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Smartphones vs GPS for Hiking – Which One is the Best?

Smartphones have taken over the world when it comes to technology. People use smartphones for various things. Therefore, it is no surprise that smartphones also come in handy in hiking. When it comes to trekking, many outdoor enthusiasts are comparing the use of Smartphones vs GPS for hiking.


One of the advantages that a smartphone offers is that you probably already have one. Therefore, it is easily accessible to you and you will not need to buy one.  In the case of GPS, if you are getting started exploring the outdoors you probably don’t one, so you will have to buy one. This will be an additional cost for you.

Inbuilt GPS Maps

Most smartphones have inbuilt GPS maps that are quite accurate. Therefore, you can safely use them to navigate your way from one point to another. In addition, the manufacturers are constantly working to fine-tune their GPS features. While in the case of GPS, you will have to pay a lot of money to get map packages from dealers. In addition, you will be restricted to using the maps that came with your handheld device or pay for expensive updates.

Smartphones Vs GPS For Hiking

Strong Build

Smartphones have not been designed for rough handling and outdoor use. Rain, constant dropping on the ground and humidity can cause fast wear and tear on the device. The phone can even get damaged, rendering it useless. This can leave you stranded during your hike. On the other hand, GPS devices have been designed for rough outdoor use, so they are quite durable.

Battery Life

The major disadvantage of smartphones is that they do not have a long battery life. This is especially if you are constantly using apps and data. This will force you to use mobile charging devices, such as solar converters. This means more luggage for you. GPS devices come with interchangeable batteries; therefore you can use them for long periods of time.

Hard to use under direct sunlight

Trying to swipe your smartphone when you have gloves on is a challenging venture. Moreover, it can be hard to view the screen of your phone under direct sunlight. This will make it hard for you to navigate with it. Whereas, it is easy to use a GPS device at any time of the day. This makes it quite reliable.

Smartphones Vs GPS For Hiking


Standalone GPS devices come with various features, which are important when you are hiking. This includes things like altitude readings, mileage and speed. There are even apps that can provide you with information about topographical features that could affect your trek.


Both smartphones and GPS devices offer great options when it comes to hiking. The option you choose really depends on where you will be hiking. If you will be doing short treks around town then a smartphone will work. But if you need something that will survive rough terrains and harsh weather elements, a GPS device is your best pick.

Using a GPS will allow you to unplug and only switch on your phone in case of any emergencies.

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