If you’ve been out kayaking on some larger areas of water, you’ll know that finding your way to exactly where you want to go can be quite tricky. Furthermore, finding the correct way around can become even more difficult if the weather conditions become poor or make things more difficult. If the water is rough or visibility is poor, for example, navigation that might normally be relatively easy can become really very difficult indeed.
When navigation becomes tricky or impossible, it’s easy to get extremely worried naturally. Not knowing where you’re going and not knowing for how long navigation will be impossible is, without doubt, an extremely worrying thought. A good kayaking GPS can eliminate this period of worry.
Whilst there are not a great deal of GPS systems available that have been specifically designed for kayaking, there are still many that are accurate enough and tough enough available that will do the job well. In this guide, we’ve compiled a selection of parts of advice that give information on what you should look for in the best kayaking GPS, as well as the best products available for your needs.
Kayaking GPS – A Buyers Guide To What To Look For
Water Proof Design
This is perhaps the most obvious and certainly one of the most important factors to ensure that the GPS you’re considering purchasing has. As you’ll be aware as a kayaker, kayaking is no dry sport. Whether it’s the rain, splashes from your paddle in the water, the water’s own movement or even tipping your boat the wrong way up, you’re almost guaranteed to get wet. The IP System is what determines how resistant to water a unit is.
Whether you’re a white-water kayaker or one that gets out on the sea regularly, you’ll know that you and your equipment can get battered about regularly. Be it from the waves of the sea or if you’re cascading down the rapids of a river, kayaking can be hard on you and your gear in terms of impact. In addition to when it’s being used out on the water, you want a GPS that’s going to stand up to the test of time and have a high level of durability in general terms. Looking for features such as toughened glass and rubber casing/protection is important.
Make Sure Your Area Is Supported
As standard issue, the majority of GPS systems come provided with a basic world map installed that all users can make use of. However, these are not nearly detailed enough, generally speaking, for what you will need.
To get the most detailed maps, manufacturers will usually offer these at an additional cost. These can then be added into the memory of your GPS and used whenever you like. A point to consider is that sometimes these maps are available as a one-off purchase, other times they require a yearly subscription with an annual premium.
Appropriately Sized Screen
The screen size of the GPS is a more important factor to consider than you might think in the first place. First of all, you should consider how you’re going to be viewing you GPS for the majority of the time. For example, if you’re mounting the GPS on your kayak, it would be a good idea to get one with a large enough screen that can be seen easily at a glance from where you’re sitting.
On the other hand, if you’re going to be storing your GPS in your pocket/see through pocket, then you should consider one that’s smaller. Not only will it be more convenient storage-wise, but you won’t need to worry about being able to see it from further away.
Availability of Bluemaps
Bluemaps is a collection of maps that covers marine areas. They include more detailed views of areas of water, as well as information on contours, tidal graphs and current directions. They can be extremely useful for anyone that’s out on the water, and are a great feature to look for.
The Best Kayaking GPS – Reviewed
Garmin Montana 680t – Advanced Touchscreen GPS System
The Garmin Montana 680 is one of the most technologically advanced GPS navigation systems for kayaking on the market today. One of the main points to note on the Montana 680t is the touchscreen. Unlike a lot of other navigation systems, the 680t from Garmin features a dual-orientation touchscreen that’s in color, and can even be used whilst you’re wearing gloves – great for winter kayakers.
In terms of maps, the Montana 680t has a whole lot to offer as standard. Without any additional cost, the 680t comes with TOPO US 100K maps as well as a complimentary subscription of one year to BirdsEye Satellite Imagery.
What features does the Montana 680t offer technically-wise? There’s far too many for us to properly describe in this short review, but let’s take a look at a couple of the main ones. The touch screen can be used in your choice of portrait or landscape orientation. It’s 4” in size so can be easily fitted into your pocket when not in use, and can also be used whilst you’re wearing gloves. The 680t is also fitted with an 8MP camera – after photos are taken, they are geotagged for you by the 680t. Geotagged photos are a great way of knowing exactly where the photos were taken in future, allowing to use your 680t to easily navigate back to those spots should you wish. The touchscreen has also been designed to be able to be easily seen whilst in sunlight, so no more frowning and squinting at your screen when out and about in the nice weather!
- 250k Geocaches on the map for your finding
- Comes with maps and a subscription to BirdsEye Satellite Imagery as standard
- Rack manager for easy navigation to waypoints
- Features a camera that geotags photos for you
- Dual orientation 4” screen
- GPS/Glonass Satellite Tracking
- Features an accurate built-in compass
- Access to Garmin’s BaseCamp software for effective trip planning
Garmin Striker 4 – 3.5” GPS For Fishing
The Garmin Striker 4 is one of the most popular GPS’s on the market for kayakers that enjoy angling. Not only does the Striker 4 offer functionality for navigation, it also includes a transducer and resultantly acts as a fish finder as well.
