Hunting is a way of life in the United States, and we are here to help you be as successful on the hunt as possible.
When it comes to finding the perfect hunting GPS unit, there are a number of important factors for any hunting enthusiast to consider. While the following list is by no means exhaustive, it does examine some of the most popular brands currently available on the market, and gives a detailed description of why they’re the right unit for specific hunters. As the features of GPS units can vary wildly from model to model, it’s important to establish a baseline from which to judge even the most basic model. Is its position acquisition precise? Can it act as a digital compass in case of emergencies? Is the touch-screen responsive? How much map data can it conveniently handle? This guide hopes to answer these questions by recommending GPS units that directly address these concerns, as well as many others not mentioned. Before discussing specific models though, it’s important to take a step back and examine what specific features should be in a hunting GPS unit.
When looking at GPS units, it’s important to consider how precise the navigation will be. Some models, like the Bushnell Backtrack Original, give the bare minimum when it comes to navigation, instead relying on acting as a digital compass. Still others, like the Lowrance iFinder Hiking GPS, come equipped with a number of maps that can help hunters decide where to plot their next course. What a hunter should look for in navigation ultimately depends on their needs, with hunters that find themselves frequently traveling probably needing a GPS unit that focuses more heavily on navigation options. Hunters that already have a deep understanding of their local hunting grounds probably won’t need much more than a simple electronic compass function on their GPS unit.
While hunters will typically purchase a GPS unit based on its navigational abilities, GPS units can also provide much more utility than their base function. Some models, like the Garmin Rino, can act as both a GPS unit and a personal radio. Hunters that like to travel in packs would do well to look into a GPS unit like the Rino, because its larger price tag is compensated for by the added benefits. On the other hand, hunters that are on a tighter budget may want to specifically avoid these types of GPS units. Added utility isn’t particularly useful if it’s accompanied by an unjustifiable jump in price.
Customization is another important factor to consider in regards to hunting GPS units. Some models are overly simplistic, and include only the bare minimum of customization. On the other hand, some models go to great lengths to be as customizable as possible. This means letting hunters design custom routes, waypoints, and trails that can later be recalled at the touch of a button. For hunters that aren’t particularly technologically savvy, this may not seem like a necessary function of their GPS unit, but hunters who are regularly accustomed to this type of function will be pleased to know that it has been heavily considered in these reviews.
As outdoor enthusiasts, it should come as no surprise that the equipment in a hunter’s kit needs to be durable against a wide range of weather types. As a baseline, a hunter’s GPS unit must be waterproof. In addition though, it’s important to consider the signal reception on the model, as well as its touch-screen receptiveness. A GPS unit that can’t get a signal in areas densely covered by trees is problematic to a hunter for obvious reasons. Similarly, a GPS unit that requires precise finger movements – like those not possible while wearing gloves – can be a serious issue for hunters that like to go hunting in cold weather.
Affordability is a difficult factor to measure in GPS units, as their prices can vary wildly. The problem of affordability is further compounded by its subjective. To some hunters, a GPS unit that costs $100 is considered too expensive. By contrast, some hunters might find a $500 model to be too cheap. For the purposes of this guide, affordability is judged to be any GPS unit that costs under $100. There are some models submitted to this guide that can cost as much as $500, but they represent the absolute best of the best, with all of the bells and whistles that a GPS unit can include specifically for hunters.
I carry the Delorme InReach Explorer with me every single time I go out into the woods. DeLorme is one of the biggest names in GPS technology, and this unit is perfect a hunter who wants to be safe, have a line of communication from anywhere, and have navigation features to help get around. It will require a monthly plan to unlock its powerful features (like SMS communication from anywhere), but consider it cheap insurance against the worst happening while out on a hunt. With its SOS functionality, it can alert rescue personal immediately in the event of an emergency. I trust it with my life every time I clip it to my backpack.
