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Rough Terrain Backpacker Needs Which Handheld GPS?

onewayroad 0 Points
edited November -1 in GPS Recommendations
I backpack in places like the Sawtooth, Selway, Bitterroot, North Cascades and Olympic Mountains as well as the Hell's Canyon all located in Washington and Idaho. Everywhere is very steep and rugged for the most part. Occasionally I travel to Central and South America but GPS coverage is not a priority when there but would be nice. I would like the GPS to have some street and highway capabilities as well. I've not owned a GPS so would like to know what recommended GPS will do the job for 2 or 3 hundred bucks? Thanks to all who reply.


  • Boyd 2045 Points
    First, realize that places like canyons can be a real challenge for any GPS. You need a full view of the sky, and canyon walls reflect the satellite signals causing errors.

    In your price range I would have a look at the following:

    Garmin GPSMap 60csx - time tested and rugged, somewhat older model but still very popular. Possible downside is that the new version has a different chipset than the old ones which were so highly respected. I have one of these. Current price ~$250

    Garmin Oregon 200 - touchscreen interface is a big improvement, high resolution screen. Can be hard to see in certain bright cloudy conditions. I have an Oregon also, and in spite of this I prefer it. A big plus is Garmin's new "custom map" format which is not supported on the 60csx: Battery life might be a bit less than the 60csx. Current price ~$250 - but watch for a sale on the Oregon 300, which has additional features for the same price at REI on November 20.

    DeLorme PN-40. Have not used these, but a big plus is the map subscription which lets you download aerial imagery and real USGS topo maps. Battery life is reported to be somewhat of a problem. Price should be similar, maybe a bit more when you include the subscription.

    One nice bonus for Garmin units are the free, user-contributed maps which are available at places like Often they are even better than Garmin's own maps. Note that no maps are included with either the 60csx or Oregon 200 or 300. You will need to purchase maps unless you can find free ones.

    I don't think you will find a lot of difference in GPS reception or accuracy between any of these (or any other modern units). All consumer units are spec'ed at 10 meter accuracy. Geocachers tend to obsess over accuracy, but for hiking around it generally isn't a big factor. And as mentioned above, you will have issues in your favorite places which will affect all brands and models.
  • I, being new to anything GPS, want to thank you Boyd for your reply and much needed input and direction. Pushing 60 years old I still have the gumption to learn and use something new. Your willingness to share what you know is much appreciated. Thanks
  • Boyd 2045 Points
    Glad I could help. My 60th birthday is quickly vanishing in my rear view mirror here.... :lol:

    If you can find a store which actually has some of these, it would really be worth your while to play with them. REI is a good place for this. Often their prices are a bit higher, but last time I checked, they had a very liberal return/exchange policy where you could switch to a different model if you weren't happy. If you're unsure about what you need, this might make sense...
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