Kayak GPS Review: Best Navigation Devices For Kayakers

Best Kayak GPS

Abigail ScottByAbigail Scott
Updated on 8/13/2022

Kayaking is all about exploring nature, including secluded coves, islands, coasts, and other secluded areas with restricted water access, in a way that very few different types of watercraft can.
When you put yourself in a position surrounded by unknowns like that, it is simple to push things too far. Before you realize it, you can get wholly disoriented and forget where you are or how to return to where you began.
However, being lost on the water is no laughing matter. Therefore I recommend that all of my fellow paddlers get the most advanced kayak GPS available. I've included a list below with some of my top suggestions for GPS systems.
If you click a link on this page and proceed to make a purchase, we may be eligible for a commission, but doing so will not result in any additional charges.

Are You In A Hurry? The Winner After 40 Hours Of Research Is:

This Is The Garmin GPSMAP 64st.

Garmin GPSMAP 64st

Garmin GPSMAP 64st, TOPO U.S. 100K with High-Sensitivity GPS and GLONASS Receiver
4.5/5
92%
Accuracy
90%
Quality of material
90%
Durability
80%
Battery life
80%
User interface
74%
Touch Screen

Why Is It An Improvement?

  • In addition to the typical GPS satellite network, it makes use of the GLONASS system for enhanced precision.
  • The quad-helix antenna guarantees a solid connection
  • It comes with TOPO US 100K maps already loaded on it.
  • A micro SD card slot is accessible through the explainable internal memory, which allows for downloading extra maps.
  • It is rated as waterproof to an IPX7 standard and has a sturdy build.
  • The gadget is equipped with a dual battery system that is compatible with disposable AA batteries and rechargeable NiMH batteries.

Is It Necessary For Kayakers To Have Their Dedicated GPS Device?

If you already have a smartphone with a GPS built-in, there's no reason to spend money on the finest kayaking GPS on the market, is there?

Wrong.

There is no denying the practicality of smartphones in day-to-day living. Without the built-in GPS on my phone, I wouldn't even have a chance of getting to my location half the time, let alone finding the appropriate address. However, it's entirely different when you have to navigate new seas and figure out how to get back to the shore.
While one leaves the populated areas behind, like when going on a kayaking excursion, there is typically no connectivity to cellular networks or Wi-Fi. At that point, cellphones become completely worthless, which is precisely when the best kayak GPS systems come into their own. Because dedicated kayak GPS devices use a satellite-based system, this equipment does not require additional network connections.

Instead, the Global Positioning System, sometimes known as GPS for short, is constantly collecting data from satellites, which enables you to do the following things:

  • Utilizing coordinates, you may pinpoint your exact location at any given time.
  • Direct you to and away from a particular spot, such as taking you back to where you put out crab traps.
  • Keep track of your path and commit your favorite landmarks to memory as waypoints.
  • Display both the course you are on and the current speed you are moving at.

While I'm here, I'd like to set the record straight on another widespread misunderstanding:

There is a significant difference between a fish finder and a GPS device; neither works similarly. The first method, which is used to send information and map the land, makes use of satellites, while the second method, which uses sonar technology, is meant to define the underwater terrain and locate fish. A kayak fish finder may be helpful for anglers, but it doesn't help much with navigation, and you can't expect your GPS gadget to locate fish. Neither equipment is capable of doing the other's job.

A kayak compass and a physical map should never be forgotten when you go out on the water.

How To Choose The Right GPS For Kayaking: A Buying Guide For Kayak GPS Devices

Which kayak GPS Unit Do You Prefer: A Handheld, A Console, Or A Wearable Model?

Your search for the finest GPS for kayaking should begin with the fundamentals, such as the device's preferred style, so let's get started.
The decision appears straightforward because it is between three distinct options: wearable, portable, or mountable. However, it affects other elements of the design and operation of the GPS device. These characteristics include the unit's size, weight, mobility, and functioning.

