Nearly twenty years ago, I marked my first waypoint with a handheld GPS. Now, after hundreds of waypoints marked during countless days in the field, I won’t set off on a hunt without one. Experience has taught me that hunting with the best GPS technology available will give me a better chance to succeed for the 2023 season and beyond.
During elk season, my crew and I use our Garmin handhelds to mark our kills and communicate with each other to coordinate our hunts. We can message anyone from anywhere, check weather forecasts, and track each other’s movements. Doing so is crucial when trying to harvest and extract a bull elk in the heat of archery season.
When choosing a GPS for your upcoming hunt, you can go several different routes. If you want the ability to contact anyone at any time, no matter where you are, opt for an inReach-driven handheld unit. If you only need reliable mapping and breadcrumbing, a more basic handheld or GPS watch might be all you need. If you’re hunting with adequate cell service, consider the onXmaps smartphone app.
From budget to high-end Garmins, let’s review the best GPS options in 2023, so you can hunt and explore with confidence. Whether you’re a weekend hiker or backcountry hunter, there’s something for everyone on this list!
Best Hunting GPS for the Money
Garmin inReach Explorer+
Having 2023’s best overall hunting GPS in your arsenal will keep you on the trail and provide added insurance for making it home safely. Our top pick, the Garmin inReach Explorer+ handheld, will help guide you with preloaded TOPO maps and put you in contact with its satellite-powered inReach two-way messaging.
Its handy GPS tracking function allows others to view your live GPS coordinates, which can automatically send out at preselected time intervals. Up-to-date weather forecasts are also easy to access and can be downloaded straight to your device in a matter of seconds.
Of all the Garmin handhelds with a 2.3” color touchscreen, the inReach Explorer+ is the most compact option. The smaller screen can be a bit tight for map functions, though, so pair it with your smartphone if you want an expanded view.
At 7.5 ounces, the inReach Explorer+ comes equipped with a solid lithium battery that gives it plenty of life for most excursions. The versatility of this GPS communicator is hard to beat and offers us hunters the best in overall functionality.
- Pros: Tracking function, inReach communication and weather, pre-downloaded TOPO maps, SOS services
- Cons: 2.3” display can be difficult to read with glare
- Best for: Multiple day trips with limited access to cell service
Best Overall Hunting GPS
Garmin GPSMAP 66i
If you’re willing to splurge, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better handheld GPS device than the Garmin GPSMAP 66i. There’s something to be said for being the top-rated Garmin handheld GPS in the industry, and this device does not disappoint.
Its crystal-clear 3” color touchscreen is bright, detailed, and offers some of the best map viewing capabilities in the industry. This unit also has a micro SD slot, which can expand your device’s memory and allow you to store additional maps and data outside of its standard 16 GB memory.
Offering consistent texting, location tracking, and SOS services, this device’s inReach capabilities are comparable to other Garmin devices. It also provides a 3-axis compass, altimeter, and barometer so you can monitor your elevation and changes in weather patterns.
The GPSMAP 66i’s rechargeable battery life is slightly compromised when using all its features but still gives you 35 hours of life with moderate use. We recommend this unit for hunters looking for a full-featured device with an excellent display.
- Pros: Clear TopoActive maps preloaded, great display, inReach services, good battery life
- Cons: Not compatible with onXmaps Hunt Chip
- Best for: Multiple day trips, precise mapping ability
Best High-End GPS with Two-Way Radio
Garmin Rino 755t
If you’re looking for helpful GPS features and a powerful two-way radio, Garmin has you covered with the Rino 755t. It’s a top-of-the-line device that can keep you in direct verbal contact with everyone in your party at a moment’s notice.
It also has an 8MP camera (with a flash/flashlight) that will automatically record your GPS coordinates with every picture you snap. You can track your adventure with photos taken along the route with BaseCamp software, which allows you to view your shots exactly where they were taken on a map.
