If you are more than just a recreational kayaker, you probably do a great deal of exploring.
While this is certainly an exciting venture, it can also be a little dangerous if you are not prepared for such trips.
When you are on the water, you often need more than instinct to help you to navigate.
This is why it is vital that even experienced kayakers carry a GPS system with them when they head out into unknown waters.
The best kayak GPS systems are lightweight, can be easily fixed onto the vessel, accurate, and is capable of withstanding the elements.
We have taken the time to ensure that the following GPS systems do all of this and more; check out our guide to choosing the best kayak GPS systems below.
Best GPS For Kayaking
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- 1 Best GPS For Kayaking
- 2 How to Choose a Good Kayak GPS System
This GPS system acts as both a receiver as well as a data logger.
It can fit in the palm of your hand but the device mostly consists of a large screen.
With a glance at the display, you will be able to see the direction in which you are heading, the speed which you are moving at, your location, and the GPS lock status.
The lock time usually takes less than 45 seconds and the device has an update rate between 1 and 10 hertz.
Of Course, with a system this size, durability can be a concern but there is nothing to worry about with the 2200 Pro.
Not only is the device splash-proof, it also has IP4 rating, which makes it quite water resistant as well.
It is excellent at surviving the conditions common with kayaking.
The 2200 Pro also offers up a considerable amount of battery power, being able to last up to 16 hours with the Bluetooth function enabled and 32 hours without it.
This is also a great option for those who are travelling in groups. You will be able to transmit the information from your GPS system to other people’s smartphones and tablets.
The only real downside with the 2200 Pro is its compatibility with other devices. It works really well with all Apple devices but there are certain limitations with Microsoft and Android operating systems.
- Shows location, heading, and GPS lock status
- Water resistant and splash proof
- Between 16 and 32 hours of battery life
- Up to 100 hours of tracking data storage capability
- Connect up to 5 devices at a time via Bluetooth technology. Now also compatible with the iPhone 5,...
- Large LCD screen with backlight for night operation
- Standalone GPS datalogger stores 100+ hours of tracking data
- Extra-long battery life and 10Hz reporting rate
- Rugged and splash-proof to IPX4 standards
This is ideal considering that you typically need both hands free while you are paddling.
This is not the only benefit available with this device, however.
For one, you can be certain to never get lost while wearing the Foretrex 401 on your wrist.
This is because the device is constantly monitoring the route that you took and with the help of the TracBack you will always be able to get back to your starting point.
On your route, you can also choose to save waypoints of favorite or important spots.
The GPS receiver on this device is incredibly strong, allowing you to receive signals even when you are in heavy cover.
There is also a digital compass on the navigation system, allowing you to get your bearing at all times.
The Foretrex 401 also comes equipped with a barometric altimeter which helps you keep track of the weather.
While this device is certainly on the small side, it has a lot of battery life potential. You should be able to use the device up to 17 hours with fresh batteries.
“It is also a great option if you like to go fishing”
The Foretrex 401 provides you with fishing information as well as times for the sunrises and sunsets.
Since all of your data is stored, you can easily plug the device into your computer and analyze all of your routes.
You can even share it with others if you want.
Last but not least, this navigation system is waterproof.
- Wrist mounted
- TracBack features
- Digital compass
- Barometric altimeter
- Battery life up to 17 hours
- Features high-sensitivity GPS receiver with HotFix for improved performance and reception in heavy...
- Keeps track of routes, tracks and waypoints, and heart rate with add on heart rate monitor (sold...
- TracBack feature retraces user's path on the easy-to-read LCD display
- Supports dual position readout so user can view current location in multiple formats
- Features trip computer, sunrise/sunset times, hunting/fishing information, electronic compass and...
This, however, makes it that more suitable for kayak use.
The device, as a whole, is that much more rugged, able to use in wet conditions as well.
Where this device really shines, however, is with navigation…
This is because the GPSMAP 64 doesn’t just rely on GPS but on Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) as well. In many regards, GLONASS is the same as GPS but with one main difference – it is more accurate.
Therefore, when these two systems are combined, not only do you get to see a greater number of locations, your routes will also be a lot more accurate as well.
Another interesting feature on this device is the dual battery system. This means that you can either rely upon rechargeable NiMH battery pack or AA batteries. The rechargeable battery can be charged while in the device. Regardless, this GPSMAP 64 should be able to last you about 16 hours.