An outline of the three primary styles is as follows:

Wearable, wristwatch-style GPS devices

  • Wearable GPS devices in the shape of wristwatches take up very no room aboard, you always know where they are, and there is a lower risk of dropping them by accident. You will, however, have to accept the limited display size and functionality available to you.

Handheld GPS devices

  • Most paddlers choose handheld GPS devices because of their portability, minimal weight, and ability to store in a pocket or a dry storage bag. The displays are often more extensive, and they come equipped with a more significant number of cutting-edge capabilities in comparison to their wearable counterparts.

Console-mounted GPS devices

  • Despite their high level of sophistication and extensive feature set, kayaks do not typically come equipped with console-mounted GPS systems. They are often powered by an external source and are somewhat cumbersome. However, fishing kayaks are likelier to have models that include built-in capabilities for locating fish in the water. To use just one example, the Humminbird Helix 5

Check The Rating For Its Ability To Resist Water.

Check The Rating For Its Ability To Resist Water.

When looking for the finest GPS for kayaking, you need to ensure that it has a high Ingress Protection or IP rating. This is because many GPS devices aren't specifically built to be used with watersports.

I would suggest entirely waterproof GPS devices that can be immersed without incurring any permanent harm. It is especially important if you paddle in seas prone to waves and other forms of rough water. For instance, a higher IP rating, such as IPX7, provides dependable protection against water damage even if the item is immersed.

Consider purchasing a waterproof case for the GPS if it offers just the most fundamental levels of water resistance, or at the least put it in a dry bag. It may simply get a slight splash from the paddle, or it may capsize completely. If you plan on taking the GPS with you on a kayaking vacation, there is a reasonable risk that it will become wet at some point. Take notice that I did not state "if" it will happen; instead, I said that you would be relieved that it is water-resistant.

When It Comes To Performance, Accuracy And Coverage Are Two Of The Most Important Factors

Accuracy And Coverage As Two Key Performance-Related Factors

The standard GPS used in the United States uses a total of 31 satellites to monitor your location. However, specific GPS systems also make use of GLONASS, which is a system located in Russia. This combination adds 24 more satellites to the mix, resulting in better speed and precision. Even if a GPS-only device should be more than sufficient for most paddlers, the best GPS for kayaking ought to be compatible with the most advanced satellite navigation systems used in the United States and Russia. Using this method, you can depend on a dependable signal and straightforward navigation in various locations.

Kayak GPS systems include a technology known as WAAS, which stands for Wide Area Augmentation System. This capability is used to increase the units' accuracy and dependability further. The US Federal Aviation Administration created the technique to correct any slight inaccuracies in GPS readings, particularly in challenging settings.

Another function that is an excellent addition to kayak GPS devices is the HotFix. The ability to gather data and allow your unit to forecast the position of satellites may substantially reduce the time it takes for your GPS to load. This is an essential feature to look for when shopping for a GPS.

The Need For Detailed Mapping Cannot Be Overstated.

Detailed Mapping Is Essential

You will use the kayak GPS for navigation, tracking, and mapping, which is why you're acquiring one in the first place. It is a good idea to check out the default maps that come with the device and those that are available separately.

Even while the level of information and the chart style may differ from one GPS receiver to the next, the vast majority of GPS receivers will come with maps already loaded.

It's possible that some merely have a default map of the United States and the waterways surrounding it. However, the most excellent GPS systems now available will come with a map of the world already stored on the device. It should be possible to download more maps or improve the ones already present.

Marine cartography and maps that include coast guard sites can be very helpful for kayakers. Kayakers can also benefit from comprehensive topographical information, fishing contours, tidal graphs, current arrows, and other similar features on their maps.

Display Dimensions And Readability To Provide An Improved User Experience

When you want information, look no further than the display. You don't want to put unnecessary pressure on your eyes every time, much less risk missing anything significant because it's obscured from view.

