If you’re considering buying a GPS, you’ll be probably be comparing dozens of models with hundreds of features. Here’s our guide to finding the perfect one.
A handheld 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.
Here’s a quick guide to choosing a GPS device for your adventures:
The occasional walker
If you are looking for something to just give assurance you are in the right place, or to increase confidence when following a planned route, have a look at the basic models from Garmin like the eTrex Touch 25.
It’s ideal for those who only want to verify their position, but still prefer to use a paper map for navigation. With minimal on-screen mapping, it’s simple but will verify your location using grid references. It’s also one of the cheapest dedicated handheld GPS devices designed for walkers.
The eTrex Touch 25 has a colour screen which can display OS mapping. This makes it easier to relate where you are to the paper map (although the screen’s a little small for planning routes).
Adding more detailed maps to the device does cost extra so look for one that has the maps you need bundled with it, as that’s often much cheaper than buying them separately.
The eTrex Touch 25 also has the advantage of being easily set up for multiple activities, such as running, cycling or kayaking, with a useful data screen at quick glance. Perfect for those starting out.
Alternative option: OS Velo
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The hard-core walker
If you are searching for a device for frequent walking and you enjoy multi-day trips or summiting mountains, you’ll probably want a GPS device with more features. Naturally, the GPS device will also need to be tough, waterproof, and able to last all day.
The OS Aventura 2 is a great high-end device with plenty of advanced features allowing to explore longer and further. It includes worldwide satellite coverage, so you’ll always know where you are. Your friends are family can too with SeeMe location tracking, which includes the ability to send emergency alerts should you come into trouble.
This device features highly accurate and detailed OS mapping that you can trust. Follow GPX or OS Maps routes and add your own waypoints along the way. You’ll even get alerted if you go off track.
The impressive 30 hours of battery life is perfect for overnight trips and if that isn’t enough, switch the battery with a spare to extend further, or use the new AA Battery Cradle to use AA batteries.
The OS Aventura 2 has joystick and button control which makes it easier to use when wearing gloves, or if you prefer not to use the touchscreen. Its rugged and shockproof body with IP67 water resistance protection is built to last. Perfect for any adventure!
Alternative option: OS Trail 2
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The route logger
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.
GPS route loggers are especially popular with runners and cyclists, and so naturally there are several designed specifically for them. Many of these also have the advantage of recording other details, such as heart rate and pace using extra sensors – look for one that supports ANT+ technology, as this is the most common way to connect these devices.
If you already have some equipment it’s a good idea to use the same brand. While the sensors should be compatible between brands, it can sometimes be difficult to set this up.
Garmin Fenix 5 GPS
This is a multi-function sports watch with GPS tracking. It is able to cope with almost any sport, including swimming. The Garmin Fenix 5 can connect to various sensors and even display messages from a mobile phone.
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Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Sports GPS
The Garmin Fenix 6X is the biggest and most feature-packed option from Garmin’s latest instalments in the Fenix range. It can withstand water pressures of 100m, includes PacePro pacing features, a Garmin Heart-rate monitor, and has a whopping 60 hours battery life in GPS mode.
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If you love exploring on two wheels the OS Trail 2 Bike is the GPS device for you. Benefit from worldwide satellite coverage and OS 1:50k GB mapping straight from the box for accurate navigation and detailed routing.
The OS Trail 2 Bike is great for those wanting to know how fast, how far and how hard they’ve worked. This advanced bike GPS allows you to connect heart rate and cadence sensors with Ant+ and Bluetooth. You can record and track over 120 different pieces of data to monitor and improve every ride.
If you love clocking up the miles, this device won’t let you down with up to 20 hours battery life. Its IP67 water and dust resistant shockproof body provides fantastic protection from the elements so you can continue cycling in all weather.
Included is a QuickLock bike mount that allows you to easily attach the device to your handlebars giving you more time in the saddle.
The OS Trail 2 Bike is perfect for cyclists wanting accurate navigation, advanced monitoring and recording and a tough reliable device to support them over long distances.
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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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Edited 26/08/2020. Published 20/11/2016.