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Garmin Montana 750i 700 700i

In-Depth Garmin Montana 750i, 700i, 700 Review

In This Guide
  • Device Walkthrough & Video
  • Montana Highlights and Lowlights
  • Is This a Good GPS Fit For You?

I’ve been using and testing the Garmin Montana 750i extensively for a few months, and to sum it up in a few words, it’s a mixed bag that will be great for some folks and not so great for others. The Montana 7×0 series is unlike any other Garmin handheld GPS out there. It’s big, beefy, has a bright touchscreen, more onboard maps than usual, and that elusive beast for Garmin handhelds, the QUERTY keyboard. In this guide I’ll walk you through the Montana, show you what works and what doesn’t, and then give you some recommendations. The good news is, if the Garmin Montana 750i, 700i, or 700 is not for you, there are other great options (like the GPSMAP 66i, but more on that later).

If you find this guide helpful, you can help support this site by using these links to buy your Montana (at no extra cost to you):
Latest Prices: Amazon | REI

FYI ➤ Huge REI Cyber-Week Sale On Now including massive discounts like $100 off InReach Mini, $100 off Instinct Solar Watch, $100s off Garmin Fenix models, and up to 50% on great hiking gear.

I was not paid by Garmin to do this review. All reviews on this site and independent and unsponsored.

Differences Between Montana 7xx Models

You’ll see me using the top-of-the-line Garmin 750i in this guide, but you can also apply the insights here to the sister 700i and 700 models. Here are the differences between them.

700700i750i
InReach Communicationsxx
8 Megapixel Camerax
CityNavigator Driving Mapsxx
TopoActive Mapsxxx
Optional AA Battery Packx
GLONASS Supportx
GPS & Galileo Supportxxx
External Antenna Optionxx

The sweet spot for most users looking for InReach would be to get the 700i, which has everything except the camera. I’ll talk about the camera performance later, but for most of us, we probably already have a camera on our smartphone that is better (and also geo-tags our photos).

You can see a complete list of specs for the models on the Garmin site.

Montana 7×0 Series Review Video

Montana 750i (or 700i or 700) Walkthrough

Montana 750i In Hand
I’m an average sized guy (6ft), and my hand JUST fits around the Montana 750i.

It’s hard to convey just how beefy and different the Montana 7×0 series feels compared to other handheld GPS units.  When you first use it, you feel as if you’re in the military and have just been handed your GPS for the field.  Like anything else, the more you use it, the more you get used to it. If you have small hands, you’ll likely use the Montana like a tablet instead of holding it in your palm.

Montana 750i Size Comparison
Here’s a size comparison, from left to right: GPSMAP 66i, Montana 750i, InReach Mini, iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Buttons & Outside of the GPS

Montana 750i Screen
The front of the unit has a 480 x 800 pixel touchscreen display.

Let’s talk about the touchscreen, which is the highlight of the Montana 7×0. For a Garmin device, the screen is great. I found it very easy to see in all conditions. The screen is transflective, which means that it uses incoming sunlight to reflect the pixels. When there is no sunlight the backlight illuminates the pixels. But if you compare it to a smartphone, it’s definitely not in the same league. For example, the slightly larger iPhone 11 Pro Max packs over three times as many pixels into a similar space.

Garmin Montana Sos Button
The only button on the right side of the unit is the InReach SOS button, which sits under a protective cover. I’ve never had the cover accidentally come open or the SOS activate without intent.
Montana Power Button
The power button is in the upper left hand side of the unit. Holding it for a few seconds powers on and off. Tapping it once brings up the status screen. Tapping it twice turns the screen off. To wake it and turn the screen back on, just tap it once.
Garmin Montana Usb Port
The micro USB connector is under a cover on the lower left side of the unit. You use this USB port to connect to a desktop computer or to charge the device. You can charge and use it at the same time.
Back Of Montana 750i
Here’s what the back of the unit looks like. When you hold it in your hand, your plam tends to cover the lower half of the Montana, and the camera and flashlight, located on top, are not covered.
Garmin Montana 750 Unboxing 4
The microSD card slides in the back, under the battery. The maximum size for a microSD card is 32gb, which should be more than enough for worldwide OSM maps and user data like tracks and waypoints.
Garmin Montana 750 Unboxing 5
The battery slides into the back from the top down. Batteries can be charged in the device using a USB charger, or you can purchase spare batteries and swap them in as needed.
Garmin Montana 750 Unboxing 6
A small twisting latch locks the battery in.
Garmin Montana 750 Unboxing 7
When the battery is in you can lay the latch flat. I never had a battery come loose or accidentally get unhooked.
Garmin Montana External Antenna
The back also has a cover for an external antenna. The external antenna is a combination of GPS and Iridium (InReach).
Garmin Montana Led
There’s an LED light on the front that flashes green when you have an InReach message. it will also flash red when an InReach message doesn’t go through, or when the battery is low.

