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Buyers Guide & Information

Best Hunting GPS Devices

Our reviews cover handheld GPS units plus apps all designed to help keep you safe and on track.

by

Buyers Guide & Information

Best Hunting GPS Devices

Our reviews cover handheld GPS units plus apps all designed to help keep you safe and on track.

by PITeam

by PITeam

In essence, a hunting GPS tracker is a specialized electronic device that is designed to provide mapping assistance to hunters and outdoor enthusiasts alike. These devices often use one or more communication networks to pinpoint the user's location. They also use onboard sensors to provide data relevant to the user's location (such as altitude, barometric pressure, weather, and more).

On a store shelf, most hunting GPS tracker units look the same, mainly because Garmin makes most of the leading models. But beneath the surface, each model contains its own specifications and features that allow them to fulfill a user’s tracking and navigation goals with precision. As such, you might need a little extra help when it comes time to complete some comparative shopping.

Before you plan your next trip outdoors, you should read this guide of this year's eight most popular hunting GPS trackers. We will help you select the model that fits both your needs and your budget. This guide is, by far, the easiest way to learn about the qualities that make up a high-performing hunting GPS tracker unit as well as the advantages of using a GPS tracker when you hunt or travel outdoors.

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Product

Battery Life

Satellite Navigation Systems

Check Price

Garmin 750T 3-Inch Touchscreen Handheld GPS with...

Garmin 750T

16 Hours

GPS, GLONASS

Garmin Instinct, Rugged Outdoor Watch with GPS,...

Garmin Instinct

14 days (Smartwatch), 16 hours (GPS)

Galileo, GPS, GLONASS

Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS

Garmin Foretrex 401

17 Hours (2 AAA batteries)

GPS

Garmin GPSMAP 64st Worldwide Handheld GPS with 1...

Garmin GPSMAP 64st

16 Hours (2 AA batteries)

GPS, GLONASS

Garmin Alpha 100 Bundle, Includes Handheld and TT...

Garmin Alpha 100 Bundle

20 Hours

GPS, GLONASS

Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite...

Garmin inReach Explorer+

100 Hours (10-minute mode), 30 days (power saver mode)

GPS, Iridium

Garmin Oregon 600 3-Inch Worldwide Handheld GPS

Garmin Oregon 600

16 Hours (2 AA batteries)

GPS, GLONASS

Garmin Oregon 650t 3-Inch Handheld GPS with 8MP...

Garmin Oregon 650t

16 Hours (2 AA batteries or NiMH battery pack)

GPS, GLONASS

How Hunting GPS Devices Work

Hunting GPS units, like all devices that tap into the Global Positioning System (GPS), rely on a consistent connection with a network of satellites in low Earth orbit. This will pinpoint the user's location as well as beam in relevant information regarding their location.

This process occurs through the exchange of radio signals between a GPS-equipped device and multiple satellites, allowing for a reliable uplink even in areas where cellular signal is weak.


GPS Tracking Device Advantages

In terms of benefits, hunting GPS devices possess the unique ability to provide hunters with real-time information on their geographic surroundings, even when cellular signal is weak or absent altogether.

Also, many devices in this class provide pre-installed programs that allow users to plan out their hunting routes and track their progress over time. Finally, many hunters make use of a hunting GPS device to stay in communication with their fellow hunters and coordinate their mutual safety while in pursuit of game.


Choosing High-Quality GPS Systems for Hunting

Hunting GPS device listings often use a variety of product-specific vocabulary when describing their unit's features and specifications. To prevent confusion, this section describes much of the language used in these listings, as well as how those qualities impact the device's overall performance.

Construction & Design

A device's construction and design most often allude to its overall durability, an essential quality for anyone who expects to take their device into the rough-and-tumble outdoors. When it comes to exterior durability, a high-quality device should be shock and abrasion resistant. Internally, though, you should undoubtedly identify models that are water-resistant up to a reasonable depth.

Display

Hunting GPS device displays are growing more and more user-friendly each year, not to mention easier to read when used outdoors. To this extent, most users prefer a device that provides enough visual contrast, as well as a high enough resolution, to make the device’s screen operable in the field. Also, a reasonably-sensitive touchscreen goes a long way towards making a particular device accessible and convenient to use.

Data Sources/Satellite System, GPS Receiver Type, Positioning Technology

Hunting GPS devices draw their topographic data from a variety of sources, most of which rely on one of the prominent satellite-based networks available around the world. Many modern models are designed with a compatible receiver for the WAAS, GLONASS, or GPS networks (or any combination of the three). In most cases, more compatibility in this domain allows for more accurate positioning, even in extremely rural locations.

