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Garmin GPSMAP 66st Review

Our favorite model, this reliable and accurate GPS unit is full of features
Garmin GPSMAP 66st
Photo: Garmin
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $450 List | $396.75 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Excellent reception, large buttons, big screen, smart notifications and connectivity
Cons:  Expensive, bulky, complicated connectivity between devices
Manufacturer:   Garmin
By Ethan Newman ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 10, 2019
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82
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 7
  • Reception - 20% 8
  • Ease of Use - 20% 7
  • Display Quality - 20% 9
  • Speed - 15% 9
  • Weight and Size - 15% 8
  • Versatility - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Garmin GPSMAP 66st is essentially a suped-up version of other models offered in the already high-end GPSMAP series — easily earning our Editors' Choice award. The 66st uses a high-powered, quad-helix antenna, and includes an astounding 16GB of memory (not counting the extra microSD cards you can add to quadruple the storage.) This unit can map thousands of waypoints, provide satellite imagery, and update you on the weather, either on the device or linked to your smartphone. While the basic functions were intuitive, some of the more advanced features — like the Bluetooth connectivity — were complicated to setup. But if you know your way around GPS units, and are looking for a highly capable device for logging a lot of data, this should be your top choice.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Garmin GPSMAP 66st
This Product
Garmin GPSMAP 66st
Awards Editors' Choice Award    Best Buy Award 
Price $396.75 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$224.19 at Amazon$428.30 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
$464.58 at Amazon$200 List
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Pros Excellent reception, large buttons, big screen, smart notifications and connectivitySmartphone-like touch screen, solid reception, activity specific profiles, wireless messaging and communication, tons of waypoint storageEasy and affordable two-way messaging, great smartphone app, feature loaded, proven global networkImpeccable reception, large display, 8 MP camera, compatible with several mounts, dual orientation, wireless communication, electronic compassInexpensive, lightweight, easy to use, great screen quality, long battery life, reliable push buttons
Cons Expensive, bulky, complicated connectivity between devicesMore waypoint storage and features than most need, battery hungry, hard to use with glove, can freeze up in coldExpensive initial purchase, largest and heaviest messengerLarge, heavy, expensiveNo electronic compass, basemap is very limited, small screen, owner's manual lacks detail
Bottom Line This model is a top-of-the-line GPS unit for a wide variety of conditionsA smartphone-like touchscreen makes navigating the backcountry straightforward, unless you need to wear glovesAn excellent device with only one weakness - portabilityA great unit if you like larger text and don't mind carrying a bit moreA good deal for those that just need the basics
Rating Categories Garmin GPSMAP 66st Garmin Oregon 700 Garmin inReach Explorer+ Garmin Montana 680 Garmin eTrex 20x
Reception (20%)
8
7
8
9
6
Ease Of Use (20%)
7
8
7
8
8
Display Quality (20%)
9
9
6
7
7
Speed (15%)
9
8
8
9
6
Weight And Size (15%)
8
8
8
4
10
Versatility (10%)
8
7
9
7
7
Specs Garmin GPSMAP 66st Garmin Oregon 700 Garmin inReach... Garmin Montana 680 Garmin eTrex 20x
Battery Life (hours) 16 16 75 22 25
No. of Waypoints 10,000 500 4,000 2,000
Saved Tracks / Points per Track 250 / 20,000 20 / 500 200 / 10,000 200 / 20,000
Preloaded Maps US and Canada 1:25k U.S. and Canada Simple Basemap Simple Basemap
Dimensions (in.) 2.5 x 6.4 x 1.4 2.7 x 6.5 x 1.5 2.9 x 5.7 x 1.4 2.1 x 4.0 x 1.3
Weight w/ Batteries (oz.) 7.5 6.8 7.5 10.3 4.5
Display Size (in.) 1.5 x 2.5 1.5 x 2.5 1.4 x 1.9 2 x 3.5 1.4 x 1.7
Display Resolution (pixels) 240 x 400 200 x 265 272 x 480 240 x 320
Built-in Memory 16 GB 2 GB 4 GB 3.7 GB
Accepts Data Cards MicroSD No MicroSD MicroSD
Touchsceen or buttons? Buttons Buttons Touchscreen (dual orientation) Buttons
Electronic or Differential Compass? Electronic Electronic Electronic Differential
Barometric Altimeter Yes Yes Yes No
Wireless Communication? Yes Yes Yes No
Satellite Systems Used (GPS, GLONASS) Wide Augmentation System Present (WAAS)? All All All All
Ability to add maps? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Automatic Routing Yes Yes Yes Yes
Vertical Profiling Yes Yes Yes Yes
Camera/Video No No Camera - 8 MP No
Photo Viewer Yes No Yes Yes
Geocaching (paperless) Yes No Yes Yes
Hunt/Fish Calendar Yes No Yes Yes
Sun and Moon Information Yes Yes Yes Yes
Area Calculator Yes Yes Yes Yes
Battery Information 2 AA Batteries Rechargeable lithium ion 3 AA Batteries / Rechargeable NiMH pack 2 AA Batteries
Online Connect Communities Garmin Connect Garmin Earthmate Garmin Connect No
Screen Info Transflective color TFT Transflective, color TFT Transflective 65k color TFT Transflective, 65K color TFT
Interface Information high-speed USB and NMEA 0183 USB High-speed USB, NMEA 0183 compatible USB
What Comes in the Box? -USB cable
-Documentation
-Bird's eye sattelite imagery
-Carabiner clip
-Preloaded with TOPO
-USB cable
-Carabiner clip
-Documentation
-1 year BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription
-USB cable
-AC charger
-Battery pack
-Multiple socket adaptors
-USB cable
-Documentation

