Best Tracking Device for Hiking and Backpacking: The Ultimate Guide

Hiking and Backpacking are two very exciting activities where you can go into the mountains, away from your busy lifestyle, to have some fun and adventure.

Unless you really want to lose yourself in nature, you will need a good tracking device for navigation and getting back to your camp. I have done some research and picked the best Tracking Devices for Hiking and Backpacking.

Garmin GPS, Geocaching tracker

Hiking & Backpacking are ways to have some fun and Adventure in the Mountain but if you want to ensure that you don’t wander around and get back to your camp easily then you will need a tracking device. Luckily, we have got the Global Positioning System (GPS) which was once dedicated to military operations only, now we can use it to accurately track our position. There is a variety of GPS Tracking devices available and I have picked the best ones for you. Let’s take a look at them.

What is the Best GPS Tracker for Hiking, Backpacking, and Geocaching?

Hiking, Backpacking & Geocaching are fun activities but another thing which is common among all these activities is you will need the GPS Tracker for them.

There is a huge variety of GPS Trackers available in the market, and each tracker comes with its own array of features which make it difficult to pick the best one. That’s why I have compiled the list of Best GPS Trackers that are very popular and are known for their accuracy. Let’s take a look at them.

Garmin GPSMAP 64st

  • Garmin is a well-known company that is mainly known for its tracking products and smartwatches. Garmin GPSMAP 64st is one of the best GPS Trackers for Hiking, Backpacking, and Geocaching. It comes with the all features you may need during your mountain exploration.
  • It comes with the dual Navigation System: American Global Positioning System (GPS) and Russian GLONASS systems. Having dual Navigation systems on boards offers the utmost accuracy and you will be able to navigate more efficiently. The quad-helix antenna also ensures that you get the strong signals from the satellites.
  • The device comes with 8 GB of onboard storage where you store hundreds of routes and waypoints. It also comes with a Barometric altimeter and thee-axis compass. If you are looking for a solid tracker with comprehensive navigation features then Garmin GPSMAP 64st is a great option for you.

Garmin Oregon 700

  • Oregon 700 is another very capable GPS Tracker by Garmin which offers accurate tracking. Just like Garmin GPSMAP 64st, Oregon 700 also comes with GPS and GLONASS Support for accurate navigation. It comes with the Bluetooth and wireless connectivity which you can use to download geocaching locations and weather reports to the device.
  • The only downside of Oregon 700 is that it doesn’t come with a dedicated antenna like Garmin GPSMAP 64st which means that Oregon 700’s signal reception is not as strong as the Garmin GPSMAP 64st. However, it compensates for it with the touch display which is a nice feature.

Spot X Satellite Messenger

  • If you are new to hiking world and looking for a capable Tracking device that should be able to guide you through mountains but also keep you connected with your fellow hikers or with your family then Spot X Satellite Messenger is an excellent option you. This device allows you to communicate with your family and other hikers using satellite communication.
  • Spot X Satellite Messenger also comes with a real-time location tracking feature that allows the others to follow you. There is also a dedicated SOS button that can send the help request to your friends or fellow hikers if you run into trouble. If you want to use Spot X then you will need to pay $199 for the device and pay for the subscription plan which starts at $20 per month.

Garmin inReach Explorer+

  • Garmin inReach Explorer+ is another satellite messenger just like the Spot X. The device comes with the Iridium satellite coverage which allows you to communicate with your loved ones anywhere in the world. The device also comes with a dedicated SOS button which you can use to send the SOS request to rescue services.
  • It also comes with the preloaded maps, electronic compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer which are useful tools for navigation. You can also download the Earth mate app to access the NOAA charts, topographical maps, and aerial imagery as a backup if included maps don’t work. The inReach Explorer+ is available for $450 and just like Spot X, you will need a subscription plan from Garmin, and prices for plans start at $120.

Suunto Traverse Alpha

Suunto Traverse Alpha on Amazon
  • If you are someone who doesn’t prefer the handheld GPS trackers and prefers the smartwatches then you can go for Suunto Traverse which is by far the best GPS watch for hiking, backpacking, and geocaching. It comes with the GPS and GLONASS for routes and Point of Interest (POI) for navigation.
  • The watch can accurately track the speed, distance, and altitude. It also offers the weather trend and storm alarm, GPS Time update, sunrise-sunset times, and many more. You can also discover new routes with heat maps and you can do it using the Suunto App. Unlike most Smartwatches, Suunto Traverse is designed to be used rough and the company tested it with military standards to ensure that it withstands the harsh conditions. You can get the Suunto Traverse for $419.

Do you need a GPS for hiking?

GPS Tracker is considered the must-have gadget for the hikers. If you are hiking in a remote area, there is a possibility that you may lose your path and you can end up being stranded in the remote area without food and other necessary survival items.

That’s why even the experienced hikers always carry the GPS trackers to use it for navigation and return back to their camp.

GPS Trackers also comes with altimeters, compass, maps, and other tools which ensure that you navigate the trail without any issues. So, if you are planning to go hiking with your friends then we would strongly recommend that you should carry a GPS tracker with you for navigation.

