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I really like my InReach Mini. It allows you to text contacts via the satellite network, which can be great for adjusting shuttles etc., or just letting others know you're okay (or late but okay). Small enough to be used backpacking etc.; I use it year-round for backcountry skiing. The trade-off is that it's not very useful for navagation absent support from a phone.
 

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For a GPS I like the Inreach SE since I can program waypoints and see them on the device. Plus messages can be sent from the device, although Nokia-ish. It is a bit bigger than the Mini, but not much bigger.
 

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If you're looking for a communication device, I would also give my vote to the Inreach Mini. If you just want location and map data, I would look into using an App like Gaia GPS or Avenza on your phone. I personally really like Gaia for backcountry navigation due to the available map layers. Most phones still work for GPS location even in airplane mode.
 

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CalTopo's app has improved a ton as well. I used to use caltopo for computer-based planning, and then moved the gpx file over to another app. Now I just use caltopo on my computer and phone.
 

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Garmin Inreach Explorer+. It includes satellite texting. However, separate GPS and satellite text services allow you to more affordably upgrade one or the other in the future. Especially considering Starlink coming online.

Garmin Etrex 30 is my current preference which is one hand non-touch screen operation. Marshall's choice of Garmin 64 is excellent and is also one hand operation but a little less compact compared to the Etrex. As a geologist I was able to hold a map, hammer or a rock in one hand and operate the GPS in the other.

Some people prefer touch screen and there are many Garmins to choose from. Some people can use the touch screen in one hand just like some people can manipulate a smartphone in one hand.

I'm frequently out with people who use smart phones and what I see is really kool.

My preference is having all three. Smart phone so that I can access Peak Finder, various files I've written; GPS and Inreach satellite texting.
 

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I've taken my Garmin GPSMAP 66st on a few river trips. I've preloaded it with all the Middle Fork rapids and camps. It made finding a few smaller/not-normally-used-by-our-group campsites a complete non-issue. While it does not have a way to communicate with the outside world I would totally recommend it!
 

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inreach eliminates the need for sat phone
 

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I may have confused. InReach is satellite texting. When you push the emergency button is sends a very, brief text message summarized as "HELP" plus coordinates. After that you will likely(should) end up doing a lot of satellite texting regarding the nature of the emergency.

The newest Garmin InReach+ includes quality GPS functionality, Personal Locator Beacon and Satellite Texting. It is a bit clunky when "typing" but can linked to a Smart Phone which can be used for text entry.

The original InReach which I have sucked as a GPS so make sure I suggest if you are buying used or new that you know what you are buying.
 

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I may have confused. InReach is satellite texting. When you push the emergency button is sends a very, brief text message summarized as "HELP" plus coordinates. After that you will likely(should) end up doing a lot of satellite texting regarding the nature of the emergency.

The newest Garmin InReach+ includes quality GPS functionality, Personal Locator Beacon and Satellite Texting. It is a bit clunky when "typing" but can linked to a Smart Phone which can be used for text entry.

The original InReach which I have sucked as a GPS so make sure I suggest if you are buying used or new that you know what you are buying.
I have the SE+ which works as a GPS even when not subscribed to the message/emergency function. Admittedly, it is more expensive than a standalone GPS.
 

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I may have confused. InReach is satellite texting. When you push the emergency button is sends a very, brief text message summarized as "HELP" plus coordinates. After that you will likely(should) end up doing a lot of satellite texting regarding the nature of the emergency.

The newest Garmin InReach+ includes quality GPS functionality, Personal Locator Beacon and Satellite Texting. It is a bit clunky when "typing" but can linked to a Smart Phone which can be used for text entry.

The original InReach which I have sucked as a GPS so make sure I suggest if you are buying used or new that you know what you are buying.
I have the SE+ which works as a GPS even when not subscribed to the message/emergency function. Admittedly, it is more expensive than a standalone GPS.
 

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inreach eliminates the need for sat phone
no, it does not. However they can sometimes make contact where sat phones cannot. The big downside to an in reach, for example in Grand canyon, is you cannot talk directly to the park service like you can if you have a sat phone. It gets relayed through wherever their emergency center is located. I much prefer to talk to the park service in an emergency
 

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no, it does not. However they can sometimes make contact where sat phones cannot. The big downside to an in reach, for example in Grand canyon, is you cannot talk directly to the park service like you can if you have a sat phone. It gets relayed through wherever their emergency center is located. I much prefer to talk to the park service in an emergency
Excellent point Marshall. Since you mentioned it, a thread should be begun on personal locator beacon(InReach) texting during an emergency situation. A friend of mine had to use texting through Canyon REO or whoever he used as a painless private to intermediate with the park service to get a helicopter during an evac out from Monument Ck camp due to a repture of an unknow tumor(blood in stool and unconscious).

I've owned and used GlobalStar for years professionally and on river trips. It was very dicey in deep canyons and useless depending on canyon orientation.

I've also used Iridium, the last time on Lodore to monitor my mother-in-law's status. She was healthy when we launched. We couldn't get out regardless of trying many times a day. They day we launched she had a stroke. Relatives contacted the NPS who meet us at Echo Park. The young ranger who drove my SO and me to Split Mtn Boat Ramp said the NPS River Rangers there depend only on satellite texting(e.g. InReach) since it only requires moments of connection to transmit a text.

It would be nice to have both but depend on texting. Is it possible to text now via sat phone? I retired my sat phone years ago so don't know.
 

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"While inReach SE+ uses GPS to provide basic grid navigation and allow you to drop waypoints, mark key locations, track your progress, and follow a breadcrumb trail back to base—the inReach Explorer+ goes a step beyond, providing full-fledged GPS on-map guidance with preloaded TOPO mapping and waypoint routings viewable directly on the unit. Plus, a built-in digital compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer are included with Explorer+ to help you get and maintain accurate bearings anywhere on or off the beaten path. "


For the small difference in price, I suggest the Explorer+. Especially considering the original question concerned "best GPS".
 

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I also use the InReach mini, and love it. Pair it with a phone and you can text anyone for non-emergency stuff, which can be very handy. It's small enough to carry anywhere, and has good battery life and way better reception / transmission capabilities than Iridium phones.

For Navigation I use the Garmin Foretrex 401. It doesn't have a basemap, just way points, but I prefer to look at paper maps anyway. Its easy enough to cross reference your position off a waypoint to the paper map. Its particularly nice for multi-day, self-support kayak trips, as its wrist mounted and is always handy.

I also use my phone as a backup for navigation with GAIA GPS. With GAIA I get actual USGS 7.5' topo maps, which are way better quality than the maps that come on most Garmin handheld units. Also, unlike other apps like Onx, GAIA's map downloads are free.

If there was an easy way to load good maps onto a Garmin handheld unit I would consider using one, since they are more rugged and waterproof than a smartphone. I'm not sure what kind of battery life they get though.
 

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If there was an easy way to load good maps onto a Garmin handheld unit I would consider using one, since they are more rugged and waterproof than a smartphone. I'm not sure what kind of battery life they get though.
Loading maps and bird's eye imagery onto my Garmin GPSMAP 66st definitely had a learning curve to it! Once I got it dialed in, it wasn't too bad, just a multi-step process. It sure has been nice on river trips though! I would have it on all day (only turning off when I remembered at camp each evening) and I would charge it every couple of days off my battery pack. If I was more diligent about turning it off I'm sure it could have lasted much longer.
 
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