Hands-on Gear Review
Compare handheld gps ratings side-by-side >
Street Price: $383 | Compare prices at 1 resellers
Pros: Great reception, rugged body, bright screen, excellent menu system, wireless data transfer, many customization options, ability to load custom maps and satellite imagery, altimeter is more accurate than others, excellent mounting system.
Cons: Large, relatively heavy, low screen resolution, text entry is more difficult than on touchscreens.
Best Uses: Hiking, boating, ATV, hunting, mountaineering.
The Garmin GPSMAP 62sc is powerful, accurate, reliable, and highly customizable handheld hiking GPS unit that features a bright sunlight-readable display, 3-axis electronic compass, barometric altimeter, 5 megapixel camera, and a rugged waterproof body. The 62sc locates your position quickly and precisely; itís more accurate and has better satellite reception than the other six devices we tested. The unitís well-designed push buttons and excellent menu system provide an easy to use and reliable interface (touchscreens get sluggish in cold temperatures and require bare fingers to operate). While the 62sc is our top rated GPS for hiking, mountain biking, and mountaineering it also functions well for boating and is capable of turn-by-turn directions for car navigation. Though itís slightly larger and heavier than other units tested, we believe the 62scís increased performance far outweighs any potential drawbacks associated with its size and weight.
We recommend the Garmin Oregon 550 for those looking for a GPS that functions equally well in the car as on the trail. And for people who want the best value, the Garmin eTrex 20 canít be beat. Finally, consider the DeLorme PN-60W if you want a moderate performance GPS capable of sending two-way satellite text messages.
Compare top rated competitors side-by-side >
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Garmin GPSMAP 62sc is the most powerful, accurate, and fastest GPS device we tested. This review discusses its user interface, features, advantages and disadvantages, and recommends specific models within the 62 series. The reader will note that we tested and have photographs of the 62stc, yet recommend the 62sc.
The 62 series has our favorite user interface and button configuration of any device tested. The front has a large central multi-directional toggle thatís surrounded by eight function buttons. These buttons are farther from the toggle than other devices (DeLorme PN-60W and Magellan eXplorist 310), which allows for multi thumb text entry (one thumb uses the toggle while the other hits Enter). Push buttons also provide efficiency advantages: one touch of a button marks a waypoint on the 62. Touchscreens unit, take the Garmin 550 for example, requires three taps to mark exit the map page and mark a waypoint. Furthermore, the 62 series is very rugged and has rounded edges that are comfortable to hold for extended periods.
Like all push button GPS devices, the 62 seriesís main interface has a circular menu. While most other devices have a fixed menu the 62 series has a customizable page sequence that allows you to choose what pages appear and the order in which they appear. Pressing Page moves forward and Quit moves backward. Either button brings up a Page Ribbon (see photos) that shows you the pages that lie ahead and behind the current one. (This is very similar to Control + Tab (or Command + Tab for Mac) on your computer. This is a critical feature and makes it much faster and easier to move to the pages you use most frequently. If for some reason you donít like this itís possible to ditch the Page Ribbon and revert to the classic menu style. The 62 series interface has lots of other shortcuts. A favorite among our testers: pressing the zoom buttons in the main menu will skip a full page.
The 62 series comes with six profiles that allow you to customize the display for various activities. For example, you can have four data fields for biking and two for hiking. You could track up (map orients in the direction the GPS is pointed or traveling) for hiking and north up (north is at the top) for kayaking. Or you could have a specific profile that displays certain maps or custom maps, such as Yosemite National Park trails on top of aerial imagery.
Navigating with the 62 series, and all newer Garmin devices, is super easy and better than with DeLorme or Magellan devices. Standard navigation creates a trail estimate as the crow flies. Garmin, however, automatically creates waypoints in high and low points when you select a track (EveryTrail is a good starting point for free trail track downloads). This gives you a more accurate distance estimate. When navigating Garmin units can display the distance to the next waypoint and the distance to the destination (most other devices only display distance to destination). Navigating with Garmin is easier and more accurate than with other manufacturers.
Models 62s and up have tri-axial compasses which provides an accurate reading even when the unit is not level. Compared to a dual-axis compass, this is much easier to navigate while moving (you donít have to hold it perfectly level). Recalibrate the compass after replacing the batteries.
Several other useful features include wireless data transfer capabilities that allow you to send waypoints, tracks, etc. to other wireless-enabled Garmin units, and a rail type mount on the back that can be fixed to optional bike, car, and boat mounts (the 62s and up come with an excellent carabiner/belt clip).
