Top Handheld GPS Devices

If you like your car's GPS receiver, try a handheld GPS unit from Spot, Garmin, Magellan, GolfLogix, or DeLorme, and see what it can do for your next bike ride, hike, golf game, kayaking, or geocaching adventure.

Consult topographic maps and aerial photos -- just like Jack Bauer -- with Delorme's GPS PN-20.
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DeLorme Earthmate GPS PN-20
Good for:Aerial imagery
Weight: 5.12 ounces
Screen: Color
Battery life: AA/14 hrs; Lithium/22hrs
Link: DeLorme Earthmate GPS PN-20

Want to have aerial photos on your GPS, ala Jack Bauer? Check out the waterproof DeLorme PN-20 which, like the Magellan Triton, allows you to load USGS topo maps. In my own testing, I was quite impressed with how much detail shows up on aerial photos and how helpful they can be in the field. The PN-20 package includes DeLorme's Topo USA maps on DVD for transfer to the unit and $100 of download credits for aerial imagery. Read a full review here.

Garmin eTrex Vista HCx
Good for:Day hikes
Weight: 5.5 ounces with batteries
Screen: Color
Battery life: 25 hours
Price: $321.41
Link: Garmin eTrex Vista HCx

Ideal for backpackers and anyone concerned about weight or battery life, the Vista HCx mimics the features of the Garmin 60CSx, sacrificing primarily screen size in exchange for the improved specs. As with the 60CSx/60Cx, there is a cheaper option in this line, too -- the Legend HCx, which drops the electronic compass and barometric altimeter.

The Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx is widely regarded as the gold standard in handheld GPS receivers.
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Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx
Good for:Geocaching; solid, all-purpose device
Weight: 7.5 ounces with batteries
Screen: Color
Battery life: 18 hours
Link: Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx

It may not have the Triton's touch screen or the Colorado's high-resolution display, but the Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx remains the standard by which other handheld navigators are measured. While the newer, flashier units have problems that may or may not be resolved with future firmware upgrades, the 60CSx simply works. Feature-rich in terms of functions, this unit remains popular with geocachers, hikers, and outdoor professionals. Stepping down to the 60Cxyou'll save some bucks but lose the 60CSx's electronic compass and barometric altimeter.

Some Final Advice
As you can see, there is a handheld or sport GPS for nearly everyone. This has been a very brief overview of the various types available, so do yourself a favor and check out some detailed reviews online before you buy.

Rich Owings is the editor of GPS Tracklog, and the author of GPS Mapping -- Make Your Own Maps.

Editor's Choice
Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing