5 Survival Features of a GPS – By John Lewis

Approx Reading Time: 5 minutes

There are many benefits to owning a Global Positioning System (GPS). This post will explore the 5 essential features I recommend when considering a GPS to use in emergency and survival situations. Be sure to look for these essential features when deciding which unit to purchase.

  1. Scouting
  2. Navigation Methods
  3. Emergency Signals
  4. External Antenna
  5. Sufficient Memory and Power


Basically, scouting with your GPS is like doing your homework before you go for a hike or a hunt, or in our case, planning an evacuation route with alternate paths to ensure you can arrive safely at your destination. When you scout your route in advance, you will gain a better understand your surroundings and the possible obstacles or dangers you may encounter in a disaster situation.

The first step is to explore topographical or 3-Dimensional maps on your computer so that you understand the terrain better. Carefully research all roads, including less-traveled back roads.  Remember to mark any places that are of concern to you and the route which you intend to travel.

After that, you can transfer those marked waypoints into your handheld GPS receiver. These waypoints are useful especially when you go and scout on foot. For example, when you are on-the-go, you may want to simplify how you navigate to the point where you are able to just refer to marked waypoints and not make things too complicated.

Navigation Methods

Most GPS are equipped with a variety of navigation methods where you can choose the best way to navigate for yourself. The various methods include navigating by touching on a location given on a map or just making it simple by following the waypoints which you have saved in your handheld GPS receiver.

This would be helpful for your survival because when you are familiar which navigation method can give you the most benefit, then you can use that navigation method. An example is when you are on foot, you may want to keep it simple by just following waypoints. Since you are not cluttered by information, you would be more capable to find you way back to safety.

Emergency Signals

The fact that you own a GPS should already give you a certain sense of safety. However, you need to equip your handheld GPS with navigational aids so that your GPS would be able to work even when there is no cell-phone coverage. Since your handheld GPS receivers are radio signal receivers equipped with a logic chip, it would not be capable of transmitting signals.

Hence, you would need to either buy a handheld GPS that has an attachment to a cell phone or equip it with other transmission methods. There are two popular kinds of transmitters which you can consider; personal locator beacons and satellite messengers.

  • Personal locator beacons are usually used only when a person is caught in severe emergency situations. This transmitter uses the Distress Alerting Satellite System (DASS), which is monitored by NASA to track down distress signals.
  • Satellite messengers are the transmitter is most commonly used. This is a navigational aid which helps inform the rescuers of your location although there is no cell-phone coverage. If you love to travel to places that have unreliable cell phone coverage, this would be a wise investment.

External Antenna

One essential feature to explore is your GPS signal. How well your GPS can locate you would depend on how long and effective the external antenna is. This is an important aspect for survival because you may be caught outdoors without cell phone coverage.

With an external antenna, your GPS will have a comparatively better signal. The stronger signal is especially useful when you are in canyons or thick foliage. Note that you do not have to have it perfectly flat in order to get good signal coverage.

Sufficient Memory and Power

Although this is going back to basics, sufficient memory and power is critical in a survival type situation. Imagine, while you are out in the middle of nowhere and your GPS ran out of juice. You are stuck, not knowing which step you should take next. Perhaps you would like to record waypoints back to familiar route, but your GPS does not have sufficient memory.

Be sure that your GPS has both internal memory and external memory for optimal performance. This option allows you to store many maps and critical data in your device, such as topographical maps, waypoints or navigational data.

It is important to ensure that your GPS can accommodate external microSD cards and that you keep additional cards with you. This would especially be important if you like to store waypoints in your GPS, where you need a larger amount of storage so that you can store all required information to help you in times when you get lost.

You should also ensure that your GPS has an adequate power supply and that you bring backup power to make certain it is always powered-up and ready to use.


If you are serious about finding your way in an emergency situation, you may want to take a look at features such as the digital compass and prioritizing a push button interface since touchscreen GPS usually consumes more battery. Finding the right GPS begins with understanding which features are available and prioritizing the features which may be most beneficial when disaster strikes and your life may depend on the information your GPS can provide.

By getting and using these features from your handheld GPS, the likelihood of you getting lost would diminish significantly! Or at least, you would be able to find your way back easily. If you have any tips or ideas you would like to share, please visit me at Epic Wilderness.

John Lewis is a blogger, survivalist and outdoor enthusiast. You can follow John at Epic Wilderness.


Kylene Jones is a blogger, content creator, published author, motivational speaker, homesteader, prepper, mother, and grandmother. She practices self-reliance, provident living, and emergency preparedness in her everyday life. She loves working with her husband, Jonathan, and is committed to helping our community be prepared to thrive during the challenges that lie in our future.