Smartphones have all but taken over the world, and as new tech becomes available, these gadgets have replaced the need for a wide variety of standalone gadgets.
Our phones nullify the need for music players and digital cameras (unless you’re a professional photographer of course), so it comes as no surprise that many outdoor enthusiast are considering their options as far as smartphone vs GPS for hiking is concerned.
Which device you end up using will greatly depend on what you use your GPS for. Sometimes, a smartphone’s navigation tools will suffice for getting you from point A to point B. But there are still some areas where smartphone capabilities aren’t a match for handheld GPS units.
Standalone GPS vs Smartphone: Weighing up your options
Handheld GPS units and smartphones both have their advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a quick rundown of each option’s strengths and weaknesses!
- Convenience is the smartphone’s main advantage. You probably have a smartphone already and you have it on you all the time, so it’s readily accessible when you need it.
- Most smartphones have integrated GPS maps that can navigate you from point A to point B with ease. They also offer surprisingly good accuracy and most smartphone manufacturers are constantly refining their GPS tracking features.
- In general, smartphones use international GPS that permits quicker satellite acquisition times, so you don’t need access to the internet to use navigation features on your phone.
- Smartphones are like little computers in our pockets, and they weren’t exactly designed for rugged outdoor use, so they’re not as durable as handheld GPS devices.
- A smartphone is nothing without power, and we know all too well that modern smartphones aren’t leading the race when it comes to battery life.
- Durability comes in as the most notable and apparent advantage of handheld GPS devices. Most hiking GPS devices are waterproof or splash-proof, so they’ll keep in performing even in poor weather conditions. A standalone GPS can also withstand manhandling on the trail.
- Another great benefit of a handheld GPS is battery life. Most handheld GPS units have interchangeable batteries, so they’ll stick it out for much longer than a smartphone.
- The only drawback that handheld GPS units have is the fact that they’re not loaded with numerous mapping apps that can be found on smartphones. You’ll probably be stuck with branded and expensive updates if you want to use maps other than the base and topo maps your device came out with.
When it comes to smartphone vs GPS for hiking, it’s safe to say that both options are great if you’re looking for accurate directional data. Whether you use a standalone GPS or a smartphone’s built-in GPS features really depends on what your purpose for a GPS is.
You should be fine with a smartphone if you’re doing a day trek around town, but if you need something reliable and rugged that can withstand the elements of the great outdoors, the only viable option is a handheld GPS.
Matt Green, is an avid hiker and lover of the great outdoors. He is always planning his next big trip or hitting the trails for a solo hike.
He’s traveled extensively to many remote regions and has plenty of experience exploring various terrains, and stories to tell.