My daily to-do list typically entails hiking off-trail from lake to lake in the Sierra, so a reliable GPS is my most important piece of technology. The Dakota 20, an entry-level version of the Oregon (Editors’ Choice winner, 2009), helped me navigate through miles of tricky terrain and the learning curve was next to nil.
The touch screen is easy to read: With 24k topo maps ($130 extra, it doesn’t come preloaded), I was able to see the tiniest creeks when searching for water. In the deepest valleys, the Hot Fix satellite reception gave me a lock in less than a minute. I loved the “where to” feature, which let me see all the nearby major landmarks (like Half Dome) and then navigate there with a few clicks.
The hard-shelled Dakota is tough, too: It withstood many drops on hard granite and several immersion tests. The only bummer: It sucks batteries. Using my USBCells (below), I averaged about 6.5 hours of run time between charges. $350; 5.2 oz.; buy.garmin.com.
Compact and waterproof Dakota 20 GPS navigator tracks your location on a rugged 2.6-inch bright, sunlight-readable touchscreen. Features a high-sensitivity GPS receiver with Hotfix that maintains its GPS location even in heavy cover and deep canyons. A 3-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass shows your heading even when standing still. A barometric altimeter helps keep track of elevation and changing weather. Wirelessly shares routes, tracks, waypoints and geocaches with other select Garmin devices. Preloaded with a worldwide basemap, it is also compatible with Garmin City Navigator NT for turn-by-turn directions on city streets, Blue Chart g2 for marine charting, and TOPO U.S. 24K and 100K map software for incredible terrain detail (each sold separately).