How to select and use a GPS device for off-trail camping in the remote parts of the UK?

The charm of off-trail camping in the remote parts of the UK lies in its wilderness, yet such isolation can turn into a daunting experience if you lose your bearings. A GPS device is an essential piece of equipment that can guide you through these unfamiliar terrains with ease. Let us explore the best GPS devices available, their distinguishing features, and how to use them effectively in the wilderness.

1. Why is a GPS Essential for Off-Trail Camping?

Unlike traditional camping in known parks and reserves, off-trail camping in the wilderness poses unique challenges. One of the most significant challenges is finding your way around an unfamiliar landscape. Satellite navigation, more commonly known as GPS, can be a lifesaver in such situations.

GPS technology works by using a network of satellites that orbit the earth. Your GPS device receives signals from these satellites to determine your exact location. This information is displayed on a map on the device, allowing you to navigate through the wilderness with ease.

The primary advantage of a GPS device over a traditional map and compass is its ability to provide real-time location updates. This means that if you deviate from your planned route, the GPS will update your location and guide you back on track. This can be especially useful when hiking in the remote parts of the UK, where it's easy to lose your bearings.

2. How to Choose the Best GPS Device?

When it comes to choosing the best GPS device for off-trail camping, there are several factors that you need to consider. Here, we'll discuss some important features to look for in a GPS device and recommend some of the best units available on the market.

Battery Life
When you're out in the wilderness, having a device with a long battery life is crucial. Look for GPS units that can last at least 12 hours on a single charge. Some Garmin units like the eTrex series, known for their long battery life, can last as long as 25 hours.

Maps and Navigation
The quality of maps and navigation features is another crucial consideration. Look for GPS devices that offer detailed topographic maps. Some GPS units also offer features like route planning and track logging, which can be helpful when hiking off-trail.

Durability and Weather Resistance
If you're hiking in the remote parts of the UK, you need a GPS device that can withstand the elements. Look for devices that are water-resistant and robust enough to survive a fall.

3. Recommended GPS Devices for Off-Trail Camping

Having reviewed the crucial features to look for in a GPS device, let's now explore some recommended units that perform well for off-trail camping.

One of the top contenders is the Garmin eTrex 30x, known for its durability, excellent battery life, and high-quality maps. It boasts an impressive 25 hours of battery life and comes preloaded with a topographical map of Europe, making it ideal for camping in the UK.

Another solid choice is the Garmin GPSMAP 64sx. This device offers advanced navigation features, topographical maps, and excellent battery life. It also has a high-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS receiver for improved tracking in challenging environments.

4. How to Use a GPS for Off-Trail Camping?

Now that you've selected your GPS device, it's time to learn how to use it effectively. Below are some tips to help you navigate the wilderness with ease.

Pre-Trip Planning
Before you head out, plan your route and mark important waypoints on your GPS device. Waypoints are specific geographical locations that you have marked for reference. These could be your campsite, a water source, or a point of interest.

Real-Time Navigation
While hiking, regularly check your GPS to ensure you're on the right track. If you deviate from your planned route, use the device to guide you back on track.

Battery Management
To conserve battery life, turn off the GPS when you're not using it. Also, carry spare batteries or a power bank to recharge your device if needed.

Remember, while a GPS device is a useful tool, it should not replace basic wilderness skills and common sense. Always carry a map and compass as a backup, and ensure you know how to use them.

5. Advanced Features in GPS Devices for Off-Trail Camping

Modern GPS devices come loaded with advanced features that significantly enhance the experience of wild camping. Here we examine some of these features, which might be of particular interest to the off-trail camper.

Barometric Altimeter
A barometric altimeter is a feature that you will find in GPS devices such as the Garmin Montana series. The altimeter measures air pressure changes to determine your precise altitude. This feature is especially useful for hiking in the mountainous regions of the UK, where knowing your altitude can help assess your location and progress.

InReach Technology
GPS devices like the Garmin InReach Mini come equipped with InReach technology. This feature allows you to send and receive text messages, share your journey details, and even trigger an SOS to a 24/7 global emergency response coordination center.

Integration with Smartphone Apps
Some GPS units, like the Gaia GPS, allow for integration with smartphone apps. This feature allows you to access your GPS data on your smartphone for a more convenient and comprehensive navigation experience. You can download maps, plan routes, and even share your journey with others using these apps.

6. Taking Care of Your Handheld GPS Device

A handheld GPS device is an investment, and proper care can extend its life and performance. Here are some tips to maintain your device in top-notch condition.

Screen Protector
The screen of a GPS device is one of the most sensitive parts. Protect it from scratches and other damages by using a screen protector.

Regular Software Updates
GPS manufacturers often release software updates that improve the functionality of the devices. Make sure you regularly update your GPS device to benefit from these enhancements.

Proper Storage and Cleaning
When not in use, store your GPS device in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Clean your device regularly as per the manufacturer's instructions.


Wild camping in the remote parts of the UK can be an exhilarating adventure. A reliable GPS device, equipped with the right features, can make your journey more enjoyable and significantly safer. Whether it's the long-lasting battery life of the Garmin eTrex, the advanced navigation features of the Garmin GPSMAP 64sx, or the smartphone integration and InReach technology of the Gaia GPS and Garmin InReach Mini, modern GPS units are designed to cater to the needs of off-trail campers.

Remember, while GPS devices offer amazing assistance, they should not replace basic navigation skills and wilderness awareness. Always carry a map and compass as a backup and learn how to use them. Happy wild camping!

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