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good hiking gps under $150
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kevin smith
good hiking gps under $150 on 02/28/2013 08:31:39 MST Print View

im in need of a new gps under $150 bucks

i need one to use for backpacking and maybe alittle geocaching but not a lot

i would prefer one with a descent compass on it and something easy to use

as i am not too computer/electronic gadget savvy

basically going to mark waypoints and track my progress as i hike

i was looking at the garmin dakota 10 and etrex 20 but don t know much about either

any suggestions on what to buy and where to get it would be great



Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
good hiking gps under $150 on 02/28/2013 09:57:10 MST Print View

Both the Etrex 20 and Dakota 10 are good devices but here's a few things to consider:

Dakota 10:
Touch Screen can be a hassle if you are wearing gloves
Touch screens are less sensitive in below zero temps
The battery life is 20 hrs
built in memory is only 850 Mb.
Doesn't accept data card for extra map storage
Good sized screen

Etrex 20:
Not a touch screen
battery life 25 hrs
built in memory 1.7 Gb
accepts data card (SD) for extra map storage
very small screen

Either of these GPS's are pretty good. They both weigh about the same. Both support paperless Geocaching, but since you say you aren't very techy, this may not matter all that much... they will both work well for geocaching though.

I have the Etrex 20 and like it a lot. I'm not interested in a touch screen for the reasons mentioned above.

You might also want to look at the Garmin Foretrex 301 or 401 if you want a good (UL) backpacking GPS. Not a mapping GPS but they are very small and light and hold a signal very well and have a very simple interface. I have the Foretrex 301 and like it alot if I'm just putting down tracks and checking my actual location (coordinates) against my paper map.

Stuart R
(Scunnered) - F

Locale: Scotland
Re: good hiking gps under $150 on 02/28/2013 10:10:46 MST Print View

I have the Dakota 10 and like it a lot: it is compact and very easy to use.
It doesn't have an electronic compass, I think you will need the Dakota 20 if you want that.

Dena Kelley

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
Re "good hiking gps under $150" on 02/28/2013 10:16:13 MST Print View

I've used Garmin ETrex, Magellan and Delorme. The Garmin is by far the most intuitive. I currently use a Delorme PN-60 but that's due to the mapping software and other functionality (such as being able to link it to the InReach device). For your purposes, I would say Garmin would be the best. They're relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and have all the features you are looking for.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
smartphone? on 02/28/2013 10:49:11 MST Print View

Instead of $150 on a "just does one thing" device, consider a smartphone. I sold my GPS and then managed to lose my relatively cheap smartphone on a snowshoe trip this past weekend (sucker must have sunk deep and fast when it fell out of its pouch), so I just ordered a replacement that's a bit of an upgrade.

Newer (and sadly that means mostly more expensive) smartphones are starting to be able to use the Russian satellite system, GLONASS. What this means is that you have 20-some additional satellites beyond the U.S. system to make it faster to lock on and to give a more accurate fix. So personally, I wouldn't buy a standalone GPS either unless it also could pick up the GLONASS satellites.

Here's a list of smartphones that can use GLONASS:

I'm not a frequent phone user and so didn't want something too expensive and high end. And I'm sort of "invested" in the Android ecosystem. So I picked a Samsung Galaxy Ace 2, cost me about $230 unlocked, then I just put it on a pre-paid daily plan (pretty cheap) and have a decent multi-purpose device that also works well as a GPS with the addition of inexpensive software (I personally use GaiaGPS).

I'm not suggesting that this is the only valid approach, but carry along a spare battery or two where appropriate and this is what makes sense to me. Heck, you can even geotag your photos if you want; my new phone is supposed to have a pretty decent 5 MP camera.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: smartphone? on 02/28/2013 11:04:44 MST Print View

Thanks Brian for thst nugget of information.

Jeff McWilliams
(jjmcwill) - M

Locale: Midwest
GPS on Phone on 02/28/2013 11:17:46 MST Print View

Using a Phone for GPS is an idea I really struggle with.

First, I've seen plenty of cases where smartphones can't maintain satellite fix but my GPS can. Maybe this is limited to slightly older units I have tried. Maybe it's because the GPS antenna in the phone isn't nearly as good as the one built into my GPS. Either way, I don't find a smartphone to be a reliable GPS device, and GPS devices themselves aren't considered 100% reliable.

Second, my GPS is IPX7 waterproof rated, and it is in a ruggedized case with rubber corners to absorb shock. My phone would do poorly if I were to drop in into a mud puddle, creek, or onto a rock.

Third, cell batteries are much more expensive and difficult to find, and don't last as long as my GPS batteries. In a pinch, just about any corner gas station has AA batteries.

Finally, if my phone is my GPS, and while using it I break it or the batteries die, I've not only lost my supplemental navigation device, I've also lost my ability to call for help.

Maybe for casual hikes, it is okay, but otherwise, I am very reluctant to adopt the "multi-use" philosophy in this particular area.

Jim H
(jraiderguy) - M

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: GPS on Phone on 02/28/2013 11:31:05 MST Print View

I think your strongest point here is about quality of GPS service, antennae strength, etc. The durability concerns are easily addressed by an Otterbox or similar phone case, and extra batteries or solar chargers keep getting cheaper. If hiking alone, losing the only phone in the group might be a safety concern, but in a group usually somebody else has a phone tucked away in a ziplock for emergencies.