Maps

Hunting GPS devices rely on a variety of preloaded and supplementary maps to provide positioning information to users in areas where a data-based download would be unfavorable. Most modern models come with several thousand land-based maps pre-installed while also allowing users to upload their own customized maps. This includes maps of urban environments, as well as specialized charts designed for water-faring crafts.

Battery

All hunting GPS devices rely on some form of battery power, making it critical that you identify a model with excellent battery life. While more and more high-end models incorporate a rechargeable battery, the use of disposable battery cells (such as AAA’s) remains the industry norm. Be sure to read a model’s listing carefully because a unit’s battery life may depend on the type of functions performed by the device.

Messaging and Emergency Capability

Due to their ability to operate outside of the cellular range, many modern hunting GPS devices include an SMS-style messaging system that can be used to communicate with other compatible devices. In the same vein, most current models include some type of emergency communication system that can provide location information to emergency responders.

Reception Quality

Generally speaking, hunting GPS devices created over the past several years have some of the most reliable reception quality. That being said, bad weather or unusual geologic boundaries (such as canyon walls) can interfere with a device's ability to receive its necessary radio signals. Often, user reviews can provide more insight into a given model's realistic performance in this domain.

Extra Features

Most hunting GPS devices will include a bevy of extra features that make the device useful beyond simple mapping functions. For example, some models include an altimeter, a digital compass, and barometer sensors to provide actionable data to the user at all times. Some newer models may even include a camera that can add visual data to your device’s tracking operations.

Dimensions & Weight

Naturally, most folks don't want a hunting GPS device that is cumbersome (especially when packing light before a hunting trip). You should pay close attention to a given model's physical dimensions as well as its weight. This can provide you with insight into the usability of the device in a handheld setup.

Price & Warranty

As with any important piece of electronic equipment, you should be looking for a productive level of value when purchasing a hunting GPS device. While most models cost several hundred dollars, you should ensure that each of your prospective models’ price is well-justified by its arsenal of special features. This includes considerations for the unit’s warranty, which can act as an added-value proposition.


8 Best Hunting GPS Devices Reviewed

1. Garmin 750T

Our Top Pick

Screen/Display Size

1.5" x 2.5"

Weight

7.4 oz

Battery Life

16 Hours

Display Resolution

240 x 400 Pixels

Satellite Navigation Systems

GPS, GLONASS

Warranty

Yes, 1 year

If you ask anyone with experience in this market, then they’ll surely tell you that the Garmin 750T is the best hunting GPS, hands down. Simply put, the Garmin 750T features many of the core components – such as a compass, an accelerometer, and a barometric altimeter sensor – that other more expensive models have decided to leave out.

The Garmin 750T is also preloaded with an excellent array of software and built-in compatibilities. In addition to its use GPS and GLONASS satellite networks, this model also comes to you with a bunch of TOPO U.S. 100K maps at no extra upfront charge.

The Garmin 750T is very user-friendly and able to withstand the physical demands of the hunting environment. This model’s 240 x 400-pixel digital display provides reliable contrast in sunny environments and is also ready to be used in either landscape or portrait modes. Also, this model’s case meets the IPX7 standard for water-resistance, allowing it to withstand rain or an accidental dip in a creek.

Pros

  • Compass, accelerometer, and barometric altimeter sensors provide accurate measurements
  • 3-inch touchscreen is readable in direct sunlight
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and ANT+ connectivity provide active weather support
  • Preloaded TOPO U.S. 100K maps add convenience

Cons

  • Battery life indicator is inconsistent and fluctuates

2. Garmin Instinct

Best GPS Watch for Hunting

Screen/Display Size

0.9” x 0.9”

Weight

52 grams

Battery Life

14 days (Smartwatch), 16 hours (GPS)

Display Resolution

128 x 128 Pixels

Satellite Navigation Systems

Galileo, GPS, GLONASS

Warranty

Yes, 1 year

If you’re expecting to track your hunt without an extra device in hand, then you’ll certainly need the best GPS watch for hunting. The Garmin Instinct fits this bill with precision as it provides many of the features of a fully-fledged GPS device – including smart routing through the GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo navigation systems – while maintaining a form factor that weighs only 52 grams.

As you might expect, most hunters will only settle for a smartwatch that is as durable and reliable as their other purpose-built hunting tools. That’s why Garmin built this model with extra resilient materials, including chemically-strengthened glass and fiber-reinforced polymers.

Also, this model's rechargeable battery can last up to 14 days on a single charge. It's no wonder, then, how the Garmin Instinct managed to meet US military standards for thermal, shock, and water resistance. The watch has even been used for deployed troops.

