Best Handheld Outdoor GPS unit - Spring 2021

Garmin, satmap -

Best Handheld Outdoor GPS unit - Spring 2021

As we look forward to the start of 2021 we are again looking at the best handheld Outdoor GPS unit - Spring 2021, for walkers and mountain bikers in the UK.

Never had a GPS before and struggling to understand how the Outdoor GPS will navigate you? If so, please do take a look first at out 'Never had a GPS before' videos (opens up in a new window so you can come back to these videos).

What is the best Handheld GPS Unit?

We again will look at the best budget GPS unit, best top end GPS unit and large screen GPS unit on the market and give an honest impartial review, we will help you close the best handheld Outdoor GPS unit for 2021. As we update these videos every quarter so we can give you an up to date answer to the most commonly asked question, what are the best handheld GPS units?

I very much appreciate many people have personal preferences, but after teaching people how to use GPS units for many years and of course using all the units currently on the market I have put together my personal best buys for each of the categories.

Please do feel free to leave your own comments below and if you are interested in a GPS unit please do fill in a short form to get a personalised recommendation.

Best Budget GPS unit - 2021

How they rank - budget handheld GPS Unit

1. Best budget buttoned GPS unit - Garmin eTrex 32x - more here
with TOPO ACTIVE mapping only (£219.99), with Birdseye plus voucher (£269.99), with 1:50k maps (£329.99), with 1:25k maps (£519.99)

2. Best budget touch screen GPS unit - Garmin eTrex 35t - more here
with TOPO ACTIVE mapping only (£259.99), with Birdseye plus voucher (£319.99), with 1:50k maps (£359.99), with 1:25k maps (£549.99)

3. Best budget buttoned GPS unit (worth extra if you can afford it) - Garmin GPSMAP 65s - more here
with TOPO ACTIVE mapping only (£325.00), with Birdseye plus voucher (£374.99), with 1:50k maps (£399.99), with 1:25k maps (£599.99)

Best Top End GPS Unit - 2021

 How they rank - best top end handheld GPS Unit

1. Best top end Touch Screen GPS unit - Garmin Oregon 700 - more here
with Birdseye plus voucher (£449.99), with 1:50k maps (£399.99 - CURRENTLY FREE OS MAP CARD), with 1:25k maps (£699.99)

2. Best Button top end GPS Unit - Garmin GPSMAP 66s (cheaper than GPSMAP 66sr - below) - more here
with Birdseye plus voucher (£449.99), with 1:50k maps (£549.99), with 1:25k maps (£699.99)

3. Best Button top end GPS unit - Garmin GPSMAP 66sr (same as 66s but is multi band, has Topo Active mapping installed and built in battery) - worth the extra money if you can afford it - more here
with 1:50k maps (£549.99), with 1:25k maps (£769.99)

4. Best Button top end GPS with two way satellite communication - Garmin GPSMAP66i - more here
with Birdseye plus voucher (£649.99), with 1:50k maps (£649.99 - CURRENTLY REDUCED - FREE OS mapping), with 1:25k maps (£849.99)

Best Large screen GPS unit - 2021

 How they rank - best large screen GPS unit.

1. Best large screen GPS unit - Garmin Montana 700 - more here
with TOPO ACTIVE maps (£529.99), with 1:50k maps (£629.99), with 1:25k maps (£849.99)

2. Best 'cheaper' large screen GPS unit - SatMap Active 20 - more here
with no maps (£329.99), with 1:50k maps (£419.99), with 1:10, 1:25k and 1:50k maps (£479.99) - ALL MAPPING OPTIONS CURRENTLY REDUCED

2. Best budget large screen large screen GPS unit from Garmin - Garmin Montana 610 - more here
with 1:50k maps (£525.00), with 1:25k maps (£775.00)

What should you do next?

1. Request a free personalised GPS recommendation from GPS Training - click here

2. Take a look at our - Never had a GPS before - page.

This will take you through the principles of Outdoor GPS navigation with a GPS unit.

3. Book an online consultation. If you want to discuss your GPS options please do book a free online GPS consultation.

4. If you have any further questions, or you want to talk over your options, please do get in touch with us here at GPS training.


Summary of things to consider before buying an outdoor handheld GPS unit.

In the past we have very much had the best handheld GPS units for hiking and also the best cycling GPS but we now have ‘multi-activity’ GPS units, which is a big change over the past few years.

Multi-activity GPS Units

With of the technology on the cycling units (live tracking and fitness stats etc) cascading onto Outdoor GPS units used for hiking there has been some big changes.

