If you enjoy outdoor exploration, it will make sense if you invest in a GPS device. Not only does it prevent you from getting lost during your trips and hikes, but it also helps you get to your location in a shorter time.
You could always rely on your phone, but you would require full-time internet connectivity, plus you would have to contend with less information as compared to a GPS navigation system.
Now, there are many brands of GPS navigators, and some are not really up to the task. However, for fulfilling performance, we recommend that you try out Garmin GPS systems.
Well, the brand has been around for over three decades and has specialized GPS systems. Further, when you acquire any of their devices, you normally get the necessary accessories for proper functionality such as mounts and cables.
Therefore, when it comes to GPS devices, you can rest assured that you have a global leader in Garmin. Their devices are packed with useful features such as weather updates, emergency alerts, among others, and they all have the intention of ensuring that your outdoor exploration goes as smoothly as possible.
Now comes the question: Of all the options available, which is the best Garmin GPS device?
We shall attempt to answer this question in our detailed article below.
Top Garmin GPS Navigation Systems: Comparison Guide
We have gone a step further and analyzed a sample of Garmin GPS devices. All the items in the list are high-quality with impressive features, and you should have an easy time in finding your ideal pick amongst the options available.
1. Garmin Nuvi 50LM Navigator
The Garmin Nuvi 50LM Navigator is a GPS that would ensure you never get lost on the road. After all, why would you allow yourself to get into such a predicament with all the technological advancements going on around us?
We are going to check out the outstanding features of this GPS system so that you can understand why we believe it is a worthy investment.
The first notable feature of this navigator is the 5-inch display. This screen is relatively large, and you are going to have the best view for easy navigation on the road.
Then, the system is versatile, and you could use it in front of the car for directions, or you could place it in your pocket. After all, the slim design allows so.
And you do not have to worry about the navigator falling apart since it is well-built with high-quality materials.
Further, the GPS system comes with a windshield mount to secure the entire unit.
Other Features and Benefits
There are several features that make this unit very easy to operate. For instance, the menu has two main icons that you could use for setting a route and for returning to the map view.
Also, you get other icons for operating other settings such as volume control, for the functionality of the system.
Another thing we liked is the pre-loaded maps with free lifetime updates, and the lane assist with junction view.
Lastly, you could avoid getting into trouble with the law due to the speed-cam locators.
Has a 5-ich display
Comes with pre-loaded maps with lifetime updates
Easy to operate
Could have been better with a Bluetooth function
2. Garmin Nuvi 52LM Car GPS
Another GPS navigator that you should consider acquiring for your vehicle is the Garmin Nuvi 52LM. It is a portable device that would ensure you never get lost plus would give you an easy time in tracking your way back to the right path.
Our review below should help you understand why this device is rated so highly.
To start with, the Nuvi 52LM has a 5-inch display, which is large so that all the information on the map is clear and easy for you to see.
Further, it is a touch screen device that many modern vehicle owners prefer.
There is also the sturdy suction cup that allows for easy mounting and release as well whenever you need to do so.
We also liked that it is powered by a rechargeable battery so that you do not have to buy a new one whenever the battery in use dies down. This battery has two hours of battery life, which is quite decent.
Other Features and Benefits
One thing that you should appreciate with this navigator is that it is packed with so many addresses. These include restaurants and gas stations, and this information is handy for anyone on the road.
Other features that make this device easy to operate include the hands-free operation, voice-prompted directions, and lane assist.
Easy to use
Powered by a rechargeable li-ion battery
Has a large-5-inch display
Some individuals experience trouble in changing the settings
3. Garmin Nuvi 2689LMT North America
Just as the name suggests, the Nuvi 2689LMT is designed to ensure that you have an easy time driving around different areas in North America. This is due to the numerous maps of the region which the device is packed with, and so your chances of getting lost will have significantly reduced.
Let’s check out other exciting aspects of this GPS.
With a 6-inch display, this is one of the largest screens you may ever find in a navigating system. The advantage of this is that you are going to have an easy time in reading all the details on the map.
On top of that, this is a touchscreen display which you may find easier to operate.
The other thing we should mention is that the Garmin Nuvi 2689LMT is not reliant on cellphone coverage, and this makes it more efficient as compared to those that rely on phones.
And for hands-free calling, this device features Bluetooth technology to facilitate this capability.
Other Features and Benefits
If you have been having a hard time finding the best lane, then you are going to appreciate the lane guidance feature that is designed to help you out.
