Best Kayak GPS

One of the best ways to explore areas not accessible on foot is by kayaking. You can always take a different route, head to another coastline or make your way down another river.

However, finding your way back can be hard when all the surrounding areas begin to look the same — Navigation when in a vessel has been an issue since the dawn of humanity.

To solve this, we have five of the best GPS for kayaking to review, and by the end, you will have more chance to see which best meets your kayaking navigation needs.

Best GPS for kayaking

What is a Kayak GPS?

A GPS or Global Positioning System came into existence from the US government. It was developed as a satellite technology to locate and thus guide their submarines. It was found to be such a useful technology; they let it loose onto the public.

Nowadays, we rely on these systems to map where we are and to plot routes to our destination. The question is why do we need one for kayaking?

A GPS unit will show you your exact location. As long as it is functioning, it is nearly impossible to become lost.

Satellites make it easy for the devices to track where you are better than if you were using a smartphone mapping system.

GPS systems can track speeds and direction, so as you combine both, you can get a good idea of how long your trip will take.

There are three areas; these devices rise above using a smartphone. Battery life is much better, they are durable and rugged, and they don’t rely on phone networks for a connection.

Now you can see how these GPS can help when in your kayak, you need to find out, which is the best GPS for kayaking?

Top Kayak GPS Reviews

Garmin GPSMAP 64st, TOPO U.S. 100K with High-Sensitivity GPS and GLONASS Receiver

1. Garmin GPSMAP 64st, TOPO U.S. 100K with High-Sensitivity GPS and GLONASS Receiver

Garmin is one of the world’s best GPS makers. The Garmin GPSMAP 64st is no different and has many features designed for the most avid kayaker.

The screen may not be the largest at 2.6 inches and 160×240 pixels, but it is visible in sunlight, and you can clearly see where you are going.

The GPS comes pre-loaded with 100K TOPO maps for the US and all the surrounding waters, so it doesn’t lack in coordinates. Additionally, you can download more to the Garmin Basecamp software and the 8GB of internal memory, as well as the included memory card slot.

If you are navigating along a heading, you can use the device rather than a compass thanks to the integrated 3-axis compass.

With a barometer, you can detect if there is a storm heading your way. One thing that concerns GPS users is if they lose a connection. The Garmin GPS and GLONASS satellite receiver use these two networks to full effect. With these, there is little chance you can’t make connections, no matter where your kayak fishing trips take you.

Pros

  • High-resolution maps
  • Easy to add more maps on top of the 100K TOPO US maps
  • 1-year BirdsEye Satellite imagery subscription
  • Built in barometer and compass
  • Uses both GLONASS and GPS networks
  • Great rugged build quality

Cons

  • Small screen compared to rivals
  • Not the most modern design

Technical Specification

  • Power: 2 x AA
  • Water-resistant: IPX7
  • Screen size: 2.6 inches
  • Battery life: 16 hours
  • Memory: 8GB

When it comes to battery life, you can find it will last 16 hours. Besides, you can use traditional AA batteries or an optional NiMH rechargeable battery pack. With 200 pre-installed routes, there is little chance you can’t find where you are going.

With a guide price of around $235, it isn’t the cheapest option, yet with the expandability and rugged construction, and IPX7 water-resistant rating. You can find this Garmin GPS map is one of the best handheld GPS 2020 devices you can buy, and it will last for years.

Garmin eTrex 10 Outdoor Handheld GPS Navigation Unit - AW16

2. Garmin eTrex 10 Outdoor Handheld GPS Navigation Unit – AW16

With the Garmin eTrex 10, you have one of the most affordable GPS system options available. While it resembles a phone in design, the screen delivers 2.2 inches of the monochrome display. Like other Garmin GPS, it comes with IPX7 waterproofing and is incredibly rugged.

Battery life is excellent and can be up to 25 hours of continual use. The screen is easy to read in sunlight, so choosing one of the many worldwide base map sets of maps is straightforward. Garmin includes geocaching by default, and you can see elevation levels in 3D views.

Pros

  • Very low price
  • Rugged and waterproof
  • Support for WAAS enabled GPW, Hotfix and Glonass
  • Compact and easy to operate design
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Small screen
  • Only comes with 50 pre-installed routes
  • Possible delay in the software menu

Technical Specification

  • Power: 2 x AA
  • Water-resistant: IPX7
  • Screen size: 2.2 inches monochrome
  • Battery life: 25 hours
  • Memory: None disclosed/ none upgradeable

For the budget-conscious, this cheap GPS is suitable for any kayaker. With a starting guide price of around $85, it doesn’t stretch anyone’s budget, yet it doesn’t skimp on features to find out your exact location.

The small device delivers a 20% faster lock-on time than GPS alone with the use of GLONASS satellites. In addition to this, you can make use of the HotFix satellite prediction, so in deep canyons, you won’t have any issues.