We have always had profiles on Garmin GPS units but over the past few years these have become very prominent on the ‘new generation’ of Garmin units. Profiles enable you to change the way the outdoor GPS acts when you are doing different activities (i.e. walking, walking and getting turn by turn routing, road cycling, mountain biking and geocaching etc).

Research and understanding the Outdoor GPS options on the market is key. Over recent years the rate of change of the outdoor GPS made for walking and cycling has changed out of all recognition.

We get people who come on our GPS Training Courses who frankly have been sold the wrong GPS unit. They were wrongly advised in the shop (not from us I may add) and then they realise so once you point that the bargain they have been sold is 10 year old technology.

They then wish they had sought some advice first. GPS units are not cheap, so it does worry me when people have been sold an incorrect product. Advice is free and if you are reading this article you are doing you research so well done, it is time well spent.

So here are my thoughts about the GPS units that are currently on the market which hopefully will answer the question – Which is the best walking GPS unit for me and my budget? By offering good independent GPS advice we are now the largest independent retailer of Outdoor GPS units in the UK so what have we learnt over the years?

Make of GPS Unit - Garmin or SatMap?

Here at GPS Training we sell all of the the main brands of GPS units – Garmin and SatMap. We also train people to use all of these different units (on separate courses I must add).

Garmin and SatMap GPS units have very different good and bad points.

If you are looking for looking for a bright HD large moving digital map the SatMap is the better option, but if you are looking for a true navigational device (think of a car satnav but off road) the Garmin excel at this.

So if you are looking for a large HD map that will move when you are out walking, do very much consider a SatMap Active 20 GPS unit.

If you are looking for a proper navigational experience (think along the lines of a scar SatNav but off road) the Garmin is the way to go. If that description puzzles you take a look at our page - Never had a GPS before - in this I take you through the planning process and navigational experience you get on a Garmin Outdoor GPS unit - watch that here.

With Garmin's free route planning software, Garmin BaseCamp, it now give you everything so you can plan routes on your PC or Mac and transfer these to your Garmin GPS.

Alternatively, you can plan your routes directly on your GPS. Don't worry if you are feeling a little overwhelmed, when you buy an Outdoor GPS from GPS Training we train you to use your new GPS in with the price with free  access to our 'online resource' for 1 year. This has step by step guides on how to use both your new Outdoor GPS unit and also the route planning software that works alongside it.

Garmin GPS units are good products and with the great product support we offer here at GPS Training and affordable mapping they very easy to use. Garmin GPS units have developed over years and products have got better and better. They are a large American company, with a fast rate of progress in the world of Outdoor GPS units and this is why they keep building the best handheld GPS units.

Also don't forget here at GPS Training if you buy from us we give you free technical support so you are not on hold 20 minutes on the Garmin technical support, call us instead and after 2 rings we will answer and our full-time technical support team will sort out any problems you have with the GPS you have bought from us.

You will see we also take trade in of old units so every day we speak to many people regarding their GPS experiences. With many of the other makes many people have just given up and are looking for the experience they initially sought and this they will get from Garmin.

GPS Screen - Black and white or colour?

The only black and white Garmin GPS unit on the market is the e-Trex 10.

Unless the only reason you are buying a GPS unit is to mark fixed points (i.e. get a Ordnance Survey Grid Reference) or geo-caching (and then I would still think about spending a little more for a colour screen one) I would steer away from a black and white screen GPS unit.

Black and white screen GPS are the most commonly miss sold GPS units because people solely buy on price.

People think they are getting a bargain and then realise later down the path they should have spent a little bit more and bought a colour screen unit.

The joy of a colour screen GPS that you can add affordable Ordnance Survey mapping to them, either at the time of purchase (the best option) or at a later stage.

So please do spend that extra few pounds and but an outdoor GPS unit with a colour screen.

GPS Data Input - Touchscreen or buttons?

The basic e-Trex Garmin range has buttons, also the Garmin GPSMAP 65 and GPSMAP66 range GPS unit (one of the top models) also has buttons, the rest of the Garmin GPS units are touchscreen.

When it's best to go for a touch screen Outdoor GPS Unit - If you are going to mainly using your GPS unit in summer (i.e. when you are not wearing gloves) or you are going to be using your Outdoor GPS unit for cycling it is best to go for a Touch Screen GPS unit.

When it's best to go for an Outdoor GPS with buttons - If you are into high level and winter walking and you wear gloves buttons are certainly worth looking at a buttoned GPS units. To be honest over recent years the best selling GPS units have had buttons - read our review looking at the top 10 selling Outdoor GPS units here.

