Popular hiking trails, for the most part, are well-marked and allow hikers to remain on course. Occasionally hikers like to leave the trail either to explore a specific area, set up camp, or to visit a specific location or feature. There are also times when weather conditions such as rain, fog or snow can result in the trail being a bit harder to find and follow. In these situations a handheld best hunting GPS device can make all the difference.
What best hunting GPS features are important
Nearly all top of the line best hunting GPS units will have a color display screen, will be waterproof and come with a backlight. Other items and capabilities differ from model to model and with price point. Items which are of critical importance to hikers include extended battery life, screen size, and acquisition time. These features can vary greatly from one model to the next.
As with any piece of hiking equipment size and weight is important. Among a group of the top 20 best hunting GPS handheld units, the weight ranged from a low of 4.1 ounces to a high of 1.3 pounds. Average weight for the top 20 was just under 8 ounces.
Best reviewed handheld best hunting GPS units
A glance at the top 20 units reviewed and it becomes clear one brand dominates this arena. Of the top 20, Magellan had two models in the countdown and Delorme had three. The remaining fifteen units were all Garmin.
Top 10 Best GPS Units;
- Garmin Oregon 400t
- Delorme Earthmate PN-40
- Garmin Rino 520HCx
- Garmin GPSMap 60CSx
- Garmin eTrex Vista HCx
- Garmin Oregon 300
- Delorme Earthmate PN-30
- Garmin GPSMAP 76CSx
- Garmin eTrex Legend HCx
- Garmin eTrex Venture HC
Most of the top 20 had very similar features and capabilities. Four categories, deemed as important to hikers, did have some rather significant differences. These categories included battery life, acquisition time, display resolution, and screen type.
Display resolution – Magellan Crossovergps with a screen resolution of 480 x 480
Battery Life – The Garmin eTrex Vista HC x and Garmin eTrex Legend HCx both have the best battery life at 25 hours.
Acquisition Time – The Garmin Oregon 400t and Garmin Astra 220 both have acquisition time of 1 second. The next best unit had acquisition times of 15 seconds with many going as high as 45 seconds.
Touch Screen – Only two units in the top 20 came with a touch screen. The Garmin Oregon 400t and the Garmin Oregon 300
A handheld GPS device can give you added protection and peace of mind while on the trail. Exactly how much power and which options you need is a matter of personal taste and the conditions under which you intend to be hiking. Another major consideration for most buyers will be price, so if you want all of the bells and whistles, be prepared to pay for them.
The Risks of Women HIking Solo
For women hiking solo for the first time, the fear of getting lost is not unfounded. But diligent preparation and the use of high tech methods to mark a digital trail can give the lone woman hiker the confidence she needs to proceed. Hiking with a digital camera, cell phone and best hunting GPS device can help to mark a digital trail, increasing the odds of a lone hiker emerging safely from parks and woods. Preparation includes carrying low tech safety items that assist female hikers along the trail. But when assessing the risks of hiking alone, women hikers must be prepared to face the realities of nature in the event technology fails.
Getting Lost: Remaining Calm and in Control
Trail marker trees felled by storms and animal paths crisscrossing trails can distract the inexperienced woman hiker. Stick to marked trails and be willing to turn back if weather conditions change or at the first inkling of fatigue. On a cloudy day it’s difficult to determine direction. At the first signs of confusion – STOP. Panic only compounds disorientation.
Grab on to a tree and take a breather until clear thinking returns.
Reclaim control over the route by cross-referencing GPS with downloaded topographic maps, compass, and other visual landmarks. This action alone can lead the woman hiker to a safe way out.
If confusion persists, use a cell phone to contact potential rescuers. The local County Sheriff’s Department ensures a rapid response. Text messages are often successful in areas of weak signal strength and transmissions can be tracked to a hiker’s location.
Backcountry Survival for a Woman Alone: Nature vs. Technology
High tech precautions are useful only when they work. Should cell phones/GPS fail it is time to implement proven low tech measures. It is vital for the lone woman hiker to stay put, remain calm, keep warm and hydrated, and promote visibility from the air. Shouting wastes time and energy and should be used only to frighten away wildlife.
“It’s popular for hikers to carry a whistle,” says Steven Elliott, a seasonal park guide at the Morristown National Historic Park in New Jersey. He encourages women hiking alone to use the whistle if they become lost or injured and cell phones fail. Three short blasts is the international signal for distress, drawing the attention of law enforcement, trail volunteers, and other hikers within earshot.
While awaiting rescue, a lone woman hiker should:
Spread a garbage bag in the nearest clearing where air traffic can spot it. If darkness sets in, use the bag to keep warm and dry. A compact mirror amplifies the beam from a flashlight and serves to signal rescuers.
Make a pile of leaves and sticks on which to lie or sit down.
Don’t eat anything that can’t be readily identified. Ingestion of mushrooms and berries can be fatal.
Siphon water from springs and streams, not lakes and rivers; but resist the temptation to follow a stream or river.
Conserve power on cell phones and GPS devices by regularly turning power off at longer intervals and back on for shorter lengths of time. A regular pattern is key. Use a watch to time intervals.
Find a Hiking Buddy
The fear of getting lost is not unfounded. The National Parks Service reports an average of eleven SAR (search and rescue) missions per day. Luckily, 68% of lost or injured hikers were spotted within a mile radius of where they first became distressed. But most recreational trails programs discourage all hikers from traveling alone. This includes hiking solo with a pet. Like many recreational activities, hiking is a contact sport with nature and can be most rewarding for women hikers when shared with a hiking buddy or with a hiking club. Plan to include several hikers for journeys over two miles. Female hikers can find a hiking buddy and gain insights from more experienced women hikers by contacting local hiking clubs and online meet-ups.