This is the definitive Garmin GPSMAP 66ST review (Field-Tested)…
… is it a Top-Notch GPS to support your next trip into the unknown?
We thoroughly reviewed 37 of the top-selling handheld GPS on the market for 2020…
How did the GPSMAP 66ST stack up?
Well, you’re going to find out everything there is to know:
- about the reception quality of the GPS
- about the sunlight readable color screen quality
- how it stacks up in comparison with its competitors
- lots more…
Spoiler alert – this GPS isn’t just a first-class product but a real treat for gadget lovers – and it’s designed to military standards.
Want the full lowdown on the GPSMAP Garmin 66ST for your next trip?
- Excellent accuracy
- Comes with digital topographic maps of U.S. and Canada
- 16GB internal memory
- Compatible with three different satellite systems
- Big buttons for easy handling
- IPX7 water-resistant
- An expensive GPS
- The weight is on the heavier side
- Can show some connectivity issues with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
Our Verdict: Garmin GPSMAP 66ST
A climbing expedition, a hunting trip, or geocaching, this is one of the best outdoor GPS from Garmin.
The whole team loved using this little beauty – it did it all.
Admittedly, it won’t win hearts in terms of its overall looks.
But make no mistake about it…
This is a power-packed GPS with excellent data accuracy to keep you steady on your track.
Which leads us to:
You get features like satellite imagery, a great battery life, and expandable memory.
But wait – there’s more…
… it comes with preloaded topographic maps of the US and Canada.
Need a GPS that’s tough enough to withstand a few bumps?
No sweat there!
Garmin has designed this GPS in line with military standards so it can meet the needs of hard-core adventurers.
Rain or snow won’t be a problem for you at all.
Moreover, the reception quality is on par with the top GPS models for Garmin that we reviewed.
And you know what?
The sunlight readable color screen is extremely well designed and the button layout super easy to handle.
To tell you the truth, this is a favorite choice for the seasoned trekkers in the TopNotch review team.
So, what else does this top rated handheld gps offer?
Let’s take a closer look and find out.
Related: 10 Best Handheld GPS
Our Analysis, Comparisons & Test Results
For this 66ST review, we did all our testing in the Glacier National Park.
Can I tell you something?
One of the best adventure trips I ever had was during our review of our Top 10 GPS units.
But that’s another story…
Like everything else, we analyzed it in detail under the standard metrics we chose.
The truth is, not once did it fall short of our expectations.
It performed superbly in a wide variety of conditions – even when the weather turned nasty.
Moving ahead, another strong point is the TopNotch versatility that makes it equally capable of a range of outdoor activities.
In fact, other than the price factor, this is on par with the three top products in this category.
So stick with me here as we explore the 66ST in detail.
For starters, the reception quality of the 66ST was remarkably steady in all kinds of terrain.
Through dense forests, deep gorges, and even in a concrete jungle, the reception quality was excellent all through.
And the secret behind that is…
Multi-GNSS satellite connectivity coupled with high-quality ABC sensors.
Yes, you guessed it right.
This GPS can access GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo satellite systems.
Due to this massive plus point, tracking the route is easy, even in challenging terrains.
In addition, the access to multiple satellites also keeps the 66ST accuracy levels very high.
On top of that, you get the quad helix antenna that captures signals smoothly and high-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS receiver.
Even in urban terrains, the high concrete structures couldn’t prevent the GPS from acquiring a smooth signal.
So what about the other features?
There’s the barometric altimeter along with a 3-axis tilt-compensated compass.
We found the readings extremely accurate in all our tests.
Want to know about another top-notch feature of the GPSMAP 66ST?
You can easily download high-resolution satellite images directly onto the device.
Now that’s a great bonus for those heading into remote terrains.
We tested it while exploring our favorite trails in the Glacier National Park Area.
No matter how we headed off the trail (on purpose!), the 66ST unerringly brought us back in line.
To sum up…
Dependable, this guy truly is.
Ease Of Use
Actually, before starting the review process, we heard that this GPS is not ideal for beginners.
But let me tell you, it’s not really the case
Let me explain…
Ease Of Use Rating
Firstly, the buttons are large enough for easy handling.
Now, touchscreen lovers might be a bit disappointed, but think about it:
Even with your gloves on or during a rain, it functions beautifully.
Secondly, most of the buttons are assigned to specific functions making it super easy to use.
We used it during heavy snowfall at around 4000 meters.
The handling wasn’t an issue at all.
No wonder we rated this a top-class handheld GPS for hiking.
But there’s even more to like…
It also has an in-built LED flashlight and SOS beacon.
A thoughtful addition for the true adventurers amongst you.
Moreover, this GPS allows you unlimited geocaches and has multiple saved GPX tracks.
A perfect choice for geocachers.
Next, we found the user interface quite simple.
First-time users will have no problem figuring out the basic functions.
Keep in mind that once you start to use the advanced functions, the controls do get more complicated.
But to be honest that’s true for any of our GPS in this category.
We faced some issues while pairing it with a smartphone.
But that’s the only drawback we could find.
Frankly, Garmin really hits the nail on the head with the display quality of this GPS.