There is also the Up Ahead Indicator that enables you to locate the nearby restaurants, ATMs, gas stations. This feature helps you pick the best option from the choices available.
Comes with pre-installed North American map
Has Bluetooth connectivity for easier operation
The large 6-inch display enables you to read the map more easily.
Has faulty software
4. Garmin Nuvi 2539LMT
We believe that you prefer a GPS navigator that does not rely on cellular signals to operate, and the Garmin Nuvi 2539LMT is one such device. It is packed with maps of North America so that you do not get lost when driving through the region.
This is not the only advantage of the Garmin 2539LMT, as you shall see in our analysis below.
Let’s start with the 5-inch display that gives you an easy time reading the details of the map. Further, the touchscreen has the pinch-to-zoom feature in case you want to take a closer look at something.
There are also the lifetime map updates to ensure that all the data is up-to-date, such as a road being built, a business that closed down, and so on.
As for lifetime traffic, it is going to help you avoid traffic jams, and this would help you save time.
Let’s not leave out the Garmin Real Directions that help you find your way around by using landmarks as a point of reference.
Other Features and Benefits
The Up Ahead feature is crucial in helping you locate places such as restaurants and gas stations that lie ahead.
Then, the Active Lane Guidance with voice prompts is going to guide you on the correct lane to use as you maneuver across the highway.
Lastly, the device allows you to add a wireless backup camera if you wish to do so.
Gives you real-time traffic updates
Allows you to navigate junctions and interchanges with ease
The voice command function is not that reliable
5. Garmin DriveSmart 61
It is easy to be put off by the high price of the DriveSmart 61 GPS, but once you experience the benefits brought about by its features, you would realize that you are getting the value for your money.
For one, it resembles a smartphone, and this contributes to its user-friendliness.
Let’s check out other useful features of this device.
With the 6.96-inch display, you are going to have an easy time reading all the numerals, letters, and diagrams that are found on the map.
Further, the touchscreen is brightly colored with a resolution of 1024 by 600 pixels to enhance the ease of reading the information.
You do not have to worry about outdated software as the built-in Wi-Fi ensures that they are constantly updated.
There is also the Live Traffic service that is going to give you traffic alerts so that you do not find yourself stuck in time-wasting traffic.
Other Features and Benefits
One bit with this device is that it is very user-friendly, and it goes as far as having customizable settings to give you maximum comfort with it.
We also liked the voice-activated navigation that allows for hands-free operation of the device so that you do not get distracted from the driving.
Lastly, the navigator comes with a one-year warranty to give you peace of mind when using it.
Easy to use
Has a sleek design
Pre-loaded with POIs (Points Of Interest) for more effectiveness
Lies on the pricey side
6. Garmin GPSMAP 64st
Are you a hiking or bag-packing enthusiast? Well, here is a GPS device for you that would ensure you never get lost in the mountains.
Although this is a reliable tracking unit, we were a bit disappointed with the short battery life and also that it is powered by non-rechargeable batteries.
Once you put the batteries in, the whole unit weighs about 8oz, and this makes it a lightweight device that would not become a burden during your hike.
Then, it is water-resistant and, therefore, could withstand rainy or snowy weather. Even fishers could use this navigator due to this feature.
Another useful feature is the barometric altimeter that is handy in monitoring changes in altitude and the weather as well.
We also liked the fact that the device comes preloaded with 250000 caches for geocaching.
Other Features and Benefits
You get to operate this device via buttons, and so you do not have to worry about touchscreens that tend to be affected by wet and snowy conditions.
There is also an expandable memory that you could expand up to 8GB.
Fast and accurate locations
Lightweight and waterproof
The OS is seems quite old school
7. Garmin eTrex 10 GPS Navigator
If you are a beginner in the use of GPS navigators, the eTrex 10 would be a reasonable pick. It lacks most of the advanced features, and this makes it reasonably easy to operate.
However, do not think of it as inferior since it still possesses a host of features that anyone would appreciate in a navigator.
Let’s discuss these features below.
To start with, this is a well-built unit with a waterproof body, and this makes it ideal for outdoor use and can withstand any type of weather condition.
As we mentioned earlier, it is very easy to use. Starting with the 2.2-inch display, which is easy-maintenance while there are only six controls to operate this device.
The other impressive bit is that the navigator arrives preloaded with a worldwide base map, implying that you could use this device even outside of the USA.