Its powerful 5-watt GMRS two-way radio will allow you to chat with your party for up to 20 miles. I’ve used walkie-talkies with similar features, and they’ve been essential to keep in quick contact with my party while hunting rugged backcountry terrain. The radio is taxing on battery life, but Garmin sells battery packs that will extend its use in the wilderness.
The Rino 755t also offers a 3-axis compass, barometer, and altimeter, which will keep you on top of your navigation and patterns in the weather. This handheld also gives you the ability to text message with other Rino devices, which could pay big dividends on your trip.
- Pros: Powerful two-way radio, camera with flashlight, text messaging with Rino users
- Cons: 3” display, battery life
- Best for: Hunting, backpacking, geocaching
Compact and Lightweight Hunting GPS
Garmin inReach Mini
The Garmin inReach Mini is the most lightweight and compact GPS on this list and is an excellent option for those trying to keep their pack weight down. This might be your best bet if you cover long distances and don’t need a fancy display.
Though it’s tiny in comparison, the inReach Mini boasts many of the same features offered by the larger, more expensive Garmins. It’s capable of two-way messaging, location sharing, interactive SOS, up-to-date weather forecasting, and also provides solid battery life and weather resistance. Our editor, Noel, has backpacked over 500 miles with his inReach Mini and swears by it.
However, some of the inReach Mini’s features fall short of the more high-end Garmins out there. It sports an extremely basic monochrome display, and you must connect it to a smartphone if you want to type out messages in a timely fashion. Messaging directly through the device is possible but is pretty tedious and impractical.
We recommend the Garmin inReach Mini to fast-moving backcountry hunters who want a compact and no-frills GPS in the field. Sure, it’s nothing fancy, but it’s functional and reliable. For many of us, that’s all we need.
- Pros: Very lightweight and compact, long battery life, excellent weather resistance
- Cons: Basic features, monochrome display, hard to send messages without connecting to phone
- Best for: Lightweight hunting and hiking
Solid Option Under $500
Garmin Oregon 700
If your budget shies away from some of the more expensive handhelds, the Garmin Oregon 700 might strike a good balance of features and cost. It sports a 3” touchscreen, dual GPS and Glonass reception, and a rugged build meant for the outdoors.
Unlike many other options on this list, this device uses 2 AA batteries. I prefer options that run on AAs since internal lithium batteries will lose their capacity the more you use them. AA batteries are easy to bring on a journey and don’t take up much space, either.
The Oregon 700 is pretty compact and will fit comfortably in the palm of your hand. I’ve used an older model, the Oregon 550, for several hunting seasons and the features on this upgraded model have me feeling a bit jealous. Its readable sunlight display alone is a considerable upgrade from the past handhelds Garmin has offered.
I believe this device is more versatile than it presents, so feel confident when putting it to the test on your upcoming hunt.
- Pros: Smartphone-like touch screen, tons of waypoint storage
- Cons: Vulnerable to cold temps due to external batteries, maps must be downloaded, no inReach capabilities
- Best for: Hiking, biking
Popular Hunting GPS Under $300
Garmin eTrex 35 Touch
If you’re looking for a reliable and straightforward GPS that makes life easy when planning and executing a hunt, the Garmin eTrex 35 Touch has your back. This well-reviewed handheld is perfect for traversing the backcountry with its preloaded TopoActive maps that’ll help you navigate the unknown.
With 8 GB of memory and an expandable micro SD slot, this device gives you the ability to save plenty of waypoints and download as many maps as you need. It also comes equipped with a 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter to help you navigate and keep ahead of the weather.
Knowing property boundaries is essential when public land hunting and the eTrex 35 Touch can give you peace of mind when paired with the onXmaps Hunt Chip. Not only do I find this beneficial when hunting, but also when backpacking or backcountry snowboarding near public land.
The Garmin eTrex 35 Touch handheld is one of the more basic handheld GPS devices on the market but should do well for hunters who seek a reliable option that won’t break the bank.