Garmin eTrex 20x, Handheld GPS Navigator, Enhanced Memory and Resolution, 2.2-inch Color Display, Water Resistant

3. Garmin eTrex 20x, Handheld GPS Navigator, Enhanced Memory and Resolution, 2.2-inch Color Display, Water Resistant

For any kayaker who wants a reliable GPS receiver, the Garmin eTrex fits the bill. It does lack some features, yet none of these detracts for the purpose of this device. It holds up to 2,000 waypoints and 200 routes.

While the base map by default is limited, you can download more topo maps into the 3.7GB of internal memory. It offers fantastic battery life and is around 25 hours. When it comes to pinpointing your location, it is accurate while remaining quick to do so.

Pros

  • Lightweight and Inexpensive
  • Great screen
  • Long battery life
  • Durable button construction

Cons

  • Limited base map by default
  • Lacks some features
  • Basemap display size smaller than screen

Technical Specification

  • Power: 2 x AA
  • Water-resistant: Yes
  • Screen size: 2.2 inches
  • Battery life: 25 hours
  • Memory: 3.7 GB expandable with MicroSD card slot

No one, who wants a kayak tracker, needs to look much further. With a guide price of around $120, it is affordable enough to meet most people’s kayak fishing budget.

With the WAAS-enabled GPS, HotFix prediction GPS and GLONASS support, the easy to read screen GPS for kayakers is a pleasure to use.

With a 2.2-inch 65k color screen, you won’t struggle to pinpoint your location with the high sensitivity of the device.

It is an excellent choice and can be the best Kayak GPS in this price bracket.

Garmin Oregon 650t 3-Inch Handheld GPS with 8MP Digital Camera (US Topographic Maps)

4. Garmin Oregon 650t 3-Inch Handheld GPS with 8MP Digital Camera (US Topographic Maps)

The Garmin Oregon comes with a few features other kayaking GPS don’t offer. First is the inclusion of an 8 MP digital camera. With this, you can take snaps of where you are and know exactly where you took them.

The handheld GPS comes with a larger screen at 3 inches, which is a joy to use, even in full sunlight. You do need to adjust the brightness to save on battery life.

You can use either of the dual battery systems, and these being 2 x AA or a NiMH battery system that is sold separately. The controls are all on the touch screen, which makes it easier to sue than buttons, and you can hold the device in any orientation and make use of the auto-rotate feature.

There is a 3-axis compass, and the GPS features are standard with GLONASS support. Besides, there is an included accelerometer and barometer.

Pros

  • Easy to use the touchscreen
  • Built in camera and Micro SD card slot
  • Great Bluetooth connectivity
  • Great 100k map detail and location pinpoint

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Some rare software glitches and crashes require a restart
  • Limited default maps installed

Technical Specification

  • Power: 2 x AA
  • Water-resistant: Yes
  • Screen size: 3 inches
  • Battery life: 16 hours
  • Memory: 4 GB

The Garmin Oregon can be one of the best GPS trackers for hiking as well as when in your kayak. With the sharing capabilities, you can let others see your routes, waypoints and geocaches.

One of the most significant downsides is the price. With the original guide price of around $580, it is right at the top end of most kayaker’s budget.

However, for this, you do get plenty of features that make this the best GPS map-reader you can possibly find.

With the entire, US topographic data included along with a worldwide base map and shaded relief. You have everything you require for kayaking, hiking and climbing.

Garmin eTrex 30x, Handheld GPS Navigator with 3-axis Compass, Enhanced Memory and Resolution, 2.2-inch Color Display, Water Resistant

5. Garmin eTrex 30x, Handheld GPS Navigator with 3-axis Compass, Enhanced Memory and Resolution, 2.2-inch Color Display, Water Resistant

Following on from one of the crowd favorites comes the Garmin eTrex 30. With this comes better maps, a better display and more functions. The screen size is 2.2 inches and has a 65K color display depth.

Reading in the sun is accessible on the 240×320-pixel screen. By default, you have a worldwide basemap that offers shaded relief, an integrated tilt-compensated compass and a barometer.

The downside to this is you have to download all the US maps before you can use it in any detail.

Pros

  • Connect wirelessly to compatible Garmin devices
  • Preloaded base map
  • Load more maps with microSD card slot
  • Ample 3.7 GB of internal memory
  • GLONASS and GPS networks

Cons

  • Awkward menu
  • Few navigation buttons
  • Small display
  • No pre-installed US maps

Technical Specification

  • Power: 2 x AA
  • Water-resistant: Yes
  • Screen size: 2.2 inches
  • Battery life: 25 hours
  • Memory: 3.7 GB

The eTrex 30 may be a smaller version of the GPSMAP kayaking GPS. It offers some of the same features, but it can lack visibility if you mount it to your kayak.

With a guide price of around $135, it is a decent option to have a device that comes with a few upgrades.

Like many GPS devices, this offers evolution rather than revolution, yet it still comes as one of the best GPS for kayaking once you add all the additional maps you require.

You can make full use of the internal memory and load TOPO 24K, HuntView, BlueChart g2, City Navigator NT along with the BirdsEye Satellite Imagery, although for this there is a subscription required.

Battery life is as good as many others, and you can have an optional mapping for turn-by-turn road direction if required.

