Best Outdoor GPS Units
The most rugged GPS unit should be able to stand up to the frozen antarctic and the muggiest rain forest. See if any of this years new releases fit the bill.
Garmin GPSMAP 62st
Garmin has always been a leader in GPS technology and the introduction of the GPSMAP 62 series keeps it that way. This unit was designed specifically for climbers and comes with a carbide clip to attach it to climbing gear. The shockproof exterior cover is waterproof and protects against drops of up to 30 feet . The real advancement in this unit is the antenna. Encased in rubber insulating material, it can send and receive information from some of the most remote regions of the planet. The GPSMAP 62st comes preloaded with TOPO 100K maps, which cover the full U.S., including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico including national, state and local parks and forests.
Garmin Montana 650t
The Garmin Montana 650t is the natural extension of the Oregon models. It is equipped with a massive 4-inch display, 5 megapixel camera and QWERTY keyboard so you’ll be able to see where you’re going, keep a record of it and search for new waypoints without having to navigate a touchscreen. It comes standard with TOPO U.S. 100K maps, a lock screen feature that prevents your unit from continually changing orientation, electronic compass and barometric altimeter. It can run on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery or two AAs, giving it a bit more flexibility than other models. While this is all great stuff, the real clincher is the durability of the unit. It is waterproof, so taking it out in the rain isn’t a problem and the rubber casing protects it from drops, bumps, scratches and dirt. Take it with you while mountain biking, hiking, fishing or camping and never worry about being lost again.
Lowrance Endura Out & Back
The first Lowrance Endura series entry into the list is the Out & Back. The bright yellow case is easy to find even if it is dropped into the dense underbrush. It’s drag and drop interface is much more user-friendly than either the Garmin or Magellan units but the ruggedness is a bit less complete. While the rubber bumper doesn't extend all the way around the exterior of the case, it does protect the Out & Back from most drops and it is waterproof up to ten feet. The Out & Back accepts public domain files and community-based content such as GPX trails, routes and general outdoor POIs. While it doesn’t have as many of the bells and whistles as other units it is easy to use right out of the box, and it can be upgraded via plug-and-play microSD cards targeted for specific interests.
Lowrance Endura Safari
Unlike the Out & Back, this version of the Endura comes packed full of maps for hunting, fishing and hiking. The Safari also includes an MP3 player, picture and video viewer. A special SD card can be purchased that can add a turn by turn navigation option to the unit. While the technical specs are the same as the Out & Back, this one isn’t as easy to use right out of the box. You’ll have to work through three screens of set-up to get the unit ready for your particular area. The touchscreen is also very sensitive, but that can be adjusted for your personal needs.
Delorme Earthmate PN-60
Delorme is the Cadillac of the GPS industry. The Earthmate PN-60 has a high-sensitivity receiver with predictive GPS for fast satellite fix, and a 3-axis electronic compass with barometric altimeter. It also has 3.5 GB onboard memory which is expandable to 32 GB via SD card. This is a battle tested unit that works at both the North Pole and Mt. Everest. It’s also waterproof, military grade shock resistant, and can be linked to the SPOT GPS unit for added functionality. The maps are just as good as the hardware, with realistic 3-D and 360-degree rotation that covers the whole of North America.
Garmin eTrex 30
The Garmin eTrex 30 comes with all the standards, 3-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass, barometric altimeter, 1.7 GB of internal memory, easy to read screen and preloaded maps. Although it has all of these features it was developed with the geocacher in mind. The eTrex 30 supports geocaching GPX files for downloading straight to the unit. Its sturdy design works well in all types of environments and will not fail due to high humidity, rain, snow, dust, dirt or mud. It also has several available mounts for use with everything from motorcycles to kayaks.
Magellan eXplorist 710
The eXplorist 710 is Magellans answer to the Garmin Montana. It is a waterproof, multi-use GPS unit that can be used in the car, on the rapids or at 10,000 feet up the side of a mountain. It comes with Summit Series USA Topographic Mapping preloaded and turn-by-turn Navigation. This is really a mountain biker’s best friend. The preloaded maps come complete with trailhead maps, including the nearest bike shops, fuel stations or potable water source. The design makes it easy to clip to a lanyard or attach via carabiner.
Magellan Tough Case
While the tough case isn't technically a GPS unit it does take an existing unit and outfit it for the elements. The tough case was designed specifically for the iPhone but can accommodate several other similar units. It's waterproof to IPX-7 standards, meaning it can be kept one meter underwater for up to 30 minutes. It also comes equipped with a secondary battery that doubles the life of an iPhone, and a high sensitivity GPS chip set that enhances the accuracy of the iPhone GPS unit to within 3 meters. So, if you own an iPhone and are in need of a rugged GPS unit, consider purchasing a tough case and getting twice the power for half the price of a new unit.
Garmin Forerunner 910XT
The Garmin Forerunner 910XT is great for the runner, swimmer and biker. It does more than just track your location and allow you to download it to an online map. It also records your heart rate, weight, body fat, body water and six other measurements. It can even pin your heartrate at a specific time to the mapping funtion so that you can follow the progression through a run or swim.
While it may not be a household name, the Suunto X10 is a very capable GPS watch. It is water-resistant up to 100 meters, so scuba divers and snorkelers may be the prime target for the unit. It has a shock resistant rubber exterior, and an onboard barometric, altimeter and compass. It's a great companion for the hiker, biker or swimmer - not to mention a rugged little fashionable accessory.
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