- Pros: Preloaded maps, local destinations, simple and easy to use
- Cons: 2.2” display, no inReach capabilities
- Best for: Hunting, biking, backpacking
Sub-$200 on a Budget
Garmin GPSMAP 78
Finding a versatile GPS on a $200 budget can be trying, but the GPSMAP 78 fits the bill. It offers the best Garmin satellite reception technology, and its multiple buttons will easily navigate menus and options.
With preloaded maps, you’ll be in great shape to get your hunt started, and you’ll always have the option to download more. For this, they provide a slot for data cards, where you can even download satellite imagery and integrate it into your maps.
If you enjoy geocaching, the GPSMAP 78 is an excellent device for your hobby. All you need to do is upload the GPX file ahead of time, and you’ll have access to tons of fun and valuable data.
Waterproof and rugged, this unit would be great for almost any adventure. It’ll even float, making it a solid option for boating, fishing, and hunting in wet environments.
- Pros: Affordable, good weather resistance, floats
- Cons: Bulky, not compatible with onXmaps Hunt Chip, no inReach capabilities
- Best for: Fishing, water sports, hunting, geocaching
Best on an Ultra-Low Budget
Garmin eTrex 10
The eTrex 10 is one of the cheapest and most basic handheld GPS devices Garmin offers, yet its satellite receiver is the same as their high-end units. This allows for precise location tracking at a fraction of the price.
Rugged and lightweight, it takes up little space and can easily fit in your shirt or pants pocket. Its 2.2” monochrome display is easy to read in any light conditions.
It’s equipped with BaseCamp software that’ll allow you to organize your routes and waypoints and display your 3-D topographical route data on your computer. And, like the GPSMAP 78 model, it supports geocaching via easy-to-upload GPX files.
You only need two AA batteries to power the eTrex 10, giving you up to 25 hours of life with moderate use. We recommend it to hunters on a budget who need basic GPS features and nothing more.
- Pros: Simple to use, affordable
- Cons: Monochrome display, can’t download maps, no inReach capabilities
- Best for: Hiking, basic backcountry navigation
Best GPS Watch for Hunting
Garmin fenix 6 Pro Solar
The fenix 6 Pro Solar is adapted to the modern world of hunting and will do just about everything you ask of it in the field. It can track activity, drop waypoints, display vivid TOPO maps, and will charge when exposed to sunlight. It’s one of the best GPS watches for hunting of 2023.
Its battery can last up to 36 hours while using GPS, and that’s without factoring in the solar charging you’ll get along the way. Head into the wilderness for days, even weeks, with confidence with this little beast. And, when the sun isn’t shining, you can always charge this watch via USB.
It doesn’t have two-way satellite messaging capabilities like the inReach capable handhelds on this list. Still, it does offer detailed mapping and breadcrumbs capabilities, which will help navigate you safely through the wilderness.
Its 32 GB of internal storage is quite impressive. With it, you can download countless topographical maps and still have room to add a couple thousand songs that you can enjoy when out on the hunt.
The fenix 6 Pro Solar is available in various colors and designs, so matching it with your hunting gear should be no problem.
- Pros: Solar powered, great battery life, full-featured
- Cons: Expensive
- Best for: Hunting, hiking, everyday use
Best Hunting App for Smartphones
Smartphones are a necessity that most of us have become entirely dependent on. And, since they’re commonplace for our everyday lives, why wouldn’t someone design an app geared towards hunters and outdoor enthusiasts alike? Enter the OnXmaps smartphone app.
OnXmaps gives you access to clear and accurate GPS maps that display your real-time coordinates. I’ve used this app for the past three years, and it has helped me along numerous family outings and hunting trips.
It displays crucial private property lines and forest boundaries and has even helped me gain access with property owners by displaying their contact information.
Since your smartphone has GPS built in, you can use onXmaps outside of cell service. That said, you still won’t have the ability to contact others via satellite messaging like you would on some of the Garmin handhelds. Using the maps requires a lot of battery power, too, so I’d recommend bringing along a power bank to keep your cell fully charged.
