The Importance of GPS Devices on Long Hikes

The Importance of GPS Devices on Long Hikes

Going on extended hiking trips is one of the best ways to experience the outdoors and get up close and personal with nature. However, when you’re roughing it in the backcountry and immersing yourself in absolute wilderness, safety should be a top priority. It’s crucial that you’re able to effectively navigate your way through a variety of terrain, account for changing weather conditions and eventually make it back to civilization in one piece.

One of the most important tools you can bring along on long hikes is a global positioning system (GPS) device. Let’s now go over some reasons why a GPS is so beneficial and some specific features that are typically included.


Accurate Navigation

When you’re hiking through rugged areas such as canyons, steep switchbacks and dense foliage, navigation can quickly become problematic. It can be especially tricky if you’re on a seldom-traveled trail with no blazes for markers. Utilizing a GPS is advantageous because it helps you keep your bearings in even the most remote locations. By relying on an extensive network of satellites, the data transmitted to your device will continually provide you with your coordinates and show you which direction to take to stay on course.

Comprehensive Mapping

A big reason why GPS devices are often superior to traditional maps is the level of detail they provide. For instance, most include topographic mapping, which is helpful for determining elevation shifts as well as man made features such as roads. When compared to a smartphone, a GPS also wins out because you don’t need a data connection to download mapping, so you can use it regardless of your location. And because these devices are continually updated, you can be sure that you’re looking at up-to-date maps when tracking your journey.


Generally speaking, these products are highly durable and can withstand a lot of abuse and maintain functionality. They’re specifically designed to be used in the backcountry and can handle pretty much anything the environment throws at them. Even if you drop a GPS on a bed of rocks or it takes a splash in a river, it should still work fine. However, you can’t always say the same about a paper map or a smartphone, which aren’t necessarily designed to endure the elements.

Monitoring Weather

One feature that many GPS devices offer that you’re not going to find with a paper map or a compass is a barometer. This allows you to track weather patterns and predict changing conditions. That way you will know if there is inclement weather heading your way so that you can be better prepared to handle it.

Other Helpful Digital Gadgets

As technology advances and becomes more intertwined with hiking and backpacking, it’s resulted in a plethora of new digital gadgets that may be of interest to outdoor adventure seekers. Here are two of the most notable:

  • Earl – Backcountry Survival Tablet – You can think of this as a more rugged and extreme version of an iPad. It’s incredibly tough and capable of withstanding an inordinate amount of abuse while still functioning perfectly. Earl provides you with information such as your coordinates, elevation and direction you’re heading. It utilizes internal weather sensors, so you see what the temperature, humidity and barometric pressure are and will provide you with a forecast. Earl also allows you to listen to local radio stations and doubles as a Walkie-Talkie so you can contact emergency responders in a dire situation. When it comes to charging, it has a built in solar panel so you don’t have to worry about running out of power.
  • Iridium Extreme Satellite Phone – It’s impossible to predict disasters like injury or getting lost, so having a satellite phone such as this can be a real lifesaver in a worst-case scenario. According to the company, this device offers “two-way global coverage across oceans, airways and Polar Regions.” Even if you find yourself in even the most remote of areas, you will be able to make contact with the GEOS International Response Coordination Centre so you can inform a search and rescue party to come find you. All you have to do is push the Iridium Extreme’s emergency button, and it will send out your coordinates. On top of this, you can send and receive SMS messages and even receive voicemails. And because of its ruggedness, it can handle all of the elements and is wind, water and dust resistant. In fact, it’s equipped with military grade durability so you can count on it when you need it most.Iridium
  • Walkie Talkies – Walkie talkies have grown to be a hikers favourite over the years. They are now packed with features, and some even come with GPS functions themselves. Never find yourself alone on a mountain top and stay alert of weather information and changes. You can find much information on the best walkie talkies on many places but we found it very useful to read some walkie talkie reviews.

Outdoor hiking adventures are exciting and inspiring – but you definitely want to stay safe in the process. By using a GPS device or other forms of technology, you’re free to explore the outdoors and go on epic hikes all the while having peace of mind that you’ll finish your journey safely.

The Importance of GPS Devices on Long Hikes