Let’s not leave out the WAAS and HotFix Satelite prediction that allows for a faster and pin-point location of your position. This feature would be of great use when lost in the wild.
Other Features and Benefits
The device requires two AA batteries to operate, and they run for up to 25 hours, which is quite handy for your hikes and expeditions.
You may also find the spine that it comes with to be useful in mounting it on a bike or watercraft.
Lastly, it comes with a one-year warranty.
Waterproof up to 1m deep
Can be of use even outside the USA
No color display
8. Garmin Edge 520 Plus
This bike computer is a sturdy device that is mainly preferred for cycling competitions and for navigation as well.
If you are in the group of individuals that prefer low-maintenance devices, the Garmin Edge 520 Plus is just for you, probably because it is button-controlled rather than a touchscreen.
Find out more in our detailed analysis below.
First, the device has an IPX7 water-resistance, which implies that it can stay underwater for up to half an hour without any adverse effects on it.
The entire device is controlled by seven buttons, which are clearly colored to give you an easy time entering commands.
Also worth mentioning is that it is powered by a rechargeable li-ion battery with a battery life of up to nine hours to ensure you complete your expedition entirely.
We also liked the Bluetooth and ANT+ technology sensors for better functionality.
Other Features and Benefits
The display may only be 2.3-inches, but it is colored for you to see the information presented more clearly.
Also, the navigator uses GPS and GLONASS satellites for faster and accurate locations.
Easy to maintain
IPX7 waterproof rating
Fast and accurate location of the user’s position
Has many software bugs
9. Garmin Edge Explore 1000
The last item on our list is the Edge Explore 1000, which is an upgrade of the Edge 1000. It is the perfect choice for you if you are a cyclist that often tries out new routes. One reason for this is the round-trip routing feature that will guide you on your trip.
As we mentioned earlier, in the round-trip feature, you only have to input the distance you intend to cover and your starting direction. The device will then give you three route options to choose from.
Another feature we liked is the incident detection, which offers alerts to your emergency contacts in case you get into trouble during your cycling trip.
The 3-inch screen allows you to read the details displayed with ease. Further, the touchscreen is designed to be glove-friendly, plus it adjusts automatically in case you get to poorly lit areas such as tunnels.
Other Features and Benefits
One thing you are going to appreciate with this device is that it comes preloaded with various POIs such as hospitals, hotels, and shopping centers. All this information is going to be of great help to anyone on the road, especially in unfamiliar territory.
We are also going to touch on the rechargeable battery that gives the unit a run time of up to 15 hours.
The memory capacity is also impressive and can store up to 200 waypoints.
Lastly, if, for any reason, you wish to analyze your ride data, the fact that this device works with the Garmin Connect would be of great help.
Has numerous safety features
Decent battery life
Impressive memory capacity
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How To Choose a Good GPS from the Garmin Brand
How do I choose the best Garmin GPS device from all the choices at hand? This must be the question running through your head as you search for the appropriate device to suit your needs.
To answer this nagging question, we are going to point out several factors that you have to put into consideration so as to boost your chances of landing the best item available.
Ease of Use
The main aim of acquiring a GPS system is to make your outdoor trip to be smoother and easier. Therefore, it would not make any sense if the device is complicated to use.
For this reason, we insist that the navigator should be packed with features that contribute to its user-friendliness, such as a well-built unit, a good grip, easy-to-press buttons, a colored screen, and so on.
We could also talk about a touchscreen, but such a device tends to cost more, is high-maintenance, and is affected by various factors such as snowy and wet conditions.
Size (of the overall unit and the screen)
The GPS devices come in different shapes and dimensions, and so there are small and big devices as well. The advantage of having a bigger item is that the screen would also be bigger and so you are going to have an easy time in reading the details presented on it.
However, an increase in size translates to an increase in weight, and this may affect the portability of the device.
On top of that, bigger units tend to cost more.
Another aspect of the screen that you need to think about is the resolution. Ensure you go for an item with a resolution of 720p HD or a full resolution if you want to read the details on the screen more easily without straining your eyes.
Try and find a balance between all the mentioned aspects so that you do not compromise too much.
This feature is going to be particularly useful if you have mounted the GPS system on your kayak, or you are using it in your vehicle.
It allows for hands-free operation of the device whereby you can get the directions you want without being distracted from driving the car or paddling your kayak.
Highly detailed maps are the best option since they contain a lot of information about the location that you intend to tour.
An ideal navigator should offer you real-time information such as traffic, and this would help you avoid routes that would lead you straight into a traffic snarl-up.