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


The GPSMAP 66st is a turbocharged version of the GPSMAP 64 series. Garmin doubled the internal memory, added connectivity, and beefed up the frame to military specifications for thermal and shock resistance. On the "t" model, they also included pre-loaded TOPO maps, and the capability for downloading BirdsEye satellite imagery without a subscription.

Found that perfect alpine lake? You can not only mark the waypoint...
Found that perfect alpine lake? You can not only mark the waypoint on this GPS unit, but also download a satellite image to accompany your route plans.
Photo: Jill Rice

Reception


The GPSMAP 66st has excellent reception for a few reasons. First, the actual construction of the antenna is a quad-helix design, which is quite sensitive, and better than some other designs in tree cover or low satellite angles. The 66st also uses three different satellite systems: GPS (North America), Galileo (EU), and GLONASS (Russia), allowing the most amount of satellites for triangulation, making this a really accurate unit.


In the field, we found the 66st to live up to its reputation. When mapping old mountain biking trails in Southwestern Utah, we were able to leave and easily pick up the trail again, rather than being forever lost among the sea of junipers.

This was was the only unit we tested that included the european...
This was was the only unit we tested that included the european Galileo satellite network in addition to the GPS and GLONASS networks, giving the unit even more satellites to connect to, increasing accuracy.
Photo: Ethan Newman

Ease of Use


The GPSMAP 66st was one of the easiest units to use straight from the get-go that we tested. All the buttons are large and have easy to read labels on each one. Unlike some of the other units, the 66st buttons are pretty straightforward and there are enough of them for each to have a distinct function in a particular setting.


While some folks may prefer a touchscreen, we really liked the big buttons on this unit, especially in the cold. The 66st functionality works great regardless of conditions, whether it's freezing or wet. The buttons are big enough to push with gloves on, and there's no touch screen to get wet and inoperable. Like most of Garmin's handheld units, it's rated to IPX7 water resistance, which means it's good to go for rainstorms or snow, just not full immersion.

The reception of this GPS unit is strong enough for slot canyon...
The reception of this GPS unit is strong enough for slot canyon country, just make sure not to drop it into any pools!
Photo: Jill Rice

As the functions get more in-depth, the controls do get more complicated, but that's to be expected. Some of the pairing with other devices and apps took a lot of back and forth registration and pairing, which was a hassle, but only a one-time inconvenience.

