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Which GPS device do you need?

By OS Team

Published on 4 min read

A guy hiking in the rocky beach

GPS buying guide from Ordnance Survey

If you’re considering buying a GPS device, you’ll be probably be comparing dozens of models with hundreds of features. Here’s our guide to finding the best GPS. We look at handheld and wearable GPS devices for walking, hiking, running, cycling and off-grid adventures.

A GPS device is a great piece of technology for any outdoor adventurer. While you can get GPS apps on a smartphone, the durability, long battery life and range of functions available on a dedicated GPS unit still make them appealing – as well as preserving phone batteries for emergencies. Before you consider which GPS device to get (as outlined below) read our guide to choosing a GPS device.

For the off-grid explorer

Garmin InReach Mini 2

Garmin InReach Mini 2

The Garmin InReach Mini 2 is a lightweight, compatible satellite communicator that adds two-way communication and interactive SOS capabilities (subscription required) to your adventures, so you can communicate with loved ones at home and have piece of mind going off-grid. Using the Iridium satellite network, this device can send an alert message from anywhere in the world, even places out of the reach of mobile networks. Another handy feature is the track back routing which navigates you back to your starting point the same way you came. 

The digital compass allows you to understand the direction you’re heading even when you’re not moving. 

There’s up to 14 days of batter life in 10-minute tracking mode, helping you reach the furthest corners of the globe. You can also sync the Garmin InReach Mini 2 with Garmin Explore for trip planning and topographical mapping, and create way points, courses, activities and collections, all available to sync to your device. 

For the globe trotter

Garmin InReach Messenger

Garmin InReach Messenger

If you like to stay in touch with friends and family while out and about, even when there’s no mobile coverage, then the Garmin InReach Messenger is for you. 

One of the main draws is the global two-way messaging, which allows you to keep in contact with everybody from anywhere in the world. This is great for sharing your experience with those you love and staying up to date with things back home. Weighing in at just 100g, this is one of the lightest, most compact GPS devices on the market. For such a small device, up to 200 hours of battery life is impressive and it can double up as a mobile phone charger with reverse charging. 

Stay safe with location sharing and two-way SOS, connecting to the Garmin International Emergency Response Coordination Centre (IERCC). You can also keep an eye on the weather with current location forecasts available, wherever you are in the world.

For the occasional walker

Garmin eTrex SE GPS

Garmin eTrex SE

Enjoy exploring for longer with the Garmin eTrex® SE. With a long battery life of a 168 hours in standard mode it can be extended to an amazing 1,800 hours in expedition mode with 2 field-replaceable AA batteries. 

Brimming with features the eTrex® SE comes with a digital compass that works even while stationery, so you can get your bearings and is a great back up to your analogue compass. The high-resolution 2.2 inch screen makes the device easy to use, even in bright sunlight. You can track your course to discover way points and other points of interest locations and be able to get right back to your starting point.

Pair your Garmin eTrex® SE with the Garmin Explore app to get the most from the journey planning, cloud storage, geocaching updates from Geocache Live, software updates, latest forecasts, multi-GNSS support and more. 

For the hard-core walker

Garmin GPSMAP 67i

Garmin GPSMAP 67i

Pack light with the robust, top end Garmin GPSMAP 67i. The multi-band GNSS support will help you when there are no mobile towers in range and with accurate positioning, keeping on route. Whether you are sharing location details with friends, keeping track of social media with inReach® or making that emergency SOS call, the GPSMAP 67i will keep you connected. 
Built to military standards (MIL-STD-810) for shock, thermal and water performance, the Garmin GPSMAP 67i can also be used with night vision goggles. The battery gives up to 165 hours or up to 425 hours depending on mode used so you can be out on the trail for longer.

Preloaded TopoActive Europe maps help you to plan your route on your GPS and access lots of helpful features. You can also download and update maps directly to your device so you can create waypoints, find car parks, tracks, and other points of interest. 

The Garmin ABC sensors include an altimeter, a barometer and 3-axis electronic compass to help you navigate any route. There’s also a built in LED torch which can double up as a beacon if you need assistance.

For the route logger or avid jogger

Garmin Fenix 7 Series

Garmin Fenix 7 Series

Are you only looking to log routes, either to keep a record or to compare performance? Almost all GPS devices can log a route and if that’s all you need you can look at the cheapest options, such as the Garmin eTrex Touch 25.

Wearable GPS devices are especially popular with runners and cyclists and so naturally there are several designed specifically for them. These have the advantage of recording as many performance-related stats as you can throw a stick at, such as heart rate, pace and oxygen levels. Top-end GPS wearables come with full mapping for easy navigation when on the move, most others have basic navigation. 

The best Garmin GPS watches on the market at the moment are the Garmin Fenix 7 series.

For the cyclist

Garmin Montana 700i

Garmin Montana 700i

If you are searching for a device for cycling. the Garmin Montana 700i is a great high-end GPS device with plenty of advanced features allowing you to explore longer and further. It provides comprehensive navigation and combines the flexibility of on and off-road navigation with global messaging and interactive SOS via inReach satellite technology and messaging and 24/7 SOS (subscription required). This lets you wander wider and still stay in touch, making it the perfect companion for both bikepacking and cycle touring.

It comes with a built in 3-axis compass with accelerometer and barometric altimeter sensors, to measure your elevation, while never getting caught off guard in a storm. Battery lasts up to 18 hours and it’s waterproof (can be submerged in 1m). Its compact size allows it to be attached to your handlebars. 

If you’re in need of some more information on how GPS devices work and what features are available, take a look at our beginners guide to choosing a GPS device.

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