You can sign up for a free trial period to test out onXmaps but will need to pay for a yearly membership after 14 days.
- Pros: Inexpensive, Accurate state-specific maps
- Cons: No contact outside of cell service
- Best for: Scouting new areas, learning private property boundaries
Best Hunt Chip for your Garmin Handheld
onXmaps Hunt Chip
Depending on which type of Garmin handheld you use, you may wish to add a state-specific onX map. OnXhunt Hunt Chip is a micro SD card that can be used with a computer, smartphone, or compatible handheld GPS device. Each chip contains one state-specific onX map.
With this chip, you’ll get a 24k TOPO map that gives you precise boundary lines for public and private land. The chip can also track your movement and store waypoints, which could be incredibly useful for all types of hunters.
Placing the Hunt Chip into your Garmin handheld will give you valuable maps, data, and contact information which should significantly improve your hunting success. Having confidence in property boundaries is vital to your hunt and shouldn’t be understated.
- Pros: Boosts GPS ability
- Cons: Not compatible with all Garmin handhelds
- Best Used for: Understanding property boundaries on the go
Putting together this list of 2023’s best hunting GPS units took a lot of research and understanding of the advantages and limitations of each unit. Since hunting is the main focus, these devices must meet certain specifications and provide us with benefits that make them worth their cost.
GPS handhelds are essential for our safety on the trail, and their ability to handle the beating we deliver in the backcountry is a must. Garmin handhelds have always been known for their durability and provide reliability and toughness with every handheld they offer.
Hunts can put us in places where the cold weather and moisture seep into more than just our clothing. These handhelds must be built to keep the water out and handle temperatures well below freezing. Handhelds with external batteries are more susceptible to the cold as they allow entry points for moisture.
Two-Way Messaging Capabilities
It’s vital that you’re never without the ability to reach help when needed. All of the inReach capable products on this list offer you the ability to do just that with SOS satellite messaging. Some of the Garmin products only allow you to message back and forth with similar devices, and one even has a two-way radio. Communication is an important factor you have to consider when choosing your device.
I’ve been on many hunts where you need to keep weight down and track every single ounce going on your horse or into your pack. Bulky GPS units can be uncomfortable and hard to find room for, which is why we’ve done our best to include products that are worth their weight.
Some people have become so accustomed to using their smartphones the large touchscreen handhelds might be enticing to bring along on their hunt. Touchscreen capabilities aren’t a necessity, though, and are usually only offered on the more high-end units.
onX Hunt Chip Compatibility
The onXmaps Hunt Chip is an excellent addition to any device, but not all Garmin devices are compatible. If you appreciate the property and hunting area boundary maps they offer, this could be a significant factor in the handheld you covet. Keep in mind, the onXmaps smartphone app can still give you these capabilities if your handheld isn’t compatible with the Hunt Chip.
When choosing the best GPS for your 2023 hunting trip, look no further than Garmin. From budget to high-end, they dominate the market with their superiority in reliability and technology. They’re the only handhelds I’ll ever use, and I have confidence they’ll continue working as well as the day I purchased them.
The inReach Explorer+ gives you the best in precise mapping and tracking while providing invaluable tools to communicate with loved ones and emergency personnel. The Rino 755t gives you a powerful radio and the ability to add an onXmaps Hunt Chip to expand your mapping abilities. Something as simple and reliable as the inReach Mini can take your smartphone to the next level when off the grid.
Garmin GPS watches have become so advanced that you may find yourself utilizing your fenix 6 Pro Solar for all types of outdoor activities. Helpful smartphone apps like onXmaps will turn your phone into a reliable hunting GPS full of property boundaries and land owner contact information.
If there’s one thing that’s important to us it comes to searching for 2023’s best GPS for hunting, it’s that finding that perfect match should be an informative and rewarding process. I sincerely hope we’ve provided you with a platform that’ll help you jump headfirst into your search.
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Last Updated on August 16, 2023