I don't have a smartphone, or any phone, and specifically don't want to have one for many important reasons. However, I do wish that I had some sort of map where I get to see where I am currently, from a bird perspective, and where the map isn't just a flat-colored classic map, which I find very difficult to understand for some reason. I always opt for the satellite view when looking around for houses or areas on my computer, and want that for my little handheld device as well.

However, when doing research, all I find are these map-based devices. Is there really no rugged device which I can take with me and pull up any time to see where I am from a bird perspective, with updated satellite imagery of excellent quality?

And do these things require some kind of subscription and continuous Internet access? I hope not. I wish to just transfer over data with an USB cable or something and then the only communication taking place to/from that device from that point on is the GPS signals coming from space into the device. Do I have to pay some company for that data update?

  • This seems only marginally on topic, if at all - shopping assistance questions aren't useful on most Stack Exchange sites. And what you are asking for is the opposite of what most people would need for orienteering, or other navigation, where topographic maps are key. I'm going to edit your post to remove the opinion-based piece.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Apr 24, 2021 at 10:03
  • Although this outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/24498/… is not an answer to your main question, it does address what both Rory and bob1 seem compelled to address.
    – Martin F
    Commented Apr 24, 2021 at 19:44
  • Purchase a used smart phone and do not subscribe to a cellular plan. Install apps like Avenza PDF Maps or Backcountry Navigator to cash maps on your device.
    – user20551
    Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 16:52

3 Answers 3


Garmin offers a "BirdsEye" product which is satellite image files that can be loaded directly onto a handheld GPS receiver.

Use your BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription with BaseCamp™ to quickly transfer an unlimited amount of satellite images to your device, with frequent updates, and seamlessly integrate those images into your handheld’s maps whenever you need them.

A variety of their products appear to support it (with varying capacity), here's one of them: GPSMAP 66i. The 66i seems to be a satellite communicator as well, so it might be more than what you're looking for.

The eTrex 22x is a lower end device that supports up to 250 BirdsEye image files (no idea how much land area one image file covers).


There is: Garmin has it on a subscription based service called BirdsEye. It's not free, but is apparently unlimited on compatible devices. I am sure there are other ones out there too. All it took to find was a very quick google for "GPS with satellite view", and it was right at the top of my links.

Note that for most people interpreting a topographic map, while it is less intuitive than a picture, gives you more information about the terrain including steepness (forests can conceal this), locations of items (riverbeds, swamps etc that forests/vegetation can conceal), also property boundaries etc. They also give you a reliable source of location information. Powered devices can and do break, or run out of power. Paper maps can be torn, but will never run out of power. If you are using a powered device always carry a back-up paper version.

Google maps has off-line maps with satellite view. These are updateable. However, you don't have a smartphone (though you can get one and not get a sim-card, so it only works via an internet connection, not for calling, doesn't need a plan to run it etc). Storage is not a problem - you can get up to 2 terabyte USB flash drives these days and similar capacity in terms of SD cards.

There are a few considerations with this sort of thing and these considerations are somewhat inter-connected.

First of all, resolution - for high quality views you need a high resolution screen. Currently these are a) relatively heavy and b) fragile (glass). Lightweight screens tend to be low resolution LCD, higher resolution generally needs glass. Plastic is light, glass is relatively heavy and fragile. If you want a touch screen navigation, this will most likely be a capacitance based thing with extra glass added so that it works properly, adding weight and complexity to the device.

Second - weight. As I mentioned, glass is relatively heavy, but the main consideration here is not the glass, but the battery required to run a high resolution service. Batteries are the heaviest component in cell phones. Admittedly, a large part of the battery usage for a cell phone is the connections to mobile services and things like bluetooth, but screens also consume a lot of power. If you were to use your screen continuously on most mobile phones you will get less than a day's worth of screen time. Batteries have improved drastically over the past 10-15 years, so this is less of a concern than it once was, but is still a consideration. Always carry a back-up set of batteries/power source.


OnX maps is a service that will allow you to add maps to a GPS either via a sd card or usb adapter. You are able to customize the layers that are displayed in the map.

The service does have a pricing depending on the number of states that you want.


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