It’s easy to overlook the specialised tools that have long been the backbone of reliable navigation, but devices such as Garmin handheld GPS devices come in as the unsung heroes of outdoor exploration and precise navigation. While smartphones offer a myriad of applications, including navigation services, Garmin devices are purpose-built for the challenges of the great outdoors. This article will focus on the advantages and disadvantages of using Garmin handheld GPS devices versus smartphones for navigation, exploring the unique features that make Garmin a preferred choice for adventurers, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts who demand accuracy, durability, and reliability in their journeys. Whether you're a seasoned explorer or a casual hiker, understanding the nuances of these navigation tools will empower you to make informed choices based on your specific needs and the challenges of your chosen terrain.

Understanding Garmin Montana 750i

The Garmin Montana 750i is a versatile and robust handheld GPS device, designed to redefine the way we navigate and explore the great outdoors. Boasting an array of features that cater to the needs of adventurers, hikers, geocachers, and outdoor enthusiasts, the Montana 750i is more than just a GPS device: it's a comprehensive navigation and communication powerhouse. With a large 5” touchscreen display and built in inReach satellite tracking capabilities, this device offers a user-friendly interface that provides crystal-clear mapping and navigation. Equipped with topographic maps, turn-by-turn directions, and a high-sensitivity GPS receiver, the Montana 750i ensures accurate positioning even in challenging terrains. Beyond its navigation prowess, the device's built-in 8-megapixel camera captures not only your memorable moments but also allows you to geotag photos for a richer record of your adventures. The inclusion of two-way satellite communication capabilities sets the Montana 750i apart, enabling text messaging via the Iridium satellite network when you're off-grid.

Advantages of Garmin Handheld GPS Devices

Garmin handheld GPS devices offer a host of advantages that make them stand out as reliable and purpose-built tools for navigation and outdoor activities. Here are some key advantages:

  • Precision and Accuracy: Gamin handhelds are designed with high-sensitivity GPS receivers, providing precise and accurate location data. This is crucial for outdoor enthusiasts who navigate through challenging terrains, ensuring they stay on the right path.
  • Durability and Ruggedness: Built to withstand the knocks, drops, and scrapes of outdoor adventures, Garmin devices are rugged and durable. They are often resistant to water, dust, and shock, making them suitable for various weather conditions and terrains.
  • Specialised Outdoor Features: Garmin devices come loaded with specialised outdoor features such as topographic maps, altimeters, barometers, and electronic compasses. These features cater to the specific needs of hikers, campers, hunters, and other outdoor enthusiasts, providing valuable data for a safe and enjoyable experience.
  • Extended Battery Lives: Unlike smartphones, which may struggle with battery life during extended outdoor trips, Garmin handheld GPS devices are optimised for efficiency. Many models have long-lasting battery life, ensuring they can keep up with your adventures without constantly needing recharging.
  • Sunlight Readability: The displays on Garmin devices are designed for optimal visibility even in direct sunlight. This is a crucial feature for outdoor use, ensuring that users can easily read maps and navigate without struggling with glare.
  • Customisable Maps and Waypoints: Garmin devices allow users to load custom maps and waypoints, offering a high degree of flexibility in route planning. This feature is beneficial for those who venture into areas with specific mapping needs or want to create personalised routes.
  • Wireless Connectivity: Many Garmin handheld GPS devices come with wireless connectivity features, enabling users to receive updates, download additional maps, and share data wirelessly. This adds convenience and keeps your device up to date with the latest information.

Advantages of Smartphones for Navigation

Smartphones have become indispensable tools for navigation, offering numerous advantages that cater to the needs of users in various situations. Here are some key advantages of using smartphones for navigation:

  • Built-in GPS Technology: Most smartphones come equipped with built-in GPS receivers, allowing users to access accurate location data without the need for additional hardware.
  • User-Friendly Apps: Smartphones support a plethora of navigation apps that are often free or available at a low cost. Apps like Google Maps, Apple Maps, Waze, and others provide turn-by-turn directions, real-time traffic updates, and points of interest information, enhancing the overall navigation experience.
  • Regular Software Updates: Smartphone navigation apps receive regular updates, ensuring that users have access to the latest maps, features, and improvements. This helps maintain the accuracy and efficiency of the navigation system over time.
  • Voice Guidance: Many navigation apps on smartphones offer voice-guided directions, allowing users to keep their eyes on the road while receiving turn-by-turn instructions. This feature enhances safety during driving and walking navigation.
  • Offline Maps: Some navigation apps enable users to download maps for offline use. This is particularly useful in areas with poor or no network connectivity, ensuring that navigation remains accessible even in remote locations.
  • Search Functionality: Smartphones offer robust search capabilities within navigation apps, allowing users to quickly find specific locations, businesses, or points of interest. This feature enhances the convenience of navigation, especially in unfamiliar areas.
  • Traffic Information: Smartphone navigation apps often provide real-time traffic information, helping users navigate around congestion and choose the most efficient routes. This can save time and fuel during commutes.
  • Multi-Modal Navigation: Smartphones support various modes of transportation in their navigation apps, including walking, cycling, and public transit options. This versatility makes them suitable for a wide range of users with different travel preferences.
  • Cost-Effective: Unlike dedicated GPS devices, smartphones serve multiple purposes, making them a cost-effective solution for navigation. Users do not need to invest in separate devices for different functionalities.