Therefore, you cannot choose a kayak GPS gadget without first considering the display size and how easily you can see it. In this regard, the things to look out for are essentially the same as they are in the case of any other electronic device:

You want the display screen on your GPS device to have a reasonable size, be able to be read in a variety of lighting circumstances, and have a good quality if at all feasible.

The challenging aspect is that you will most likely be required to make some concessions. Reading might be more demanding on displays that are too small, while huge shows can be awkward to transport.

In addition, the screen size of a kayak GPS device that may be mounted on the kayak cannot be expected to be comparable to that of a portable or watch-style unit. On the other hand, the display may have a diagonal length of 2 to 5 inches when measured from corner to corner.

The Longer The Life Of The Battery, The Better.

Battery Life: The Longer, The Better

When you are getting ready to take your kayak out on the water, the last thing you should be concerned about is whether or not the battery in your GPS will survive. No matter where you are, a dead GPS gadget will not be of any help to you.

Therefore, the life of the battery is an essential factor to consider.

You should get at least 16 to 18 hours of use out of the battery, which is sufficient for an entire day spent on the water. Even while it somewhat reduces the GPS device's functioning, a mode that saves battery life is still a valuable tool.

See What Kind Of Battery The Gadget Requires As Well:

Lithium-ion batteries have a reputation for having a long lifespan. Still, they are almost worthless if you cannot charge them or do not have access to an electrical outlet.

Although I am against using disposable batteries due to the damage they bring to the environment. If your kayaking adventures take longer than a day, it is possible that using disposable batteries will be more convenient. You should always keep a few extra batteries with you so that you may switch them out if necessary.

The 7 Best Kayak GPS Devices: Reviews And Recommendations 

Garmin GPSMAP 64st GPS

Garmin GPSMAP 64st GPS

  • Price: 5/5 Stars
  • Rating: 5/5 Stars 
  • Award: Overall Best Kayak GPS
    Even though it is compact, lightweight, and has a design that is reminiscent of a walkie-talkie, the portable GPSMAP 64st delivers capability that is difficult to match.

Even in highly distant places, it maintains a high level of accuracy and reception because of its compatibility with the GPS and GLONASS systems and incorporation of a quad-helix antenna. A globe base map, TOPO US 100K maps, and a one-year subscription to BirdsEye Satellite Imagery are all preloaded into the device. Even when exposed to direct sunlight, the 2.6-inch screen is not difficult to see, despite its small size. Even if it does not respond to touches, this should not be a deal breaker for you.

In addition to that, I adore the method that uses two batteries. It operates on either AA batteries or a rechargeable NiMH battery, which is available separately for added convenience.

Specifications And Data

  • Handheld design
  • GLONASS-compatible GPS receiver
  • A grade of IPX7 for water resistance
  • The display size of 2.6 inches and color

twin battery setup with a 16-hour runtime
Pros:

  • Equipped to work with both the GPS and the GLONASS systems
  • A subscription to BirdsEye Satellite imagery is included in addition to the preloaded TOPO US 100K maps and 250K Worldwide Geocaches.
  • Easily readable in the daytime, even in bright sunlight.

A dual battery arrangement allows it to run on either a NiMH battery or two AA batteries.
Cons:

  • The screen measures 2.6 inches but is not touch-sensitive despite its relatively tiny size.
  • The user interface does not have a contemporary appearance, nor is it exceptionally intuitive or user-friendly.
  • The downloading of extra maps might be a bothersome process.

The Garmin GPSMAP 64st is equipped with everything a kayaker would require to navigate the waters and have an enjoyable experience. Make plans for your next canoeing or kayaking adventure without worrying about getting lost.