While the Garmin Oregon 650 Handheld GPS is certainly on the more expensive side of the models in this list, it makes up for this steeper price with a wide range of valuable features for any hunting enthusiast. Unique to the Garmin Oregon 650 Handheld GPS is its digital camera, which none of the other GPS models listed here have. This camera lets hunters quickly take high quality photos while out on the field, which can then be posted directly to the Garmin online community, or shared with friends on a personal site. Despite being equipped with a camera, the Garmin Oregon 650 Handheld GPS actually has a much longer battery life than some of the other models listed. This is due to its state-of-the-art dual battery system, which includes a rechargeable battery pack that can work in tandem with traditional AA batteries. In terms of basic features, the Garmin Oregon 650 Handheld GPS is no exception: it has a barometric altimeter, 3-axis digital compass, and a high sensitivity touch screen that can quickly respond to tactile commands. Hunters that aren’t concerned too much with maintaining a budget for their GPS unit should look at the Garmin Oregon 650 Handheld GPS as a strong alternative to some of the other models listed here. Its steep price is offset by its versatility and the guarantee that it will last for many years to come, regardless of the extreme weather conditions it’s forced to endure.
The Bushnell Backtrack Original emphasizes affordability and functionality over unnecessary utility. With its high sensitivity receiver and compact shape, the Bushnell Backtrack Original provides hunters with the ability to keep track of up to three separate locations using just two buttons. In addition, the device is small and lightweight enough that it can be easily shoved into a pocket as a minor back-up for emergencies. While it’s true that the device doesn’t offer as much as some other higher priced GPS units, that’s also arguably its strength. The best hunters know how to make the most with what they’ve got, and that’s just as relevant with low-priced GPS units like the Bushnell Backtrack Original.
Switching gears slightly, the Magellan Triton 400 presents itself as a catch-all unit that provides more than just a simple digital compass. Like other higher end GPS units, the Magellan Triton 400 is waterproof and utilizes a full color display. Of course, its technical qualities also mean it has somewhat of a steeper learning curve than other GPS units. With that steep learning curve, though, comes a whole host of applications that aren’t commonly found in GPS units. This includes a calculator that can determine the best time for both hunting and fishing in specific locations. Perhaps best of all, the Magellan Triton 400 comes with a SD card slot, which allows tech savvy hunters to use an unlimited amount of map data when navigating new areas. Additionally, its chipset is one of the fastest in the industry, meaning it’s on the cutting edge of GPS positioning acquisition. For hunters that are comfortable learning new technology, the Magellan Triton 400 comes highly recommended; otherwise, it might be best to look at some of the other recommended offerings listed below.
While this device is actually designed for hiking rather than hunting, it’s still a solid GPS unit for outdoors travelling, and can easily serve as a valuable asset to a hunter on-the-go. Its features include automatic route generation and alternate route recalculation, a bright display space for easy reading, a barometric altimeter, and elevation computer. Just as with many of the other devices listed here, the Garmin eTrex Hiking GPS is also waterproof and comes with a mini-USB port for quick and convenient map downloading. Best of all, this model has been specifically designed with longer battery life in mind, ensuring that no hiker, or hunter, will be caught in the dark without their trusty guide. In terms of specific GPS measurements, this model is capable of pinpoint accuracy within ten feet (three meters). Hunters that are also general hiking enthusiasts would do well to look into the Garmin eTrex Hiking GPS, as well as any hunters, that appreciate this unit’s blend of convenience and affordability.
The Montana 600t Handheld GPS is, simply put, one of the best GPS units on the market for a hunter that isn’t concerned with balancing a budget. The comparatively steep cost of the Montana 600t Handheld GPS is offset by the sheer number of features that are packed into its sleek and lightweight frame. Perhaps most importantly for hunters, its 4” screen is easily navigable while wearing gloves – an important feature for hunters that are active during the winter. Furthermore, the Montana 600t Handheld GPS also supports cross functionality, allowing hunters to send their waypoints and other data directly to other compatible Garmin GPS users. Competitive hunters that like to enjoy friendly challenges will enjoy the social aspects of the Montana 600t Handheld GPS, as well as its capacity to retain data for key locations, such as hints, descriptions, and stories. All of these functions combine to make the Montana 600t Handheld GPS the GPS of choice for hunters that are interested in an “all-in-one” GPS unit.