What to Look for When Buying a Kayak GPS

Nearly every handheld kayaking GPS has one thing in common, and that is the use of satellites to pinpoint your location.

It doesn’t matter what the extra features are, at the core, they pinpoint your location along a longitude and latitude dimension. With this, you know exactly where you are.

Because there are many on the market, they do offer different features to each other. You can also find a few different types that meet different needs.

All the above fall under one umbrella and that is to tell you where you are, and where you are going. These all have tailored map screens, and serve on purpose; although some do come with added features.

The other group you may see act as fish finders, or the fish finder comes with a built in GPS system. These marine GPS systems will be custom made to fit on fishing kayaks rather than being held by hand.

The difference being, the fish locator GPS isn’t suitable for any other activity, unlike these, where you can take them hiking, ow when out kayaking with kids etc.

To make sure you have the right GPS you can tuck in the pocket of the seats for kayaks, to keep it close, consider the following points.

Easy to Read Displays

No matter which handheld GPS you end up with, you do need to find it easy to read. You need to think of sunlight conditions, so the screen needs to be bright as well as being a high resolution.

Most come with small screens, so they remain portable and light, so zoom functions are another welcome addition.

Durability

Many individuals may prefer to skip using one of these GPS devices and use their cell phone. Not only can these lose signal, and thus not know your position, but also they are nowhere near as durable as these GPS systems are.

Carrying these systems around introduces them to countless bumps and bangs, and there is no way a smartphone could withstand this kind of treatment.

Aside from this, with changes in temperatures, a phone battery would die far quicker than the battery in a GPS.

Mapping

Many of the better GPS navigation systems deliver a sizeable internal memory, plus the chance to expand using an SD card. Depending on the brand will determine how much map info you get right out of the box.

Many only arrive with maps of the US and surrounding waters, even on some models, this may require a download or two. Other models come with maps that cover most worldwide countries.

To top this, these may not be in a high enough resolution to cover where you are taking the best tandem kayaks on a weekend trip. Maps you can download can cost you extra, yet some brands offer this free.

Power and Battery Life

Kayaking location GPS can last a long time on one set of batteries. While you can adjust the brightness, you need to keep this low when not in use to extend the life.

You use AA batteries in many cases, or you can purchase NiMH battery packs. Either way, you don’t want to be carrying extra batteries on the off chance you need to change them.

As a minimum, you need a battery life of more than a 16-hour run. It should cover you efficiently for a two or three-day expedition with no worries.

Using a dual battery system GPS offers you flexibility in power options, and you may find you can use the NiMH better if they are rechargeable and you have a small solar panel.

Satellite Coverage

You can find many GPS units can read multiple satellite networks. GPS is a US network, while GLONASS is Russian. If you are taking the top brands of kayaks in any other region aside from the US, then you may be using the GLONASS network by default.

Inside the USA, you will most likely use the GPS positioning systems first. All this is automatic, and it is good to know your GPS unit can read from a GLONASS satellite as well as one inside the USA.

Another thing that can help GPS pinpoint your location even closer is the WAAS system. The Wide Area Augmentation system is an air navigation system inside the USA. It makes GPS more accurate by using ground stations, which measure slight differences in satellite readings.

The augmentation system; was quickly adopted by most civilian GPS devices because of the improved accuracy in the readings.

Waterproofing

Any kayak GPS unit has to be able to stand up to the job. You find most are rated to a minimum of IPX7. So, even if you manage to drop your device in the water, or you unfortunately capsize. Your device can last in water up to three feet in depth for a specified amount of time.

In most cases, it should only be a few splashes they need to contend with.

One area, which is often an oversight for your device getting wet are storms. When you are out kayaking, it can be hard to know what the weather will do. GPS units that come with a barometric altimeter can give more insight if a storm is heading in your direction.

They do this by reading the pressure in your location, as well as altitude, though kayaking will nearly always be at one altitude unless you are heading downriver.

Best GPS for kayak Garmin GPSMAP 64st

Final Verdict

There were many things to consider in the above GPS reviews. Each device offers something different from the others. It was when we came to the price to performance ratio; a clear winner began emerging from the rest of the pack.

We ran through GPS units in every price bracket, and on the cheaper end, there were omissions in features, while the top end was considerably higher than many individuals’ budget would allow.

Therefore, comparing all the middle runners, we saw the clear favorite was the Garmin GPSMAP 64st, TOPO U.S. 100K with High-Sensitivity GPS and GLONASS Receiver.

More than enough features would easily make this a justifiable option if it cost much more. It is waterproof, it has excellent satellite coverage, and it comes with one of the best easy to read displays there is.

Add to this the dual battery option, the easy to use buttons, and the Garmin was a delight to use.

One thing that stood out was the after service, and the chance to use kayak GPS mounts to make the device hands free. From here, it is simple push-button control without detracting from what is happening on screen.

In addition, this device had the most abundant internal memory out of any, so there will be no map data deletion to install others, no matter where you take your kayak around the country, or the world.

The Garmin was clearly the best GPS reviewed here, and it can give years of excellent service to anyone who required a flexible handheld location device.

Best Kayak GPS