Have you ever gone on a hike and been lost? It can be such a frustrating thing to happen, especially when it is your first time hiking.
A lot of people ask the question, “Is a smartphone good enough for hiking?” or “Should I purchase a GPS device instead?” These are great questions.
In this blog post I will be answering if it’s purchasing a GPS tracker or should you stick with your smartphone in this Smartphone Vs GPS for hiking guide!
Table of Contents
- 1 Smartphone Or GPS Standalone Device?
- 2 Is a smartphone as good as a GPS? Can You Use Smartphone For Hiking?
- 3 Should You Use Smartphone’s GPS For Hiking?
- 4 Smartphone vs GPS – Which Is Better For Hiking?
- 5 Why use a GPS instead of a phone?
- 6 What To Look For In A GPS Device For Hiking?
- 7 Best GPS For Hiking Available in Today’s Market
- 8 Conclusion
- 9 FAQ
Smartphone Or GPS Standalone Device?
I will talk about each separately in each section so you get a better idea of the benefits and disadvantages of both smartphones or GPS for hiking.
Using Your Smartphone’s GPS For Hiking
Nowadays, smartphones are used for everything. You can even use your phone as a GPS when you go on hiking trails!
There are plenty of apps that you can download on the smartphone that will help you know where you are going. On top of apps, there is also the option to save places so when you go hiking again in a new location it remembers where you went!
However, although smartphones have plenty of benefits for hikers they do not always work properly and often drain your battery very quickly.
Pros Of Using Smartphone For Hiking
- It’s Convenient – Most people Carry Phones With Them
- It’s portable – you can carry it anywhere
- Decent Accuracy With Integrated GPS Map
- Smartphones utilize international GPS so the satellite acquisition times are much faster.
Cons Of Using Smartphone For Hiking
- Only good as its battery. It will run out of battery on long hikes even if you utilize something like a portable charger. Nothing compared to a proper GPS device.
- If you drop your phone, it will generally damage it quite a lot especially while hiking.
Using A GPS Standalone Tracking Device For Hiking
A standalone GPS device is a proper tool that was designed for hiking. This means the build quality and design are made to be able to survive falls, drops, shocks etc.
GPS devices also have an extended battery life compared to smartphones as they need less power because of their smaller screens. The map screen will use up most of the battery on a smartphone.
Some GPS devices even have an SOS button that can be pushed to send out an emergency signal if you are in trouble! Other features include fitness trackers and cameras as well which is more than most smartphones will offer.
Pros Of Using GPS Device For Hiking
- Extended Battery Life
- SOS button
- Higher Accuracy
- Durable in all weather conditions
Cons of Using GPS Device For Hiking
- Not convenient
Is a smartphone as good as a GPS? Can You Use Smartphone For Hiking?
The short answer is yes! You can use a smartphone for hiking, although it’s not as good as having an actual GPS device.
It will get the job done but you have to realize that your phone isn’t made for this kind of activity and if something happens, there are no guarantees on how well it will work afterwards.
This is why I always recommend having a backup GPS device on your phone in case you get lost because the battery on smartphones really isn’t that long.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to hiking!
Should You Use Smartphone’s GPS For Hiking?
If you’re hiking in a place that is close to civilization, then using your smartphone GPS will be just fine.
However if it’s going to be an extended hike where the phone battery may not last or there are no cellular signal towers nearby for coverage, I recommend getting something like a Garmin handheld GPS device which can last up to 26 hours.
If you are planning on having a long hike or going to places where there aren’t any cell phone signals then I would get something that’s designed for hiking like this Garmin GPS watch, it also has fitness tracking features too!
Smartphone vs GPS – Which Is Better For Hiking?
Hands down a Standalone quality GPS is always better for hiking than a smartphone. Because you are going to carry your smartphone with you regardless.
Smartphones are not as durable as a proper GPS device, they offer less battery life and in worst-case scenarios, if dropped or damaged can be rendered useless.
Why use a GPS instead of a phone?
There are a few reasons why you should use a GPS device rather than relying on your smartphone for hiking:
- GPS devices have extended battery life, often lasting up to twice as long as smartphones.
- They’re made specifically for rugged outdoor activities and can withstand drops, shocks etc. that would damage or destroy most smartphones.
- The GPS devices are much more accurate.
- You don’t need service in order for the device to work – it will still track even when there is no cell phone signal available! This also means you can use it in more places than just hiking.
- It has a wider screen with clear graphics that are easy to read while out on the trail, even when exposed to bright sunlight!
What To Look For In A GPS Device For Hiking?
When looking for a GPS device to take hiking with you, there are a few things you need to consider:
- How long will the battery last?
- What is the maximum distance it can track before needing to be recharged or replaced?
- Is it waterproof and dustproof?
- Can it withstand drops and shocks?
- What Features Does the GPS Have?
- How much does it weigh?
- What is the size of the Screen?
- Does it come with maps downloaded already?
Best GPS For Hiking Available in Today’s Market
1. The Garmin GPSMAP 66i
This is the GPS I personally use, it actually comes with a large 3-inch color display which you can see decently under sunlight.
