When you go hiking, trekking, and mountaineering, finding your way around can be a challenge. This is especially true if visibility is poor or the landscape doesn’t have any distinct features. In this case, a handheld GPS like the Garmin 64st can be a true lifesaver.
These days, most recreational hikers use their smartphones for navigating the great outdoors. Well, that is until their batteries die out or they get their phones smashed. Dedicated handheld GPS devices are far more durable than your standard smartphone and can easily withstand the harsh outdoor conditions. Plus, they have longer lasting batteries, which are definitely a plus for outdoor use.
Today, we’re going to review the Garmin 64st – one of the most popular handheld GPS available. Is this handheld GPS right for you?
What to Look for in a Handheld GPS Unit
Adding a handheld GPS to your gear may be a no-brainer for your if you do a lot of hiking. On the other hand, if your budget is tight, you may not feel confident investing in another gadget.
So, let’s take a look at the most common features to help you determine whether this is something that will benefit you and how much you should invest.
The number of satellites your GPS can access determines its accuracy. The two most significant satellite networks include the GPS satellite system (managed by the United States Department of Defense) and the GLONASS network (the Russian network). If your GPS can access both, you’ll enjoy higher accuracy and suffer fewer misdirections.
Make sure that maps for your area are included and loaded on the unit you’re considering before purchase. You don’t want to get out into the wild only to find out you had to purchase additional maps online to access local data.
If you’re keeping an eye on the weather, you may want a unit with a barometric altimeter. This handy reading can also help you achieve better accuracy in determining your location by giving you your altitude.
A good GPS will also include a compass, but make sure you check its accuracy against a regular compass. Your unit may feature an electronic or differential compass. While an electronic compass is more accurate, you may not need to spend the extra money on this upgrade.
If you want to log the landmarks on your hike, you’ll want the ability to upload images that will help you pinpoint your location along your route.
Marking waypoints along your hike can help keep you on track with fewer diversions. A good GPS unit will include a waypoint manager to help.
Other bells and whistles
Other features on various units include a few data trackers you may or may not need, depending on your outdoor activities.
- Geocache functions
- Points of interest
- Proximity alarm
- Route planner
- Sunrise/sunset data
- Tide tracker
- Trip computer
Garmin 64st Specifications
First, let’s take a look at the specs for this Garmin unit from the manufacturer:
- Dimensions: 2.4 by 6.3 by 1.4 inches
- Display size: 1.43 by 2.15 inches
- Display resolution: 160 x 240 pixels
- Weight: 8.1 ounces with batteries
- Battery: 2 AA (not included); NiMH or Lithium recommended
- Battery life: 16 hours
- Water rating: IPX7
- Memory/History: 4GB expandable
- Preloaded topographic maps
- Ability to add maps
- Waypoints/favorites/locations: 5,000
- Routes: 200
- Track log: 10,000 points, 200 saved tracks
- Barometric altimeter
- Photo viewer
- Automatic routing (turn by turn routing on roads)
- Hunting and fishing calendar
- Sun and moon information
- Garmin Connect™ compatible
- Smart Notifications compatible
- Live Tracking
Garmin 64st Review
The Garmin GPSMap 64st is available in six different models:
- Base model
- With ANT + Bluetooth + Camera
- Including ANT + Bluetooth
- Added ANT + Bluetooth and Canada TOPO
- With ANT + Bluetooth and U.S. TOPO
- With Slip Case
The price differs based on the model you choose. For this review, we’re going to focus on the 64st base model.
The Garmin GPS 64st features a 2.6-inch color display, which is easily readable even under the sunlight. For this size, we thought that the screen is a little bit small, especially when compared to other devices in a similar price range. The screen is also not a touchscreen, which can be a downer for many people.
However, the 160×240-pixel display delivers good clarity regardless of the lighting condition. The transflective display is quite tough, which is great for most outdoor activities. Overall, it’s not the largest display, but it gets the job done.
With GPS + WAAS + GLONASS combined and with a very sensitive quad-helix antenna, we’ve never had any significant issues with accuracy. In both open and shady places, the signal acquisition has always been fast. Once the device finds your position, it stays locked in.
The built-in three-axis electronic compass makes it simple for navigate old waypoints and tracks. Upon further testing, we can conclude that this is one of the best units in terms of satellite reception and accuracy.
Ease of Use
The lack of touchscreen hurts the usability of the device, especially for those accustomed to using touchscreen devices. However, the Garmin GPS 64st features 10 large hardware buttons that work rather well, even when using gloves.
Regardless of the lack of a touchscreen, the buttons are easy to press and highly responsive. The large multi-directional pad works well for navigation, and the other buttons are working without issues.
We especially enjoy the mark button which made waypoint marking a lot easier.
The menus are also simple and easy to navigate. Although as expected, there’s a bit of learning curve when accessing more intricate features. Overall, the GPSMap 64st is a breeze to use even when you’re not a tech-savvy.
On a single charge, the battery life lasted for about 16 hours, even with the always-on display. You simply can’t have this much power supply with a smartphone. AA batteries power the device, so you can easily pack backup batteries with you during a trip.
Unlike your traditional smartphones, the backlight doesn’t illuminate except when indoors or in complete darkness. There is also a Battery Save Mode, which extends the battery life even more by switching off the screen after a certain time.
Overall, the battery life on the Garmin 64st is excellent.
The Garmin 64st comes with a built-in worldwide basemap, preloaded with TOPO 100k and a 1-year subscription of BirdsEye Satellite Imagery. However, you can easily add more maps if you choose to.
The device has an 8 GB onboard memory and even more expandable memory with the microSD slot. With this storage memory, you can simply download the map to your GPS and head out.
The Garmin 64st is for sale for approximately $260 to $300 for the ANT+Bluetooth and US TOPO model. For that price, we can say that the Garmin 64st offers good value. For such a price, you get a durable unit that is water resistant. Plus, it’s packed with a good number of features and reliable accuracy.
Garmin 64st Pros and Cons
While you may already be convinced one way or another, let’s sum up the high and low points for this popular handheld GPS unit.
- Fast satellite fix
- Quick boot up
- Preloaded maps
- Built-in cellular capability
- Water resistant
- Small screen
- No touchscreen
- Functions may be confusing to navigate
- Not rechargeable
What Consumers Say
Another excellent way of assessing the quality of a product before investing is to check consumer reviews on retail platforms. For the most part, buyers of the Garmin 64st have been happy with their purchase.
Amazon buyers rated this unit an average of 4.1 out of 5 stars out of over 1,000 consumer reviews. High points cited include the speed of boot up and access to maps. Those who were not so happy with their purchase complained about its difficulty of use and poor battery life.
Bass Pro Shop buyers were somewhat more complimentary and rated it an average of 4.2 out of 5 stars. Happy customers also mentioned its connection speed and range of maps. Unhappy buyers complained about a lack of accuracy; however, it must be said that consumer unit GPS units are only accurate at about 15 feet. This can be a significant margin if you’re not prepared for it.
Buy or Not?
The outdoor GPS market is a very saturated one.
There are many units out there that offer great functionality and top-notch accuracy. With that said, we’re happy to say that the Garmin 64st is an easy recommendation.
There are some glaring issues such as the lack of touchscreen and the dated interface. However, it’s hard to dislike the robust construction, great accuracy, a good collection of relevant features.
Do you agree with this Garmin GPSMap 64st review? Is there are a particular unit that’s a better alternative than the 64st? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Featured Image: via Amazon