After a lot of testing in Voyageurs National Park, we found that Garmin makes the best snowmobile GPS, and easily outperformed GPS units from other brands.
The Garmin Zumo XT comes with a 5.5-inch ultrabright touch screen and it can be considered the best GPS from Garmin for snowmobiling.
In this article, we wanted to include our all-time favorite ‘Garmin Montana 680t‘, but nowadays, there are so many bigger & better GPS devices available, that are bigger, better, and more advanced than the Montana 680t.
Let’s take a look at some of our recommendations.
Our Personal Recommendations
- Best Overall Snowmobile GPS: Garmin Zumo XT
- Best GPS for Mounting on Sled: Garmin Tread Powersport Off-Road Navigator
- Best Handheld GPS for Snowmobiling: Garmin Montana 700
- Best Affordable Handheld GPS: Garmin eTrex 10
Best Snowmobile GPS – Overall
Garmin Zumo XT
The Garmin Zumo XT is an impressive GPS device that effortlessly ticks most of the boxes for snowmobile riders.
Its ultrabright 5.5-inch touchscreen is really good, providing clear visibility even under bright sunlight. I remember we were able to clearly read the display in the middle of the day, with goggles on. And let me tell you, not many GPS devices come with that bright touchscreen.
I have used some other GPS units including some big 7-inch screen devices on my motorcycle, they look good but they’re not easy to read in the sunlight.
The Garmin Zumo XT has a glove-friendly touchscreen. As someone who rides in extremely cold weather, I cannot stress enough how convenient this feature was for us. We didn’t have to remove our gloves every time we needed to operate this GPS.
Wiring it was straightforward, it took roughly 10 to 15 minutes to connect to our sled. The only drawback worth noting is its poor battery life in snowy conditions, so if you do not want to wire it to your sled, then instead of Garmin Zumo XT, I’ll recommend a handheld GPS because handheld devices have much better battery life.
The company has released this GPS as a motorcycle GPS, but it works really well for snowmobiling too. So, with all these features, it became our new favorite snowmobile GPS.
- 5.5-inch touchscreen display
- Glove-friendly touchscreen
- Easy-to-read display which is visible in bright sunlight
- Simple wiring process that would take 10 to 15 minutes
- Poor battery life in snowy conditions
Best GPS for Mounting on Sled
Garmin Tread Powersport Off-Road Navigator
The Garmin Tread Powersport is a GPS designed specifically for off-road vehicles like snowmobiles and ATVs. Its rugged and solid design makes it a perfect companion for snowmobiling adventures.
The 5.5-inch touchscreen is glove-friendly, so there is no need to take off your gloves to operate it, just like the Garmin Zumo XT. The screen was readable in the sunlight, however, we noticed that the screen on the Zumo XT was brighter and more readable in direct sunlight compared to the Tread Powersport.
While Garmin mentioned their battery life would work for 6 hours, but, that’s for ideal scenarios, which doesn’t apply to snowmobiling. When we were riding in snowy conditions, the battery lasted for only 2.5 hours.
But, there is a solution to this problem. The Tread Powersport comes with a wiring option, so you can directly connect it to your sled. This will ensure uninterrupted usage for as long as you are riding.
The Garmin Tread Powersport is slightly more expensive than the Zumo XT, but considering its durability and off-road capabilities, it’s worth the investment. Plus, the wiring option makes it a more reliable choice for longer rides.
In addition to its navigation features, the Tread Powersport also comes with built-in topographic maps, which are essential for off-roading. You can also download additional maps if needed.
- Design specifically tailored for off-road vehicles
- Glove-friendly touchscreen
- Built-in topographic maps
- Wiring option for extended usage
- Durable and solid construction
- Less bright and readable screen in direct sunlight compared to the Garmin Zumo XT
- Additional maps, if needed, must be downloaded separately
Best Handheld GPS for Snowmobiling
Garmin Montana 700
Nowadays, everyone uses 5″, 6″, or even bigger screen smartphones, so I didn’t want to recommend a small handheld GPS. The Garmin Montana 700 GPS has a 5″ touch screen, making it easier to read while snowmobiling.
You can keep it in your snowmobile jacket’s pocket or mount it on the handlebar, thanks to its compact size and versatile mounting options.
For a handheld GPS, a glove-friendly touchscreen becomes one of the most important features because if you’re keeping it in your jacket, then every time, you want to use it, you have to take it out of your pocket, start it, and use it. It has a glove-friendly touchscreen that works well with our Klim Inversion Non-Insulated Gloves. So, the touchscreen was good, and it was also 50% larger than the previous model.
The Garmin Montana 700’s battery is one of its strongest assets. It has an impressive 18 hours of battery life in GPS mode. This exceeds the battery performance of many comparable devices, which usually hover around 4 to 6 hours.
