charge it. The bad news is that the battery will not hold as long as advertised, maybe up to 10 hours tops, and then you have to switch to alkaline batteries that are going to provide few additional hours at most.
If you are planning to stay for a couple of days, you need to be able to charge the battery several times or pack up on additional batteries, powerbank. The GPS occasionally crashes too, which can be a big problem in some crucial moments.
- Includes 3-axis compass, barometric altimeter, and accelerometer
- Dual orientation
- Limitless number of geocaches
- Works with two types of batteries
- Screen readability is excellent
- Can use third-party maps
- It occasionally crashes
- The included maps are not routable
- Poor battery life
3. Garmin GPSMAP 64st, TOPO U.S. 100K with High-Sensitivity GPS and GLONASS Receiver
If you are an average user and do not need some advanced features, you can spare some money and buy the Garmin GPSMAP 64st hunting GPS unit. It will not be a great compromise though as it too offers a lot to any hunter in need of a GPS. The 2.6" color display reads well in the sunlight, and although it is not a touchscreen, it is easy to navigate through.
As the previous GARMIN model reviewed, this GPS also has a dual battery energy supply that allows you to alternate between standard AA batteries and the NiMH rechargeable battery which comes as an alternative.
The battery life is up to 16 hours, so once again have an alternative if planning to stay longer in the wild. If you wish to extend battery life, you can rely on the battery saver feature which will shut off the screen when you are not using the unit.
The internal memory is 8GB, but there is an SD memory card slot to expand it according to your needs. The GPSMAP 64st comes preloaded with a worldwide base map and TOPO 100K of the entire U.S. As a bonus, you receive a whole year of BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription.
The greatest thing about this unit is the speed at which it can locate your exact position. That is due to a high-sensitivity GPS /GLONASS technology a quad helix antenna, and it makes it a real life-saving device in emergency situations.
Connect to Smartphone
The unit can wirelessly connect to your smartphone so that you could get notifications or share your activities.
It is compatible with Garmin Custom Maps that will allow you to convert electronic, or even paper maps into downloadable ones free of charge. Unfortunately, the first time you try to add maps to the unit can be a bit tricky due to limited instructions in the user manual.
- Comes preloaded with numerous worldwide caches from geocaching.com
- Includes the three-axis compass plus barometric altimeter
- You can add storage space with a MicroSD™ card
- 1-year free BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription
- Poor user manual makes adding maps complicated
- Not water resistant
- No touchscreen
4. Garmin eTrex 20x
Garmin Etrex Handheld gps is an affordable hunting GPS that offers all the basic features you will require while on the terrain. The 2.2” 65K color screen is rather small but reads well both in the direct sunlight and at night. It is not a touchscreen, but that can come in handy during winter when you want to stay in your gloves while navigating. The buttons need to be pressed a bit strong though.
On the brighter side, the unit is highly sensitive and locates your position rather quickly, thanks to WAAS-enabled GPS receiver, and using GLONASS and HotFix satellite prediction. It locks your position and maintains it even there is little clear sky above you.
World Wide Basemap
The internal memory is 3.7 GB, but there is a microSD card slot that allows you to expand it as much as needed. The unit provides a basemap of entire world with detailed 3D relief - there is no preloaded TOPO U.S. or Canada.
However, if you purchase enough of additional memory, you can load a more detailed TOPO 24K maps or subscribe to the BirdsEye Satellite Imagery for the utmost convenience and precision. It even supports the OpenStreetMap helping you to find your way back at the city too.
You can also store your location, difficulty, and type of terrain and your own descriptions for future reference. It lets you keep 200 routes (GPX files) and 2000 waypoints. The unit has no installed batteries, so USB charging is not an option. It works on standard or rechargeable alkaline batteries, and good quality ones can last through 24 hours of active use.
On the downside, loading maps takes ages to complete due to an inconvenient (or outdated) software. The problems with software lead to occasional crashes as well, and no one wants that while out in the wild. Also, there is no electronic compass nor barometric altimeter.