Garmin GPSMAP 64st, TOPO U.S. 100K with High-Sensitivity GPS and GLONASS Receiver
4.5/5
92%
Accuracy
90%
Quality of material
90%
Durability
80%
Battery life
80%
User interface
74%
Touch Screen

Magellan EXplorist 510

Magellan eXplorist 510

  • Award: Best Kayak GPS For Anglers
  • Rating: Five out of five stars
  • Cost: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

You should budget a bit for the Magellan Marine Bundle because it is an exceptionally high-end product.
The eXplorist 510 is a portable GPS that is waterproof and comes equipped with a touch screen 3 inches in size and two customizable buttons. When you're kayak fishing, your hands may become pretty dirty, so it's beautiful to have a way to interact with the screen that doesn't involve touching it.

It is equipped with a 3.2-megapixel camera, microphone, and speaker, allowing users to create geo-tagged material while moving. In addition, it is packed with a vast collection of topographic maps, including a database of 12,000 lakes in the United States. There are two AA batteries provided. However, it is recommended that you have spares on hand. This gadget will completely deplete batteries in less than 15 hours.

Specifications And Data

  • Handheld design
  • GPS receiver with support for WAAS
  • A grade of IPX7 for water resistance
  • display with sensitivity to touch measuring 3 inches
  • battery life of 15 hours

Pros:

  • High-end construction standards and feature sets
  • Featuring a touchscreen display of 3 inches in size
  • Display with a high resolution that is easy to view
  • It contains two programmable buttons.
  • A video camera, an audio recorder, and a speaker.
  • Topographic maps preloaded for 12,000 of the United States' lakes.

Cons:

  • It is the item with the highest price on the list.
  • Even though it is advertised as having a battery life of 15 hours, it consumes batteries quickly.
  • When seen in direct sunlight, the screen becomes less visible.

One of the most well-known brands in the GPS market is Magellan. Even though it is on the pricey end of the spectrum, the eXplorist 510 is one of the most effective kayak GPS devices for fishermen.

The Waterproof Marine Garmin GPSMAP 78sc From Garmin

GPS from Garmin, the GPSMAP 78s

  • Award: Best Sea And Ocean Kayak GP
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars is our rating.
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars for the price

This time, Garmin comes up to the plate with the GPSMAP 78sc, a portable GPS device that is built exclusively for use in watersports:

Not only does it have a water resistance grade of IPX7, but it also floats when it gets wet!

Although it is not compatible with GLONASS, it uses WAAS-enabled GPS technology that has HotFix prediction for navigation that is both speedy and accurate. Coastal charts and worldwide base maps for BlueChart g2 are already pre-installed on the device; however, users can add additional maps onto a micro SD card.

Although I would have preferred a larger display, the 2.6-inch screen does an excellent job of displaying depth contours, ports, marinas, and shorelines. Additionally, the 78sc boasts a battery life that is more than excellent at 20 hours.

Specifications And Data

  • Handheld design
  • GPS receiver with support for WAAS
  • A grade of IPX7 for water resistance
  • The display size of 2.6 inches and color
  • battery life of twenty hours

Pros:

  • Marine environment compatible; has an IPX7 grade for water resistance; and a floating design.
  • GPS receiver that supports WAAS and is equipped with HotFix technology
  • Preloaded with coastline charts and base maps for the whole planet, with the ability to save more maps
  • battery life of twenty hours

Cons:

  • The 2.6-inch screen is not touch-sensitive and is unusually tiny for a modern device.
  • It does not have GLONASS capability.
  • The user interface has a little old feel and is challenging to navigate.

The floatable, waterproof, and, most importantly, very accurate handheld GPS from Garmin, the GPSMAP 78sc, is just what you require if most of your kayaking is done on the sea or ocean.

Garmin GPSMAP 78sc Waterproof Marine GPS and Chartplotter
4.3/5
84%
Battery life
82%
Accuracy
76%
Tech Support
72%
User interface
66%
Easy to use

Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS For Kayaks And Other Watercraft

Garmin eTrex 10 Outdoor Handheld GPS Unit, Black/Yellow

  • Award: Best Budget Kayak GPS
  • Result: Four out of Five Stars
  • Cost: Five out of Five Stars

The eTrex ten from Garmin is one of the most excellent kayak GPS devices on the market, if not the best overall kayak GPS device. It's out in the open now.

