By Chris Andrews

April 26, 2024

Garmin GPSMAP 66i Review: Top Choice for Hikers?

As avid enthusiasts of the great outdoors, our team understands the importance of reliable gear during our mountain adventures. We recently got our hands on the Garmin GPSMAP 66i, and its performance did not disappoint. This rugged device is not only a GPS but also a satellite communicator, brimming with features essential for any mountaineer. How can our Garmin GPSMAP 66i review help you? Read on …

The GPSMAP 66i comes preloaded with Garmin TopoActive mapping and inReach technology, which has been particularly useful for our off-the-trail expeditions. Whether we were sending out two-way messages or triggering an SOS alert when in dire need, the device kept us connected even in the most remote locations.

Garmin GPSMAP 66i

We appreciated the large, sunlight-readable display which made it easy to navigate through dense terrain. Also, with the various connectivity options like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, we effortlessly managed our routes and waypoints through the Garmin Explore app.

While the device boasts a hefty battery life conducive to long treks, we did find that the sophistication might be slightly overwhelming for GPS novices. Despite this steep learning curve, its robust build and detailed mapping capabilities make it a reliable companion for any serious explorer.

Bottom Line

For us, the Garmin GPSMAP 66i has been a game-changer on our mountaineering escapades.

It strikes the perfect balance between detailed navigation and critical communication.

For those looking for a dependable tool for their next outdoor adventure, click here to check out the Garmin GPSMAP 66i on Amazon and experience the difference it can make.

Garmin GPSMAP 66i: Navigate and Communicate Anywhere

When we’re deep in the wilderness, reliable communication and accurate navigation are essential. The rugged design of the GPSMAP 66i is purpose-built for the outdoors, with a large, sunlight-readable screen that’s easy on the eyes even in bright conditions. Our adventures take us off the grid, but the two-way messaging capability ensures we’re never out of reach. This becomes crucial in emergencies, where triggering an interactive SOS provides a lifeline to rescue services.

As for navigation, the preloaded topo maps and direct-to-device Birdseye satellite imagery give us a clear lay of the land. Multi-GNSS support enhances location accuracy, especially in challenging environments where our smartphones fail. The 66i’s weather forecast feature keeps us prepared, while geocaching live adds a fun twist to our hikes.

The device integrates seamlessly with the Garmin Explore app, making it a breeze to manage trip data. Battery life is impressive—we get plenty of juice for longer expeditions in Expedition mode. While the device requires a satellite subscription for full functionality, it’s a trade-off for the peace of mind and connectivity it offers.

On the downside, the device can be complex for the uninitiated, and it’s an investment. It’s important to brush up on satellite device regulations, as these vary by location. However, for the assurance it provides when we’re scaling a peak or mapping new trails, the Garmin GPSMAP 66i has proven to be a reliable companion on our mountaineering jaunts.

Sunlight-Readable Color Display

In our experience, there’s nothing more frustrating than struggling to read your GPS screen in direct sunlight when you’re out on the trail. Fortunately, when we took the GPSMAP 66i out for a spin, the 3-inch sunlight-readable color display truly lived up to its name. It was a game-changer for us during a midday hike in the open, where the sun was particularly relentless.

The vibrant display made it easy to navigate through the preloaded topographical maps, even in glaring conditions. While we’ve dealt with screens that become virtually unreadable or suffer from heavy glare in direct sunlight, the 66i remained crisp and legible. Whether checking our location or trying to send a quick update via satellite communication, readability was never an issue.

However, we noted that like any electronic device, the brighter the ambient light, the more battery it consumes to remain visible, which is a point to consider for longer trips. Overall, we’d say that the visible display on the GPSMAP 66i significantly reduces the hassle of outdoor navigation, making it a solid companion for our mountaineering adventures.

SOS and Two-Way Messaging

On a recent outing, we had the opportunity to test the Garmin GPSMAP 66i’s communication features and they proved to be invaluable. The convenience of triggering an SOS alert to a 24/7 search and rescue monitoring center can’t be overstated. During a mock emergency, the response was swift and efficient, providing us with a deep sense of security knowing that help could be within reach if needed.

The two-way messaging via the Iridium satellite network was reliable even in areas where our cell phones failed to catch a signal. While a satellite subscription is an additional expense, the peace of mind it affords in remote locations is well worth it. However, it’s important to note that there were some minor frustrations with typing out messages on the device due to its button-based input, but this is a small price to pay for off-grid communication capabilities.

Generally, whether it’s staying in touch with family while deep in the backcountry or needing emergency assistance in an unexpected situation, this device offers a robust safety net for adventurers.

Preloaded TopoActive Maps and Satellite Imagery

As outdoor enthusiasts who thrive on exploring the wilderness, we found the Garmin GPSMAP 66i’s preloaded TopoActive maps exceptionally useful. This handheld device offers detailed topographical maps, making it easy for us to navigate through mountainous terrain with confidence. Along with this, the complementary access to Birdseye Satellite Imagery enriches our planning and in-field navigation without the need for an additional subscription.

