- 1 Cars
- 2 Smart Watches
- 3 Best Handheld GPS
- 4 GPS Tracking Devices
- 5 Phones
- 6 Other Devices with GPS
- 7 Top Brands
- 8 Summary
It’s been 30 years since Magellan released its first GPS unit and a lot has changed. It’s unlikely that you still have a GPS unit suction-cupped onto your windshield or dash. Instead, there is probably one in your car’s dashboard, on your phone, and in your watch. While they don’t often look like the mini-TV’s of the late ’90s & early 2000s, GPS units can be found in more places than ever before. Here you should find all the GPS devices that you might need for your trip, work, sport or anything else you might be up to. We have a wide range of GPS products that we have reviewed.
Many cars now how GPS built into their dashboard computer systems. These units allow you to program your destination into your car and follow the on-screen and verbal directions using a built-in display and your vehicle’s audio. While these units are great, the automotive industry is just beginning to recognize the need to elevate the screen to place it comfortably in the driver’s line of sight.
These units also allow systems like OnStar and Verizon Hum to locate the vehicle if it’s reported stolen or if a driver or passenger pushes a button to request an emergency response. Many car companies advertise these safety features as a benefit that can do anything from saving a life to unlocking a vehicle if you accidentally lock yourself out.
While you may not see as many of those old dashboard units in vehicles anymore, they are still available along with a whole host of other units designed to help you find your way around the world. You typically don’t even need an address anymore, since most systems respond to simple requests like “find restaurants near me.” Modern navigation units can pinpoint your location and provide a nearby option for whatever service you request.
Our modern Global Positioning Systems (GPS) have revolutionized our trucking industry. The days of paper logbooks are far behind us, as most trucks now include GPS. The operators use the unit for directions, to ensure they arrive within their delivery window, and to predict their mileage. Meanwhile, their company uses the same system to track loads, accurately pay drivers for their mileage, and verify that their drivers comply with all hours of service regulations. This keeps us all safer by ensuring that drivers rest when they’re required too. Some modern trucks come with GPS displays build in but not all and that is where we come in. If you are looking for GPS for trucks we have a section for that with all the best GPS units for trucks.
If you’ve ever driven an RV through the mountain, or if you’ve seen Robin Williams’ 2006 movie, RV, you know that some roads just weren’t made for campers. The GPS industry recognizes this need and offers GPS units specifically designed to be used in RVs. These units take into account the weight limits and size restrictions found on many backroads.
A good RV GPS unit will give you visual and verbal directions to your destination that keep you on roads that have been built and maintained in a way that is safe for your larger rig or towed vehicle. Many of these units remain attachments for your dash, which makes them an easy addition alongside your electronic braking system and additional mirror accessories.
Dash cameras have become more and more common in recent years. They can help you in the event of an accident that wasn’t your fault, support your disputation of a speeding ticket, and ensure that the truth is seen. The more expensive high quality dash cams have GPS built into them. This feature allows them to record and speed and location of the vehicle, which can prove that you weren’t speeding in addition to showing the crazy way the guy in front of you was driving.
Technically speaking, smartwatches have been around since the Plus Four Wristlet Route Indicator in 1927, but they’ve only become common in our every day lives in the last 5-8 years. For being such young technology, they’ve done a lot.
Today’s smartwatches have rescued fallen hikers and helped solve murders by providing GPS tracking of the person wearing them. Modern smartwatches are able to track your location, the number of steps you’ve taken, and can detect falls and call for help if necessary.
A variety of sports watches are available in today’s market. They all have GPS built-in, but they may use it in different ways. Sport GPS watches are designed to provide data for you to track your development in any of a wide range of sport.
GPS watches for running are a staple in modern running gear. They track the runner’s location, speed, distance, and elevation. This lets you see your progress as you run farther and faster. It’s also a great way to see the true challenge of that uphill climb that just wouldn’t end.
Hikers have also begun wearing GPS watches. All of these units track the hiker’s speed and distance, but some can do even more. Recently, hiking watches have become available that can provide maps and directions along in addition to having the technology to detect falls or a lack of movement. The watch will sound an alarm. If you don’t respond to the alarm, your smart hiking watch can use your cell phone connection to call 911.
For those who love to golf, a GPS sports watch designed for golfers can include pre-loaded golf courses to make moving around the course easy. It may also include a feature that will allow you to track your shots. This is a great way to watch your game improve with practice.