The Montana 750i, 700i, and 700 are one of the only Garmin handheld GPS units that are MIL-STD-810 certified (right now). In layman’s terms, it means the GPS is not only water-resistant, but also can survive in temperature extremes, can withstand shock, vibration, dust, and is generally indestructible.

Touchscreen Interface

The Montana interface feels like a smartphone, albeit one that’s pretty dated. Many of the conventions in the interface are the same as those found on iOS or Android. If you use a smartphone, getting the hang of the Montana interface should be pretty easy.

The processor in the Montana is an upgrade. The overall experience seems quicker and snappier than other Garmin GPS handhelds.

Montana 750i Menu
The front of the unit doesn’t have any physical buttons, only the touchscreen. The interface is similar to any smartphone.
Garmin Montana Sub Menu
When you hit the hamburger sub-menu button, you’ll get an options pop-up like this. The options change depending on the screen that you hit the sub-menu on. Hit the back arrow to return to the last screen.
Garmin Montana Customizing Screen
Similar to a smartphone, holding an icon will allow you to drag it around and reorder it. You can also add and remove icons from the page.
Montana 750i Landscape Mode
Putting the Montana on its side makes the screen go into landscape mode.
Garmin Montana Map Landscape
Landscape mode also works on the detail pages such as the map. On the map screens you can pinch to zoom in and out.
Garmin Montana Status Screen
Tapping the power button brings up the status screen, which has shortcuts to some common features. Tap the power button again to close the status screen.

Screen Performance in Adverse Conditions

When conditions are dry and clean, the touch screen works great. The screen is fairly sensitive and it’s easy to mistakingly drop a pin on the map when using your fingers to pan or zoom. I hope there are more screen sensitively options offered in a future firmware release.

And now the bad part. When you use gloves or when it’s really wet, the screen really struggles. You can change the screen’s sensitivity between “normal” and “gloves,” which I think makes the screen less sensitive.

Glove Finger On Garmin Montana
Using gloves is a mixed bag on the Montana 7×0. Sometimes a touch would register right away, other times I had to hit the icon a few times. The icons on the bottom were smaller than my glove fingertip, making it very difficult to hit them precisely.
Glove Finger Pinch On Garmin Montana
Pinching and zooming on the map with gloves worked most of the time.

I’ve been using a touchscreen Garmin Edge cycling computer on my bike for a while, and it’s been decent when riding in the rain, so I had high expectations for the Montana screen. Unfortunately the Montana struggles.

Garmin Montana In Water 2
When there’s some water on the screen, it does okay. You can see the droplets on the screen. They are not affecting my fingers on the other part of the touchscreen.
Garmin Montana In Water
When there is heavy rain, the drops will register as touches, and they screen goes a crazy. If there’s a downpour, you’ll need to hunch over the screen to protect it from the rain.

I used my Montana without a screen protector and didn’t get any scratches, but you’d probably be wise to put one on there.

Montana 750i, 700i, 700 Navigation

Overall the Montana 7×0 Series navigates just like any other Garmin handheld device. There’s recording controls, activities, waypoints, routes, and tracks. In this section I’ll talk about how navigating with the Garmin Montana is different than something like the GPSMAP series (non-touchscreen). If you’re just learning how to use a Garmin GPS and aren’t familiar with the normal Garmin navigation features, please check out my review of the GPSMAP 66i which covers how to navigate.

There’s also an altimeter, barometer, and compass on the Montana. They functioned as expected, which is consistent with other Garmin devices. In general, they are not professional instruments, should be calibrated often, and used as general guides.

Garmin Montana Trip Computer
Similar to other Garmin handheld GPS units, you record your activity with the “recording controls” menu item. You can pause or start from here, or from the status screen. You can also save or delete activities as normal.
Garmin Montana Trip Computer Elevation
The bigger screen does make it nice to view graphics like an elevation plot. This is the plot from the tab on the last image’s recording controls.
Garmin Montana Creating Waypoint
The highlight of the Montana is the touchscreen. You can use your fingers to move the map around, or pinch to zoom. When you want to drop a waypoint somewhere, just press down on that point.
Garmin Montana Creating Waypoint Dropped
When you lift your finger the waypoint is there. From here you can save it, modify it, or navigate to it.
Garmin Montana Proximity Alert
I enjoyed seeing the circular ring around a waypoint when you set a proximity alarm for it.

