If you are in a rush the best kayak gps is the Garmin GPSMAP 64st.
Do you hate getting lost when you are out in the wilderness? Is kayaking one of your hobbies? If so, then having a Kayak GPS could be a great way to get your bearings on the water and find your way back when you are ready to head home. In this guide, we are going to take a look at five of the best kayak GPS options that are available on the market, but before we begin, let’s take a look at what makes a good GPS for recreational, fishing and multi-day kayaking.
The Best Kayak GPS’s go as follows:
Best Kayak GPS Reviews
The best kayak gps as rated by paddlers go as follows.
1. Garmin GPSMAP 64st
The first product that we are going to take a look at in this guide is a handheld model that is preloaded with over 100,000 US maps. These maps are designed to cover the majority of the United States, so there are maps for Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico as well. Each map is designed to include essential things that can be found in the area, so you will be able to find national and state parks, trails, rivers, lakes, and other points of interest. It comes with a 32GB micro SD card, so you will have plenty of space to download trails and additional information.
The GPSMAP 64st has a compass with a three-axis tilt that will show you where you are even when it is not level. There is a mode that will allow you to determine your elevation as well as a barometer so that you can figure out your altitude. If you watch the barometer, you will be able to tell if the weather changes because the pressure drops. This model is designed to share information wirelessly, so all you need to do is press send to send it to another model. To make communication easy while you are kayaking, all you need to do is have your emails, texts, and messages sent to this Garmin device from your phone.
- The color display is easy to read in bright sunlight.
- The purchase of this GPS comes with a year subscription of Bird’s Eye Satellite Viewing.
- The preloaded maps that come with the GPS are great.
- The batteries of this unit are very durable and long-lasting.
- This model comes with a 32GB micros SD card.
- The screen could be a little bit larger, especially when you want to see what’s further away.
- The fact that there is no touch screen function makes it difficult to navigate at times.
2. Garmin ETrex 10
As another Garmin product, the ETrex 10 is another excellent option for kayaking. It is a handheld model that is durable and rugged because it is designed to be used in the outdoors. The model is black and yellow, which will make it easier to see when you have it packed away in your bag. The display is a full 2.2 inches, so it will be easy to see when you need to see the details of a map. This device will also show you the elevation of the path that you take as well as where you begin and end your journey. If you make your destination on the map, it will be able to tell you how long it is going to take for you to reach it from your location.
The unit has a decent water resistance of IPX7, which means that it can be splashed by water, get caught in the rain, and even be submerged for a brief period of time if your kayak tips. The GPS can also be mounted on your kayak with the right accessories. This model is supported by WAAS, GLONASS, and Hotfix, so you will always have a good satellite connection. It also uses AA batteries that are rated to last for at least 20 hours before they need to be recharged.
- This is a very durable option that will not have an issue if it is dropped.
- The battery life that you can get from this model is exceptional.
- This is a lightweight model that is easy to take with you, even if you pack it in your backpack.
- It is straightforward to navigate this device, even without the manual.
- This model does not come preloaded with any maps.
- This GPS does not have a lot of memory built-in, so you will need to purchase additional to download a lot of maps.
3. Garmin Montana 600
The Montana 600 is another Garmin product that works great when you are kayaking. It is a handheld device that is designed with a four-inch screen. The display is in full color, and it even has a touch screen mode that will make it easier to navigate. It is designed with a screen that is readable in the sunlight because it is designed to be used outside, and it comes with a three-axis compass that can help you determine which way you need to travel. This model also has a barometric altimeter that is designed to help you determine the barometric pressure in the area to see if the weather is going to change while you are kayaking.
This is a model that is designed with a sensitive receiver that will be able to find your location quickly. It is also enabled with WAAS, so you will have access to more satellites to use while you are in the wild. Since this is an outdoor model, it is built to be durable. The GPS is not going to stop working the first time that it is dropped, and it is also designed to be waterproof so that it can be out in the elements while you are kayaking. This model is a very versatile GPS; it can run using a lithium-ion battery pack or a pair of AA batteries. Both of these options are rechargeable, so you can easily take both with you on your trip.
- This waterproof design of this model is ideal for rainy weather.
- The life that you get from the battery pack amazing.
- The touch screen functionality is fantastic and makes it easier to navigate the device.
- The screen is quite large, which makes it very easy to read.
- The resolution that you get on the display screen seems very dated.
- It tends to lock up from time to time, and when this happens, a reboot is required.
4. Bad Elf 2200 Pro
The Bad Elf 2200 Pro is a great handheld option that can easily fit into the palm of your hand. It is designed to operate independently from Smart devices, but it can be connected and paired with up to five devices. This will allow you to share the information with others in your party as well as have your position shared with your friends at home. This model will update about 10 times a second, so any paired device will know exactly where you can be found. This can be beneficial, especially if you are kayaking in an unknown area. The device can actually store up to 100 hours of your GPS location so that you can always be found with ease.
