The 5 Best GPS for Bikepacking Reviewed
The great outdoors is a frontier all of us feel connected to. Recently, as the pandemic has shown us all, being outside among nature and wildlife is irreplaceable. That’s maybe why bikepacking is set to rise as more and more people want to climb every hill and mountain, ride through every field and meadow in their countries. But to do this safely, you need to have a gps. As you can probably tell, the global positioning system uses satellite locating to pinpoint your exact position on earth. This means you can always find out where you are, no matter if you are on a mountain, in the forest, in a local cafe or taking your dog for a walk.
It’s crucial for bikepackers to have their own portable gps. With a great gps in your backpack, you can always find out how far the next town is, how far the next hotel or motel is, and where you are while in the countryside. It means virtually, you will never be lost. It gives you peace of mind in another way too. If you are hurt and unable to help yourself, you will need to call for help. In case you are deep in the Australian outback, on a foggy mountainside or hiking through Siberia, you will find it difficult to know exactly where you are. How will the rescue service get to you? Thankfully, you can use your gps coordinates to let them know. Yet, every single gps has a different design and feature, so which one is the best one?
Best GPS for Bikepacking
First things first, the screen is large and clear. The colors are nice and vibrant, allowing for differentiation between icons, roads, fields, mountains and the arrow where you are. The body around the screen is very robust and protects the screen from being squashed or impacted. There are no buttons, as it’s purely touchscreen. Some people might not like that for a few reasons. If your hands are cold you may not have the cognitive accuracy that you normally do, so touchscreen might not be so agile in practice. But the icons on the screen are very clear and large enough to avoid mis-taps and mis-swipes.
It has a WAAS-enabled gps receiver, Hotfix satellite production and this is pretty much the industry standard. You’ll be able to know your elevation, compass angle and the ambient temperature of where you are. This is due to weather reports coming to you via satellite. The gps will last for about 22 hours with AA batteries and only 16 with lithium-ion. A somewhat needless feature is the 8-megapixel camera which you can use to take pictures of things you see along the way. Since you will have your smartphone with you, it’s kind of pointless. Overall, the design is sleek and it’s easily packed away in your backpack.
- SEE YOUR SURROUNDINGS - Includes a 1-year Birdseye Satellite Imagery subscription1
- GPS AND GLONASS - With its high-sensitivity, WAAS-enabled GPS receiver, Hotfix satellite prediction and GLONASS support, Montana locates your position quickly and precisely and maintains its location even in heavy cover and deep canyons
- TRACK MANAGER - Ability to organize and navigate through waypoints/routes/track logs (easily start/stop recording track logs)
- CAPTURE THE MOMENT - 8 megapixel digital camera for higher quality images and better resolution; geotagged with coordinates automatically, allowing you to
Now the Garmin inReach Explorer+ looks like your classic gps for bikepacking. It’s bright red, looks like a walkie-talkie and it has buttons! It has one large circled central button for navigation and smaller buttons for settings changes, etc. The sacrifice you pay for these buttons is a much smaller screen than the 680t. However, you don’t lose anything in the way of quality. The screen is bright, clear and very easy to pick up on, especially when you might not have the best light condition. The gps is directly linked to the GEOS emergency services so you are trapped under a fallen log, have broken limbs or if you are just lost and afraid, they can locate where you are and send someone to save you. It’s very beginner-friendly in that way.
We found that it had good reception when using it’s two-way texting service but we were kind of perplexed as to why you would need this. Mobile towers are everywhere these days and yes, deep in the wilderness your smartphone won’t be able to call or text anyone, but is texting really useful? Most bikepackers will also carry actual walkie-talkies to keep in contact with each other. Who is going to be using the smallish buttons to text when they are freezing or dehydrated and or injured? On the whole though, it’s robust, and very easy to use.
- 100 percent global Iridium satellite coverage enables two way text messaging from anywhere (satellite subscription required)
- Trigger an interactive SOS to the 24/7 search and rescue monitoring center
- Track and share your location with family and friends. Water rating : IPX7. Battery : Rechargeable internal lithium ion
- Pair with mobile devices using the free earthmate app for access to downloadable maps, U.S. NOAA charts, color aerial imagery and more
- In reach explorer+ device adds preloaded Delorme topo maps with onscreen GPS routing plus built in digital compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer
Right off the bat, it has an awesome design. It has five buttons on the side and a big screen. The body is quite boxy and short, making it able to fit onto your belt loop. However, since the buttons are on the side, it might be easy to press them while climbing up awkward rock faces or whenever you have to crouch down you might accidentally press the menu button. This may be trivial but it’s something we noted. The screen is nice, but it’s not as sharp as the top two we’ve reviewed here. It seems to have a lower pixel count, making the writing and map image slightly more jagged. The 2.2-inch display is more than adequate at showing your location on a moving map, so it’s not bad by any means.