Unlike some of the more basic models, the GPSMAP 66st has an...
Unlike some of the more basic models, the GPSMAP 66st has an electronic compass to determine direction even when you're stopped, and the map auto-orients as a result.
Photo: Ethan Newman

Display Quality


With the transflective TFT display on a three-inch screen, the 66st is really readable, even in sunlight, which is really nice on snow or on a bright, sunny day.


The 240 x 400-pixel display is nice when viewing photos or satellite imagery on the Bird's Eye function, but otherwise, we'd be hard-pressed to tell much of a difference otherwise. Unlike the touchscreens, the 66st does not rotate from a portrait view, but it wouldn't really make sense to on this unit.

This unit offers a powerful color screen, that is easily readable...
This unit offers a powerful color screen, that is easily readable even in the brightest sunlight of the desert southwest.
Photo: Jill Rice

Speed


Like most of the button-operated GPS units we tested, the 66st isn't quite as responsive in function as some of the touch-screen units we tested, but it wasn't slow enough to be noticeable or create any issues from the slight lag.


It did actually draw maps quite fast, fast enough for the maps to be redrawn almost as fast as a pan across the map, depending on the scale. It also can go through a lot of data quickly, and it doesn't take much time loaded new big route files or bird's eye satellite images.

This unit is quick and accurate enough to keep up even with a moving...
This unit is quick and accurate enough to keep up even with a moving vehicle, so you can confidently navigate those sand washes that seem to go on forever.
Photo: Jill Rice

Weight and Size


At eight ounces, the 66st is one of the heaviest unit in the review. On one hand, eight ounces isn't that much. On the other hand, it's half a pound, which seems like a lot when considering something that is the size of your cellphone.


It fits into most jacket pockets, but it's big enough that hiking with it in a pants pocket is annoying. This is definitely not the unit for the ultralighters out there, but rather a serious tool for a lot of information gathering.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Versatility


The GPSMAP 66st is a highly versatile and accurate GPS unit. It's accurate, easy to use, and seems quite bombproof. The battery pack is simply two AA's, which, although not rechargeable, are easily found around the world. Lithium batteries make this thing cold-resistant too, and with the big buttons, it works great for ski touring or other wet and cold activities. We think this thing could be used in any given situation where a handheld GPS is appropriate.


The best thing about the 66st is the way Garmin paired accuracy, ease-of-use, and a heaping helping of memory. For professionals who need to use a lot of data on a GPS unit, but don't have the budget for a Trimble, this is a good option. With the 64GB microSD cards now available, the 66st could carry up to 80GB, which is way more than we think we could ever use in the lifetime of a unit, without deleting anything.

Our testers are always scheming about future ski objectives, and...
Our testers are always scheming about future ski objectives, and this unit makes it easy to accurately mark both the lines and good observation points.
Photo: Jill Rice

Provided you're willing to shell out for a high-end GPS unit, this thing will go anywhere. Skiing, backpacking, field work, you name it. It can be put in expedition mode to save battery life on long trips; and can be soaked, knocked, dropped, and the thing keeps kicking. With the military built specifications this thing is rugged, and if you add a lithium battery pack the GPSMAP 66st will word in nearly any environment.

From ski tours to canyon country, you can count on the accuracy...
From ski tours to canyon country, you can count on the accuracy, consistency, and durability of this impressive GPS unit.
Photo: Jill Rice

Value


The GPSMAP 66st is one of the most expensive units in our review. The only feature that would have made this more expensive is a touch screen. If you do need the functionality of the 66st, then it's worth it for sure. If you plan on downloading your own maps anyway, you can knock off some of the cost and just get the 66s model, for what it is seems like a pretty good deal considering the capability of this line.

The GPSMAP 66st is an excellent device, and can withstand storms and...
The GPSMAP 66st is an excellent device, and can withstand storms and sand. So far, this is the most capable and robust device we've used.
Photo: Ethan Newman

Conclusion


For a really capable, really durable GPS unit, the GPSMAP 66st is an excellent choice. It holds more data than anyone but a really dedicated field researcher on a long trip could use, can connect to smartphones and wifi, and can view the world via maps or satellite imaging. The 66st isn't cheap, but you get what you pay for: a burly, accurate, featured unit; good enough to earn the Editors' Choice Award.

Ethan Newman