So if you walk all year round and often wear gloves I would consider a button GPS unit.

Mapping on the screen of your GPS

You can put mapping on all the colour screen GPS units (please note I am talking about the current generation units) and when you see an Ordnance Survey Map on the screen you will not be disappointed.

If you get a chance to buy maps at the same time as buying the unit (i.e. bundled in with unit) buy them. You will get them at a massively reduced price, but don’t be conned by small areas of mapping, if you are offered a bundle of maps I would expect full UK mapping at 1:50k or 1:25k maps don’t go for anything less. There are also other options from Garmin where you can download areas of 1:25k maps. These are called Birdseye vouchers)

I must add that GPS Training have these bundled offers online or in our online shop, but many online retailers don’t.

Again this is one of the big mistakes people make. Buying their GPS cheaper elsewhere and not realising it does not come with mapping. Please, please don't do this!

It is often a hard phone call to make when the customer rings up very proud that they have bought there GPS £50.00 cheaper elsewhere then they then find out they have to now spend another £150.00 on mapping (when they could have had this bundled in for the £50.00 they thought they had saved)

Will your Ordnance Survey map subscription work on a Garmin GPS Unit?

No, it will not.

I have spoke to so many people who have been conned by this offer. If you have a OS subscription the maps will NOT show on any Garmin GPS unit.

But you can plan your walks on your OS maps online (i.e. you maps you get with your subscription) and import the gpx file it produces onto your Garmin GPS.

​Then the GPS will navigate you (i.e. you will follow the arrow) but your map page will NOT show OS maps.

Fingers crossed that makes sense, if not go to out 'Never had a GPS before' webpage. Then on the second video down - You would not plan on the Garmin software but instead on your OS mapping (on your PC/ Mac).

Then when you see me out walking with the GPS unit, you would still get the arrow but the GPS would not show an OS map.

Don't worry, there are videos taking you through what you will need to do in the online training you get from us.

if you want to use a GPS in this way, once you have purchased let me know and I will send you a direct link to the training video you need to watch. this takes you through planning on your OS subscription and transferring the route data over.

Alternatively, you could just buy the maps alongside your GPS unit and life is so much simpler!

Electronic Compass on a GPS – Worth the money?

The majority of Outdoor GPS units now come with built-in electronic compasses.

Why? As GPS units work from satellites with are thousands of miles above you when you rotate the unit through 90 degrees it does nothing.

Why should it, it has only moved 2 or three inches? Well as a walker if it is pointing in the wrong direction it makes a massive difference.

Therefore, they started putting in electronic compasses and it gets even better. With any new generation unit you don’t even need to keep them flat as they are what you call 3 axis compasses.

Therefore, with a unit with a built-in electronic compass your Ordnance Survey map, on the screen, will automatically orient itself and your compass will be correct when you move your GPS unit around.

The units without electronic compasses do still have a compass BUT you have to be moving for these to work, as it needs to be processing location data from the satellites.

So the extra few pounds for an electronic compass is certainly worth the money. 


I hope the above has helped you out in helping you choose your GPS unit. So which GPS unit should you go for?

Please look at the videos at the top of this page where I look at the best budget, top end and large screen GPS unit.

Please call GPS Training to talk over the options and I very much hope this article has helped in some small way in choosing the best handheld GPS unit for your own personal requirements.

What should you do next?

1. Request a free personalised GPS recommendation from GPS Training - click here

2. Take a look at our - Never had a GPS before - page.

This will take you through the principles of Outdoor GPS navigation with a GPS unit.

3. Book an online consultation. If you want to discuss your GPS options please do book a free online GPS consultation.

4. If you have any further questions, or you want to talk over your options, please do get in touch with us here at GPS training


  • mike jacobs

    ‘many people have been conned’ – absolutely! A quick scan of providers omit to tell you the base map provided wouldn’t be good enough for lorry driving never mind hiking. Advertised free subscription to OS is s total con.
    You can expect to double the cost including an sd card. Our major well respected map provider is a chief culprit.

  • Grace Miles

    Hello and thanks for the video. I’m thinking of getting the touch 25 but have never used a gps device before so just want to check before I commit. So could you email me please?!

  • Ron Simmonds

    Excellent article and videos. I’ve used GPS units for over 14 years and bought my current Oregon 700 from you guys. A friend recently asked me for advice and as I started putting information together, I suddenly realised that you’d done all the work for me in this article. I’ll be sending him the link. Thanks

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