It has an in-built alarm clock for those of you that would rather save your phone battery and shut it off at night. The battery life is up to 25 hours, which is perhaps it’s most impressive feature. It weighs about 147g which is pretty much like an average large smartphone. With a large 4GB internal storage, you can store many maps and locations so you can visit the same place over and over without wasting battery. It doesn’t have a camera which makes sense but it does have wireless connectivity.
- UPGRADED DISPLAY Features a 2.2” 65K color sunglight readable display offering increased resolution (240 x 320 pixels). Physical dimensions: 2.1" x 4.0" x 1.3" (5.4 x 10.3 x 3.3 cm)
- LOAD MORE MAPS Large 3.7 GB of internal memory and microSD card slot lets you load a variety of maps, including TOPO 24K, HuntView, BlueChart g2, City Navigator NT and BirdsEye Satellite Imagery (subscription required)
- PRELOADED BASEMAP Includes a worldwide basemap with shaded relief
- BUILT IN SENSORS eTrex 30x adds a built in 3 axis tilt compensated electronic compass and a barometric altimeter which tracks changes in pressure to pinpoint your precise altitude, and you even can use it to plot barometric pressure over time
- WIRELESS Wirelessly share your waypoints, tracks, routes and geocaches with other compatible devices simply press “send” to transfer your information also wirelessly connects to compatible Garmin devices, including VIRB and accessory sensors
Just like the Explorer+, the 65sx has a classic gps backpacking system design. It looks like a walkie-talkie, with a large antenna. It too has buttons, sacrificing some screen space. We also noticed that it has just 16 hours of battery life. This is something that we had to demote the 64sx for. For a serious bikepacker, that is not going to be enough. We give good marks to any gps bikepacking system that has 20 hours and above, but 16 is just not acceptable. The screen quality is nothing special, but it’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination. It has good satellite imagery, good compass navigation and it’s very easy to pick up in low and high sunlight.
Rugged and water-resistant, it is something you can rely on to keep working even while fording a stream of dropping it onto a rocky path. It has no less than 8 buttons, along with 1 large button in the middle. It makes up for a lot of its shortcomings with the huge 8 GB internal storage. So you can save your favorite fishing spot and maps and come back to them over and over. We think that this kind of gps is great for the average Joe who is new to the market. It’s price range is middle of the road, not too expensive but not cheap either.
- Rugged and water-resistant design with button operation and a 2. 6” sunlight-readable color display
- Preloaded with Topo Active maps (U. S. and Australia only) featuring routable roads and trails for cycling and hiking
- Know where you’re at with a high-sensitivity receiver with quad helix antenna and multi-GNSS support (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo) and 3-axis compass with barometric altimeter
- Wireless connectivity via BLUETOOTH technology and ANT+ technology available on GPSMAP 64sx and GPSMAP 64csx models
- Battery life: up to 16 hours in GPS mode
This is your true beginner gps bikepacking system. It’s price is in the lower category and yet it’s features are quite good. Right away, it’s golden jewel is it’s gigantic 25-hour battery life and 8Gb internal storage. We found that the design is very familiar in terms of the 30 x. It has five buttons, all of them on the side, with 1 button on the screen. It’s small and rugged, with a good water-resistance level. It has geocaching to show you the ropes and how to use all the features. The latitude and longitude of your position is thus going to be easier to find out. You also have free maps to download which is good for those of you that would like to visit your local national parks and not fuss around with the locating system at all.
Garmin support is also very helpful and their call system is great for beginners who would like to know how to use a feature that they can’t understand by using geocaching. The 3 axis compass is also easy to use and does exactly what you would expect. The screen quality is pretty much as you would expect at this price range. It’s a 2.6-inch screen that is good but not great in sunlight. The text is clear and the images are too, but the vibrancy isn’t all that special.
- Explore confidently with the reliable handheld GPS
- 2.2" sunlight-readable color display with 240 x 320 display pixels for improved readability
- Preloaded with Topo Active maps with routable roads and trails for cycling and hiking
- Support for GPS and GLONASS satellite systems allows for tracking in more challenging environments than GPS alone
- 8 GB of internal memory for map downloads plus a micro SD card slot.Battery life: up to 25 hours in GPS mode with 2 AA batteries
What to consider when buying a GPS for Bikepacking
Watch the following video for a great overview of the different types of GPS devices, and what to look for when choosing one:
Any of these gps bikepacking system models are great for the average to advanced hiker. We found that the larger the screen the easier it was to use. The top model doesn’t even have any buttons aside from the power button. Touchscreen is the way to go most of the time, but pack some touchscreen gloves with you. All of these models are rugged and able to be knocked around a bit. All of them share the common gps software and features that you would expect.