Garmin Montana Maps

One of the more exciting aspects of the new Garmin Montana is the preloaded maps. The unit comes with

You can also tweak the map rendering speed in the settings. The faster you render the map, the quicker the battery drains. I found that having it on fast rendering was worth the battery drain, which didn’t seem much different in my usage.

Garmin Montana Layers Button
There’s a “layers” button on the map interface next to a zoom. It brings up this quick dialog to toggle some of the maps. The options are Birdseye, Public Land Borders, TopoActive, and CityNavigator.
Garmin Montana Map Layers
If you click the sub-options while on a map, you can go into the map setup and specifically choose which map layers to turn on and turn off.
Garmin Montana Automatic Routing
A new feature is the automatic map selection. This allows you to have all the layers on and let the GPS decide which map to route you on based on your activity.
Garmin Montana Spell Search
The QUERTY keyboard is great for typing out destinations to search for. Unfortunately it’s not very intuitive. There is no search box like there is on Google Maps. Instead you have to go: Where To? > Pick the type of destination that you want to go to (geographic points, community, etc.) > you will get a list of your selection ordered by how close they are to you > hit the sub-options menu button > select search by name > then you get the screen shown here. The search process can take a while once you start it.
Garmin Montana Routing Activities
When you route to a point, you can choose the type of activity you want to use to get there.
Garmin Montana Automatic Routing Calculation
And after you choose your mode of transportation you get the standard routing options like on any other Garmin GPS.
Garmin Montana Hiking Navigation
Trail navigation works the same as it does on most every other Garmin GPS. Stay on the purple line…
Garmin Montana Driving
Driving navigation was acceptable but not as polished as it is on a dedicated Garmin automotive GPS or Google Maps.
Space Left On Garmin Montana
You can also load on free Open Street Maps (OSM) or custom maps if you want more map options. After all the onboard maps are accounted for you have about 3.5gb of space to work with (this is the North American unit).
Custom Maps On Garmin Montana 750i
Custom maps, like this scanned topo map, look impressive on the big, bright screen.

GPS Performance

Garmin Montana Gps Screen
I’m getting 9 feet of accuracy here, which is pretty good. Most of the time it’s between 8-12 feet.

The Garmin Montana 750i and 700i have GPS and Galileo, while the 700 (non-InReach) also has GLONASS. Overall I found the positioning accuracy to be good and on par with the GPSMAP 66i. I generally use GPS + Galileo. There are a lot of variables involved with positioning, but rarely did my accuracy go over 25 feet.

You can see from this side-by-side GPS test that the Montana 750i performs well. It’s basically the same as the GPSMAP 66i. At some points there is a 20 ft variation, but I think that’s more than acceptable for hiking and non-professional uses.

Click To View Map

Montana 750i, 700i InReach Functionality

Garmin Montana Mapshare
Here’s an example of an InReach tracking session set at 10 minute intervals. Based on my usage I’d guess that the InReach chipset, antenna, and software is the same as other InReach units.

For those that like to send ad-hoc texts with their InReach, the Garmin Montana offers a QUERTY touchscreen keyboard. Otherwise there’s not much to report on the InReach front; it basically works exactly the same as other InReach devices like the GPSMAP 66i. If you’re not familiar with InReach, I have a deep dive on the GPSMAP 66i page that you should check out. The Garmin Montana functions the same way.

Garmin Montana Querty Keyboard
When you use the QUERTY keyboard it pops up in full screen. The letter keys are big and easy to hit. I can see this being helpful in an emergency situation where you need to communicate with a rescue team and you’re not at your best because of an injury or shock.

Battery Performance

The battery performance on the Garmin Montana is highly variable and depends a lot on how much you use the screen. And since everything is touchscreen, if you want to use it, you have to use the screen. Here’s where I averaged out on my battery consumption.

There is also an “Expedition Mode” that puts the unit in low power mode, but still tracks GPS points (at a lower frequency). Garmin says that you can get up to 300 hours using it. My experience was about 32 hours with automatic GPS points and 1 hour InReach tracking intervals. Unfortunately the GPS tracking in Expedition Mode is less frequent, which leads to more straight lines between track points, which leads to a much shorter tracked distance.

You can buy additional battery packs if you’d like, but I recommend using any old USB charger if you need more juice in the field.