The 3-inch display is transflective color TFT, and the overall readability is excellent.
Even under the dazzling high altitude sun, the screen readability was amazing.
In addition, with the 240 x 400-pixel density, reading the high-resolution maps was no problem at all.
Display Quality Rating
Note that unlike touchscreens, the display won’t change its orientation.
However, that doesn’t really make any practical difference.
And guess what…
…the tough build quality also extends to the sunlight readable color screen.
During the tests, we dropped the device a couple of times on rocky terrains but the screen stayed intact without a scratch.
No matter what the weather’s like, the display gives a clear view of the route, keeping you steady and on track.
Here’s one more feature the TopNotch team loved…
With this GPS, you don’t need to adjust the screen angle to get a better view.
Even in varying light conditions, the readability is exceptionally good.
The display quality of the 66ST is on par with the top three models in this category.
One reason we consider this product to be one of the best GPS devices for hiking is because of the fantastic speed.
In fact, many GPS models have a slow redrawing speed as you pan a high-resolution map.
I’ve faced that plenty of times.
The good news is…
…with the Garmin 66ST, redrawing speed isn’t a problem at all.
Even when we used large satellite image files, it was fast enough.
As expected, the Garmin software is always fast and responsive with no traces of a lag.
The fact is unless you zoom or pan very sharply, this GPS is highly responsive.
In line with the TopNotch standards, we tested the Time To First Fix (TTFF) for this GPS.
In case of a “warm” start, the 66ST started up in less than a minute.
We also noted that even in remote terrains, the time taken to get a GPS fix is very fast.
Do keep in mind this product isn’t as responsive as a touchscreen GPS.
But, when you look at the overall performance, the slight lag can be forgiven.
The best part is, handling big volumes of data isn’t a problem and of course you’ll benefit from the high-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS receiver.
So, this makes the 66ST one of the best high-sensitivity GPS for mountaineering or any other similar expeditions.
Weight and Size
Honestly, the Garmin 66ST is on the bulkier side with a weight of eight ounces.
While some may call it heavy, we consider this high-sensitivity GPS to be extremely robust from all angles.
Look at it this way…
Without the bulk, you wouldn’t get that superb all-terrain capability.
Coming to the overall dimensions, the 66ST is longer in size than its competitors.
So fitting it into a pant pocket might not be a good choice.
Hikers will find it fits better into a jacket pocket.
But the width of 2.5 inches and the overall housing design makes gripping the GPS comfortable.
Strictly speaking, the bigger screen makes the overall dimensions less ideal for people with smaller hands.
Also, having the power key near the antenna makes one-handed operation slightly difficult.
By now you might be wondering whether it’s the right GPS for you in terms of weight.
Our opinion is…
For professionals and serious users, the slightly heavier weight won’t be an issue at all.
However, if you’re a lightweight traveler and head out occasionally for short outdoor trips, you can check out our other Garmin handheld GPS reviews for a lighter model.
There’s no doubt about it.
The high-sensitivity GPSMAP 66ST is one of the most versatile models available.
Needless to say there are multiple factors affecting versatility.
Let’s start with the build quality.
To start with, the 66ST is IPX7 rated waterproof.
Then, it’s built as per the MIL-STD-810 standards making it thermally and mechanically shockproof.
Be it drops, knocks, or immersions, this GPS can withstand it all.
We used it while walking through snowfall and even during a thunderstorm with no issues whatsoever.
On the whole, this is a hiking handheld GPS that ranks very high on the toughness scale.
Next comes the excellent battery life.
Garmin says 2 AA batteries can power it for 16 hours and we agree.
The easy availability of the AAs makes this a great backcountry or camping GPS.
Heading for cold weather?
Just use NiMH or Lithium batteries to make the GPS cold-proof.
But there’s more good news…
Garmin has given it loads of internal memory.
Apart from the built-in 16 GB, you can add a microSD card to have all the space you need to store a lifetime of maps.
Still not convinced?
I have more.
The Garmin 66ST specs also include a high-speed USB interface, Bluetooth, and the Garmin Connect Mobile feature.
So by pairing this high-sensitivity GPS with your smartphone, you can receive live weather updates and smart notifications.
As if that’s not enough, it also offers 20,000 track points and the advantage of live tracking.
In addition to our test trips, one of our team also used it his biking journey.
As usual, it was a flawless performance.
On the whole, we have to say this…
The 66ST is a true master in the versatility domain.
Conclusion: Garmin GPSMAP 66ST
So it’s time to sum up.
But, I think by now you’ve already guessed.
Yes; the Garmin 66ST really hits the bullseye in terms of performance and durability.
It’s one of the best performing handheld GPS (with maps) and has heaps of great features.
Our whole TopNotch team found it a fast and accurate device irrespective of the operating conditions.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it scored some pretty high marks in our tests.
It’ll be extremely well suited to advanced users who venture out on extended trips.
The fact of the matter is, there’s hardly a more capable GPS to keep you safe during your outdoor activities – including hiking, mountaineering, camping, and geocaching.
We feel anyone looking for a premium and rugged GPS for navigation will recognize this as the perfect choice.
Now it’s your turn – over to you to make your choice.