The 6 Best Hunting GPSes Reviewed In 2019 ( + 1 Hunting GPS App )

a hunting gps along with bag

This is the age of smartphones, wonderful electronic devices with many integrated functions.

One such function is a connection to the GPS system. Especially with cellular data, smartphones are great for navigating in the woods…

…Until you drop the phone and the screen gets busted.

Or, you run out of battery life. If you’re lost, you want to conserve your phone’s batteries for trying to send and receive texts, not drain the battery while using other apps.

I often recommend not relying on your phone in the woods because it’s like holding all of your eggs in one basket—a basket not meant for holding eggs.

A much better choice is to carry along a handheld GPS unit.

Not only are dedicated GPS devices more durable, but they don’t rely on cell towers. In fact, you can use some anywhere in the world!

Currently, Garmin makes the best hunting GPS systems. Which one will work best for you?

 

The 6 Best Handheld Hunting GPSes of 2019: Outdoor Empire Reviews

Here are our choices for top hunting GPS for 2019:

  1. Best Cheap Hunting GPS #1: Garmin eTrex 20x
  2. Best Cheap Hunting GPS #2: Garmin Foretrex 401
  3. Best Hunting GPS for the Money #1: Garmin GPSMAP 64st
  4. Best Hunting GPS for the Money #2: Garmin inReach Explorer+
  5. Best Overall Hunting GPS #1: Garmin Oregon 650t
  6. Best Overall Hunting GPS #2: Montana 680t

 

CategoryBest Cheap Best for the moneyBest overall
Product
Garmin eTrex 20x
Garmin GPSMAP 64st
Garmin Oregon 650t
Screen240×320 pixel, 2.2-inch color display160×240 pixel, 2.6-inch color display3-inch touchscreen display
Satellite Navigation SystemsWAAS-enabled GPS and GLONASSGPS and GLONASSGPS and GLONASS
Extra Navigation ToolsNoneCompass, accelerometer, and barometric altimeterCompass, accelerometer, and barometric altimeter
WeatherproofingIPX7 waterproof, rubber armorIPX7IPX7
Battery Life25 hours16 hours16 hours
MiscBasecamp software, microSD slotBluetooth, pairs with ANT+ sensors, connects to Garmin Connect appCamera, flashlight, microSD card slot, ANT and Bluetooth connectivity
PriceCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

 

1. Best Cheap Hunting GPS #1: Garmin eTrex 20x

Garmin eTrex 20x

Specs

  • Screen: 240×320 pixel, 2.2-inch color display
  • Satellite Navigation Systems: WAAS-enabled GPS and GLONASS
  • Extra Navigation Tools: None
  • Weatherproofing: IPX7 waterproof, rubber armor
  • Battery Life: 25 hours
  • Misc: Basecamp software, microSD slot

Overview

The Garmin eTrex 20x is an update of the older eTrex 20, a popular budget GPS system. The display was upgraded to have a resolution of 240×320 pixels, and the internal memory was increased to hold up to 3.7 gigs of maps.

If you want space for even more maps, you can plug in a microSD card.

A worldwide map is included, Garmin’s Basemap, so you have access to a certain amount of information right off the bat. You can add your own maps from services such as TOPO 24k, HuntView, City Navigator NT, BirdsEye Satellite Imagery, and more.

If you’re into Geocaching, the eTrex supports .GPX files as well.

The eTrex 20x can connect to both GPS and GLONASS satellite systems simultaneously. It also uses HotFix and WAAS technologies for fast, and accurate location fixing.

If you don’t want to hold onto this GPS, you can buy additional mounts to use it with your ATV, boat, or other vehicle. It even supports turn-by-turn road navigation.

Pros

  • Expandable map storage
  • Inexpensive
  • Road navigation

Cons

  • Lacks extra navigation features
  • Requires a computer to use all of its features

Recommendation

Garmin’s eTrex 20x is a great handheld GPS receiver, if you don’t need or want extra features.