Pros

  • Battery lasts up to 14 days in smartwatch mode
  • Meets US military standards for thermal, shock, and water resistance
  • TracBack allows for smart routing using GPS, GLONASS and Galileo
  • Made from durable materials including chemically-strengthened glass and fiber-reinforced polymer

Cons

  • Buttons tend to get stuck

3. Garmin Foretrex 401

Best Value for Money Option

Screen/Display Size

1.6”

Weight

3.04 oz.

Battery Life

17 Hours (2 AAA batteries)

Display Resolution

100 x 64 Pixels

Satellite Navigation Systems

GPS

Warranty

1 year

Hunters who are shopping on a budget should definitely check out the Garmin Foretrex 401, which stands out as the best value for your money option in this collection. For a price of just under $150, this model packs in a bunch of exceptional core specifications, such as 17-hour battery life. Even its 100 x 64 pixel display goes above and beyond expectations when it comes to readability.

The Garmin Foretrex 401 is certainly one of the lightest models in its class, with a featherweight rating of just around 3.04 oz. Even so, it is still able to provide reliable reception in dense forests and high-walled canyons due to its inclusion of HotFix technology. This model’s customizable data pages (which include barometric and elevation data, among other options) can even be adjusted to read out in a dual position, allowing for seamless use while you track down your prey.

Pros

  • Dual-position readout allows for seamless viewing
  • Very lightweight at only 3.04 oz
  • Customizable data pages for barometric and elevation data
  • GPS receiver with HotFix performs well under dense tree cover and in deep canyons

Cons

  • Some added fees in order to gain access to enhanced maps

4. Garmin GPSMAP 64st

Best for Elk Hunting

Screen/Display Size

1.43" x 2.15"

Weight

8.1 oz.

Battery Life

16 Hours (2 AA batteries)

Display Resolution

160 x 240 Pixels

Satellite Navigation Systems

GPS, GLONASS

Warranty

Yes, 1 year

If you’re a committed elk hunter, then there’s no question that you should find the best elk hunting GPS device available. Luckily, Garmin has your back here as well in the form of the Garmin GPSMAP 64st.

This re-engineered model includes a variety of special-use features that will come in handy while you trail your marks, including a 3-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass that doesn’t need to be level to be accurate.

Before you even hit the trail, the Garmin GPSMAP 64st can help you plan out (and later track) your intended progression through the woods using its BaseCamp software. If your travels take you to you over a body of water or into an urban environment, this GPS device will still be able to support your mapping goals through its pre-installed BlueChart and City Navigator NT software. 

What’s more, you can even use the Garmin GPSMAP 64st for geocaching because it comes with over 250,000 geocaches pre-programmed into its downloaded maps.

Pros

  • Simplified map organization and planning through BaseCamp
  • Can be used on the water or in the city with BlueChart and City Navigator NT compatibility
  • Slim form factor ideal for use while searching out 250,000 preloaded geocaches
  • 3-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass doesn’t need to be level to be accurate

Cons

  • Not a major upgrade from previous models in the same line

5. Garmin Alpha 100 Bundle

Best Hunting Dog GPS

Screen/Display Size

1.53" x 2.55"

Weight

8.8 oz.

Battery Life

20 Hours

Display Resolution

240 x 400 Pixels

Satellite Navigation Systems

GPS, GLONASS

Warranty

Yes, 1 year

The Garmin Alpha 100 bundle was clearly designed to act as the best hunting dog GPS set on the market. Though it is undoubtedly the most expensive option in this collection, it comes with a primary hub device and a set of collar-style beacons that can be placed on each of your hunting dogs. Through these trackers, you’ll be able to use this model’s Tri-Tronics technology to communicates with your dogs auditorily or through pre-programmed vibrations.

Though it weighs only 8.8 oz, the Garmin Alpha 100’s operating system allows it to tap into both GPS and GLONASS networks to track up to 20 dogs over a 9-mile range. More importantly, you'll be able to automate the process of keeping your dogs on the right path through this model's geofencing software. You can even set this device to alert you when a dog leaves this pre-established range, ensuring that no one is left behind as the hunt progresses.

Also, despite all of its continuous functionality, the Garmin Alpha 100 manages to provide a 20-hour battery life through its built-in rechargeable battery pack.

Pros

  • Tracks up to 20 dogs over 9-mile range
  • Tri-Tronics technology communicates with dogs through pre-programmed vibrations or auditory commands
  • Can be used to set up geofences that alert you when a dog leaves boundaries
  • 20 hour battery life for extended hunting expeditions

Cons

  • Very expensive

6. Garmin inReach Explorer+

Best Rated Handheld Model

Screen/Display Size

1.4" x 1.9"

Weight

7.5 oz.