The display is a relatively large screen that is backlit so that you can see the information on the screen in low light situations. The model is lightweight and easy to carry as well. It also is designed with an IP rating of IPX4, which means that it will be able to take a few splashes of water, but it is not waterproof. The battery is designed to last for quite a while with this unit. It should last up to 16 hours with Bluetooth enables, but when it is in standalone mode, it will last 35 hours or more before it needs to be recharged.
- The battery life of this unit is excellent, especially if you are not connected to other devices using Bluetooth.
- The unit has a lot of product support, especially with Apple products.
- The LCD screen is backlit, which means that it will be easier to see the screen in low light.
- This device does not come with GLONASS compatibility, so you will have access to fewer satellites and map options.
- The Bad Elf 2200 Pro is not water-resistant; it is only splash resistant, which may be an issue for a kayaker.
5. Garmin Foretrex 401
The final product that we are going to look at in this review is another Garmin. This is a handheld model that is designed to fit on your wrist, which makes it convenient for outdoor activities. It is designed with a highly sensitive GPS receiver that is designed with Hotfix, which will help you find your location in canyons and other places that are deep in the wilderness. The unit has a display that is about 1.4 inches by 0.9 inches, which is a bit on the smaller side when it is compared to some of the other models that we have reviewed. However, it is a convenient size for a watch so that it is not uncomfortable on your wrist.
This unit is designed to track routes, trails, and other points of interest. Since this is a device that is worn on your wrist, it has a heart monitor on the device so that you can track your vitals as you are in nature. It is designed to have a long battery life, and when the unit is in GPS mode, the batteries can last for up to 17 hours or more before they need to be recharged. This Garmin runs on two AAA batteries.
- This GPS device has a very compact design.
- The display screen has a backlight that makes it easy to use in the dark.
- The batteries last for an extended period of time.
- The screen is not as durable as it could be.
- The screen is a bit small.
Is Handheld or Mounted Better?
When you purchase a GPS for your next kayaking trip, you are going to need to consider whether you would like to get a handheld model or one that can be mounted on your kayak somewhere to use while you are on the water. There are even GPS watches that could be beneficial to have, and they will be easier to manage as well. Both options will work well, but I prefer to use a handheld device that does not need to leave on my kayak when I am not using it.
If you are looking for an option that has a fish finder incorporated into the GPS, then you may prefer a mounted device because you are most likely to use it in the water. Ultimately, the type of device that you choose is going to be up to you.
As with any new item that you are about to purchase, there are going to be certain features and considerations that you will want the new product to have. Kayak GPS models are great tools to have when you are on the water, but there are some features that you are not going to want to live without, which include:
Durability and Resilience
These are GPs units that are specifically designed to be used in the wilderness, so you are not going to want a unit that will not survive a fall if you drop it along the trail on the way to the river. Some less durable GPS systems can stop working when you drop it, even form a small distance. Make sure that the display is not going to breaks the first time that the device is bumped so that you can be sure that the screen works when you need it to function. The GPS is going to need to have a rugged design that will keep it safe from the elements as well.
Water Resistance Rating
Remember, you are planning on taking this GPS device with you kayaking, which means that it is likely to get a little wet along the way. Water-resistant GPS devices are common, but the IP rating, which tells you how water resistant it actually is, is going to be an essential consideration to make. Water-resistant does not mean that it is waterproof, so you may still need to be careful of submerging the device in water fully. In general, the higher the IP rating is, the more water-resistant it will be. For kayaking, you should look for a device that has a rating of IPX7 or more so that the device has some protection against being submerged in the water completely.
Since you are going to be using this device outdoors, you must make sure that the device that you choose is a relatively small size that is going to be easy to carry. With that being said, you are not going to want to sacrifice the size of the screen to get a smaller device. Find a size that works for all of your needs before committing to the one that you want to purchase.
One of the most important things to consider when you purchase a new GPS system is the size of the screen. Nobody wants to use a device that has a minuscule display that is difficult to read, so make sure that the resolution is clear and the words are large enough to see without squinting.
Larger screens will make maps more visible on the display, and since this is a device that is going to be used outdoors, make sure that it can be read in the sunlight. This is why an anti glare surface is going to be a good idea for your kayak GPS. Regular glass will simply reflect the light, which can make it difficult to see, especially when you are out on the water. Many of the GPS units that you can find on the market will have a TFT display that will make visibility even easier in any type of sunlight. Also, a backlight may be an excellent option to consider as well to use in low light situations.