- Locks onto your location quickly and accurately
- Highly sensitive GPS receiver that supports GLONASS too
- Alarm clock feature
- MicroSD card slot
- No TOPO U.S. or Canada
- The standard map lacks detail
- Small screen
- Poor software solution resulting in occasional crashes
- No electronic compass and barometric altimeter
5. Magellan eXplorist 350H Handheld GPS
As you could probably notice by now, all the hunting GPS units reviewed so far are of the same brand. This does not mean that other brands cannot stand up to the competition and Magellan eXplorist 350H is here to prove that.
First of all, it costs way less and makes a great choice for all of you who are on a tight budget.
Designed for Hunters
Secondly, this is the only GPS unit here that was designed for the hunters. Therefore, although some other features may be neglected, this Magellan handheld GPS is sure to offer an abundance of info for hunters in the USA such as:
- Hunt specific waypoints
- Hunting calendar
- Both GMU's and WMA's information about hunting boundaries for forty different states that will keep you safe in the authorized hunting zones and alert you when you are about to cross them.
It is dustproof, waterproof and extremely durable. The screen might be on a smaller side, but you can adjust the brightness in order to read the screen in the brightest sunlight or the darkest night. The unit includes an electronic compass, but you do have to be on the move in order for it to function.
The SiRFstarIII GPS is highly sensitive and very accurate (3-5 meter).
Besides the detailed base map with trails, land use, road network, water bodies, and contour elevations and over thirty hunt specific waypoints included, this one comes with a free 1-year subscription to DigitalGlobe satellite imagery too.
Work with AA Batteries
The included double AA batteries provide you with up to twenty hours of active use so that all your one-day hunting trips can be safe and successful. If you plan to stay overnight, bring additional batteries.
- Pre-loaded calendar for hunting
- Hunting boundary alerts
- Download satellite imagery with the VantagePoint software
- Small screen
- You have to be in motion for the compass to work
- No incorporated rechargeable batteries
Why Hunters Need a GPS Unit?
These are some reasons why you need a good gps for hunting:
- Never get lost- GPS will allow you to plan your routes ahead and trace it to find the way back home thus preventing you from ever getting lost.
- Alert the rescue team- GPS can be a true life-rescuing device as most models feature an alarm for alerting people who can help you when you need assistance, and there is no cell service. We all know that hunting accidents are not seldom and this makes GPS even more important.
- Remember all the points of interest- GPS enables hunters to plot points of interests on the terrain such as power stations, bait piles, tree stands and other. In this way, future hunting in the same area becomes a breeze.
- Better communication with colleagues- GPS enables you to communicate with several colleagues that are within the same mile radius in any remote location.
How to Choose a Best Handheld GPS for Hunting and Fishing?
First, ask yourself why you need a GPS and how often will you use it, and then decide how much money you are willing to spend.
1. Your Usage
In my opinion, if you are a recreational hunter that stays around a familiar area and you require a GPS device just to be on a safe side in case of an accident or some unpredictable circumstances, a cheap, basic handheld GPS will do the job for you.
On the other hand, if you are a hunting enthusiast who often goes far and needs a GPS unit for scouting and some other advanced operations, you need not be thrifty but rather spend some more money and make sure that your GPS unit will not let you down when you need it the most.
2. Battery life
Battery life is a key point when choosing a tramping and top hunting gps unit. The battery capacity will allow you to use all the other features freely and be safe. Choose one with at least 16 hours lasting period. Always have some spare batteries with you as well.
3. Satellite Image
Having an option to transfer satellite imagery to your hunting GPS will provide you with the truest representation of your surroundings. This is extremely important for your scouting at home. As it can provide you a clear view of trails and setup for your next hunting days.
This service usually comes at extra charge, but sometimes you have a free trial period of up to one year included in the price you pay for the GPS unit. There are some free services which cost you some effort to make it work.
In order to be able to see these imagery clearly, your screen must be of high resolution and well backlit too.
4. Amount of Maps Added into the Memory
More maps inside your device the better, it is as simple as that.