 

Garmin eTrex 20x is also available at:

Basspro

Sportsman’s Guide

 

2. Best Cheap Hunting GPS #2: Garmin Foretrex 401

Garmin Foretrex 401

Specs

  • Screen: black and white 100×64 pixel display
  • Satellite Navigation Systems: GPS
  • Extra Navigation Tools: Compass and barometric altimeter
  • Weatherproofing: IPX7
  • Battery Life: 17 hours
  • Misc: TracBack

Overview

Unlike the rest of the units on this list, the Garmin Fortrex 401 is worn on your wrist.

It lacks the large display of other GPS receivers, but good luck losing what’s effectively a navigation wristwatch!

There’s no room for a map on this wrist-mounted GPS. However, it tracks your positional data through multiple methods. It can display four types of data at once, your choice.

A built-in compass and barometric altimeter helps you to keep your bearings.

The Foretrex 401 is also compatible with cadence and heart rate sensors.

You can mark multiple waypoints, such as your tent and trail start. Also, if you have to wander off the trail (and who hasn’t when tracking down a wounded deer!), the TracBack system is there to guide you in retracing your steps.

The Foretrex 401 is also a great navigational aid for people with military experience because it can use the MGRS and can display units in MILs.

If you’re hunting with buddies, you can sync your hunting data with them wirelessly.

Pros

  • Can connect to external sensors
  • TracBack for retracing your steps
  • Wirelessly connects to other Fortrex 401s

Cons

  • Doesn’t display maps

Recommendation

The Garmin Foretrex 401 is a great wrist-mounted GPS for not a lot of money, but it may be hard to use if you rely on maps instead of raw navigation data.

 

Garmin Foretrex 401 is also available at:

Sportsman’s Guide

 

3. Best Hunting GPS for the Money #1: Garmin GPSMAP 64st

Garmin GPSMAP 64st

Specs

  • Screen: 160×240 pixel, 2.6-inch color display
  • Satellite Navigation Systems: GPS and GLONASS
  • Extra Navigation Tools: Compass, accelerometer, and barometric altimeter
  • Weatherproofing: IPX7
  • Battery Life: 16 hours
  • Misc: Bluetooth, pairs with ANT+ sensors, connects to Garmin Connect app

Overview

The Garmin GPSMAP 64st is a high-sensitivity GPS receiver which can be used anywhere in the world, from the urban jungle to the real jungle. Wherever you are, the quad helix antennas can read the satellites.

It comes pre-loaded with 100k US TOPO maps. You also get a free one-year subscription to BirdsEye Satellite Imagery, so you can download high-resolution satellite maps.

There are also 250,000 geocaches preloaded onto the device for when you want to hunt for fun, not just game.

The BaseCamp software allows you to organize your maps, waypoints, and expected routes before visiting the wilderness. You can also connect the GPSMAP 64st to your smartphone via the Garmin Connect Mobile app. You can even share your routes with your hunting partner!

Built-in navigational tools help you even without satellite connection GPSMAP 64.

There’s also the GPSMAP 64s, which lacks the included TOPO maps, and the 64, which also gives up the compass and other tools.

Pros

  • Built-in compass, accelerometer, and barometric altimeter
  • Many maps included
  • Wireless connectivity

Cons

  • Dated interface
  • Poor battery life when using both GPS and GLONASS
  • Poor manual

Recommendation

The Garmin GPSMAP 64st is a good handheld GPS and GLONASS receiver and comes with pre-downloaded maps, but be prepared to carry spare batteries if you want to take advantage of its accuracy.

 

Garmin GPSMAP 64st is also available at:

Cabelas

Basspro

Sportsman’s Guide

 

4. Best Hunting GPS for the Money #2: Garmin inReach Explorer+

Garmin inReach Explorer+

Specs

  • Screen: 200×265 pixel color screen
  • Satellite Navigation Systems: GPS
  • Extra Navigation Tools: Compass, accelerometer, and barometric altimeter
  • Weatherproofing: IPX7
  • Battery Life:
  • Misc: Iridium satellite communication, interactive SOS, connects with Earthmate app

Overview

The Garmin inReach Explorers+ is not a hunting-specific GPS unit, but it has some unique features that can save your life.

