Having a quality GPS unit can be a matter of life and death in certain situations. Don’t get me wrong, I personally have complete trust in my land navigation skills. However, I came to learn that having a backup GPS unit is a necessity the hard way. Anyway, that’s a story for another day.
If you are currently on the lookout for a new GPS, then you are probably familiar with the popular brand Garmin and its two most popular lines: Oregon and Montana. And you are probably still confused over which one you should go for.
Back when it was my time to buy a GPS unit, I did thorough amounts of research on these two lines, and here’s what I came up with:
A Brief History of GPS
Back when GPS was starting to become a thing for regular consumers, in 1989, to be exact, a brand called Garmin was founded by Dr. Min Kao and Gary Burrell. Their main aim at the time was to bring the Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to the hands of consumers in the form of screen devices.
As is the case with many technologies out there, GPS was first implemented by the Department of Defense in the early 70s and only became fully functional in 1995. The government allowed civilians to make use of the technology in the mid-80s, right around when Dr. Min Kao and Gary Burrell burst into the scene of consumer-friendly GPS.
Since then, Garmin has stayed on top of the game, releasing cutting-edge GPS devices one after another. Nowadays, they even cameras with built-in GPS as well as a plethora of fitness wearables, such as smartwatches, that are also equipped with top-notch GPS technology.
Their handheld GPS navigators are no strangers to hikers and outdoor enthusiasts in general. The company offers 8 different lines of devices, each full of a variety of different models.
As a result, buying a product from them can feel a bit intimidating, or rather a confusing task, especially if you lack the experience when it comes to handheld GPS devices.
Two of Garmin’s most popular product lines are Oregon and Montana, which happen to be quite comparable. They include a wide range of models, most of which I highly recommend. However, at the end of the day, it all comes down to your individual needs. And my job here is to link those needs, whatever they might be, to certain models.
The Garmin Oregon GPS Line
The Oregon series from Garmin consists of 3 models:
The 700 is the perfect choice for someone who is unfamiliar with the Garmin Oregon line. It’s a GPS/GLONASS device with great sensitivity and top-notch performance, two things that you won’t find in a regular handheld GPS device.
This makes the Oregon 700 the go-to choice for outdoor explorers who regularly find themselves in mountainous areas and might use a little bit of help location-wise.
What sets this device apart from the previous iterations is the new antenna design that Garmin added to it, which allows for greater than before reception. Additionally, the 700 comes with barometric sensors, an accelerometer, and a 3-axis compass.
More importantly, it features a 3″ touch display that’s rich in colors that can be used in either portrait mode or landscape. It also comes with live tracking as well as geocaching abilities, all thanks to its ability to connect wirelessly.
Furthermore, the 700 comes out of the box compatible with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi as well as ANT+. You also get your hands on live weather reports through the Active Weather functionality.
Last but not least, you can get the Geocaching Live app to work on this model, a feature that many Geocachers will appreciate.
The Oregon 700, brand-new, with all the detailed maps from Garmin, will cost you around $300 from Amazon (at the time of posting).
Thismodel is essentially the same as the 700, except for one major difference. This one comes with a built-in 8MP digital camera which results in a bump up to the price from the $200 mark to around $499 (at the time of posting)
Yet another upgrade of the initial 700, the 750t comes with the camera as well as built-in TOPOactive mapping. More specifically, it comes with TOPO US 100K preloaded maps out of the box. If you happen to live in Canada, there is an option for you as well with thousands of detailed maps.
This handheld GPS unit is on retail at around $549.99 (at the time of posting).
The Garmin Montana GPS Line
The Montana line-up of Garmin GPSs includes four models:
The 610 is built to withstand sports use, including hiking, hunting, and watersports. The device comes with all the basic functionalities that you would expect to find in a higher-end Garmin GPS. For starters, it rocks a 4″ touchscreen display that comes with dual-orientation and is gloves friendly, making it really handy on cold days.
As is the case with almost every Garmin handheld out there, the 610 is equipped with both GPS and GLONASS. You can also get numerous mapping apps to work on it, such as BlueChart and TOPO US 24K. Moreover, the Montana 610 comes with a 3-axis compass with tilt compensation as well as a barometric altimeter.
Another addition that is exclusive to many Garmin GPSs is the 1-year subscription to BirdsEYE maps, a very welcome freebie, in my opinion. It also fits very well into most Garmin mounts which can be attached on an ATV or a car, for example.
Last but not least, the 610 supports both traditional and rechargeable batteries, enabling you to significantly extend its battery life if needed.
The Montana 610 is priced at $499.99 (at the time of posting).
Montana 610t (Camo)
I have only included Camo in the title because this model only comes in a camo pattern now. Similar to the Oregon line, the Montana 610t is a subtle step up from the 610, with the only difference being that it comes preloaded with maps from TOPO US 100K.
It retails at around 360 bucks.