Battery Life

100 Hours (10-minute mode), 30 days (power saver mode)

Display Resolution

200 x 265 Pixels

Satellite Navigation Systems

GPS, Iridium

Warranty

Yes, 1 year

After reading over the reviews from veteran hunters and technology professionals alike, it is clear that the Garmin inReach Explorer+ is the best rated handheld model in this collection. Among other noteworthy features, many current users of this device were quick to praise its transflective color TFT display, which can be viewed in nearly any weather condition with ease. Most of these same users were also blown away by the Garmin inReach Explorer+’s unrivaled battery life, which can last as long as 30 days in power-saver mode.

Out of Garmin’s expansive line of hunting GPS devices, the Garmin inReach Explorer+ is presently one of the only models that can claim 100% worldwide coverage. That is because this model supplements its GPS functionalities by tapping into the ultra-reliable global Iridium network. An additional benefit of this enhanced reception is that the Garmin inReach Explorer+ can be used as an emergency signaling device, either through its device tracking feature or its SMS-style messaging.

Pros

  • 24/7 device tracking and SOS signaling capabilities
  • Can send and receive SMS messages as well as provide messages to other inReach users
  • The transflective color TFT display is easy to read in all weather conditions
  • 100% global reception coverage through Iridium network

Cons

  • Some extra charges associated with non-GPS functionality

7. Garmin Oregon 600

Best Compact Unit for Hunting

Screen/Display Size

2.5” x 1.5”

Weight

7.4 oz.

Battery Life

16 Hours (2 AA batteries)

Display Resolution

400 x 240 Pixels

Satellite Navigation Systems

GPS, GLONASS

Warranty

Yes, 1 year

Even though most of the models in this list are comfortable to hold in one hand, the Garmin Oregon 600 still stands out among them as the best compact unit for hunting. In fact, this model's compact form factor makes it remarkably durable without cutting out any amount of functionality. To that end, you'll be able to (accidentally) submerge this unit in up to 1 meter of water for around 30 minutes without risking a total failure of the internal electronics.

When you flip the Garmin Oregon 600 on for the first time, you’ll immediately see that it has a bunch of new software that other hunting GPS units lack. One prime example is this model’s inclusion of BaseMap, a proprietary piece of software that can store up to 4,000 waypoints and 200 routes without slowing down the internal computer.

Geocachers can also make great use of the Garmin Oregon 600 because its Chirp geocache transmitter allows the device to seamlessly read out the nearly 4 million geocache files found on popular websites like OpenCaching.com and GSAK.net.

Pros

  • Built-in BaseMap software stores up to 4,000 waypoints and 200 routes
  • Multi-touch interface can be customized and allows for easy operation while wearing gloves
  • Chirp geocache transmitter uses ANT+ wireless network
  • Can be submerged at 1 meter for up to 30 minutes

Cons

  • Drains batteries very quickly

8. Garmin Oregon 650t

Best Hunting GPS with a Camera

Screen/Display Size

2.5” x 1.5”

Weight

7.4 oz.

Battery Life

16 Hours (2 AA batteries or NiMH battery pack)

Display Resolution

400 x 240 Pixels

Satellite Navigation Systems

GPS, GLONASS

Warranty

Yes, 1 year

Finally, the absolute best hunting GPS with a camera remains the Garmin Oregon 650t. Though it is only a slight functional upgrade over its camera-less iteration, this model’s increased price tag is well-justified. In fact, the Garmin Oregon 650t’s built-in digital camera features an impressive 8-megapixel sensor, as well as auto-focus and digital zoom capabilities. When paired with this model’s automatic geotagging, this device will allow you to track every aspect of your journey – even the visual moments.

After you take a picture with this device, you’ll be able to quickly review it in rich detail on this model’s 400 x 240-pixel reflective display. Even if you’re out hunting on a very sunny day, you’ll be able to clearly review your snapshots on this same screen because it uses external light and LED technology to enhance the overall contrast. In all, you won’t find a camera-equipped GPS hunting device that is more user-friendly than the Garmin Oregon 650t.

Pros

  • Built-in digital camera features an 8-megapixel sensor, auto-focus, and digital zoom
  • Automatic geotagging for efficient post-production
  • Compatible with NiMH rechargeable battery pack
  • Reflective display technology uses external light and LED to enhance contrast

Cons

  • Recently discontinued, so supplies are limited

Smartphone GPS vs Handheld GPS

While smartphone-based GPS software feels like the most convenient solution, most apps on today’s market simply cannot compare to a devoted GPS device. For example, smartphone GPS apps often struggle to pick up reception in rural areas and absolutely drain a phone’s battery while in use.