Some hunts take you to dangerous terrain far from easy transportation. The inReach Explorer+ is great for these hunting trips because it’s not only a GPS and has satellite communication capabilities.

You’ll need to pay for a satellite subscription, but if you do, you’ll be able to text anyone, even in areas with no cellular coverage. You can also share your current location with concerned family members.

Plus, if you get in trouble, you can trigger the SOS system. This connects with GEOS so you can communicate with your rescuers.

Also, downloading and installing maps is easy with the inReach. It connects to your phone using Bluetooth, so you can use an app to manage the maps.

Pros

  • Easy to add maps via phone
  • Two-way text communication via satellite

Cons

  • Lacks hunting-related features

Recommendation

If you are traveling into a dangerous part of the wild, the Garmin inReach Explorers+ will not only help you navigate, but it can guide rescuers to save your butt.

 

Garmin inReach Explorer+ is also available at:

Basspro

Sportsman’s Guide

 

5. Best Overall Hunting GPS #1: Garmin Oregon 650t

Garmin Oregon 650t

Specs

  • Screen: 3-inch touchscreen display
  • Satellite Navigation Systems: GPS and GLONASS
  • Extra Navigation Tools: Compass, accelerometer, and barometric altimeter
  • Weatherproofing: IPX7
  • Battery Life: 16 hours
  • Misc: Camera, flashlight, microSD card slot, ANT and Bluetooth connectivity

Overview

The Garmin Oregon 650t is a feature-rich hiking and hunting GPS.

There are US topographical maps included, along with a worldwide base map. In addition, there are four gigs of space and a microSD slot, so you have the capability of adding as many maps as you want!

The unit’s body is dustproof and waterproof. It can handle bumps and knocks. The touchscreen is also rugged and can be used even with most gloves. It’s bright and, despite the reflective screen, is usable in direct sunlight.

The Oregon 650t uses both GPS and GLONASS systems to triangulate your position. It has the most powerful processor available in a handheld GPS, so you get your position quickly.

There’s a camera with an LED flash attached for bright photos and for use as a flashlight. You can mark your photo’s location and use it as a waypoint.

If there’s a weakness, it’s that you have to pay for additional maps unless you provide your own. Also, if you want turn-by-turn city navigation, that’ll cost even more.

Also, the batteries won’t last that long, so you should carry spares.

Pros

  • Camera and flashlight
  • Glove-friendly touchscreen
  • Lots of storage

Cons

  • City navigation costs extra
  • Poor battery life

Recommendation

If you’re willing to carry extra batteries and spend the money, the Garmin Oregon 650t is one of, if not the best GPS on the market.

 

6. Best Overall Hunting GPS #2: Montana 680t

Montana 680t

Specs

  • Screen: 4-inch color touchscreen display
  • Satellite Navigation Systems: GPS and GLONASS
  • Extra Navigation Tools: Compass and barometric altimeter
  • Weatherproofing: IPX7
  • Battery Life: 22 hours
  • Misc: Camera, preloaded maps, connects to Garmin Connect app

Overview

The Garmin Montana 680t looks like a cross between a smartphone and the flip phones of yesteryear. However, instead of being a phone, it’s a rugged, IPX7-rated-waterproof GPS receiver.

The display is a 4-inch touchscreen with a menu filled with features. You can find your location, how to get where you want to go, your estimated time of arrival, and more.

The navigation tools include WAAS-enabled GPS and GLONASS, along with HotFix satellite prediction. It’s fast and accurate. For on-the-ground information, there’s a compass, accelerometer, and barometric altimeter.

You can have 4,000 waypoints and 200 saved tracks. The Montana comes with many preloaded topographic maps and a BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription for full-color maps.

Unlike many GPS units, the Montana has an 8-megapixel camera which, naturally, logs the GPS coordinates of each photo. There’s plenty of storage for maps and pictures.