Type of Technology
This type of PGS system is going to work off of satellites. The satellites that encircle the Earth are used, but if you only have access to the United State’s GPS satellites, you will only be able to use the 31 active satellites that are in this country’s network. Some satellites also use GLONASS, which will allow you access to the Russian’s 24 satellites as well. This will be about 20% more effective at identifying your location. Regardless of whether you have access to GPS or GLONASS, it is vital to find a unit that is WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) compatible so that you encounter fewer errors when locating your position.
The main reason that you are thinking of getting a GPS is to accurately map your location and help you reach your destination without getting lost in the process. You can track docks that you will be able to access, new areas that are good for fishing, and a path where you can simply kayak and have a good time. Maps are not all made the same, so it is important that you find one that is accurate and reliable. In fact, a GPS that allows you to add points to the map may be beneficial. Being able to download water maps and create custom maps can be very beneficial, especially if you spend a lot of time on the water.
When you are using your GPS, you are going to need to have access to the unit. This could be to update the maps, to get more information on the route that you are traveling, or simply upload pictures that you took on your last excursion. This will help free up space on your device so that you have more that you can use the next time that you want to take a kayaking trip.
You can connect to your computer with a USB. This is a great way to upload and offload map information. Bluetooth is a great way to connect to a Smartphone or another Smart device. Units that have built-in Wi-Fi will allow you to share information and pictures from your device to others that are on the same network.
Memory is important as well with a kayak GPS, so you will want to have at least a decent-sized onboard memory that you will have access to. In most GPSA systems, there will even be a slot where you can insert an SD card, which will add even more storage capacity to your device. The more memory you have on your device, the more maps you can store at once. This can be useful when you are going on a trip where you will be traveling down the river for a few days. If the GPS device that you purchase has a camera, the amount of memory that you have will allow you to take and share more pictures of your journey.
A Long-Lasting Battery
The battery life of the GPS device that you choose is going to be very important. There are very few kayak GPS devices that do not require the use of batteries, which means the longer they last, the more use you will get out of the device. Many models use lithium-ion battery packs or simple AA batteries that can easily be recharged, but doing this on the water can be difficult.
In general, I’d suggest having a device that will allow you to get at least 16 hours out of the batteries before they need to be recharged. Some models will last as long as 25 hours, but that is typically going to be a pricier model that many beginner kayakers may not want to invest in. If you are making a trip that is designed to span a couple of days, then it is advisable to bring an extra set of batteries with you in your pack so that you are not caught in a situation without your GPS.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Can I simply use my Smartphone?
Answer: Of course, you can use the GPS on your phone, but what happens when you are kayaking in an area where there is no Wi-Fi or cell phone service that will allow you to connect to the built-in GPS? A GPS device such as the ones that we are reviewing in this guide will connect directly to the satellites without an additional signal or a network connection being required. Additionally, using a Smartphone in the wild can be hard on the battery, especially when the service is low, and it is looking for a connection. To make sure that you have GPS navigation when you need it, a dedicated GPS device is going to be the best option for kayaking.
Question: Can a kayak GPS be used in the dark?
Answer: When you are going to be kayaking at dawn or dusk, there is always a possibility of being in the dark. With that being said, it is crucial that you consider having backlighting on the device so that the screen is easier to see in low light situations.
Question: What are the benefits of having a GPS over a map and a compass?
Answer: Well, a GPS is always going to be the better option when you are out in the wild. It can easily locate your position, whether you are in the woods or on the water. It will be able to bring up maps of the area that others have updated so that you always have the most up-to-date information regarding the area. What about when the batteries on the GPS device are low, or they happen to die before you can charge them? Well, in that case, a map and a compass will do the job for you until you can recharge your device’s batteries.
Question: What are some additional features that a kayak GPS could have?
Answer: Since you are getting a GPS system that you can use on the water, you may be interested in doing a little fishing while you are out. There are kayak GPS units that have a built-in fish finder that can be used to help you locate the fish in the water. These use sonar to locate the fish, so they will typically need to be mounted on the kayak so that they are more accurate.
If you are planning on taking your kayak to a location where you will be hiking, then finding a GPS that offers geocaching could be a great option as well. This can be a fun activity that you can enjoy with friends or when you are spending time alone in the great outdoors.
Some GPS devices will allow you to create custom maps of the area that you are going to be exploring so that you know exactly where things are when you want to return to the location. Fans of social media posting will also like kayak GPS models that offer location sharing, map sharing, and photo sharing. This will make it easier to have your memories at your fingertips and show your friends what you are doing on your adventure.
When you are looking for the best kayak GPS, there are going to be quite a few options to consider. However, the one that you select is going to depend on your specific needs on the water. Do you need a fish finder incorporated into your GPS? Will you be using it for hiking as well? If I were to choose the best option for my needs, it would be the Garmin ETrex 10. It has very accurate navigation, a good level of waterproof protection, and battery life that will last about 20 hours on the water. It supports GLONASS, WAAS, and Hotfix for faster positioning and reliability on the water. It also has geocaching support built into the device.