3 Reasons Why You Need To Bring Along A GPS Before Your Next Hike

Adventuresurvivalgear Hiking, Safety, Survival / Emergency Kits Leave a Comment

By John Lewis


When you go for a hike, there are usually two ways of defining your hiking success. First, would be the fact that you are able to move from point A to point B in the quickest manner. Second, is that you have enjoyed your hiking experience a lot! A handheld GPS receiver would be able to help you reach both goals. Of course, do not forget other tools for self-defence and your physical safety as well.

If you are skilled at operating your GPS, you would be able to effectively pinpoint the shortest route to your destination which will save you loads of time. Furthermore, a GPS will give you a feeling that you will be kept safe because no matter how far you stray away from your route, you will be able to find your way back with the aid of this device.

So, how does a GPS work? The GPS system consist of three important components, namely the GPS receiver (you are holding), the satellites and the ground stations. You would only be ‘visible’ when there are 4 satellites connected to your GPS receiver, but it would usually be the case. There are many fundamental mathematics and physics involved that your GPS would calculate to determine your location. After having a general idea of how it works, we are now ready to delve into why a GPS would help us in hiking.

Reason 1: Being able to stay safe

Bringing a handheld GPS with you is one of the most convenient way of ensuring you stay safe. How can it do that? For starters, a GPS can inform you about the three positioning factors: your coordinates, letting you know your position, your orientation and where should be the direction you should be headed. Only when these three are fulfilled, only then you are travelling on the right route. By doing so, you would definitely not fall prey to any dangers which are usually present if you go off the trail.

Furthermore, you can equip your GPS with a transmission device such as cell phones, personal locator beacons or satellite messengers so that you can produce distress signals in times of need. Concerning personal locator beacons, they should only be utilized in extreme emergency situations where it uses the Distress Alerting Satellite System (DASS), and it is monitored by NASA.

lost hiker in forest with mobile satelite navigation device – geo-caching

For hikers in general, we would usually opt for Satellite Messengers which are also capable of giving out distress signals, letting rescuers know our coordinates. This is really important because most places which we hike are not within cell-phone coverage, which makes calling for help through our cell phones useless. Hence, this reflects why you need to get a GPS for your next hiking trip.

Reason 2: Get a deeper comprehension of your surroundings

A GPS can help you to effectively plan how you should approach the climb, so that you can cover more areas which interest you in a shorter amount of time. Usually, we would employ a skill called ‘scouting’ before we go for the hike.

To do this, you have to use your computer and access resources such as topographical maps or aerial maps to have a good view of the area. These resources can be found in the internet such as Google Earth or in Garmin’s Basecamp software. Through this practice, you would have a rough idea of how your terrain looks like and you can basically plan when you should rest or continue with your hike.

Later, mark those locations on the map which interest you and those which you are required to travel. Those marked locations can be transferred as waypoints into your handheld GPS unit which you can use as a reference to navigate when you are on your feet. If you have enough memory in your unit, you can even write notes on those waypoints as well!

If you do this the right way, there is no doubt that you will have a deeper understanding of your surroundings! This would make your hikes more meaningful and safe, which is another important reason why you need a GPS.

Reason 3: Increase your chances of ‘succeeding’ in your hike

‘Success’ can mean various things to most hikers, but it essentially points to becoming an efficient hiker or having a great experience. To do both of it, a GPS can help you tremendously.

Satellite navigation holding in hand with snow in the background

A GPS can help you be an efficient hiker because you can easily plan out your trip if you have a GPS unit. Not only that, you can choose to explore different navigational methods that is available in your GPS so that you can move around more effectively. For myself, I like to navigate using the waypoints which are stored in the GPS when I am navigating and moving. However, if I am searching for a new place, navigating using the 3-Dimensional navigational panel would be much easier.

As for having a great experience, a GPS would no doubt give you the feeling of safety which would definitely have a positive impact to your hiking experience. Worried about going to explore that cave which you saw nearby as you hiked up the mountain? If you have a GPS, the amount of worry that you experience will be significantly reduced. Since a GPS can help you hike ‘successfully’, why not get one?


After understanding why you need a GPS, it is time to look at how you can get a good one. Some aspects you must consider include whether the unit is suitable for your use because GPS come in a variety of navigational pattern, where you can navigate through the device using mainly touch screen or buttons.

Also, you have to be clear on what functions you need, such as determining your speed, your altitude or mapping capabilities. Try to avoid GPS with functions you do not need because they are usually costlier. The GPS’s receptivity towards satellite is an important factor as well especially if your trail leads you deep into woods or canyons, making it really difficult for your unit to get a signal.

Only when you have considered all required aspect, you are ready to get a handheld GPS receiver. So, are you sufficiently convinced that you need a GPS before your next hike? If you have any ideas you want to share, feel free to do so below!

Author Bio: I am John Lewis, a blogger, survivalist and outdoor enthusiast. You can follow me over at Epic Wilderness by clicking on the link here.