How We Tested Handheld GPSs

By:
Amber King
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Thursday

Here at OutdoorGearLab we take our testing seriously. Over the last few years, we tested these five handheld GPS devices while hiking, skiing, mountaineering, kayaking, driving, mountain biking, and more. We climbed to the tops of mountains, explored the depths of the earth, and kayaked on the ocean. Some of our testers used these units to map populations, hiking trails, and plot the location of environmental monitoring equipment. We literally logged hundreds of miles while traveling by foot in Colorado, Washington, Utah, and Alaska. More than a dozen people who range from GPS power users to complete novices used the six models tested here and contributed great feedback. We assessed each unit on satellite reception, ease of use, display quality, speed, and weight.

Most of our current testing took place in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Here we see lots of steep  remote terrain that could obstruct satellite signals. We also got ourselves into all sorts of weather conditions.
Most of our current testing took place in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Here we see lots of steep, remote terrain that could obstruct satellite signals. We also got ourselves into all sorts of weather conditions.

In addition to our field tests, we performed many objective in-home tests to determine the minute differences between each unit. For satellite reception, we compared the actual accuracy of each device by marking waypoints and navigating back to them. We also looked at unit performance in both open areas and heavily covered terrain. Here we could see reported accuracy and compared those numbers to actual measurements we took. Ease of use was determined by tinkering endlessly and comparing software interface and button configurations. Display quality was assessed by taking units out in high and low light conditions. Speed was observed comparatively while redrawing maps and using the compass function. Finally, we weighed and measured each unit to determine which was most fit for lightweight excursions.

Dan was our main tester. He took these units out daily to compare all the metrics in this review.
Dan was our main tester. He took these units out daily to compare all the metrics in this review.
 

Follow Us


Table of Contents



    Unbiased.