Hiking is an exciting outdoor activity, full of unknown adventure experience. However, it is the first priority to keep hikers safe in the wild. An outdoor GPS tracking device will share real-time location of each hiker even when there’s no cellular service. 

Let’s see what we need to know to choose the GPS that best suits our hiking and trekking trips. The first thing is to see the characteristics that make a GPS more complete or better adapted for use in trekking and hiking (these may vary for other types of activities like mountain bike, mountain races, etc.).

The main features to consider when analyzing the devices are (they are not placed in order of importance):

  • Screen and manageability
  • Weight and size
  • Type of batteries
  • Memory
  • Construction, materials and protection of the device
  • Digital compass and barometric altimeter
  • Additional characteristics
  • Software and maps for the device
  • Usability with free software


As for its manageability, all the devices can be divided into two large blocks, the touch screen and the keypad. The general trend is towards touch equipment, as with other devices such as smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc.

In general, touch screen devices are handled more easily and faster. Its main drawback is its use with gloves. At this point we have followers and detractors of both devices equally and it is a bit of a personal choice. If our routes are mainly in cold, snow, etc. environments, being able to use the device without removing gloves is a very important option. Similarly, it is possible to use special gloves or special pencils for touch screens. As a rule, I opt for touch screens. The screen should have a good resolution and a size of at least 2 inches.


As it happens when evaluating any object that is part of the equipment that we will carry during our routes, something to take into account is the weight that we are going to have to carry and the volume that is going to occupy us in our backpack. This weight must include the use batteries and replacement batteries. 



Ideally, the equipment should use standard type interchangeable batteries. It is not at all recommended that they carry built-in batteries that we cannot exchange for a replacement. Likewise, the fact that the device can work with conventional AA batteries is always desirable, since this type of batteries can be found virtually anywhere. The equipment should last at least 10-12 hours running on the same batteries.


On the one hand there is the internal memory of the device and on the other the possibilities of using additional external cards (very similar to what happens with smart phones). The teams also have a maximum number of waypoints (points), routes and track (itinerary recordings) that we can store.

On the memory in electronic devices in general, it can be summarized in a simple way with the following premise: against more, the better. Against more storage capacity more maps we can carry and more routes and track we can archive. In today’s equipment we must look for at least a storage capacity of 100 routes and 1000 waypoints. Of course everyone has to have the possibility of using external memory cards, which will be where we will store the maps (to get an idea, digital cartographic maps of areas such as the Iberian Peninsula can occupy about 3GB).


The GPS for trekking and routes, are for use outdoors and this implies that they must have a robust construction and be designed to withstand falls, humidity, dust, snow, etc. In electronic devices, in general, there is a nomenclature to measure the degree of protection they offer to dust and moisture, which is called IP protection. In our GPS this should not be less than IPX7, which is equivalent to supporting, without any filtration, the full immersion at 1 meter depth for 30 minutes. GoFindMe GPS Tracker is one of the tracking devices that can reach the requirement of IPX7.


The GPS get their information through a set of satellites, and from this information they derive the position both longitudinally and height. In order to improve the ability of these devices to display correct address information while we are detained, even when the device is not completely leveled, a three-axis electronic compass is added. On the other hand, to improve accuracy when displaying altitude, a barometric altimeter is added to predict changes over time. I think these two sensors are essential in a mountain GPS.


Within these characteristics we have the communication options. On the one hand they allow us to connect to other GPS or smart phones and on the other there are the connection options of ANT + auxiliary devices, which allow us to connect for example a heart rate monitor or a thermometer.

Other additions, such as a digital photo camera, I think are not necessary at all and I see more problems than virtues.


The maps that we can use with our GPS are of course a very important point to consider when choosing a device. Not all maps are compatible with all devices, nor do they all have the same quality. On the other hand it is also highly recommended to have software to load on our computer that allows us to communicate with the GPS to transfer the information of the routes, download the tracks, create routes, edit them, upload the maps of the areas, etc.


We can use commercial proprietary software (usually the applications that come with GPS, or that can be purchased separately), as well as closed maps. On the other hand, it is highly recommended that GPS allows the use of cartography from other sources, such as that derived from OpenStreetMap, which is generated by the IGNs of the different countries, etc.

Now you should know how to choose a good GPS tracking device for hiking and trekking.  Take the GPS tracker that suit you best, and have a happy and safe hiking trip.