Similar to the previously discussed Bushnell Backtrack Original, the Garmin Foretrex Hiking GPS prides itself on being an easily portable option for hunters that want a GPS unit that can simply snap to their wrist. While it does lack the visual display of many other larger GPS units, it makes up for this by still providing voice-guided instructions between established waypoints. In particular, the Garmin Foretrex Hiking GPS comes equipped with a high-sensitivity retriever, which makes it much more precise than similar options when travelling through heavy cover or deep canyons that other units have trouble connecting to. As with many other options, the Garmin Foretrex Hiking GPS also has hunting and fishing information, as well as sunrise and sunset times for hunters that want to be constantly prepared.
While the Magellan eXplorist Handheld GPS falls within the average pricing range for GPS units on this list, its features list is anything but mediocre. That is because the Magellan eXplorist Handheld GPS holds the distinction of being specifically designed for hunters. As such, it comes pre-equipped with a number of hunter specific waypoints and information, including detailed maps for navigating through backcountry areas. With its “digital breadcrumb” mode, the Magellan eXplorist Handheld GPS keeps track of the hunter’s travel path so they don’t have to, and can continue to do its job for over eighteen hours of battery life. Perhaps most unique to the Magellan eXplorist Handheld GPS is its boundary alerts, which will warn a hunter if they’re about to exit or approach a hunting zone. Best of all, these boundary alerts are fully customizable and can be set to alert hunters at variable distances. For hunters that are interested but concerned about their budget, it should also be mentioned that the Magellan eXplorist Handheld GPS also comes with a free one year subscription to DigitalGlobe satellite imagery. Given its numerous features and added bonuses, most hunters will agree that the benefits outweigh the Magellan eXplorist Handheld’s cost.
The Bushnell Back Track Hunt may come in a small package, but its size hides its long list of features. Unlike many other GPS units, the Bushnell Back Track Hunt can actually predict game movement, based on a variety of factors. The Bushnell Back Track Hunt comes equipped with a barometric pressure reader, as well as a number of maps for easy travel. Hunters that like to recall their journey will be pleased to know that the Bushnell Back Track Hunt also maintains a “breadcrumb” log of each adventure. In addition, the Bushnell Back Track Hunt can store up to twenty separate locations for easy recall, and guides its user to these locations using an intuitive interface. For hunters that want an option that marries utility with simplicity, they’d be hard-pressed to find a better option than the Bushnell Back Track Hunt.
The Lowrance iFinder Hiking GPS is an affordable option for hunters that are also general outdoor enthusiasts. While the Lowrance iFinder Hiking GPS prides itself on being intuitive, its strength also comes from its variability. Users can plot courses with just a few buttons, and then customize those courses even further with waypoints and alternate routes. With 32 MB of memory, the Lowrance iFinder Hiking GPS can store hundreds of trails, with thousands of points of interest in each trail. In addition to its stored data, the Lowrance iFinder Hiking GPS also comes equipped with many different maps of the continental United States and Hawaii, and has over forty different levels of map zoom for extra navigating precision. Best of all, each Lowrance iFinder Hiking GPS comes with a one-year warranty, making it a great deal for hunters that have a habit of putting their equipment through extreme weather conditions.
The Garmin GPSMAP Water Resistant Hiking GPS finds itself as a “middle of the road” model on this list. Its cost is slightly prohibitive, at around $150, but it makes up for this with a number of functions not typically found in a GPS unit. As with some of its other offerings, Garmin has designed the GPSMAP Water Resistant Hiking GPS to emphasize social bonding with the help of “outdoor games.” These games include geocaching and geolocation modes, which allow outdoor enthusiasts to participate in augmented reality treasure hunts. Additionally, the Garmin GPSMAP Water Resistant Hiking GPS is equipped with a color display, and is accurate by up to ten feet in North America. Furthermore, its processor is state-of-the-art, and allows for fast re-routing, and alerts for users that have ventured out of their respective zones. Perhaps best of all, the Garmin GPSMAP Water Resistant Hiking GPS has designed its buttons to be receptive even in extreme weather conditions, meaning they’ll respond even if a hunter’s fingers have gotten cold or wet. This model is perfect for hunters that want an updated GPS unit for a reasonable, if not necessarily affordable, price.