Thanks to the VU scanning sonar technology inside the Striker 4, the high frequency provides extremely accurate images of what’s underneath your boat – be there fish, rocks or obstructions, you’ll know that they’re there before you hit them.
Thanks to the waypoint map, the Striker 4 serves as a great GPS. As well as being able to see your location, you can also choose a location or even an object that you would like to get to, and use the Striker 4 to do so.
- 480 x 230 display
- Doubles up as a transducer – the Striker 4 can be used as a fish finer too
- Easy to use interface
- Water rated to IPX7
- Available in 3.5, 5, and 7” displays
- Waypoint map so that locations can be easily and accurately navigated to
Garmin eTrex 10 – Cheap Handheld GPS
The eTrex 10 from Garmin is a great option for a kayaking GPS if you’re looking for an effective system that you can get on a slightly smaller budget. With a screen size of just 2.2”, this model is ideal for the kayaker that’s looking for a GPS that is not only inexpensive, but also compact and easy to pack away just about anywhere.
The eTrex 10 is also extremely durable and is well known for it. It’s encased in rubber which makes it very durable and resistant to bumps and knocks that might easily damage other models. It’s also water-resistant with a rating of IPX7, so you can be sure that it’s not going to get easily damaged by the odd bit of water here and there.
The display on the eTrex 10 is very small at 2.2”. However, this isn’t a bad thing in our opinion. It’s compact and is very easy to read, even in the sun or in situations where light is more scarce. The only downside is that you’re not going to be able to read it all that easily if you were to mount it any distance from yourself on your kayak. However, this design is primarily made for portability, and to be pulled in and out of your pocket or storage compartment as and when needed.
In terms of the software on the eTrex 10, it’s very easy to use. The software has a simple design and does well what it exists to do. It’s also perfect for geocaching since file types included GPX can be loaded onto the eTrex 10.
One of the main things that kayakers might be concerned about when out on the water is the battery life of their GPS unit. Short battery life is not a problem that the eTrex 10 suffers from – it can provide power for up to 25 hours!
- Rubber casing that makes for an extremely durable design
- Water resistance rating of IPX7
- Perfect for keen geocache hunters, since GPX files can be loaded
- Small and compact making it very portable and easy to store away in a pocket when not in use
- Screen is easy to see in all light, low or high
- Exceptional battery life of 25 hours
Polar M200 – Wearable Kayaking GPS Watch
The Polar M200 is our wearable choice of the kayaking GPS market. As you’ll probably know, there are a multitude of advantages to be had from wearing your GPS system when not just kayaking, but taking part in a variety of sports. It’s safe, secure, and makes for extremely convenient viewing whenever you need it.
The M200 is waterproof down to 30m/90ft approx, so you can even navigate your way around should you take a tumble into the water or wish to go for a swim! There are of course downisdes to a wearable GPS, as is the case with all wearable technology – there’s less space for components and therefore are not usually quite as high performing in terms of speed or display. That said, wearable technology also offers a number of advantages over non-wearable to the kayaker that’s enthusiastic about their fitness. The M200 has fitness detecting functions built-in, including a heart rate monitor.
- Waterproof rating of 30 meters
- Rechargeable battery which has an excellent life of up to 6 days
- 2.6cm display
- Polar Flow Software for Tracking
- Fitness features built-in, including a heart rate monitor
- GPS system tracks pace, altitude, and distance travelled
Bad Elf 2200 – Mini Kayaking Bluetooth GPS
The Bad Elf 2200 is a little different from the rest of our reviews in this guide to the best kayaking GPS. If you’re kayaking in a group, it’s a very sensible option to go for. Not only is the Elf 2200 small and compact, but it can also be connected to by 5 Bluetooth devices at the same time, so that all kayakers can have the information on their own device.
The Bad Elf 2200 is water-resistant to IPX4, so it’s not a great idea to drop this unit in the water if you want to continue using it. However, at a mere 3.2oz in weight and small size, it’s great if you’re looking for a small and compact simple unit, that will get you from one place to the next.
- Extremely easy to use
- Small and compact design
- Allows the connection of up to 5 different Bluetooth devices at the same time
- IPX4 water-resistant
- Features a GPS Logger, storing more than 100 hours of your data
- Durable design
- Excellent battery life