There’s also city navigation, but you have to pay to add it.

Also, the screen, while bright, is reflective. This can make it hard to see in direct sunlight.

Like many Garmin products, the Montana is compatible with BaseCamp and Garmin Connect.

Pros

  • Easy-to-use touchscreen
  • Highly accurate
  • Waterproof and rugged

Cons

  • City Navigator addition costs money
  • Expensive
  • Glossy screen

Recommendation

The Montana is a fast, accurate, rugged GPS receiver, but it may be too expensive for some users.

 

The Desantis Mad Max Holsters is also available at:

Sportsman’s Guide

 

7. Best Hunting GPS App: HuntLogix Scoutlook

Available for iOS and Android, ScoutLook hunting is an all-encompassing hunting app by HuntLogix.

It contains many free features along with some very nice paid features.

Free Features

It includes many GPS features such as showing your location on the map, tracking your movements, and placing waypoints. There are also weather forecasts and advisories. You can see the weather radar and have access to a cloud view.

However, this app also has a bunch of hunting-specific features not yet found in dedicated handheld units.

For example, the app uses the weather information to estimate a ScentCone, which shows on the map where your scent may be flowing downwind.

You can also find the estimated peak game activity times, high and low tides, and see the day’s mosquito level!

Also, you can mark the map however you wish. There’s also a measuring tool.

Paid Features

However, if you pay some money, your experience improves.

First of all, this gets rid of all of the ads. They are not as bad as some apps, but they can still be annoying.

Even better is the property data. It’s a monthly subscription, but you only have to pay for the months you want to use it.

This data includes property lines and information on the type of property, who owns it, and how to contact the landowner—if the data is available, of course. HuntLogix claims they have data for 97% of the US.

With the property data, you’ll be able to tell whether you’re on private or public land, which is very useful for avoiding trespassing!

 

Why Is a Hunting GPS Necessary?

Many people can navigate with little more than a compass and a map.

Add on an altimeter, and you can more accurately fix your location on a map.

However, these skills take lots of practice and can be hard to use in the field. You don’t want to be learning life-or-death skills for the first time while lost in the mountains.

A GPS may not be a complete substitute for a physical compass, but it can provide a great amount of data to make your navigation easier. Also, it’ll make the map-using part much easier, as most of them can show you, within several meters, your exact location!

 

How does a GPS work?

GPS working

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. This is a large array of dozens of satellites orbiting the Earth. Each of these satellites has an atomic clock for accurate timekeeping.

As they orbit the Earth, the satellites broadcast their time and location over radio. GPS receivers take the radio waves from multiple satellites and use the fact that radio waves propagate at a certain rate to figure out the time passed since broadcast and reception.

This data from multiple satellites is collected and compared so the GPS receiver can calculate its current location.

GPS receivers can work anywhere in the world because they are not dependent on cellular data.

 

Why use a GPS instead of a phone app?

Well, I do like using phone apps for navigation. Your smartphone is also a GPS receiver and can display maps.

But phones aren’t designed for hardcore outdoor GPS use. Most phones aren’t ruggedized or waterproof. Screens can crack, and batteries will die. Plus, in a survival situation, you should save your batteries for communication, not navigation!

The main reason to use a dedicated GPS unit, however, is hardware related. Smartphones may have a GPS receiver, but they won’t be as good as a dedicated unit. The phone typically uses cell networks to triangulate your position, augmented by the GPS.

Handheld GPS receivers will have better satellite antennas and therefore better reception. Not only will they be more accurate, but you’ll be able to use them anywhere in the world, not just where you can find cell signal.

Also, GPS units have many dedicated features useful for hunting. They’ll be able to keep track of many trails and waypoints without having to use a paid or ad-ridden app.

 

What information does a GPS give you?

Not every GPS capability is included above because almost all GPS devices share the same basic features.

Nearly all GPS receivers give you the following information:

  • Your location in coordinates
  • Your elevation
  • Your heading
  • The time
  • How far you’ve traveled
  • Waypoints, which are useful for marking deer sign, trail cameras, your base camp, etc.