The eTrex 10, although being a simple and inexpensive GPS gadget, has outstanding accuracy. At this price range, you won't find a lot of GPS receivers that support WAAS and GLONASS and also use the HotFix technology. However, the default setting includes a base map of the whole planet. For a kayak GPS that is priced so affordably, it has some pretty outstanding features, like a water resistance grade of IPX7 and a battery life of 25 hours.
The display's size of 2.2 inches is the sole indicator that its cost is kind to one's wallet. Not only does it have a poor resolution, but it is also black and white.

Specifications And Data

  • Handheld design
  • GPS receiver that is compatible with GLONASS and also has WAAS capability
  • A grade of IPX7 for water resistance
  • Compass with three axes of rotation and barometric altimeter are built right in.
  • The display size of 2.2 inches, and black and white
  • battery life of 25 hours

Pros:

  • Affordable while being loaded with functionalities
  • Construcción robusta y impermeable al agua
  • equipped to use WAAS and also compatible with GLONASS
  • High-capacity, user-rechargeable battery with outstanding performance and long life of 25 hours
  • Simple in operation and readable even under bright sunlight

Cons:

  • It is equipped with a monochrome display that is 2.2 inches in size and has a poor resolution.
  • Because of its restricted storage space, it is not feasible to download any extra maps to use with it.

Don't be fooled by the simplicity of the Garmin eTrex ten or by its affordable pricing. It is equally accurate as of the others, in addition to being watertight and straightforward.

Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator
4.3/5
92%
Durability
88%
Battery life
76%
Accuracy
72%
Easy to use
72%
User interface
70%
Touch Screen

Garmin eTrex 30x Kayak GPS

Garmin eTrex 30x

  • Award: Best Mid-Range Kayak GPS
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars is our rating.
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars for the price

The eTrex ten and the eTrex 30x from Garmin are pretty simple, but the eTrex 30x is especially wallet-friendly. Nevertheless, it is notably quicker and more precise and comes with an improved screen.

Even though it has a color display that can be viewed in bright sunlight, the screen size is still only 2.2 inches.

The eTrex 30x utilizes GPS in conjunction with the GLONASS system, is WAAS-enabled to achieve high sensitivity, and uses the HotFix satellite prediction algorithm to get quicker readings.

A basic map of the whole globe is already loaded even though you won't receive physical nautical charts, the fact that the internal memory is extensible more than makes up for it.

In addition, a single charge from a Li-ion battery may last up to 25 hours.

Specifications And Data

  • Handheld design
  • GPS receiver that is compatible with GLONASS and also has WAAS capability
  • A grade of IPX7 for water resistance
  • 2.2-inch 65K display color screen
  • battery life of 25 hours

Pros:

  • High sensitivity and accurate tracking are guaranteed thanks to its compatibility with GPS, GLONASS, WAAS, and HotFix.
  • Integrated barometric altimeter and compass with compensation for tilt on all three axes
  • The enormous capacity battery will endure for more than 24 hours.
  • Memory that is expandable internally through a port for micro SD cards

Cons:

  • The preloaded map of the world's base is simple in appearance and devoid of any information.
  • A user interface that is not intuitive
  • The screen, although legible, is nonetheless relatively modest in size.

The eTrex 30x is an option if you are unwilling to use a screen with only one color. It is superior to the model that came before it from Garmin in more ways than one.

Garmin eTrex 30x, Handheld GPS Navigator with 3-axis Compass
4.3/5
90%
Durability
90%
Battery life
84%
Accuracy
76%
Easy to use
76%
User interface
70%
Touch Screen

GPS Unit For Kayaks, Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof

Garmin 010-00777-00 Foretrex 401 GPS Watch

  • Award: Best Wearable Kayak GPS
  • Result: Four out of Five Stars
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars for the price

None of my previous recommendations for the best kayak GPS could be described as "bulky." However, unless you have used a gadget worn like a wristwatch, such as the Garmin Foretrex 401, you won't understand the meaning of the word "portable."