Be sure you have a TOPO U.S or Canada map preloaded. Some gps units only have worldwide basemap which nearly useless if you’re planning to hunt in North America.
You also should update maps on a regular basis because trails in woods can disappear over years which can be quite dangerous for you.
5. Ease of use
Hunting GPS is not the same as the ones used in our cars; these handheld units have some limitations but are surely highly practical. Type of screen and the layout of the control buttons will influence the ease of use the most.
- In this regard, you should opt for a touch screen handheld gps but make sure that the quality of the displayed image is good as well.
- Good-old quality buttons are not a bad choice either. Most models come with a circular-style button menu, but you can also find the ones that feature large keyboards that ease the typing.
6. Electronic Compass
A hunting GPS can be equipped with either a differential compass or an electronic one. The electronic compass does not need GPS signals to set the direction. It is therefore more convenient than the differential one as you can stay put while exploring the current location. The modern tri-axial compasses do not even require you to hold them level.
On the downside, electronic compasses add to the cost of the GPS unit and shorten the battery life of the unit. As these compasses are highly sensitive to the changes in the magnetic field, they need to be re-calibrated every time you change the battery too.
Barometric altimeter usually goes in pair with the electronic compass and is another useful feature that will help you calculate the change in elevation.
On your hunting trip, you may need to mark your deer stands, trail camera spot or deer lures… and use them later on the map. These markings are called waypoints and can be very helpful for hunters as they are “breadcrumbs” that tell them where they’ve been and ease their navigation.
Therefore, when buying a best handheld gps for elk hunting, check the number of waypoints listed as it represents the number of locations you can mark in total.
There are numerous buying guides and reviews that can help you in determining speed before you actually buy the best gps for deer hunting. The dual band units usually identify your spots faster.
Mobile Map Apps vs Handheld GPS - Which is Better?
Smartphones have already replaced numerous devices, and since most of the smartphones nowadays have GPS capability many people gave up on using handheld GPS units for them too.
The question is why should you buy the handheld GPS when you already have a free and updatable mobile map application installed to your smartphone? Here are some good reasons:
Better weather withstanding
Less weather withstanding
Smartphones are definitely better in terms of connectivity as, unlike GPS units which support only ANT and Bluetooth technology, smart phones support wifi connection as well.
Handheld GPS units are made to withstand the outdoor conditions. They are more rugged than the smartphones, and usually dust and waterproof.
Longer Battery Life
We all know how quickly the battery drains when we use our smartphone for anything else but making calls. A mobile map application that uploads a number of high resolution images is sure to use up the battery pretty quickly too.
Although charging a smartphone while outdoor is possible, it is certainly not as convenient as simply replacing the batteries in your handheld GPS unit. High-end GPS units also include batteries that can last you a week of active use, and smartphones can't still come anywhere near that.
Electronic compass or the barometric altimeter is a more-less standard equipment in modern handheld GPS units, while only a few (very expensive) models offer these features.
Furthermore, most of the handheld GPS units have a screen that will be easier to view in a direct sunlight, and button menu that comes in pretty handy when you are out in the cold and have to use gloves while navigating.
Software and Mapping
Although both your smartphone and a handheld GPS will pinpoint your position accurately and help you determine where you need to go, the GPS unit will have all the maps you need pre-loaded while you would have to load the maps to your phone and probably eat up all the storage available.
Your smartphone obviously has all the basic functions of the standard handheld GPS (such as routing, GPX files support, waypoints), but a handheld GPS is specialized for the job and provides some advanced functions as well.
The editor’s choice for today is Garmin GPSMAP 64st, TOPO U.S. 100K with High-Sensitivity GPS and GLONASS Receiver as it has all the features needed for a successful hunting trip. The possibility to expand memory allows you to add the 24K top if you ever need more specific ground details too.
This reasonably priced hunting GPS is all you will ever need to have a successful hunting day out in the bushes, don't you think so?
Please comment if you agree (or disagree), and share this so that everyone can contribute to our mutual quest to find the best hunting GPS out there.