Also, the system should alert you on other relevant on-goings such as a closed road or a new landmark such as a bridge or building.
Touchscreen VS Buttons
The choice between the two is affected by several things. A touchscreen may make you look cool and is easy to operate, but it is also higher-maintenance as a simple crack is all it takes to make it useless.
Further, you may have a harder time in operating a touchscreen during winter.
Buttons, on the other hand, are easier to operate even in winter when you have gloves on, but you are going to have a problem when the letters and numbers start fading.
At times, even the buttons themselves start popping out of the device, and this presents you with a big problem.
An ideal GPS navigator should offer constant updates, and this would boost the accuracy of the information presented. Such information includes on-going road construction, road closure, and so on.
Also, the software that enables the device to run smoothly should be constantly updated to maintain its effectiveness.
Availability of Advanced Features
When you go for the higher end devices, they tend to have some features which you cannot easily find in the lower end navigators. Some of these features include preloaded maps, Bluetooth connectivity, a compass, barometer, altimeter, among others.
You should also consider your budget, and you should keep in mind that the less you spend, the more features you are going to forego.
Do not fret as there is always a price-range where everyone can fit in.
Alternatively, if you are on a budget and you still want an item with advanced features, you could choose to go for a second-hand product, though it should not be too old.
We recommend that you go for a navigator that is powered by rechargeable batteries, which would save you from the replacement costs whenever the battery dies down.
Then, you should also consider the amount of power the battery offers so that it does not die down and leave you stranded when you need it most.
One last bit about the batteries is to consider whether they are Li-ion or NiMH. The former are cheaper and weigh less, although they do not offer as much power as Li-ion batteries.
The unit you have should be capable of giving out a strong signal, which would be crucial in the accurate location of your position. This feature would be vital in case you get lost in during your hike in the forest.
For this reason, check out for devices that are WAAS-enabled as well as with GLONASS support, which would help in giving out strong and reliable signals.
Believe it or not, but there are some GPS navigators that play music and stream videos. On top of that, they also allow you to share photos and videos with your friends.
All these help in eliminating boredom, which may kick in during your outdoor exploration.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
During our research, we faced several questions regarding the best Garmin GPS navigation systems. We thought it wise to include the queries together with their responses to give you a better understanding of the topic.
Q: Why should I invest in a Garmin GPS system rather than rely on my phone?
A: It is always easier to depend on your smartphone for directions during your hike and trips. However, a GPS tracker has several advantages over your phone.
For instance, the navigator is only for tracking and giving out locations and therefore is not likely to consume as much power as a cell phone, which is expected to perform multiple tasks.
Then, a GPS navigator does not need to be connected to the internet to give directions, unlike the smartphone.
Lastly, navigators tend to be packed with more information as compared to a smartphone, and these details are going to be useful for a safe and less-confusing hike.
Q: What is the importance of the size of the navigator’s display?
A: The screen’s size is vital for several reasons. First, the display should be large enough so that you can see all the details on it more clearly without straining your eyes.
Further, for the touchscreens, a larger screen is relatively easy to operate as it can accommodate more settings.
The other bit is that the size also influences how much the device would cost you, whereby the larger screens tend to be pricier.
Q: How do I get the best Garmin GPS navigator?
A: In your search for the ideal Garmin GPS device, you need to be smart on how you narrow down your search from the numerous options at hand.
In this instance, you should pay attention to several factors, which include the user-friendliness, size of the unit and screen, presence of advanced features, the price, availability of voice command, among others.
All these aspects determine how useful the GPS device is going to be when you need it.
Q: Between a touchscreen device and that with buttons, which one is better?
A: It all depends on you. A touchscreen device is at par with modern trends and tends to be easier to operate. However, such devices may prove to be too delicate for some individuals as you have to be keen that the screen remains intact.
As for the buttons, they require less maintenance and even allow for easy operation in snowy conditions, provided you have your gloves on.
But, you have to contend with the digits rubbing off while the buttons too can jam for no apparent reason.
Useful Tips When Using a Garmin GPS System
In this section, we are going to give you simple pointers on how you can get the best out of your Garmin GPS navigator.
Before heading for your outdoor excursion, check that your device has the correct map of the location you intend to visit. After all, it wouldn’t make sense to head out to an area and expect the wrong map to guide you out of the woods, would it?
Your device should have enough power to last through the trip without switching off. Here, you can go about it two ways. One, you could fully charge the batteries before heading out to ensure that it is ready for use.