It also has a special SOS feature that you can instantly trigger and it will send out a signal to the rescue monitoring center. (This requires satellite subscription)
It comes with the Garmin TOPO preloaded meaning it comes with Birdseye satellite imagery downloads with no additional cost/subscription.
Few other notable features:
- It has an internal rechargeable lithium battery which lasts for 35 hours in 10-minute tracking mode. 200 hours in expedition mode with 30-minute tracking.
- It has cellular connectivity which lets you access weather forecasts and geocaching happening live.
- It’s also compatible with the Garmin explore website and app which can help you manage routes, waypoints, activities and collections, use tracks and review trip data from the field.
2. Garmin Montana 700
The Garmin Monatana 700 Series has a 5 Inch Display touch screen display.
Which is a much bigger screen than the GPSMap 66i although I personally like the smaller size.
User speed and interface are much better on the Garmin Montana 700.
Overall I would say this superior model to the Garmin GPSMAP 66i only because of the 330-hour battery life but, it also does cost way more.
Few other notable features:
- Rugged Construction For Waterproofing, Shockproofing and Thermalproofing
- Comes with ANT+ Technology, Wifi Connectivity and Bluetooth features.
- Compatible with the Garmin explore website and app like the Garmin GPS 66i
3. Garmin 010-02064-00 Instinct Watch (Budget Option)
This is a watch that Garmin makes. I recommend this if you are on a budget, it’s way cheaper than the other two previous GPS devices.
It also has outdoor navigation sensors like 3 axis compass and barometric altimeter.
You can also monitor your heart rate, stress and activity with it.
Few other notable features:
- Rugged and Durable Design
- Much more portable than the other 2 GPS devices
- There is a 14-day battery life on the smartwatch mode, 16 hours on the GPS mode and 40 hours on the Ultratrac battery saver mode
So what is better? Smartphone Or GPS For Hiking?
When it comes to hiking and the great outdoors, using a quality GPS device is always the best option.
Smartphones are not as durable or accurate as dedicated GPS devices and oftentimes don’t have the battery life to last an extended hike.
If you’re looking for a good quality, a reliable GPS device that will stand up to all outdoor
Remember, it is better to be safe than sorry because if something does go wrong, you’re going to be really glad that your GPS device is there and working!
Below are a few frequently asked questions relating to hiking and GPS!
How does GPS work for hiking?
A GPS device for hiking works by receiving signals from a network of satellites, which it then uses to calculate your precise location.
This information can be used to create maps or track your progress on trails.
Do I really need a GPS for hiking?
If you are hiking in an area with good cell phone coverage and your hike is not going to be very long, then you may not need a dedicated GPS device.
However, if you are going into more remote areas or plan on doing longer hikes, then I would definitely recommend having a standalone GPS unit with you.
Is a handheld GPS more accurate than a phone?
Yes, a standalone GPS is more accurate than using your smartphone’s built-in GPS.
This is because the signal strength of smartphones can fluctuate depending on how heavy it has to work in order to find satellites and calculate your location.
This makes them unreliable especially when you are trying to use something that requires precision like hiking or backpacking!
Can you use a car GPS for hiking?
There are some car GPS devices that have hiking features built-in, but they are not as accurate or durable as a dedicated hiking GPS.
I would recommend sticking with a device specifically designed for hiking if you want the best experience while out on the trails.
What is the best GPS app for hiking? Best GPS Apps For Hiking
- Google Maps – This app is a great option for general navigation but does not have as many hiking-specific features as some of the other apps listed.
- Gaia GPS – This app is specifically designed for hikers and backpackers, with lots of features like route planning, track recording and offline maps.
- AllTrails – This app has a huge database of trails, which can be filtered by location, difficulty and length. It also includes user reviews and photos.
What is the easiest GPS to use For Hiking?
I personally use The Garmin GPSMAP 66i and it is a pretty easy GPS to use.
It has an easy to read screen and built-in maps so you don’t need to purchase additional things.
How accurate is cell phone GPS location?
Cell phones can give you decent location information, but it is usually not as accurate as a standalone GPS device.
It depends on the phone and how close the cell towers are to your current location!
How many people can use GPS at once?
Most handheld GPS devices can only track one person’s location at a time.
However, there are some newer models that allow you to share your location with other people using an app or online service.
This could be helpful if you are hiking with someone else and want to keep track of each other’s progress.
What types of devices use GPS?
Almost any device that has a built-in GPS receiver can use GPS tracking. This includes smartphones, tablets, laptops, cars, and even some watches!
Just make sure the device you are using is compatible with the type of GPS software or app you want to use.
Do GPS watches work in the woods or while hiking?
GPS watches usually work best when you are hiking on trails that are well-maintained and have good visibility.
In dense woods or in areas with tall buildings, their signal can be blocked and they may not work as well.
If you are expecting to do a lot of hiking in such conditions, I would recommend looking for a more rugged GPS watch like the Garmin 010-02064-00 Instinct.
This way you will still get good directions even when your surroundings are less than ideal!