Walking outside has tremendous benefits. One of the best perks is the absence of gym equipment, but one little device allows you to get the most out of your walks. This device is a GPS. Available in many shapes and sizes, there’s a GPS out there to fit any walker.
Benefits of Walking Outside
While walking has plenty of benefits, regardless of where you choose to exercise, walking outside has a number of additional perks you can only get by going outdoors. Walking can help prevent colds, and walking in the sun gives your body the chance to make vitamin D. Indoor environments, particularly homes, typically contain a higher percentage of allergens and irritants. While you may still face smog and exhaust outside, at least you aren’t breathing the built up pollutants that have collected around your treadmill.
Both walking and time outdoors have proven mental health benefits. By pairing them together, you create a positive boost for your brain chemistry. You may also lessen secondary factors that strengthen conditions like depression. Such factors include weight, digestive health, and arthritis or other joint and muscle problems.
Benefits of Walking with a GPS
You may not need a GPS in order to walk, but this simple tool has the potential to help any walker get better results. A GPS isn’t just for walkers who take treks through the woods. While many paths have mile markers, you may not want to walk exactly two or three miles. Maybe you measure by time, but you still want to know how far you made it. Maybe your favorite places to walk cannot be easily measured.
City blocks and residential sidewalks don’t come with mile markers, and while parks often mark distance, many nature reserves do not. A GPS allows you to track your progress. Without a GPS, or a device with a built-in GPS, you can only guess how far you actually walked.
A GPS allows you to try new paths without losing track of your mileage or your location. If you want to go walking while you’re on vacation or you just have trouble with maps, a GPS will be your best friend. Not only does it tell you where you are and how far you’ve come, but by marking your starting position, you can always find your way back with ease. Since outdoor walking is best when you vary your terrain, a GPS can give you the confidence to push on and get better results.
Things to Consider Before Buying
While any GPS will give you coordinates, different products offer different features. You must consider what you need before you even begin to hunt for the perfect walking GPS. Everything from size to battery life will determine how well your new GPS works for you.
Size and Shape
Obviously, you don’t want a GPS designed for a car to carry around with you on your walks. However, personal GPS systems have evolved to keep pace with technology like smart watches, so you have more options than you might expect. You can choose a handheld GPS, which you can store in a backpack or on a belt-mounted holster.
This style has the most potential for additional features and a large display screen. Wrist-mounted GPS devices provide only basic information, such as coordinates, distance, and altitude. Most can show you where you’ve been, but that’s about as advanced as they get. They fit like a watch, however, which makes them less likely to fall and break.
Do you plan to take long walks? Do you need a GPS system with enough battery life to take you into the depths of the wilderness and back to safety again? Do you just need something that can help you during a regular exercise hike around the park? Advanced GPS technology may use more battery power than a simple device, so be sure to check not only how long the product can run on a single set of batteries, but what functions it can perform during that time.
Just like a smart phone running too many apps, the more your GPS does for you, the less time the batteries will work.
Heavy duty products can provide two-way satellite communication, route planning and tracking, sunrise and moonrise information, calculators, a camera, and more. There’s nothing wrong with any of these features, but not all walkers need them. Your phone may already provide many of these functions, or you may need a device that can replace your phone while you’re on a remote trail. It depends entirely on you and your walking habits.
Best GPS Products for Outdoor Walkers
Garmin Oregon 600
This handheld GPS unit has just about every feature you can imagine. The large, bright screen allows you to easily see your position, even in bright sunlight. An altimeter and three way compass allow for exact measurements, and a barometric altimeter allow you to keep an eye on the weather. Additional features include wireless photo sharing, waypoint marking, and automatic routing. Batteries last up to sixteen hours.
The GPS’s built in map apparently has some errors, especially around water, and users claimed it had them paddling through grass or walking over water. Other users praised the device’s customizable options and bright screen.
- Bright screen
- Tons of features
- Battery life
- Questionable built-in map
- Carried separately
Garmin Forerunner 15 GPS Running Watch
This GPS watch comes in several sizes and colors to suit different runners. It can track distance, pace, and calories. You can also use online features to look over the route you’ve traveled. An optional heart monitor can keep you safe, and the rechargeable battery can save you money. Batteries last eight hours with GPS, or five weeks in activity tracking/watch mode.
Despite the manufacturer’s claims, users say they only get three or four hours of battery life when the GPS is active. Apart from charge difficulties, however, previous buyers enjoyed the watch’s fit and abilities. Several recommended it specifically for new or intermediate walkers and runners.
- Fits wrist
- Provides performance tracking
- Offers additional online features
- Short battery life
- Few additional features
Your ideal walking GPS depends on your ideal walk. If you rarely spend more than an hour or two at a time on the trail, then the small, portable Forerunner is likely your best fit. On the other hand, if you live in the country and enjoy getting off the beaten path, you should look into the Oregon. Each has drawbacks, but they each fit a specific type of walker exceptionally well.