These maps and images come pre-installed, eliminating the hassle of manual downloads or worrying about connectivity in remote locations. However, it’s important to recognize that while the preloaded content is expansive, it might not cover every single trail or area globally. For us, this meant occasionally needing to supplement with other map sources for very specific destinations. Overall, the combination of accurate topographical data and satellite images has been a game-changer in our mountaineering adventures, providing peace of mind even in the most unfamiliar terrains.

Weather Forecasts and Geocaching Live

Recently, we took the Garmin GPSMAP 66i out for a test during an off-trail hike to see how well it handles weather predictions and live geocaching features. The Active Weather function is a standout, offering real-time forecasts; it’s reassuring to have this swift access to changing weather conditions when you’re deep in the backcountry.

Let’s talk about Geocaching Live; this feature allows spontaneous access to nearby geocaches, adding an interactive angle to our hikes. It was fantastic to sync up with the database and go treasure hunting without the need for pre-planning. This feature, combined with the comprehensive TopoActive mapping, elevates your typical hike into an adventure.

However, be mindful that both these services rely on a satellite subscription, which is essential if you want to make the most out of the device. While some may balk at the additional expense, for us, the peace of mind and extra engagement on our excursions are well worth it. The 66i’s robust build and intuitive interface further justify its role as a crucial piece of our outdoor kit.

Long Battery Life in Multiple Modes

When you’re out in the wilderness, the last thing you want to worry about is your GPS running out of juice—it can be a real adventure killer. Luckily, the Garmin GPSMAP 66i stands out with a robust battery tailored to the needs of avid mountaineers and outdoor enthusiasts. In the field, we found it exceptionally reliable, easily tackling a full day’s journey with the reassurance of energy to spare.

One of the clever features that conserve the battery life is the Expedition mode; it’s a game-changer. It limits certain functions, sure, but by doing so, the device sustains power for what feels like an eternity—an estimated 200 hours. It’s perfect for those extended treks where power sources are as scarce as a city skyline.

Then you have your typical day-to-day tracking modes. Even with the screen off, the 66i offers up to 35 hours of battery in 10-minute tracking, which is quite impressive compared to what’s out there. And if you require more frequent location updates, switching to 1-minute tracking still provides a commendable amount of uptime.

Balancing between modes based on the trip’s requirement was hassle-free, and the transition felt seamless. We also appreciated not feeling tethered to a power bank or constantly on the lookout for the next opportunity to recharge (unless there’s a solar charger in your pack of course!). That kind of peace of mind is exactly what you want when you’re out embracing the elements.

Device Compatibility and Connectivity

When our team took the Garmin GPSMAP 66i out for a spin, its connectivity capabilities immediately stood out. The device pairs seamlessly via Bluetooth to our smartphones, and the ANT+ feature is quite handy for connecting to compatible sensors. The added Wi-Fi support is a boon for downloading map updates without the hassle of a wired connection.

Interacting with the GPSMAP 66i feels intuitive, especially when sharing locations or sending two-way messages through the 100% Global Iridium Satellite Network. The GPSMAP 66i keeps us connected even in the remotest locations, a massive plus for any mountaineer who values safety as much as adventure.

The only hiccup we noticed was the battery life could dip a bit when all connectivity features were firing on all cylinders during our extended hikes. However, we were impressed by the robust interactive SOS alerts and weather updates which kept us informed and safer in the great outdoors.

Pros and Cons

After spending some quality time with the Garmin GPSMAP 66i, we’ve gathered quite a bit of insight into what makes this device a hit among outdoor enthusiasts and also where it might fall short for some users.


Upon first glance, the standout feature of the GPSMAP 66i is its large 3-inch sunlight-readable color display, which makes viewing maps and navigating through menus a breeze, even in direct sunlight. What’s more, the device is not just a GPS navigator but also a robust satellite communicator. The ability to send an SOS signal to a 24/7 search and rescue center offers invaluable peace of mind when venturing into the unknown.

The preloaded Garmin TOPO mapping and the option for direct-to-device Birdseye satellite imagery downloads are perfect for mountaineers who require detailed topographical information. And, without the need for a cellular connection, thanks to its satellite network capabilities, we could send out two-way messages or check weather forecasts, making it a reliable travel companion.

From a practicality standpoint, the internal rechargeable lithium battery was impressive. It offered us up to 35 hours of battery life in the default 10-minute tracking mode, which was sufficient for our multi-day hikes, reducing the need to carry extra power sources. Plus, the multiple GNSS support and comprehensive sensor suite elevate the GPSMAP 66i’s navigation precision to a level that’s hard to match.


While our experiences have been mostly positive, the device is not without its drawbacks. For starters, the satellite subscription requirement is an additional ongoing cost that some might not anticipate. Although the messaging service is solid, it’s another expense on top of the initial investment.

Moreover, while Garmin has addressed some of the previous firmware issues as per user reviews, there may still be some concern over potential bugs or glitches with new updates that could affect performance.