Since GPS watches can track your location, putting one on the wrist of your child is an easy way to ensure that you always know where they are. Many of these watches include games and challenges that encourage your child to stay active, too. That makes these watches a great health and safety tool for many families.
Cyclists travel much faster than hikers, golfers, and runners. GPS watches made for them are prepared to keep up with the fast speed while still accurately tracking their distance and elevation, as well.
Many of these watches are built to allow you to program your course or route into the watch. This can make following a route with many turns much easier to navigate. As with all sports watches, these units are a great way to track your progress. Most watches are compatible with Strava and will automatically upload your ride to that site.
A GPS watch for swimmers and one predominant and unique requirement. It must be waterproof! Of course, it also needs to be able to register the back of forth that comes with swimming laps in a pool. Luckily, there is a whole group of GPS watches available today that meet exactly those requirements.
There’s rarely a need for a swimming watch to provide a map with your location, but it’s great to be able to see how fast and far you’ve swum.
Much like swimming, diving requires some unique feature on a GPS watch. Most units designed for this purpose allow you to plan your dive right there on your watch. They will usually track where you start and end your dive using GPS and many models include a compass to make it easier to keep track of where you are while you’re underwater. These features make a GPS dive watch a great convenience to have.
Aviation GPS watches are made with pilots in mind. They include normal maps and location tracking, but also have special features like a button to make it easy to find the nearest airport. One of the most important parts of a unit for aviation is the set of tools that make it easy for pilots to keep track of their fuel usage, flight plan, ground speed, and their estimated time of arrival at their destination airport.
Tactical watches are much like the other GPS watches but made to travel through some rough conditions. Most are water-resistant and built to withstand sand, rock, hot, and cold. They will provide your GPS location along with map features and usually allow you to program in multiple destinations.
Most tactical GPS units allow you to share your information with the people who need to know where you are, and they often track other information, too. The best units have GLONASS technology too. This allows them to use the Russian version of GPS, so you’ll know where you are even when you’re overseas.
Best Handheld GPS
For those who like the adventure of leaving the trail and exploring away from cell service, a good handheld GPS is a must-have. Depending on the device that you choose, this unit can provide 3 essential functions. First, it will keep track of where you are and provide a map to get you where you want to go.
Handheld GPS devices also act as personal locators in the event of an emergency. By sharing your location or transmitting your distress, a device like this can save your life if you end up in trouble and without cell service. Be sure to save enough battery life for this feature just in case it’s ever needed.
The final function that a handheld GPS is great for is messaging. While not all models include this feature, those that do offer a way to stay in touch with loved ones when normal communication isn’t available. Be sure to check into what kind of plan is required for this feature to work, if it’s one that’s important to you.
Outdoor & Sport
No matter how you choose to spend your time outdoors, having the appropriate GPS unit with you can make the experience better. There are specific GPS watches and devices made for a large number of sports, and they can all enhance your performance and your experience. Tracking your improvements using a GPS unit is a great and easy way to see your progress as your hard work and practice pays off.
Whenever you head into the backcountry, be sure to take GPS with you. Having access to a map that can reroute you in the event that weather makes following the trail challenging will keep you safer. Consider whether or not you’ll have cell service throughout your journey. If cell towers will be in range and reliable, the GPS on your phone may be enough. If you are concerned about losing signal or expect to spend time deep in canyons or under a dense canopy of trees, consider taking a handheld GPS device that doesn’t rely on a cell tower for a connection.
There are many factors that can derail the best of hiking plans. Weather can roll in unexpectedly and lead a hiker to veer off the trail. Occasionally, hikers are forced off the trail to avoid downed trees or animals that shouldn’t be disturbed. Once away from the path, it’s easy to get turned around.
A reliable GPS unit provides the safety of a map in your pocket with the convenience of knowing where you are. Even better, a good hiking GPS doubles as a beacon in case you need to be found by search and rescue. GPS units designed for hiking can be found as watches or handheld devices.
Range Finding GPS units are a great way to up your golf game. They allow you to easily consider the lay of the land and plan the best course for your shot. These devices provide the distance to your target which can be helpful when planning your shot. Many golfers have come to prefer GPS range finders over laser finders for several reasons. They even come as apps that can be added to your phone.
GPS units designed for tactical situations offer all of the normal features of a GPS unit but in a slightly different package. When a device is built for tactical purposes, it’s usually got an extra durable case, tighter seals, and is prepared to handle a wider range of weather conditions. The other benefit to a tactical GPS unit is the compatibility when overseas. Many of these are made for travel.