Also, many but not all handheld GPS units have these features:

  • Preplanned routes
  • New route calculation in the field
  • Route recording and retracing
  • Sensors such as a compass or barometric altimeter for more accurate elevation and heading data
  • Topographical maps
  • Satellite maps

Mapping GPS receivers are easy to navigate with. Others are just one part of a larger toolset which you need to use to get through the wild safely.

 

How To Choose A GPS For Hunting?

You can buy a hunting GPS for a little over $100, or you can spend over $500. While they all share some basic features, mentioned above, there is a big difference between the cheapest and most expensive GPS receivers.

Do you need to pay for the extra features?

 

Satellite System

satellite system

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It was originally a military network developed by the United States but has been declassified so civilians can use it as well.

However, GPS is not the only radio-navigation satellite network.

The Russian Federation developed their own version of the GPS network called GLONASS. That basically translates to “Global Navigation Satellite System.”

Like GPS, GLONASS was originally a military project that can now be used by civilians. So, many GPS receivers can connect to GLONASS as a supplement.

Doing so lets the unit receive info from more satellites, which increases both the accuracy and speed of the location fixing. This is especially notable in latitudes further away from the equator because there are fewer satellites far north or south.

However, operating on two networks increases the battery drain significantly.

So, if you are hunting in the South or don’t mind slightly slower location updates, you don’t need to spring for a GPS + GLONASS receiver.

However, if you’re hunting in Alaska or want quick GPS updates because you’re using an ATV or another fast vehicle, then buying a receiver that can listen to both sets of satellites will be beneficial.

 

Battery Life

Constantly listening to four or more satellites and calculating your position based on that data drains electronics quickly. This applies to both phones and handheld GPS receivers.

Most handheld units claim a battery life of about 16 hours in the field. That doesn’t seem like much, but you don’t need the GPS unit connecting and recording when you’re staying still.

So, careful battery management can extend that lifetime considerably.

Thankfully, almost all of these GPS receivers use AA or AAA batteries, so when the unit dies, you can bring it online again quickly.

Just remember to bring those batteries!

Still, a longer battery life is always better. You’ll have to pay less attention to optimizing your GPS usage, and you’ll swap out batteries less frequently.

However, if you only go on single-day hunts, then you don’t need to pay any real consideration to battery life. Use whichever hunting GPS works best for you, even if it goes through batteries quickly.

 

Antenna Quality

GPS antenna

A hunting GPS needs at least one antenna to receive radio transmissions from the positioning satellites.

Larger GPS units can support larger and multiple antennas. This will improve the signal reception quality, making your unit fix your location faster.

 

Sensors

A GPS receiver will be able to calculate your elevation by calculating satellite angles.

Then, after you’ve moved a bit, it can figure out which direction you’re going and give you your heading. Or, maybe there’s a digital compass that calculates the heading by seeing which satellite is in front of your unit.

Those methods are inaccurate.

If you want the best accuracy, you need a hunting GPS with built-in atmospheric sensors.

A physical compass in the device will be much more accurate than a digital compass. Same with a barometric altimeter. That sensor also gives your unit the ability to make certain weather predictions.

You should carry a compass with you anyway, and an altimeter watch is not a bad idea. Having those sensors in your GPS will make it more accurate and able to offer you more information in the field.

But, for shorter hunting trips, this extra info may not be necessary.

 

Weatherproofing

Pretty much every hunting GPS will be waterproof and resistant to dust and bumps.

What use is a delicate GPS in the rough woods?

Even the touchscreens on these units will be tougher than the one on your phone.

However, if you’re going to use the GPS in a rocky area, it would be a good idea to choose a unit with rubber armor. It’s that much more protection against falls.

 

Map Display Screen

Map Display screen

Mapping GPS receivers do a lot of the navigation work for you.

They not only calculate your location, elevation, and heading, but they also display that information on a map, which you can then pan around to get a better idea of the surrounding area.