Michael Ray
(thaddeussmith) - F
iphone 5 on 02/28/2013 11:38:49 MST Print View

> the iphone 5 now uses GLONASS.
> Otterbox makes this:,default,pd.html
> with some proper app management and removal of the SIM card, battery life can be greatly increased. there are also lightweight solar or backup battery charging solutions.

This doesn't negate all of your points, but it certainly makes newer phones less prone to be a trip killer or safety risk and closer towards the goal of a multi-use device, especially if you already have it.

Yes 1000
Garmin Oregon on 02/28/2013 11:40:36 MST Print View

I picked up a refurb Garmin Oregon 450 from their eBay shop for $199. It is $50 more than your budget but Oregon 450 is a very nice device.

Gregory Stein
(tauneutrino) - F

Locale: Upper Galilee
UL GPS on 02/28/2013 12:48:15 MST Print View

If I were you, I think some of the UL GPS units would be nice. Those without map, compass etc... Just show your coordinates.
Smartphone? I don't use it in urban area (I like my Nokia 1280 for its simplicity and once a two week charge), so using them while hiking? Solar charger? Why compass and map are not enough? I think GPS is for emergency only. When you lost, can't do orienting, broke your compass - yes look at the coordinates and find you on the map.

Maciej Parvi
Etrex rulez on 02/28/2013 13:37:53 MST Print View

Garmin etrex 20/30.
Long battery life, very long on lithium l91.
Light, small and jostick working well with gloves.
Very good stuff

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: good hiking gps under $150 on 02/28/2013 13:41:59 MST Print View

"a descent compass" (sic)

What, no compass for ascent?

No matter how you intend to use a GPS receiver or GPS smartphone, it sure doesn't hurt to sharpen up your land nav skills with traditional methods like with map and compass, and I'm not sure if geocaching helps or hurts you. There are many miles of backpacking trails that have obvious terrain, and as long as you glance at a good topo map once in a while, you won't get lost. Now, where GPS gets more practical is when you have no visibility. This would be someplace like a dark forest on a cloudy day, or anyplace at night. When you can't shoot bearings off landmarks, then GPS becomes very handy.

If a GPS receiver has a built-in fluxgate compass, it tends to use more battery power, so you may or may not want that. Besides, most GPS receivers will tell you which direction you are moving even if they can't tell you which way that you are facing while standing still.

I would not put much faith in GLONASS unless you operate in some of the countries affiliated with Russia. GPS+GLONASS doesn't buy you much over GPS alone. I put even less faith in Galileo.


Dena Kelley

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
RE "good hiking gps under $150" on 02/28/2013 13:47:01 MST Print View

"Why compass and map are not enough? I think GPS is for emergency only. When you lost, can't do orienting, broke your compass - yes look at the coordinates and find you on the map."

I prefer map/compass as well, with GPS backup, but I've been both socked in by weather and in areas with no natural terrain features or no visible terrain features (either flat land or in a heavily treed area with no hill to climb for a view) and map/compass is difficult to use under those circumstances. I bring map, compass AND GPS.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: good hiking gps under $150 on 02/28/2013 14:01:30 MST Print View

I've got an eTrex 20 that I like. I use it mostly for marking downed trees and other things for trail maintenance. I personally don't like touchscreens so I steered away from the Dakota series. I was debating between the GPSMAP 62 series and the eTrex and ended up with the eTrex because the price was better and I was just looking for pretty basic features (like you). So far the battery life has been great and has been easy to use.

When I hike I use it mostly for tracking/logging to look at later although it has been nice a few times when I've bushedwhacked down to my Adopt-A-Trail section and had a hard time locating the tread under the leaf cover.

A thing to note is that the compass only works if you're moving, not if you're standing still. I still prefer a real map and compass but it can be hard to navigate with them here, with all the trees it can be hard to find anything meaningful landmarks.


Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Geko on 02/28/2013 16:21:35 MST Print View

"If I were you, I think some of the UL GPS units would be nice. Those without map, compass etc... Just show your coordinates. "

+1. Grab a Garmin Geko (used on eBay, they stopped making them). $70, reliable and light. It's all you need.

EDIT $49 Buy It Now:

Edited by dandydan on 02/28/2013 16:24:50 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Geko on 02/28/2013 16:41:09 MST Print View

I can top that one, Dan. I have the oldest Geko 101.

I also have a couple of newer Garmins, but they burn more battery power.


Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Geko on 02/28/2013 17:59:54 MST Print View

I too have a Geko. 301 the last version. It has been good. Does all I need it to do. Though I don't take it out much these days.

William Segraves
(sbill9000) - F - M
Re: Re: Geko on 02/28/2013 18:04:10 MST Print View

I had a Gekko 101 but its signal acquisition was awful (compared to etrex h). Otherwise, would have been just what I wanted, but in practice, it was usually a lightweight brick.



Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Geko on 02/28/2013 18:13:08 MST Print View

I think the 201 gained better reception and then the 301 improved quite a bit on battery life. I'm using the latter.