A handheld GPS, on the other hand, has been purpose-built for this very use and is able to pick up signal through a global satellite network without suffering from massive battery life inefficiency.


Using a Smartphone as GPS for Hunting

As smartphones become more accessible to the general population, it's only natural that more hunters are looking to incorporate their digital devices into their favorite recreational activity. With a little bit of time and practice with the appropriate software, you, too, can use your smartphone as a GPS hunting device.

If you’re interested in this pursuit, check out this helpful guide written specifically for hunters with a smartphone.


Smartphone Hunting GPS Apps

If you only plan to use a GPS occasionally, then a hunting GPS app might be right for you. These apps may cost a pretty penny but can prevent the need for carrying multiple digital devices with you while you are chasing your targeted game.

In particular, two current hunting GPS apps deserve your consideration. First, HuntLogix ScoutLook stands out as the best hunting app for both iOS and Android mobile operating systems. This app is unique because its basic version is entirely free, allowing you open access to its deer hunting and waterfowl hunting maps. A digital plat book is also available for $5.99/month, as is an ad-free subscription for $9.99/year.

Also, onX Hunt stands out as the best hunting GPS app overall. Available on both iOS and Android devices, this app makes e-scouting a breeze due to its numerous 24K topographical maps and built-in way-pointing options. The premium edition of this app ($29.99/year) also comes with plentiful benefits, including access to federal land maps and privately-owned land maps.


Care and Maintenance of Hunting GPS Trackers

Like all electronic devices, your hunting GPS tracker should always be handled with care (to prevent physical impact damage). Similarly, it should never be left in direct sunlight, a cold environment, or water (to prevent internal damage or loss of battery efficiency). If you regularly use your hunting GPS tracker outdoors, you should whip any excess dirt from its outer case after each use, as well.

At least once a year, you should also plug your hunting GPS tracker into your computer to check for software updates. This can prevent your device from falling victim to a bug that interferes with its operation.


Common Issues & Fixes

Often, hunting GPS trackers will suffer from common problems, many of which can be fixed on your own. For example, performing a simple restart of your device's operation can often clear away issues relating to a single piece of software. Also, sporadic battery charge lose can usually be remedied by placing the device in a climate-controlled location for a few minutes.

For more quick fixes for your specific model, be sure to check the troubleshooting section of your owner’s manual.


Frequently Asked Questions

Should I use rechargeable batteries for my hunting GPS unit?

Rechargeable batteries come with many benefits, including the convenience of not needing to lug around spare battery cells. By that same virtue, rechargeable batteries are eco-friendlier because they produce far less waste over their effective lifespan. In any case, most hunters prefer rechargeable batteries because they are more reliable in an energy-hungry device like a GPS tracker.

Which is better, a touch screen, or a button-operated GPS device for hunting?

This is mostly a matter of personal preference, depending on your level of proficiency with touchscreen devices. Button-operated units tend to be more consistent and responsive to user inputs, while touchscreen displays tend to allow for more customization when it comes to engaging with the device’s software.

What is Geocaching?

Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity that involves the use of a GPS-enabled device to hunt down special containers known as “caches.” These caches are often stored on public lands and may contain prizes or notes for the other individuals that previously discovered it. More information on the activity, as well as information on starting out, can be found here.

How accurate are handheld GPS devices for hunting?

Generally speaking, models designed in the past five years are among the most accurate on the market. Regardless of the type of hunting you participate in, these devices are often able to track you and provide pinpoint mapping within a few meters of your exact location.

Where is the best place to buy GPS devices for hunting?

Out of all of the available online retailers, Amazon remains the best place to pick up a GPS hunting device affordably. Due to their proprietary shipping methods, Amazon is often able to sell their GPS devices more affordably than even their original manufacturer while also carrying an exceptionally diverse stock.

What are the best hunting GPS brands?

Garmin has become the most popular brand of GPS devices, for both hunting and standard navigational uses. Garmin routinely puts out new models that make use of the most cutting-edge mapping technologies, allowing hunters to stay on top of their game with precision.


Conclusion

All in all, there’s a lot of different features and specifications that you’ll need to take into account before purchasing a hunting GPS device. Every GPS device is a little bit different when it comes to durability and software compatibility, so it is crucial that you compare each of the market’s best models before settling on an option to use in your future hunting expeditions.

If you’re still unsure of which hunting GPS device to choose, then you’ll probably be well-served by the Garmin 750T. This model includes many performance-oriented features – such as a variety of preloaded TOPO U.S. 100K maps and a sunlit 3-inch touchscreen display – that are sure to make planning for and tracking your next outing easier than ever.

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