Montana 7×0 Battery Saving Tips

Garmin Montana Camera

Garmin Montana Camera
The interface for the 8 megapixel camera is simple, which is a plus when outdoors.

I think the camera functionality in the Montana has limited appeal and is probably targeted at geocachers.  For hikers it can be handy to snap a shot of an intersection or other feature that you might want to record in a geotagged fashion. Otherwise I’d say that your smartphone will take better photos. And most smartphones will also geotag a photo if location services are turned on. Overall the camera is nice if you want everything in one seamless (Garmin-world) package.

Garmin Montana Camera Shortcut
A nice feature is the camera shortcut button on the status page.
Garmin Montana Photo Comparison
In bright conditions the camera does a decent job but misses some detail. On the left, the Garmin Montana, on the right, the iPhone Pro Max 11.
Garmin Montana Blurry Photo
I found that even when standing still the photos often came out a bit blurry. Not a big deal to snap a shot of something important navigationally, but not something I’d share in a photo album.
Photo Marker On Garmin Montana
The good thing is that geo-tagged photos show up on the map. The bad thing is that they’re these little dots. I wish they were a larger thumbnail. It seems like something they can address in a firmware update.

I was disappointed that when adding a waypoint you could not snap a photo with it. You can, however, take a photo that is geotagged and navigate to it.

Is the Montana 750i (or 700i or 700) Worth It?

Montana 750i On Motorcycle
Is the Montana for hikers or motorized vehicles? The line is pretty blurry given its weight and size. Garmin’s registration email shows the Montana mounted on a vehicle.

The answer is maybe. Let’s highlight the highs and lows.

HighlightsLowlights
Big Bright ScreenHeavy and Big
Fast ProcessorMediocre Battery Life
QWERTY KeyboardHigh Price
Use on Foot or VehicleCamera Sub-Par

Here’s who I’d recommend the Montana to:

Unless you specifically need an integrated camera (maybe for geocaching), I’d go with the cheaper Montana 700i that has InReach but no camera.

If you find this guide helpful, you can help support this site by using these links to buy your Montana (at no extra cost to you):
Latest Prices: Amazon | REI

Alternative InReach / GPS Options

How To Set Up the Montana 750i, 700i, and 700

Garmiin Montana Update Ecosystem
There are a few players that you need to utilize to get your Montana setup. It’s not super obvious right out of the box.

One of my gripes about Garmin GPS and Garmin InReach is the lack of clear or coherent setup. It’s not just the Montana, this goes for most other Garmin devices as well. You won’t get a guided, seamless experience like you might get from Apple. Here are the players:

Here’s how to do it.

If you don’t want to activate InReach or have a Montana 700, skip to step 7.

  1. Turn on your Montana and go through the guided setup.
  2. You will get an IEMI and activation number, write those down.
  3. Go to the Garmin Explore website and sign up for an account. You will use these same credentials to log into all the Garmin apps and services in the following steps.
  4. Enter your IEMI and activation code, pick a plan, and put your billing info in.
  5. Go back to the Montana and and continue. The Montana will send a message to the Iridium satellites and then get one back with a successful activation.
  6. Go to Garmin Explore website and enter your contacts and preset messages.
  7. Load the Garmin Connect and Garmin Explore apps on your phone. Turn on Bluetooth on your phone. Go to the settings on the Montana and add a new phone.
  8. Open Garmin Connect and add a new device. Select the Montana. Let them pair.
  9. Once paired, open Garmin Explore on your phone and add a device. This will sync your InReach contacts and messages, as well as any saved navigation data. Almost there…
  10. Install Garmin Express on your computer and connect your Montana to the computer with the USB cable.
  11. Add the Montana to Garmin Express and sign in with the account you created for Garmin Explore in step 3.
  12. Update the firmware and map data. And that’s it, only 12 steps!

I highly recommend downloading and using the Garmin Basecamp program for your computer. It’s a good planning tool that’s integrated with the Montana.

Garmin Montana 750i, 700i, and 700 Resources

Menu Items and Functions

Here’s what comes standard on the Montana 7×0 Series. You can customize (hide, show, reorder) the icons as you’d like.

Garmin Montana 750i Unboxing

Garmin Montana 750 Unboxing 1
The box is noticeably bigger and heavier than other Garmin GPS units.

Garmin Montana 750 Unboxing 2

Garmin Montana 750 Unboxing 3
This is the hardware that you get: USB cable, lithium-ion battery, and Montana unit. You also get a small printed manual.

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