If the Montana 610 sounds like a great option for you, but you’d wish that it has a camera, then look no further than the Montana 680t. This model is identical to the 610 but comes with the addition of an 8MP camera in the back.
The Montana 680 is priced at $549.99.
Well, I’m sure you see where this is going already. The Montana 680t is the combination of the previous three, in other words, it’s the complete package. The preloaded TOPO maps of the 610t coupled with the camera of the 680, all for $599.99.
The Montana 700 is the first model in the Montana 700 series. This unit has the following features: Barometric altimeter, 3-axis compass, preinstalled maps (Garmin TopoActive, depending on your country), smartphone connectivity, compatible with Garmin Connect and Garmin Explore App, and all features of the Garmin GPSMAP 66 series with some Montana specific functions.
This is the sweet spot that would appeal for pretty much every user out there, as it has everything except the camera. On top of the aforementioned features, the 700i has the following: inReach technology (Iridium satellite imagery network, 2-way-messaging, exchange text messages, SOS alerts, location sharing, active weather), and preinstalled CityNavigator maps.
I used the 750i for a few months during my hikes before, and if I have to sum it up in one sentence, it’s basically a mixed bag that you’re either gonna really love or really hate. The device has everything else I mentioned as well as a 8 MP camera.
Garmin Oregon Vs Montana – Summing Up the Similarities
Same with any comparison out there, my Garmin Oregon Vs Montana one obviously includes a number of similarities. These include the fact that the company made both lines with hikers in mind. Both feature Garmin’s exceptionally accurate location data and more.
All Oregon and Montana models utilize GLONASS in addition to GPS. They are also equipped with an electronic compass, a touch screen, and barometric sensors.
Both line-ups come with “t” models, which stands for TOPO (or topoactive maps), by the way. They also feature models that feature decent 8MP Digital cameras and top-notch mapping technology fed by quality data.
Garmin Oregon Vs Montana – Defining the Differences
What really sets the Oregon models apart from the Montana ones is the way they’re constructed and their basic features. For instance, the Montana units are usually more detailed than their Oregon counterparts and come with more advanced features.
The former is all thanks to Montana’s larger 4″ displays. The latter, on the other hand, is due to the fact that for one, the Montana models come with barometric altimeters, and two, they have tilt compensation on their 3-axis compasses which results in greater accuracy.
Additionally, the Montana line of GPSs can run on traditional or rechargeable batteries meaning they generally offer a greater battery life than their Oregon counterparts.
So, on paper, the Garmin Oregon Vs Montana’s comparison sounds like it has a clear winner, but it’s more complicated than that.
Garmin Oregon vs Montana – Which GPS Handheld Device Should You Buy?
Choosing between Garmin Oregon Vs Montana can be quite tricky, especially since I’m comparing 600 and 700 models here. Back in the day, the combination GPS and GLONASS navigation were exclusive to Oregon models. Now you’ll notice that it’s in Montana ones as well.
Otherwise, if your concern is the internal memory, TOPO maps, camera quality, that sort of stuff, then rest assured as these features are identical across both lines.
The noticeable differences are the size of the screens as well as the app compatibility. There’s also the element of wireless connection where Oregon reigns supreme. Not only do Oregon models support the latest iterations of Bluetooth, but they also enable you to receive notifications right on your smartphone through a proprietary app. This connectivity works the other way around, too, meaning that you’ll be notified of any important notifications or call alerts on the display of your handheld GPS as well.
You might be wondering why I’m focusing on the element of size in this Garmin Oregon Vs Montana comparison when the difference is only 1″. Well, you see, a 1″ addition in proportion with a 3″ screen is quite a noticeable one. Additionally, Montana models are usually thicker than their Oregon siblings. However, worry not, as they’re still very holdable regardless.
If portability is key to you, then the Oregon models might be better. However, the Montana models’ bulkier construction makes them generally better for use in harsh weather.
So, for the sake of fairness, I’m going to recommend you a model from each series in this Garmin Oregon vs Montana comparison.
Garmin Oregon 750t
If I were to choose from the Oregon line-up, then I would definitely go with the 750t. It’s the perfect combination of all the features and functions of the 700 with the camera of the 750 as well as the TOPO maps. If wireless connectivity is your thing, then this model should definitely be your go-to since the Montana line is lackluster in this department.
Garmin Montana 680t
The bulkier and generally more durable sibling to the Oregon 750t, the 680t is my favorite out of the bunch for the same reason that the Oregon 750t is my favorite. It’s the complete package: the preloaded TOPO maps, the 8MP digital camera, everything.
To conclude, the Garmin Oregon vs Montana comparison doesn’t have any clear winner. Both Montana and Oregon devices are superb GPS/GLONASS pieces of machinery brought to you by none other than Garmin.
Both series feature a range of excellent devices with top-notch positioning and navigation functionalities.
The final decision comes down to you and which features you see yourself more comfortable with over others. I’m sure that you won’t be disappointed with whatever you’ll end up picking, and happy hiking, stay safe!
- My own experience!