The 62sc and 62stc come with a 5 MP digital camera that automatically geotags photos. Although the camera is reasonably good (see photos), our testers believe auto geotagging is awesome. Itís simple, too: your location is saved in a captured photoís metadata. And useful, too: small previews of photos appear in BaseCamp just like waypoints and tracks. Geotagging was originally developed by land managers and utility purveyors to monitor the condition of land and infrastructure. It quickly and easily solves the problem of ďwhere was this photo taken?Ē
Garmin offers its device users Basecamp, a simple and powerful software tool used to plan routes and manage waypoints, tracks, and maps. Our testers found Basecamp to be user friendly and, at the same time, provided all of the tools we needed for planning trips and analyzing past ones. Viewing waypoints and tracks in Google Earth was one of our favorite features (see screenshot of Google Earth in photos).
Although the 62 series is fast, accurate, and powerful it does have several drawbacks. The most significant is its small, low-resolution screen. Yes, itís very bright and easy to see in all conditions (Garmin uses the same screen for their boating-specific handhelds), but a higher resolution screen would make it easier to display data fields without cramping the map view. Is it bad? No. We only found it to be a burden in the map view. The display is, however, easier to see in sunlight than all other devices we tested.
The 62 series is the largest and heaviest GPS we reviewed. The 62sc weighs 9.3 ounces with batteries and is 2.4Ē x 6.3Ē x 1.4Ē This is 2.6 ounces heavier and 5.56 cubic inches larger than the average unit we reviewed. But is this a problem? Answer: our testers adamantly believe not. A handheld hiking GPS should be an accurate, reliable, and easy-to-use navigation aid. If you need something really small and lightweight, get a GPS watch. Or donít carry one in the first place (most ultralight hikers and climbers donít). The 62sc is the highest performance navigation aid we tested. Its increased reliability and reception far outweigh the drawbacks resulting from the additional weight and volume of a Clif Bar. Although our numerical ratings donít include ruggedness or durability, the 62 series is by far the most bombproof unit we tested. Youíre getting a faster, stronger, and more reliable deviceÖ
Best Application and Other models
The 62 series is best suited to all land-based recreation that requires a reliable, accurate, and durable GPS device. The unit provides the best reception when hiking in forests, mountaineering in whiteout conditions, and sea kayaking in heavy fog. The 62scís satellite reception is significantly better than its competitors'. We found the difference to be striking particularly when hiking in Northern Californiaís Redwood forests, which have a notoriously thick canopy. There, the 62sc maintained a lock on our position much better than all other units tested. Get the 62 when good satellite reception is a priority.
The 62 series has five different models. How are they different?
The 62st and 62stc come with preloaded 1:100,000 scale topo maps for the U.S. ($100 extra, see photos for coverage). The 62st drops the camera, the 62s drops the topo and the camera, and the 62 drops the camera, topo, wireless data sharing, barometric altimeter, tri-axial compass, and micro-SD slot. If youíre going to get something from the 62 series we highly recommend the 62s. We do not suggest the 100k topo (because you can get plenty of maps for free from GPS File Depot) unless you travel frequently and donít want to bother with downloading free maps. Instead, consider getting on Garminís 24k US Topo (~$90), whose finer scale is better for navigating in steep terrain and whose roads and trails are routable. The 62 series can do turn-by-turn directions with Garminís City Navigator maps (~$80 for North America). As for the camera, our testers like it, found it to be useful, and recommend it.
The 62 series replaces the 60 series like the very popular Garmin GPSMAP 60csx. See that review to see all the updates in the 62 series.
How does the 62 seriesí display compare to other touchscreens?
Touchscreens are easier to use (better for beginners) and allow for faster text entry. Push button devices are more reliable (touchscreens get sluggish in cold temps), easier to use with gloves on, have a faster interface (similar to how a keyboard is faster than a mouse), and are much easier to see in direct sunlight. The GPS displays we tested have generally poor displays. The iPhone 4 display is orders of magnitude better that any GPS tested here and so are scientific GPS units. If you plan to use a GPS for mountain biking or sea kayaking we recommend the 62 series because itís easier to change pages and the display is easier to read in bright sun. If you also want a unit for car navigation youíre better off with a touchscreen because itís easier to enter text.
From a performance perspective the 62s and ďsuperior modelsĒ are a great value. Go for the Garmin Oregon 550 if you want easier text entry or the Garmin eTrex 20 for the best value GPS.
What's in the box:
-2 AA NiMH batteries
Garmin Custom Maps allow you to upload any map (marine chart, campus map, park map, etc.) your device.
GPS File Depot is a good source for free, downloadable, digitized maps.
Garmin GPSMAP 62 Owners Manual
— Max Neale
Compare this product side-by-side to top competitors >
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: April 13, 2013
Where's the Best Price?
*Help support OutdoorGearLab. If you click on one of the seller links and make a purchase, a portion of the sale helps support this site
Related Best-in-Class Review
Helpful Buying Tips
Get More OutdoorGearLab
Follow us on Twitter, be a fan on Facebook!
Related Gear Reviews
Other Gear by Garmin
Recent Best-in-Class Reviews