This model is described by DeLorme as the “all-in-one handheld GPS solution.” While it’s true that the DeLorme Earthmate Hiking GPS is great for displaying topographical and satellite imagery, its price is a little steeper than some of the other models recommended here. With that in mind, it should be mentioned that consumers are awarded a $100 credit that can be spent towards downloading aerial images for future use. In that regard, the DeLorme Earthmate Hiking GPS could arguably be described as cheaper than its initial price makes it appear to be. Unfortunately, this model also does not include a digital compass or a barometric altimeter, which are somewhat standard across many of the models reviewed here. Still, its clean display and convenient map information swapping make it incredibly useful for hunters that care more about map imagery than other lesser functions.
The Garmin Colorado 400t handheld GPS unit comes preloaded with a number of topographical maps of the United States. In addition, the unit has settings for five separate profiles: automotive, marine, recreation, fitness, and geocache. Hunters that like to quickly exchange information with one another will be pleased to know that the Garmin Colorado 400t allows for wireless sharing of tracks, waypoints, and routes between units. In fact, the Garmin Colorado 400t handheld GPS unit even has built-in functionality with SD cards, allowing it to provide even more utility than what is already included with the product on purchase. With a precise barometric altimeter and paperless geocaching, the Garmin Colorado 400t handheld GPS unit is perfect for hunters that want much of the function of more expensive models in a reasonably priced bundle.
The Garmin eTrex 20x is an upgraded version of the very popular eTrex 20, and comes with many enhanced features compared to the base model. Among these features is an upgraded display screen, with a clearer resolution and more responsive touch screen, as well as a larger internal memory. These features mean hunters can focus more time on doing what they love rather than worrying about what their GPS unit is capable of. In addition, it’s worth mentioning that the Garmin eTrex 20x supports geocaching and can track both GPS and GLONASS satellites simultaneously, affording it more flexibility than some of the other models on this list. Hunters that want a lightweight and versatile GPS unit on a reasonable budget should take a look at the Garmin eTrex 20x. It doesn’t tack on unnecessary features because it doesn’t need to at its price point.
While it’s true that the Garmin Approach Handheld GPS mentions golf in its title, don’t be fooled: this GPS unit is just as useful for hunting enthusiasts as it is for golfers. In fact, it could be argued that part of its charm is in its versatility. Some of the Garmin Approach Handheld GPS features are designed with golfing in mind, but they are also incredibly useful for hunters. For instance, the screen has been specifically designed to be uncommonly bright, so that it can resist any glare from direct sunlight. This is also useful for situations that might otherwise obstruct the view of the screen, such as in areas with dense foliage. Furthermore, the screen has been designed for optimal efficiency, and is incredibly intuitive. It’s for this reason that many people have been drawn to the Garmin Approach Handheld GPS, despite its marketing towards golfers. Of course, some hunters might be worried about a screen that is too receptive, so Garmin has built in a screen lock option to allow for greater flexibility while out in the field. Unfortunately, one area to keep in mind is map information. As this GPS unit is designed with golfers in mind, it comes preloaded with a whole range of courses from around the world. This isn’t terribly useful for hunting enthusiasts, but could be an unexpected benefit for those that also enjoy golfing. Ultimately, this is a great fit for hunters that are interested in thinking outside of the box and want to save a little money at the expense of some features.
One of the great things with shopping for a GPS unit is that there’s no clear perfect answer. Instead, there are many options that are suitable for hunters of all tastes. Depending on the budget, or the needs of a specific area, certain GPS units are obviously going to perform better than others, which is what this guide is for. With this information, making a smart purchase should be painless.