You can start your day at sunrise, and the Montana 700 will keep going until well after sunset.
We experienced this when we were on a full-day ride. Despite a good amount of usage throughout the day, including constant tracking and frequent map uses, we still had nearly 40% battery life left by the time we returned to base.
- Large 5″ glove-friendly touchscreen
- It offers versatile mounting options, allowing it to be kept in a pocket or mounted
- Long-lasting battery life
- Easy-to-read display even in bright sunlight
- Additional maps need to be downloaded separately, which might be inconvenient for some users.
Best Affordable Handheld GPS
Garmin eTrex 10
The Garmin eTrex 10 is a small handheld GPS that can be used for snowmobiling. Priced under $150, this GPS offers a cost-effective solution for adventurers on a budget without compromising essential features. Most of the other GPS units cost 3 to 4 times more than this Garmin eTrex 10.
Despite its small screen size of just 2.2 inches, it delivers clear and accurate navigational data. It may lack the display size as compared to other Garmin GPS devices, but it compensates for this with its longer battery life.
The Garmin eTrex 10, powered by 2 AA batteries, offered an impressive battery life, lasting even longer than the higher-end model, the Garmin Montana 700.
Our testing showed 16 hours+ of battery life, which is lower than what Garmin promises which is up to 25 hours. But, still, it’s decent and it could potentially cover a full day out on the trails and backcountry. This makes the Garmin eTrex 10 not just an affordable but also a reliable option.
Another unique selling point of the Garmin eTrex 10 is its robust build quality. It is waterproof, which makes it ideal for snowmobiling and other extreme weather adventures.
- Affordable option without compromising essential features
- Delivers clear and accurate navigational data despite its small screen size
- Impressive battery life powered by 2 AA batteries
- Robust build quality, and it is waterproof, making it ideal for extreme weather adventures
- Smaller screen size as compared to other Garmin GPS devices
- Lacks the high-end features of more expensive models
How We Tested Snowmobile GPS, and Our Results
Over the past few years, we have used and tested various GPS units; some worked extremely well, while others didn’t perform that well in the cold. We even purchased an old Garmin GPS for $50 from eBay and tested it whether it could be the more reasonable option as you can buy old GPS units on eBay at a much lower price as compared to buying a new GPS.
However, when we were testing, we clearly saw the difference and understood why the majority of snowmobile riders do not purchase an old GPS. Our 15-year-old Garmin Nuvi stopped working out there in the cold multiple times, and we had to stop and figure out what the problem was. It was also quite difficult to update it as it didn’t have the snowmobile trails of Minnesota. Overall, we had a pretty bad experience with the cheap old GPS, and therefore we don’t recommend buying a cheap old GPS.
Then, we moved to the new GPS units we recently purchased, and we also borrowed a few from other snowmobile riders to test them. We found that Garmin Zumo XT worked really well out of all the GPS units. It took us around 10 to 15 minutes to connect our GPS to our sled using some wiring, but after that, it was a really good experience. We rode the whole day without thinking about the battery because it was taking power directly from our sled.
Another GPS that stands out from other ones on our list is the Garmin Tread Powersport Off-Road Navigator. It’s great for snowmobiles and ATVs because they are specially designed for off-road vehicles. What we really liked is the glove-friendly touch screen which was also present in the Garmin Zumo XT. It’s a great feature because you don’t want to remove your glove when you’re riding in very cold weather to get some directions.
We also used a couple of other GPS units in Voyageurs National Park, but these two were at the top of our list, especially Garmin Zumo XT which gives you true value for money.
One thing we have to admit is that GPS units are expensive, and to save some money, people often use BRP GO as their Ski-Doo GPS on their BRP snowmobiles. We also downloaded that in our smartphone, but honestly mobile application was not close to a real GPS from Garmin.
Why I Recommend Wiring a GPS in Sled Instead of Buying a Handheld GPS
Purchasing a handheld GPS or wiring a GPS, both have their own advantages and disadvantages but I recommend wiring a GPS in the sled. This is because a handheld GPS is comparatively more difficult to use since it is a portable device that you need to carry with you every time you want to use it. Moreover, its usage depends on an individual battery which sometimes reduces in the snow.
However, when it comes to wiring your GPS to your snowmobile, the battery tends to last much longer since it takes the power directly from the sled, so there is no worry about quick battery drainage.
I have driven my Polaris RMK 800 snowmobile with both- a handheld GPS and a wired GPS- and my experience with wired GPS has been much better. Additionally, handheld GPS devices tend to have smaller screens and fewer features as compared to vehicle GPS devices which can be wired easily to your snowmobile. This is why I would recommend you wire your GPS to your sled rather than invest in a handheld one.