This is wonderful, but it is a bit of a crutch.

Even ruggedized hunting GPS units can fail, especially with large, vulnerable screens.

Many people recommend knowing how to navigate without a mapping GPS so you won’t be left up the proverbial creek if you realize you left the spare batteries at home.

A GPS without a map display will have a better battery life while being less vulnerable to damage. It’ll still heavily augment your navigation skills, which you should practice anyway.

What I’m saying is that it’s nice to have a GPS unit which can display maps, but you shouldn’t rely on one. You don’t technically need a map display because you should have local maps with you anyway.

 

Top GPS Brand

 

Garmin Ltd.

Garmin stock

There is only one hunting GPS manufacturer to consider at this point in time: Garmin.

They used to have a competitor in Magellan. However, Magellan’s units were almost always poorly received. You can still buy Magellan hunting GPS receivers, but they have all been discontinued. Magellan focuses on larger systems now, such as for your car.

So, if you want a hunting GPS, you have to buy a Garmin.

Garmin originated in Lenexa, Kansas in 1989 and currently has its headquarters in Olathe, Kansas.

Garmin is well known for its hunting and fishing electronics. They obviously make hunting GPS units, but their support for sportsmen doesn’t end there. Garmin also produces fish-finders, dog training tools, and personal training tools.

They also produce GPS-related electronics for boats. For planes, they have more comprehensive avionics, including GPS systems, transponders, multi-function displays, and radar systems. Garmin even pioneered the first GPS receiver certified by the FAA for instrument landings.

Garmin also competes with Fitbit and the Apple Watch for wearable electronics. They started with the Forerunner, a wrist-mounted tool for runners, but they also have a series of smartwatches and other ANT+ tools available.

Through all of this, Garmin has remained one of the top GPS receiver companies in the world. If you have a GPS navigator in your car, chances are it’s made by Garmin.

 

F.A.Q.

Frequently asked quesitons

How do I set up my hunting GPS?

The initial setup for your GPS depends on the unit in question.

Some can be used immediately after opening the box. At least one requires connecting to a PC to go through the initial configuration.

Once you have your GPS set up, you’ll need to go through a short startup every time you use it.

Whenever you turn on your GPS, it has to acquire the satellites because they are in constant motion.

After that, you should reset your device’s trip data and clear any logs you don’t need anymore.

Then, set a waypoint at your starting position.

You’ll also need to calibrate the compass and altimeter, if there is one.

Once that’s all done, your GPS is good to go!

 

Will my hunting GPS work everywhere?

The GPS network encompasses the whole earth, and so it’s easy to describe a hunting GPS as working worldwide.

While that’s true, there are certain limitations on where you can use your GPS.

Basically, your GPS needs to be able to “see” the satellites it’s listening to. Radio waves can penetrate some objects, such as clouds and light tree cover, but will be blocked by heavy cover.

So, your GPS may not work the best in downtown New York City thanks to all of the skyscrapers.

And if you’re in a canyon, you can basically forget getting signal! The canyon walls will prevent your GPS from reading anything.

 

Do I need a map display?

Maps are wonderful things to have and use, but an electronic map can be a crutch you’re helpless without it when the device dies.

If you feel you need a hunting GPS which can display a map, then what you really need to do is practice your navigation skills until you don’t need it anymore.

Then, you can use the map display, not as a crutch, but as a powerful navigation tool that will help ensure a successful hunt.

Then, when you drop the GPS on a rock and break the screen, no big deal. You’ll be able to get home without it!

 

The 6 Best Hunting GPSes Reviewed In 2019 ( + 1 Hunting GPS App )
5 (100%) 1 vote[s]

Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson learned to walk in the mountains and has spent much of his life exploring the outdoors. He is equally at home in the woods, at the range, or on the gunsmithing bench, and loves to build guns almost as much as he enjoys shooting them. His travels have taken him to the four corners of the United States. Though his favorite hunting spot is in Alaska, Kansas deer taste better.

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