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Best Hiking GPS | Garmin inReach vs inReach Mini vs GPSMAP vs Montana Comparison

Garmin Handheld GPS for Hikers Comparison
We compare the Garmin inReach®, inReach Mini, GPSMAP®, and Montana®

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You've got a bucket list full of backcountry explorations and international adventures. There's no such thing as too far when you're on a hiking adventure—or dreaming one up!

That's why you want a durable, reliable device that's loaded with features that can track your precise location, help you plan, and keep you safely connected to the rest of the world when you go off-grid.

When it comes to the best GPS devices, Garmin GPS is at the forefront—and their GPS handhelds for hiking are no exception. Garmin has an array of GPS hiking handheld models with features for everyone from geocaching hikers to long distance backpackers to trekkers through snow and ice.

In this comparison, we're laying out the features of the Garmin inReach vs inReach Mini vs GPSMAP vs Montana, so you can determine which is the best hiking GPS for your style of roaming!

For more hiking GPS options, read our article on The Best Garmin Hiking Watches

Features You Want in the Best Handheld GPS for Hiking

All the Right Sensors

Ideally, the best hiking GPS will have GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo, and an altimeter, barometer, and compass to provide you with the most precise information on your location. Garmin GPS handhelds for hiking give you options with a variety of models that include all or some of these sensors at different price points.

Backcountry Battery Life

When you're hiking off the grid, you need a handheld GPS with a battery that can outlast you! Garmin GPS handhelds for hiking have different settings so that your device can go for many hours to several days. inReach batteries will even last 1-3 years when powered off—which means they stay ready!

Rugged Build

Get GPS that can go where you go! All Garmin hiking GPS handhelds are have an IPX7 water rating. The GPSMAP 66 series and Montana 700 series are built to military standards for thermal, shock, and water performance (MIL-STD-810).

inReach Technology

Go where you want and leave worry at home. inReach Technology in your Garmin GPS handheld means you hike with 2-way messaging, SOS alerts, location sharing, weather, and more without cellular connection. Get reassurance in the inReach Explorer+ or in the GPSMAP 66i and Montana 700i. (Requires a subscription.)

Maps

You're never really lost—just somewhere new! Select Garmin hiking GPS models come with basemap, TOPO maps, free BirdsEye imagery, hydrographic features, points of interest and ability to add maps and use waypoints, routes, tracks, and more!  

Connectivity

Download apps and extra maps. Dream up and plan hiking trips. Get weather updates and more when you're within cellular tower range. Most Garmin GPS hiking handhelds come with Bluetooth® technology. Select models have Wi-Fi® and ANT+® as well.



Best Garmin GPS for Hiking:
inReach vs inReach Mini vs GPSMAP vs Montana

inReach Explorer+ | Best GPS Satellite Communicator for Explorers

You don't just hit the trail, you take "getting away" to the next level. And with the inReach Explorer+, you'll have the tools to stay totally connected, even when you wander beyond the world of cell towers.

Garmin inReach satellite communicators use the worldwide coverage of the Iridium satellite network. So, with these portable hiking GPS handhelds, you can exchange text messages with any cell phone number or email address. Keep loved ones in the know by tracking and sharing your journey’s progress. You can also post to social media or even communicate inReach-to-inReach in the field. In case of an emergency, you can trigger an SOS to a 24/7 monitoring center!

Let's explore the features of the Garmin inReach satellite communicator—made for the most intrepid hikers!

The inReach Explore+ Satellite Communicator from Garmin

    • These rugged hiking handhelds enable two-way text messaging via 100% global Iridium® satellite network (satellite subscription required).
    • Trigger an interactive SOS to the 24/7 search and rescue monitoring center. They will text back and forth about the nature of your emergency and give you confirmation when help is on the way.
    • Track and share your location with family and friends on the web-based MapShare™ portal. You can even embed your MapShare page on your blog, website, or social media.
    • Pair with compatible mobile devices using the free Earthmate® app for access to downloadable maps, U.S. NOAA charts, color aerial imagery, and more.
    • Advanced GPS navigation features, including:
      • Preloaded TOPO maps
      • Basemap
      • Ability to add maps
      • Hydrographic features (coastlines, lake/river shorelines, wetlands, and perennial and seasonal streams)
      • Displays national, state, and local parks, forests, and wilderness areas
      • Barometric altimeter and compass
The Garmin inReach Explorer+ satellite communicator

inReach Mini | Best GPS Satellite Communicator for Emergencies

When you're on a hiking adventure, size and weight matter. But so does off-the-grid contact. That's why the lightweight and compact Garmin inReach Mini satellite communicator is perfect for the extreme hiker in you.