There is also expanded internal memory which allows you to uploaded additional, customized maps so that you can have even better tailored routes.
The color screen display on this device is quite excellent. The resolution is sharp and it has been designed so that it can be viewed regardless of the lighting.
This item weighs just 9.3 ounces and fits comfortably in the palm of your hands.
- Uses GPS and GLONASS
- Dual battery system
- Battery life up to 16 hours
- Sunlight-Readable 2.6" color display
- Expanded Internal Memory 8GB
- DUAL BATTERY SYSTEM Use with 2 traditional AA batteries, or the optional rechargeable NiMH battery...
- Receive Smart Notifications* and pair with optional ANT+ sensors, such as heart rate monitor, Tempe...
- Wirelessly upload data to Garmin Connect and view on smartphone, plus share activities as they...
The 650t relies upon both GPS as well as GLONASS to provide you with improved mapping capabilities.
The GLONASS support allows for more accurate reading even in harsher environments.
The system comes pre-loaded with topographic maps and also lets you download others as well.
With the 650t, you can do more than just look at the maps, as you are able to zoom in and even rotate the maps to make them easier to read.
Although it is a touchscreen, the glass has been constructed to be impact resistant while the cover can hold up well against dust, dirt, and even a little bit of water.
The 650t has a dual battery system. You can choose to use AA batteries or depend on the NiMH pack which can be charged inside the device.
What’s innovative about this system is that it comes equipped with an 8MP camera.
The photographs are of good quality and you can even add location details to them.
Another thing that I liked about this GPS was that it is quite customizable and even lets you organize your menu the way that you want.
It should be noted that this is best suited for those who have some experience GPS systems as it contains a lot of features.
- GPS and GLONASS mapping
- Pre-loaded topographic maps
- Equipped with camera
- Dual battery system
- 3-Inch sunlight-readable, touchscreen display with multi-touch capability
- Dual-band GPS/GLONASS satellite positioning
- Sensors (3-axis compass, accelerometer, barometric altimeter)
- ANT or Bluetooth technology -wirelessly share routes, tracks, waypoints, geocaches, custom maps and...
- Dual battery system -2 AA batteries or NiMH battery pack charged by the Oregon (battery pack...
It is well suited for those who really like to head off the beaten paths.
The navigation features on this device allow you to plan out your journey precisely.
Not only does it help you to create a route, it also offers up information such as distance and bearing.
Of course, you can also just simply view the routes on your on-screen map and simply navigate your kayak based on the route there.
You can also download various charts and maps for free so that you can make even more accurate preparations.
There is a digital compass to help you get your bearing at all times. If you want, you can even share this route with others and they can watch as you make your way across it.
In addition to the navigation features, this device also has a barometer and an accelerometer.
You get to monitor your speed as well as keep an eye out for changes in the weather.
Another reason that the Explorer tracker is handy to have around is for safety purposes.
This device comes fully equipped to ping your location to search and rescue services.
This means that regardless of how lost you get, there will always be someone who knows where you are.
Also, due to its satellite services, you will be able to send text messages back and forth, even from remote locations.
- Create and view routes
- Share routes with others
- Digital Compass
- SOS services
- Create or view a route, drop waypoints, see your tracks, and navigate with the on-screen map view.
- View route details such as trip distance and bearing to destination. Equipped with a digital...
- Plan your route online ahead of time, including waypoints, and share it with family and friends to...
- Send and receive 160-character text messages with GPS coordinates to cell numbers or email addresses...
- Trigger an SOS, receive a delivery confirmation, and communicate back and forth with our 24/7 search...
For one, the screen is a lot better so you can expect a much clearer display.
There is a larger memory capacity as well.
Perhaps what really stood out for us is that this is certainly a rugged navigation device.
It is water resistant and has been built to ensure that it can hold up against most weather conditions.
It also works well in the face of humidity and even dirt.
This navigator comes with a three-axis compass.
This means that even while standing still, the navigation system is able to take note of your position and use it in comparison to your final destination.
Another helpful feature is the barometric altimeter which allows you to get a heads up in the event that bad weather may be headed your way.
Since there is a greater memory allowance, you can add even more pre-loaded maps to the device.
This gives you a greater number of routes to choose from.
The display is a pure pleasure to read.
The colors brightly stand out against one another and it is easy to see the display from all angles, even when the sun is very bright.
The only real issues with the eTrex 30 are that there is a little bit of a learning curve involved. Therefore, if you are not particularly great with gadgets it may take you a while to figure things out.