Does GPS work without a phone signal?

GPS can work independently without a phone signal. Your smartphone and GPS trackers come with GPS Transmitter which directly gets the signal from the GPS satellites and decode that signal to find the accurate positioning.

As you have the pre-installed maps on the GPS trackers, GPS transmitters connect with the GPS satellites to provide you with accurate positioning.

What is the easiest GPS to use?

If you are the newbie hiker, mountaineer or anyone who wants to use the GPS for the first time then finding the first GPS tracker can be a difficult job.

However, in my opinion, if you are someone who can use your smartphone with ease then you will be able to use any GPS with ease after a small learning curve. These are some of the easiest GPS which are ideal for new hikers, mountaineers, or geocaches.

  • Garmin GPSMAP 64st – One of the simplest GPS Tracker that comes simple layout and buttons for various functions.
  • Garmin Oregon 700 – Oregon 700 is another very easier to use GPS tracker that comes with a touch-screen just like your smartphone.
  • Garmin inReach Explorer+ – A Satellite Messenger and tracker that comes with a simple layout. It also allows you to send messages to your loved ones or fellow hikers using satellite communication.

These are some of the easiest GPS trackers you can use. No matter which tracker you pick, you will have to dedicate some time to learn various features and practice them. I would recommend going for small walks.

Smartwatches for Hiking VS Dedicated GPS trackers for Hiking?

When it comes to hiking, you will come across two options: Smartwatches and GPS Trackers. In this section, I will outline some major differences which will help you understand which option is best for you.

Accuracy

While the accuracy of the Smartwatches and GPS Trackers is almost similar in many cases but in some cases, GPS trackers offer better accuracy as most of them come with a dedicated antenna which offers better reception of signals.

Battery life

As handheld GPS trackers are larger in size they come with the bigger battery which offers more battery life as compared to smartwatches. Usually, a smartwatch with active tracking and GPS offers a battery life of 1-3 days. On the other hand, Handheld GPS trackers usually offer up to 10 days of battery life.

Visibility

Smartwatches come with the compact displays and GPS Trackers comes with the large displays which are considered ideal for exploring the maps and navigations. In terms of visibility, GPS trackers have a clear edge over the smartwatches due to large displays.

Durability

Most of the GPS Trackers come with a better build quality and they are designed to be used in rough environments which make them more durable. On the other hand, most Smartwatches focus on the features, and build quality is usually not the main priority.

However, there are few exceptions such as Suunto Traverse which is designed to be used in a rough environment and tested on military standards.

In terms of durability, usually, GPS trackers have edge over smartwatches but if you pick rugged smartwatches such as Suunto Traverse, they can great durability.

After considering the above factors, it is clear that if you want a reliable device for navigation then GPS trackers are a clear option. However, you can always bring the smartwatch as a backup.

Can I use my phone GPS for hiking?

A smart phone as a GPS tracking device for hiking

The short answer to this question is yes, you can use the GPS on your smartphone for hiking but I would not recommend it.

Let me explain! Smartphones these days are better than ever, they come with tall displays and tons of apps which you can use for navigation. However, they are not designed to be used for hiking.

If you accidentally drop your handheld GPS Tracker on a rock, there are strong chances that it will survive the drop. However, if you drop your smartphone on the same rock, there are high chances that it will end up broken display.

Moreover, GPS trackers are designed to be used for hiking and they come with features that offer accurate altitude readings, storm alerts, changes in elevation, maps, and many more.

In smartphones, you can get these features but you will need to install a lot of apps, which can get confusing.

In short, if you are a regular hiker and looking for a durable navigation device then a GPS tracker is best for you. You can also use your smartphone for navigation but you will have to take extra care in handling it.

What is and How accurate is a handheld GPS and which one is best for Hiking?

Handheld GPS is a GPS Tracker which you will need to hold in your hand for exploring maps and navigation, just like you hold your smartphone.

Handheld GPS is considered the most accurate GPS because most handheld GPS comes with dedicated Antenna which ensures the better reception of the signals.

These devices usually also come with dual navigation systems, mainly Global Positioning System and GLONASS which offer accurate positioning.

There is a large variety of handheld GPS trackers out there and I have shared some of the best trackers in the above section.

However, if I have to choose the one Handheld GPS tracker for hiking then it would be Garmin GPSMAP 64st. It is equipped with the quad helix antenna which offers the better reception of the GPS and GLONASS Signals.

The device also comes with preloaded topographical maps of the United States which is a major plus for hikers from the US.

If you are from another country then you can go for Garmin GPSMAP 64s which is another version of the same device and it comes with the preloaded worldwide base map with shaded relief. You can always add the topographical map of your country to it.

Conclusion

That’s all folks. In this guide, I have shared the best tracking devices which you can use for hiking, backpacking, Geocaching, and other purposes. I also tried to answer all the common question which will help you in the process of picking the right tracking device for you. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comment section below. Also, visit my website for more useful guides.