Lastly, the GPSMAP 66i comes with a note that its use of satellite communication devices is regulated in certain areas, so it’s crucial to be aware of local laws to avoid any legal complications. It’s a necessary pre-check that some might overlook.

In our wrap-up, we found this handheld navigator and communicator to be an excellent tool for outdoor exploration. It’s packed with features that can enhance any mountaineering or hiking trip. However, potential buyers must consider the costs associated with its satellite services and stay informed on the regulations concerning the use of such devices.

What Customers Are Saying

Our recent excursions into the wilderness have been significantly enhanced by the addition of the Garmin GPSMAP 66i to our gear. We’ve noticed that fellow explorers regard this device as a cornerstone for outdoor navigation, and we can see why. The integration of the satellite communicator has been a game-changer, providing peace of mind when out of cell range. It truly comes in handy during those remote mountain treks.

We’ve transitioned through previous Garmin models, and consensus among us is that the 66i represents a marked improvement in speed and responsiveness. The wait times for map loading and route plotting, a common gripe with older devices, are practically nonexistent now. The two-way messaging feature, being a primary reason many of us opted for this model, hasn’t let us down during our climbs.

However, enthusiasm was initially tempered by reports of buggy firmware in earlier releases. But after some digging and real-world testing, it’s clear that these issues have been largely resolved, which aligns with our experience of a stable and reliable device.

The ease of use is another repeatedly highlighted feature, and many of us can attest to the intuitive setup of the InReach account. Battery life, too, has proven to be robust in our tests—even over extensive multi-day hikes.

On the downside, there have been mentions of the device being a little on the heavier side, which might be a drawback for weight-conscious hikers. For anyone seeking a reliable companion for off-road activities, though, it seems we’re all in agreement that the GPSMAP 66i stands up to Garmin’s reputation for quality and functionality.


Having spent quality time with the Garmin GPSMAP 66i, we’ve found it to be a robust companion for our outdoor adventures. The consensus among users points to its strength as a full-featured GPS with reliable satellite communication, a feature that truly stands out when you’re deep in the backcountry. Its speedy performance and ease of use are evident, with minimal wait times and an intuitive interface.

On the flip side, some initial concerns about firmware stability seem to have been effectively addressed, increasing our confidence in the device’s reliability out in the field. Though we haven’t had the chance to push the battery to its limits, early impressions indicate a solid battery life.

Sure, the price tag reflects its high-end capabilities and professionals looking for an extreme level of customization may have their reservations. However, for those of us eager to have a dependable tool during our mountaineering escapades, it more than satisfies our needs, striking a fine balance between functionality and convenience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the differences between the Garmin GPSMAP 66i and the 67i?

The Garmin 66i and 67i are siblings in the outdoor navigation world, each bringing its unique strengths to the table. From our hands-on experience, the 67i usually comes with some refinements and additional features, such as improved battery life and possibly new sensors or connectivity options. It’s like comparing two generations of smartphones, where the newer model is tweaked for better performance.

Where can I find the manual for the Garmin GPSMAP 66i?

If you’ve misplaced your manual or prefer a digital copy, Garmin’s support website is the go-to spot. The company maintains a comprehensive library of user manuals. With a quick search for the 66i, you’ll find a downloadable PDF version of the manual. It’s always nice to have it saved on your smartphone for quick reference when in the backcountry.

How does the Garmin GPSMAP 66i perform in terms of GPS accuracy?

The accuracy of the 66i’s GPS is quite impressive, speaking from adventures where reliable navigation was crucial. The device uses multi-GNSS support and ABC sensors, ensuring that your location is pinpointed with precision even in challenging environments. It’s a trusty sidekick for times when your phone’s GPS just doesn’t cut it.

What are the steps for using the Garmin GPSMAP 66i effectively?

To get the most out of the 66i, start by fully charging the device and familiarizing yourself with the buttons and interface. Plan your trip on the Garmin Explore website or app, and sync the data with your 66i. Make frequent use of the tracking and waypoint functions to mark important points. Regularly check for and install software updates for the smoothest experience.

Is it possible to use the Garmin GPSMAP 66i without an active subscription?

Yes, the 66i functions excellently as a standalone GPS unit. The subscription mainly powers the inReach satellite communication features, like two-way messaging and SOS. For just GPS navigation and topo maps, no subscription is needed. However, we find the extra layer of safety from inReach to be worthwhile, especially in remote areas.

What is the battery life expectancy of the Garmin 66i during typical use?

Battery life expectations are crucial when counting on your device for navigation. Under typical use, the 66i’s battery can last for about 35 hours with the default settings, which include 10-minute tracking intervals. Continuous use with inReach technology enabled could reduce this time slightly. We’ve found it’s best to carry a power bank for extended trips.

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Chris Andrews

About the author

Hi, I'm Chris and these days I love nothing more than spending quality time with my son outdoors. As an army cadet in the 80s I was given a real insight into how to look after myself and those around me in unfamiliar environments. No huts, no tents, just survival rations for food and ponchos for makeshift shelter. This started a drive within me to be able to take care of myself and, nowadays, my family in any eventuality.

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