The other way is that you could carry replacement batteries to act as a backup in case the ones in use run out of power.
The learning curve for the trackers varies from one item to the other, and it depends on how many advanced features that the device has. A system with basic features is easier to understand and use, and so it takes a short while for you to fully learn how it works.
As for the advanced devices, the learning curve may be a bit high, but in the end, you should be better placed to understand how the GPS device operates.
You could rely on video tutorials to guide you on how the different Garmin GPS devices work.
GLONASS and GPS Support
Another thing to note is that devices supporting GPS and GLONASS are faster when it comes to locating your actual position. This feature is going to be very handy, especially in hard-to-reach areas such as valleys, mountains, and forests.
A well-built unit from premium materials is going to serve you for longer since it would not break apart easily whichever environment you subject it to.
Importance of Investing In a Garmin GPS Device
There are several reasons why we believe you should take your time to find the best Garmin GPS navigator.
Accurate and Precise Directions
An ideal device is going to help you locate your intended destination more accurately and in less time. This will minimize your chances of getting lost, reduce frustrations during your outdoor adventures, and save you the energy you would have used in locating a particular location.
For the drivers, the device would help you locate your intended destination while allowing you to keep your eyes on the road. This is especially so for devices with voice-activated commands.
Does Not Need a Cellular Network
A GPS device does what is expected of it without relying on a particular cellular network, and this gives it more independence of operation.
Another point to note is that the best Garmin GPS devices tend to be packed with more information such as updated maps, useful recommendations, real-time traffic alerts, and so on.
Types of Garmin GPS Devices
The Garmin GPS devices available in the market are not that many, and we shall point them out so that you can have an easy time in your search for the appropriate item.
If you are looking for the best Garmin GPS for your car, the options at hand include the Nuvi series, Drive series, Street Pilot series, and the Quest Series.
For the motorcycles, the best item you could go for is the Zumo Series.
Understanding How the Garmin GPS works
If you are lucky, the Garmin GPS device that you have acquired will come with a manual. Do not worry if the one you get does not have a manual, or you have misplaced it as we are going to guide you on how you can operate the device.
In most instances, the main menus of Garmin GPS devices look alike. The layout includes the home address, browse map, manual address input, points of interest, and favorites.
If you ever want to sync your device with Garmin Connect, you could use Garmin Express, which is also helpful in updating your GPS system.
Entering the Address
If you are heading to a particular destination, you can put in your destination address manually via the ‘address’ option.
Start by selecting the ‘address’ option, before following the prompts that show up on the screen. Here, you are required to enter the house number, followed by the street on which it is located.
Proceed to pick out the correct destination and then select ‘Go!’. You can then proceed with your journey.
Another thing is that you have various routes to choose from, and you should go for the one you find most favorable.
Points of Interest
So you have picked out the perfect route to use for your trip. Now, you want to find out what else the area you are going to has to offer, and this is where the points of interest (POIs) will be of great help.
You can look out for movie theatres, gyms, restaurants, shopping malls, motels, truck stops, and so on.
All you have to do is select your ideal POI, and the system will load up the best route to that particular destination.
Points To Note
If you want to fully understand how your Garmin GPS unit operates, you ought to conduct thorough research on the specific model at hand, and you are likely to find information that would make things easier for you.
We also mentioned that most of the Garmin GPS units have similar functionalities, starting with the menu. However, there are minor variances between these models, and these differences are what distinguish these units from each other.
Our Best Choice Overall
All the Garmin GPS devices that we have analyzed are high-quality and up to the task required of them. However, the one that we felt stood out from the rest is the Garmin Nuvi 50LM Navigator.
This versatile unit is very user-friendly, with numerous features designed to make things easier for you. It is also well-built with a large 5-inch display so that you can read the map contents with ease.
Lastly, we also liked the extra features such as the speed-cam locators that ensure you remain on the right side of the law.
With all the advanced smartphones cropping up in the market daily, it is easy to dismiss the importance of GPS devices. However, these units are more useful than we could imagine.
The Garmin brand, in particular, has a reputation for producing high-quality navigators that never disappoint. It is up to you to find the model that would suit all your needs and preferences.
We hope that our detailed article has given you all the information you need to pick the best Garmin GPS from the different models that are available. We wouldn’t want you to get lost in the mountains for a hike that was supposed to be a fun moment for you and your loved ones.
Good luck in your search!