How to Choose the Right GPS Unit?

You’ve decided that you need a GPS unit and a map for it, but with the countless units available, you’re not sure how to proceed with choosing the right one for your activity.

Which brings you here. What is the right GPS for you?


Let’s go over some of the more popular activities, along with the important factors that will affect your choice.

ATV / Snowmobile

ATVs & snowmobiles expose your GPS unit to water, snow, cold, wind and everything else in between! On top of requiring a unit that’s water-resistant and shock-resistant, you’ll need to choose one that can easily connect to your vehicle’s power source so the screen can stay on the whole time.

While it’s nice to have a screen that can be on at all times, you should be able to easily view it from a reasonable distance. As such, ensure your unit has a large screen so you don’t have to wince at it as you’re riding the trails.

Another important factor many overlook is the screen interface. We all know how to use touchscreens by now, but when it’s cold or wet and your gloves are on, a touchscreen will not work. For this reason, we recommend a unit that has a resistive touchscreen that works on applied pressure to the screen instead of working on heat like your cellphone.

You can’t go wrong with a Garmin Montana 700i for ATV or snowmobile with its large 4″ screen and resistive touchscreen.

If you’re more on a budget, Garmin’s DriveSmart series, such as the Garmin DriveSmart 65, can do the job. Do bear in mind that these units are designed to be in cars and are therefore not resistant to water, cold or dust. Make sure to keep them in a dry & warm place at all times.

TOPO (Hiking & Hunting)

The last thing you want when hiking or hunting is a heavy, clunky piece of equipment, so a lightweight GPS unit is key. Your pocket or arm will thank you for this.

You’ll be consulting the screen only occasionally to ensure you didn’t veer off course or to plan a quick route. Moreover,  most of the time you will not be moving while doing this, so massive screen real estate isn’t required.

With a smaller screen, you’ll be hard pressed to find a unit with a touch screen that isn’t impossibly difficult to use, especially if you have larger-than-average fingers. A unit with physical controls on it may be ideal.

We believe the lightweight Garmin GPSMAP 66i is a good fit for these activities.


If you go boating, you can install your GPS unit in a fixed location on the boat and as a result weight is not a major factor.

When navigating the waters, you need to see what’s coming up, and a large screen is essential to make this all possible. Otherwise, you’ll only be able to see what’s immediately around you, which is not a safe strategy to have out on the water. Most marine GPS unit screens are touchscreens or resistive touchscreens, and you aren’t likely to have any problems using them.

Many include a sonar, giving you a better bang for your buck than purchasing separately. If you do end up purchasing separately or already have one, make sure it is compatible with your unit.

Check out the Lowrance HDS-7 Live and Garmin Montana 700i for your boating or fishing season!


It goes without saying that screen size and weight are the most important factors to consider. As you’re on a routable cycling path, the focus should be on showing the path and some of the topography around you.

Since you’re cycling at a speed considerably slower than a snowmobile, ATV or boat, you do have plenty of time to see a left turn coming right up, for example.

We recommend the Garmin Edge 530 for cycling paths.

Other Factors to Consider

Make sure the map you are looking for is compatible with any GPS unit you’re considering purchasing. This will quickly eliminate irrelevant GPS units so you can focus on the rest.

Another important consideration is if the screen has an anti-reflective coating. Since all activities listed here are for the outdoors, your eyes will thank you for this!

Do your research. Don’t take our word for it. Read online reviews and get feedback from your friends, especially as old units get phased out and new ones come to take their place.

Too Long, Didn’t Read!

Time is precious. We understand! So check out some of our favourite GPS units below:

 GPS Unit  Activity
Garmin Montana 700i ATV / Snowmobile
Garmin GPSMAP 66i TOPO (Hiking & Hunting)
Lowrance HDS-7 Live Marine
Garmin Montana 700i Marine
Garmin Edge 530 Cycling

We want to hear from you! Have any tips of your own? Feel free to comment below or contact us with any feedback or questions.


  1. I have a garmin zumo 665 and i want to us it on my snowmobile ! Can i download northeast US
    Trakmaps onto it ??

  2. Having trouble with SD CARD loading onto my Garmin
    It’s asking to format the SD card.
    I know not too.
    I’m not sure what the issue is.
    I purchased the ATV Trail Map for Quebec.
    My Garmin model is Drive 50.
    Hope someone can help.

    • Hi Mitch,

      Thanks for commenting! I see that you have just sent us an email regarding this issue – one of my colleagues will get back to you shortly 🙂


  3. Im looking to purchase a inreach mini and wondering if this would be compatible whit the earth mate app on my phone

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