This palm-sized Garmin hiking handheld does not have the GPS navigation features of the inReach Explorer+ model. It's meant to bring peace of mind to the loved ones of the most ultimate explorers, allow for communication beyond cell towers, and be there to trigger an SOS in case of an emergency. Here are the inReach Mini features that just might save your life (and your relationships!):

  • Two-way messaging allows you to text with loved ones, post to social media, or communicate inReach-to-inReach (satellite subscription required).
  • In case of an at-risk situation, you can trigger an interactive SOS to the Garmin-Powered International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC), a 24/7 global monitoring and response center (satellite subscription required).
  • Location sharing lets you track your location and share it with those at home or others in the field (satellite subscription required).
  • Get inReach weather forecasts on your inReach Mini or compatible device for your current location, waypoints, or destinations on your itinerary.

 

The Garmin inReach Mini satellite communicator

GPSMAP 65 and 66 Series | Best Garmin Hiking GPS for Challenging Environments

For hikers like you, the beauty and inspiration of nature and challenging terrain go hand in hand. The Garmin GPSMAP hiking handhelds get it—and give you that optimal accuracy you need in places like steep country, deep canyons, and forests with dense trees.

In this section, we're laying out the features you will find in the various models offered in the Garmin GPSMAP 65 series (65, 65s) and the GPSMAP 66 series (66s, 66st, 66sr, 66i). Which Garmin hiking GPS companion has the best tools for your hiking style?

The Garmin GPSMAP 65 Hiking GPS

    • Expanded GNSS Support — Multi-band technology and expanded GNSS support (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS and IRNSS) provide optimal accuracy in challenging settings.
    • Preloaded TOPO Maps — Get active U.S. and Canada maps to see terrain contours, topographic elevations, summits, parks, coastlines, rivers, lakes and geographical points.
    • Public Land Boundaries — Venture where you're supposed to be with an optional display of federal public land boundaries on topographical maps.
    • Smart Notifications — Receive emails, texts, and alerts right on your GPSMAP handheld when paired with your compatible device.
    • Garmin Explore App — Plan, review, and sync waypoints, routes, and tracks by using the Garmin Explore app and website.
    • Geocaching — Get paperless geocaches by uploading GPX files straight to your device.
    • microSD Slot — Using your compatible device and microSD memory card, conveniently download TOPO 24K maps and hit the trail, or access HuntView Plus maps to see public land types and boundaries as well as private landowner names and boundaries.
    • The GPSMAP 65/65s have a 2.5" transflective color display.

The Garmin GPSMAP 65s GPS Hiking Handheld

The GPSMAP 65s handheld has all of the advantageous hiking features that the GPSMAP 65 has with the added benefit of ABC Sensors. Feel confident navigating every trail with included altimeter for elevation data, barometer to monitor weather, and 3-axis electronic compass.

The GPSMAP 66 Series of Hiking GPS Handhelds

Differences between the GPSMAP 65 and 66 Series:
    • ABC sensors are standard on all GPSMAP 66 series models
    • BirdsEye Satellite Imagery is included in all GPSMAP 66 models
    • TOPO maps are standard in the GPSMAP 65 series, but come with the the 66st, 66sr, and the 66i—not the 66s
    • The GPSMAP 66 series is built to military specs
    • The GPSMAP 66 series has extended battery life option; up to 170 hours in expedition mode

The Garmin GPSMAP 66s Hiking Handheld

  • The GPSMAP 66s provides ABC (altimeter, barometer, and compass) sensor capabilities. The altimeter provides elevation data to accurately monitor ascent and descent, while the barometer can be used to predict weather changes. The three-axis electronic compass keeps your bearing whether you’re moving or not.
  • Get a better picture of your location with high-resolution photo-realistic views of your route, thanks to direct-to-device downloads of BirdsEye Satellite Imagery. You’ll see a true representation of your surroundings to find trails, trailheads, clearings for campsites, and more!
  • You’ll always stay informed of weather conditions when you pair your GPSMAP 66 series device via Bluetooth to a compatible smartphone.
  • GPSMAP 66s and GPSMAP 66st devices make it easier than ever to enjoy your geocaching experience. Set it to automatically update with all the latest caches from Geocaching Live.
  • Even when you’re offline and have no cell service, the GPSMAP 66s pairs with the Garmin Explore mobile app to let you plan, review, and sync data.
  • The GPSMAP 66s offers up to 16 hours of battery life in GPS mode and 1 week in expedition mode (with 2 AA batteries). It provides an LED flashlight and SOS beacon that can be used to signal for help. It’s built to military standards for thermal, shock and water performance (MIL-STD-810G), and it’s even compatible with night vision goggles.

The Garmin GPSMAP 66st Hiking GPS

The GPSMAP 66st has everything the 66s has plus it comes preloaded with TOPO U.S. and Canada maps. See every hill and valley in hyper detail—including terrain contours, topographic elevations, summits, parks, coastlines, rivers, lakes and geographical points.

The Garmin GPSMAP 66sr GPS Handheld

The GPSMAP 66sr model adds multi-band frequency support—or expanded GNSS support. Use multiple frequencies sent by navigation satellites which enables improved user position accuracy, specifically in areas where GNSS signals are reflected, weak, or typically do not penetrate. This is superior accuracy previously only available to the military.