Garmin Handheld GPS Devices vs. Smartphones

Smartphones and Garmin handheld GPS devices are two distinct navigation tools, each with its unique set of features and advantages. To help you make an informed choice, we’ve mapped out a comparison of these navigation options.


  • Smartphones: Smartphones generally provide accurate navigation, thanks to built-in GPS receivers. However, accuracy can be affected in areas with poor cellular signal or limited satellite visibility.
  • Garmin Handheld GPS Devices: Designed specifically for navigation, Garmin devices often offer high-precision GPS receivers, providing accurate positioning even in challenging environments like dense forests or mountainous terrain.

User Interface and Apps:

  • Smartphones: Smartphones boast intuitive touchscreens and user-friendly navigation apps like Google Maps and Apple Maps. The apps are regularly updated, and users can easily switch between navigation and other functionalities.
  • Garmin Handheld GPS Devices: Garmin devices feature robust interfaces but may have a steeper learning curve for some users. They come preloaded with detailed topographic maps, and the interface is optimised for outdoor activities.

Durability and Ruggedness:

  • Smartphones: Smartphones are generally not built to withstand extreme outdoor conditions. They are susceptible to water damage, impacts, and harsh weather, making them less ideal for rugged outdoor activities.
  • Garmin Handheld GPS Devices: Garmin devices are designed to be rugged and durable, often meeting military standards for toughness. They are built to withstand water exposure, shock, and temperature extremes, making them suitable for outdoor adventures.

Battery Life:

  • Smartphones: Battery life can be a concern during extended outdoor activities, especially when using navigation apps. Continuous use of GPS drains the battery quickly, and access to a power source may be limited in remote locations.
  • Garmin Handheld GPS Devices: Garmin devices are optimised for extended battery life, especially in navigation mode. Some models offer replaceable batteries or support additional power-saving features, making them reliable for long excursions.

Specialised Features:

  • Smartphones: While smartphones offer a wide range of apps, they may lack some specialised features required for outdoor enthusiasts, such as advanced geocaching tools, barometric altimeters, or two-way satellite communication.
  • Garmin Handheld GPS Devices: Garmin devices come with a suite of specialised features catering to outdoor activities, including geocaching support, altimeters, and in some models, two-way satellite communication capabilities.

Offline Navigation:

  • Smartphones: Many navigation apps on smartphones allow users to download maps for offline use, which is beneficial in areas with poor or no network connectivity.
  • Garmin Handheld GPS Devices: Garmin devices typically have preloaded maps and do not rely on cellular data for navigation. They excel in areas with no network coverage.

Choosing the Right Tool for the Right Job

Ensuring you have the best device for your needs is critical before embarking on an off-grid adventure or excursion. If precision, durability, and specialised features are paramount, a Garmin GPS handheld with built-in inReach satellite tracking may be the ideal choice. For general navigation and urban use, smartphones offer convenience and versatility. Evaluate your priorities based on the factors mentioned above to make an informed decision. Below are some key features to consider:

  • Purpose and Activities
  • Durability and Ruggedness
  • Accuracy and Precision
  • Battery Life
  • Specialised Features
  • Offline Navigation
  • Integration with Other Devices


The choice between something like a Garmin Montana or a smartphone for navigation boils down to individual needs and the nature of one's outdoor pursuits. Garmin devices, with their rugged durability, high-precision GPS technology, and specialised features, cater to the demands of avid adventurers, hikers, and those navigating challenging terrains. On the other hand, smartphones, with their convenience, user-friendly interfaces, and versatility, provide a practical solution for everyday navigation and urban exploration. Whether you opt for the specialised capabilities of a Garmin GPS handheld or the all-in-one convenience of a smartphone, the key is to match the tool to the job at hand. Understanding the strengths and limitations of each option empowers you to navigate confidently and make the most of your outdoor experiences. Ultimately, the journey is yours to explore, and the right navigation tool is the one that seamlessly aligns with your unique adventure.

As always, our team of experts is here to help. So, if you need any advice about Garmin or smartphone devices, contact us via:

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