The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Garmin GPSMAP 66st Review

A reliable and accurate GPS unit chock full of features.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $450 List | $449.99 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 the already high-end GPSMAP 64S, and all the things we liked about the 64s are in the 66st. It uses the same quad-helix antenna accurate to 10 feet and with the astounding 16GB of memory (not including extra microSD cards you can put into it to quadruple the storage), which adds up to a whole lot of accurate data, probably more than any one person could easily generate. On its own, it can record 10,000 waypoints, 250 routes, provide satellite imagery, and update you on the weather either on the device directly or on your smartphone.

This is a highly capable unit and priced as such. We liked that the basic functions felt pretty intuitive, but some of the more advanced features, like the Bluetooth connectivity, were complicated. However, if you know your way around GPS units, and looking for a highly capable device for logging a lot of data, this is a good choice. This unit can do about anything, including win our Editors' Choice Award.


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
Garmin GPSMAP 66st
Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award  
Price $449.99 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$254.99 at Amazon$289.99 at AmazonCheck Price at Amazon
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$437.35 at Amazon
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Pros Excellent reception, large buttons, big screen, smart notifications and connectivity.Fantastic reception through thick coverage, affordable, large buttons, share wirelessly features, smart notifications (connect to your smartphone)Smartphone-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 compass
Cons Expensive, bulky, complicated connectivity between devices.Weak basemap, larger size, non-rechargeable batteriesMore 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, expensive
Bottom Line A reliable and accurate GPS unit chock full of features.This is your best bet for four-season reliability when it's too dirty or cold out to take off your gloves.Straightforward function meets glitzy features in a unit that's great for a range of activity in reasonable weather conditions.Fully featured and arguably more reliable even than commonly available satellite phones.A large screen and excellent reception make up for this unit's bulk if you have trouble viewing normal units or use satellite imagery.
Rating Categories Garmin GPSMAP 66st Garmin GPS MAP 64s Garmin Oregon 700 Garmin inReach Explorer+ Garmin Montana 680
Reception (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
9
Ease Of Use (20%)
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
Display Quality (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
6
10
0
7
Speed (15%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
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8
10
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9
Weight And Size (15%)
10
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8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
4
Versatility (10%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
7
Specs Garmin GPSMAP 66st Garmin GPS MAP 64s Garmin Oregon 700 Garmin inReach... Garmin Montana 680
Battery Life (hours) 16 16 75 22
No. of Waypoints 10,000 5,000 (250,000) preloaded geocaches) 500 4,000
Saved Tracks / Points per Track 250 / 20,000 200 / 10,000 20 / 500 200 / 10,000
Preloaded Maps US and Canada Simple Basemap 1:25k U.S. and Canada Simple Basemap
Dimensions (in.) 2.5 x 6.4 x 1.4 2.4 x 6.3 x 1.4 2.7 x 1.5 x 6.5 2.9 x 5.7 x 1.4
Weight w/ Batteries (oz.) 8 7.6 6.8 7.5 10.3
Display Size (in.) 1.5 x 2.5 1.43 x 2.15 1.4 x 1.9 2 x 3.5
Display Resolution (pixels) 240 x 400 160 x 240 200 x 265 272 x 480
Built-in Memory 16 GB 4 GB 2 GB 4 GB
Accepts Data Cards microSD microSD No microSD
Touchsceen or buttons? Buttons Buttons Buttons Touchscreen (dual orientation)
Electronic or Differential Compass? Electronic Electronic Electronic Electronic
Barometric Altimeter Yes Yes Yes Yes
Wireless Communication? Yes Yes Yes Yes
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 No Camera - 8 MP
Photo Viewer Yes Yes No Yes
Geocaching (paperless) Yes Yes No Yes
Hunt/Fish Calendar Yes Yes No Yes
Sun and Moon Information Yes Yes Yes Yes
Area Calculator Yes Yes Yes Yes
Battery Information 2 AA Batteries 2 AA batteries Rechargeable lithium ion 3 AA Batteries / Rechargeable NiMH pack
Online Connect Communities Garmin Connect Garmin Connect Garmin Earthmate Garmin Connect
Screen Info transflective color TFT transflective, 65-K color TFT, transflective transflective, color TFT transflective 65k color TFT
Interface Information high-speed USB and NMEA 0183 USB, NMEA 0183 compatible USB high-speed USB, NMEA 0183 compatible
What Comes in the Box? USB cable, documentation, bird's eye sattelite imagery, carabiner clip -1 year BirdsEye satellite imagery w/ international coverage
-USB data cable
-Carabineer clip
-Documentation
-inReach Explorer+
-Preloaded with TOPO
-USB cable
-Carabiner clip
-Documentation
-1 year BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription
-USB cable
-AC charger
-Battery pack
-Multiple socket adaptors

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison



This unit is both rugged and capable.
This unit is both rugged and capable.

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" models of each, they also included preloaded topo maps. We loved the 64 for its functionality and ruggedness, and we love the 66st even more. So much so, we gave it our Editor's Choice Award.

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 Galileo satellite network in addition to the GPS and GLONASS networks  giving the unit even more satellites to connect to  increasing accuracy.
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.

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.

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.


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.

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.
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.

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 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 is about the size of a smartphone  but a bit thicker.
This unit is about the size of a smartphone, but a bit thicker.

Speed


Like most of the button operated GPS units we tested, the 66st isn't quite as responsive in function as the touch-screen units like the Oregon 700, 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.

Weight and Size


At eight ounces, the 66st is the second 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. 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.

The GPSMAP 66st fits pretty well into a larger chest pocket  but is a bit big for pants pockets.
The GPSMAP 66st fits pretty well into a larger chest pocket, but is a bit big for pants pockets.

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.

This GPS is pretty easy to use with gloves  and with lithium batteries and expedition mode did quite well in cold weather.
This GPS is pretty easy to use with gloves, and with lithium batteries and expedition mode did quite well in cold weather.

Best Applications


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.

Value


At $450, the GPSMAP 66st is the third most expensive unit in the review. The one 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 $50 off and just get the 66s model, which for what it is seems like a pretty good deal. However, if 16GB or more and wifi capabilities are excessive to you, the GPSMAP 64s is $150 cheaper and fairly similar.

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 for Most Reliable 4 Season GPS.

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.
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.


Ethan Newman