Hi do any of you guys make use of an handheld GPS, if do please give me any suggestions of which will be the proper one to use

Hi Corrie,

I make use of a variety of GPS devices, so here’s my take on it.
First, a couple of quick questions:

  • Budget?
  • Intended use?
  • Reception quality?

I started out, long ago with a Magellan that only showed you your location. Helpful when you have a map with coordinates, less helpful on it’s own. I then moved over to Garmin’s. First one I used mainly on my 4x4 trips, it was called the Quest. Worked well but the flipout screen wasn’t very user friendly in the Berg, so I upgraded to the Montana. Used this on my motorbike as well. Big touch screen, fairly heavy, colour screen, topo maps etc. Really good reception and could take normal AA batteries as well. All round great, except in cold and/or wet weather.

In the wet I would often wipe the icons off the screen. Super irritating when you are freezing and not thinking straight anymore. Also, in the cold, you have to press the screen a lot harder to get it to work. Again, a bit troublesome with gloves. Also, the big colour screen was heavy on battery power.

I still have the Montana, but then I purchased a Garmin GpsMap 64S specifically for Drakensberg hiking. It has a smaller screen (therefore better battery life), push buttons (no cracked screen from pressing too hard on the screen), it can be operated easily with gloves, it’s icons can’t be wiped off the screen in the rain, it is fairly light, and the extended aerial has superb reception.

A couple of my friends and family also use the E-trex series, which also works well.

You can also consider gps watches. I have a Fenix, my wife a Suunto. They work quite well, but in steep passes I find that they are not nearly as accurate as the Garmap 64S. This becomes an issue if you are trying to find a cave in the rain at night (I speak from experience!). The newer Fenix’s are definitely much better in this regard, but my Fenix 6 is still not as good as the Garmap 64S.

My setup is therefore a papermap with coordinates, a handheld device in my backpack which I rarely use (only typically when conditions are bad), and a gps watch which I use 99% of the time. The handhelds are far easier to access info from quickly.

That being said, Garmin has an App called Explore, which you can use as well. You can upload tracks to it, and from it to your Fenix 6 (which I use, not sure if you can share tracks with other devices but I’m sure you should be able to - just check first). This works VERY well and I’ve started using it more lately. It’s definitely faster than my handheld (I leave it switched off in my backpack most of the time) to provide me with info, and navigating a track I created or downloaded is really easy and accurate.
This could very well be a good option to consider as well.

Whichever option you choose, I would recommend you first study the terrain and routes you want to hike. All of the above pieces of gear can fail, and your map can be blown away. If all of these happen, you should still be able to navigate based on your knowledge of the terrain and route you selected. I also use Google Earth t check out the routes etc. beforehand, and where possible, look at images on the internet to further familiarize myself with the terrain.

Whichever option you go for, enjoy the great outdoors

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Riaang- brilliant answer. I followed a similar path GPS map 60 not 64 then the Garmin etrex 30 now back to Montana 700i with its built in inReach messaging feature. (Fenix 5)

I find the Fenix watches not much good in mountainous areas or for navigation to be honest.
But when trailing large animals, having the track on your screen is brilliant to get a sense of where the animal has been going and most likely where it’ll continue going (straightest path) helped me out more than a few times also the barometric altimeter is pretty good.

I can’t put stock into buying a GPS without a user replaceable battery.

And a pro tip if you’re using the AA batteries - on the likes of the etrex range buy the disposable lithium (non rechargeable) ones they last so much longer than any NiMH rechargeable or the normal alkaline ones.

With that said if I were to recommend a Garmin I’d say Etrex but make sure it accepts micro sd cards and buy the Tracks for Africa maps.

Lastly there’s nothing better than the 1:50,000 paper based OS maps which work well long after your gps and phone battery is dead! And could be downloaded onto your phone. (or Slingsby maps) but cross referencing your surroundings to the paper map is 100 x more useful than a GPS telling you where you are.

If you’re in CT it’s definitely worth paying the department a visit,18.47146,15,normal&no_upsell=true&x=ep