When you plan to travel, be sure to pack your GPS. Being able to input your destination and be shown a map with the path to get you there will make your travel experience easier and more fulfilling. You won’t need to spend any time lost or trying to figure who, or how, to ask for direction. Most GPS units are programmed to find many major landmarks, so there’s no need to worry about knowing the exact address.
The ocean is large, seemingly flat, and blue-ish pretty much everywhere. There is no easier place to get lost, so be sure to bring along your GPS. This is yet another situation in which knowing where you are and having a clear path plotted to your destination can save your life. Add in the common emergency beacon feature, and having a GPS when sailing is doubly wonderful.
Using GPS while hunting with a group makes it easy to stay safe. Choose units that can be linked to show everyone’s location, and it becomes much easier to tell if that rustle in the leaves is a prize buck or just Uncle Frank. Tactical units are great for this purpose, and Uncle Frank will be glad that you know where he is when lining up your shot. At the end of the day, your GPS will make finding your truck much easier, too.
Small GPS units have become more affordable and easier to find in recent years. In fact, many GPS units are the same size as a large watch. Even the versatile and powerful handheld units are down to about half of a pound in weight and less than a foot in length, even with their antennae. This makes them easy to pack and bring along whether you’re touring foreign countries or hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Should you find yourself planning an expedition into deep canyons, thick forests, or anywhere cell reception is questionable, choose a GPS unit that has satellite communication built-in. This may come with a service fee, but it will allow you to send messages even when you don’t have cell reception. Units that have satellite connectivity can also post updates for your loved one so that they can always see where you are.
Fishing is more fun when you can use GPS to find the perfect spot. This is a great time to use the “breadcrumb” feature on your GPS. Just mark your launch location and everywhere you choose to stop throughout your fishing. When it’s time to head back, you won’t need to worry, just follow your markers back to your launch site. You can also buy a good Fish finders GPS combo in today’s market.
GPS Tracking Devices
When looking for something or someone that is lost, or has been taken, GPS tracking devices can take away a lot of your worry. Just view the tracker and you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for.
Consider placing a GPS tracking device in your vehicles in case they get stolen. This can also come in handy when you forget where you parked. Just imagine, the next time you forget the lot you chose for long term parking at the airport, you can just pull up the tracking device and let it lead you right to your car.
If you’ve ever worried about your luggage, a GPS tracking device can reassure you that your bag is taking the same flight as you. A tracker in your suitcase also means that you’ll never hear an airline’s agent say, “I’m sorry, we don’t know where your bag ended up.” You can use your tracker to tell them exactly where your luggage is.
Bags and cars aren’t the only things we worry about losing. Growing from a child who always holds their parents’ hands into an adult who can find their own way inevitably involves some mistakes. It’s easier to learn from those mistakes when your parents can find you quickly. Providing your kids with a GPS tracker in the form of a phone is an easy way to always know where they are in case they need you.
Unfortunately, sometimes pets can wander off. If they have a GPS tracker on their collar, bring them home is as easy as tracking their location. This keeps everyone safe and happy.
Most of today’s phones come with GPS built-in. Its default is to always be on so that you can easily search for services near your location. This feature is so common and convenient many of us don’t even notice it anymore.
Other Devices with GPS
Many other devices now come with GPS as part of their standard package. Fishfinders usually have GPS to guide you to the location. Many hunting accessories have GPS built in to make it easier to mark your location and find your way through the forest. Even the higher quality trail cameras will have a GPS unit built-in. This makes it easy to tell where you’re seeing the best prey pass through.
Many GPS units come with maps pre-loaded. A good cycling GPS will likely have routes already entered, and most golf devices have 500 or more course maps included. If you happen to choose a device that doesn’t have the maps pre-loaded, the device is usually easy to connect to a computer. This lets you pick the maps you want to have at your fingertips.
While there are many brands of GPS devices on the market today, a few are known for their mapping and GPS capabilities. Garmin is certainly a favorite among many sports enthusiasts, and their reputation for GPS accuracy is unmatched. Magellan is known for the maps and is a favorite among RV-ers. While TomTom is great for those who travel internationally.
In just a few short years, GPS units have become a staple for hikers, bikers, travelers, drivers, and parents. They’ve permeated the world of casual sports while providing additional safety for those seeking adventure. GPS has changed the trucking industry and made easier the lives of those driving RVs, and caregivers rest easy when they use GPS to keep up with their children and pets.