- High-sensitivity receiver
- IP7 rating
- Battery life up to 25 hours
- 200 routes, 2000 waypoints
- UPGRADED DISPLAY - Features a 2.2" 65K color sunglight readable display offering increased...
- LOAD MORE MAPS - Large 3.7 GB of internal memory and microSD card slot lets you load a variety of...
- PRELOADED BASEMAP - Includes a worldwide basemap with shaded relief
- BUILT-IN SENSORS - eTrex 30x adds a built-in 3-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass and a...
- WIRELESS - Wirelessly share your waypoints, tracks, routes and geocaches with other compatible...
How to Choose a Good Kayak GPS System
It seems that every few months, there is a new system available on the market.
This can mean that you have an incredibly wide selection to choose from.
So, how can you make sure that you are making the best investment?
Here are some tips to follow:
Hardiness and Resilience Of The GPS
Perhaps one of the most important features for your kayak GPS is its durability.
Any system that you choose should be able to endure at least a little bit of wear and tear.
This is why it is important to select a hardy casing.
The precise metal that you decide upon is dependent on what your requirements are. For instance, do you want a system that is going to be as water resistant as possible? Here, synthetic polymers will be your best option as they will be unlikely to be damaged due to splashing or humidity.
If you want a GPS system that it is going to continue working even if you accidentally ding it, then casings that are made from metal will be better suited to such conditions.
When thinking in terms of hardiness, you also have to look at the screen. Now, most people rely upon touchscreens because it is easy to use, responsive, and it resembles most smartphones. The disadvantage of such a feature, however, is that it makes it more prone to damage. Therefore, if you really are worried about how much your GPS can endure, you should think about getting a traditional display screen.
People are easily misled by terms such as waterproof and water resistant.
These do not refer to the same thing.
A device that is waterproof can be submerged in water and not have any water damage. A water resistance device, on the other, can withstand some splashing but that is all!
Few devices are actually waterproof – even the ones that may claim to be so are usually water resistant. This means that you need to be careful about what it is that you are actually getting.
A good way to check this is to look at the IP rating. Devices that have a rating of either IP6, IP7, or IP8. This is great with splashing and even medium showers of rain.
It is a good idea to get waterproof covers for your device, even those that have higher IP ratings. This is the only way to really make sure that it will be safe from water damage.
The part of the GPS system that you really upon is the screen.
This lets you know precisely which direction that you are heading in. Therefore, it is imperative that you choose a display that you find easy to read.
Displays can vary from device to device. Some are just black and white, others have maps, and some are in full color.
In addition to this, you should also take a look at the resolution. The clearer that the display is, the easier it is for you to make sense of the maps.
At the same time, size matters quite greatly as well. A larger screen will always be useful.
Last but not least, you should check just how easy it is to read the screen in bright sunlight. Due to the glassy surface, the rays can be reflected off, blurring the screen. The device should be designed against this or have a backlight to light up the screen when necessary.
Due to their portability, most of the kayak GPS systems either rely upon AA batteries or rechargeable versions.
However, there is usually a lot of discrepancy regarding just how long each device can last given its power source.
The battery life that you will need depends on your type of activities.
For instance, how long are you planning on kayaking for?
Are your kayaking journeys a part of a camping trip?
If you don’t plan on being on the water for more than a day, you should look for GPS systems that are able to last you at least twelve to sixteen hours.
For multi-day trips, consider one that will last around 25 hours with just one set of batteries.
With GPS systems, your main concern should be accuracy and continued connectivity.
This is why it is best to stick with devices that are equipped with Wide Area Augmentation System or WAAS. Not only does this offer up greater precision, you are also able to call up various target points much faster.
When choosing a receiver, you should also keep in mind the type of environment that you will be kayaking in. For instance, if you are going to be surrounded by thick, tall foliage, you will need to make sure that you will get reception regardless of the overhead cover.
Most GPS systems are equipped with more than just navigational features.
You will also find options to keep track of your speed, the ambient temperature, and even altimeter barometers as well. Some even have cameras while others allow you to communicate with similar devices.
With these additional features, it is largely up to you. You should pick the one that best suits your kayaking style and your requirements. If you are mainly getting the system for the GPS features, avoid devices that offer too many additional options.
This is what you will need to know to pick the best possible kayak GPS system.
Make sure to consider the items on the list first, however, to see if you can find one that suits you well.