The Garmin GPSMAP 66i Hiking GPS

The GPSMAP 66i pairs the capabilities of a GPS hiking handheld with a satellite communicator, using Garmin's inReach Technology. With the 66i you'll get two-way messaging, interactive SOS alerts, location sharing, inReach weather, and more—even when you're beyond cell towers!


The Garmin Montana—Best Handheld GPS for Navigating Hikes and More

You're a hiker who was born to head into the wild. But you might also like to have navigation for biking, kayaking, ATV, and more. The Garmin Montana 700 series (700, 700i, 750i) is loaded with mapping and routing for on-and off-road and trails—with options for inReach Technology and a built-in 8-megapixel camera!

Read on to see the Garmin Montana 700 series features and find the best GPS handheld for navigating hikes—and so much more!

The Garmin Montana 700 Hiking GPS Handheld

    • This rugged, water-resistant handheld is tested to U.S. military standards and features a glove-friendly 5” touchscreen.
    • Navigate your adventures with preloaded topographical maps for the U.S. and Canada. View terrain contours, elevations, coastlines, rivers, landmarks and more.
    • Optional display of federal public land boundaries on topographical maps helps you know that you’re venturing where you’re supposed to be.
    • Get direct-to-device downloads of BirdsEye Satellite Imagery (no annual subscription required) to see photo-realistic views and create waypoints based on landmarks.
    • Trek your next trail with ABC sensors, including an altimeter for elevation data, barometer to monitor weather, and 3-axis electronic compass.
    • Use cellular connectivity to access up-to-date Active Weather forecasts through the Garmin Connect app.
    • DOG TRACKING for hunters and trainers. Montana syncs with compatible Astro or Alpha series handhelds (sold separately) to track your sporting dogs in the field.
    • MULTI-GNSS SUPPORT lets you access GPS, GLONASS and GALILEO satellite networks, enabling Montana 700 to track in more challenging environments than with just GPS alone.
    • The LiveTrack feature lets you wirelessly connect your device with other compatible Garmin GPS users, so they can follow your tracks, routes, waypoints, and adventures.
    • Expedition mode, an ultra low-power GPS reference, keeps Montana tracking for a week or more between recharges.
    • Battery Options — An internal, rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack provides more than 18 hours of battery life in GPS mode. Montana series GPS handhelds can also be powered with traditional AA batteries.
    • A variety of Montana handheld-compatible mounts (sold separately) lets you adapt your navigator for use on ATVs, boats, cars, motorcycles, RVs, or other vehicles.

The Garmin Montana 700i GPS Handheld

The Montana 700i hiking GPS pairs the capabilities of a GPS hiking handheld with a satellite communicator, using Garmin's inReach Technology. With the 700i you'll get two-way messaging, interactive SOS alerts, location sharing, inReach weather, and more—even when you're beyond cell towers!

The Garmin Montana 750i

The Montana 750i—also outfitted with inReach Technology—includes a built-in camera, allowing you to capture images of your exploits. The Montana 750i's digital 8-megapixel camera geotags photos with coordinates, so you can navigate back to favorite sites in the future.


BONUS! eTrex®—Most Affordable Garmin Hiking GPS

You like to day-hike, geocache, and keep things simple with a rugged, affordable hiking GPS handheld! Check out these models from the Garmin eTrex hiking GPS lineup — the eTrex 10 and the eTrex 22x/32x!

The Garmin eTrex 10 Handheld GPS Features:

  • Worldwide basemap
  • 2.2" monochrome display, easy to read in any light
  • GPS and GLONASS satellites for faster positioning
  • Paperless geocaching
  • 25-hour battery life with 2 AA batteries
  • Only $109.99!

The Garmin eTrex 22x/32x Hiking GPS Features:

  • 2.2” sunlight-readable color display with 240 x 320 display pixels for improved readability
  • Preloaded with TopoActive maps with routable roads and trails for cycling and hiking
  • Support for GPS and GLONASS satellite systems allows for tracking in more challenging environments than GPS alone
  • 8 GB of internal memory plus a microSD™ card slot
  • eTrex 32x adds a 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter
  • Battery life: up to 25 hours in GPS mode with 2 AA batteries
  • Only $199.99!
The Garmin eTrex 22x/32x hiking GPS units

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Depending on the kind of hiker you are, we recommend ...

THE GARMIN INREACH EXPLORER+ satellite communicator if you like going off-the-grid, beyond cell towers, but still want the confidence of staying connected—anywhere on the planet!

THE GARMIN INREACH MINI satellite communicator if you want to keep your loved ones up-to-date on your whereabouts and give them peace of mind in case you should have an emergency situation.

THE GARMIN GPSMAPS 65/66 SERIES GPS hiking handhelds with expanded GNSS support if you like to roam into places that may be challenging for GPS alone to track your location—with optional inReach Technology!

THE GARMIN GPSMAPS 700 SERIES GPS handhelds for hiking and much more, if you want a rugged GPS to go anywhere, in any way, and keep up with you wherever you roam! Also with inReach Technology options!

THE GARMIN ETREX 10/22X/32X hiking GPS handhelds if you're into geocaching, long day hikes, and affordable price tags!

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