The fact that it has an IPX7 classification shows that it is waterproof, an essential quality for kayaks. The gadget is powered by two AAA batteries and has a potential run time of up to 17 hours when using the GPS function.

The Foretrex 401 comes preloaded with a basic map. However, there is no ability to save different mapping on this model. Another potential drawback is the screen, which is 1.6 inches and is only available in black and white. The mesh seems rather basic.

Nevertheless, in terms of a wearable kayak GPS gadget, it is still capable of displaying crucial information concerning your position.

Specifications And Data

  • Design for a "Watch" that is wearable
  • GPS receiver
  • A grade of IPX7 for water resistance
  • A monochrome monitor measuring 1.6 inches in size
  • Battery life of 17 hours

Pros:

  • Design that is both lightweight and wearable.
  • Having a grade of IPX7 for resistance to water
  • Resistance, navigational information, and barometric readings.
  • When it is set to GPS mode, it has a battery life of 17 hours.

Cons:

  • The display is just 1.6 inches, which is about average for a gadget designed to be worn like a watch.
  • The screen is in black and white, a basic format.
  • Only a basic map is included, and there is no opportunity to add a mapping.

Garmin's Foretrex 401 GPS, which is shaped like a wristwatch and comes in a compact size, is an excellent choice if you want to travel light and kayak with only the essential gear.

Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS
4.7/5
92%
Accuracy
92%
Tech Support
90%
Durability
90%
Quality of material
88%
User interface
86%
Battery life

Simrad Cruise-5 Chart Plotter

Simrad Cruise 5-5

  • The Best Console-Mounted Kayak GPS Receives an Award
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars is our rating.
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars for the price

On my list, the only model that can be mounted on a console is the Simrad Cruise 5. It can also function as a chart plotter and a sonar and serve as a GPS navigation device with an integrated CHIRP sonar transducer to track depth.

Although it comes preloaded with a basic map of the entire planet and coastline charts for the United States, I was able to identify a few errors that likely result from a lack of updates. You want to get some more mapping cards if you find that you require more information. The fact that it is designed to be attached to the console of a kayak makes it considerably more significant than the alternatives I had considered. An obvious step forward is the massive display, which measures 5 inches and is equipped with a rotary dial and button controls.

Specifications And Data

  • Console-mounting design
  • combined GPS and CHIRP sonar receiver
  • A grade of IPX7 for water resistance
  • the screen size of 5 inches
  • Sources of electricity from the outside

Pros:

  • A CHIRP sonar transducer-equipped GPS in the form of a console
  • Robust construction that is resistant to water
  • Preloaded with a base map of the entire world and coastline charts of the United States
  • A screen measuring 5 inches in diameter that contains both buttons and dials for control

Cons:

  • The purchase of additional mapping cards is required for more detailed information.
  • It is more cumbersome and cumbersome than the choices that came before it.
  • A battery must be purchased separately.
  • Not exactly a choice for those on a tight budget
    The Simrad Cruise is the most acceptable option for you to go with if you are interested in combining the navigational advantages of a GPS device with those of a CHIRP sonar transducer.

Conclusions And Recommendations Regarding The Prime Kayak GPS

Kayaks, without a doubt, extend a warm welcome to explorers, as I mentioned at the outset. No matter how much experience a paddler has or how well they think they know the waterways, the following is always true:

The finest kayak GPS is an investment worth making for your safety.

Your fundamental requirements for navigation can be satisfied by any of the GPS systems you viewed today. Therefore, select one according to the essential criteria, whether cost, screen size, battery life, or advanced mapping functions.

I believe that the Garmin GPSMAP 64st is the best option for you to take.

It is compatible with both GPS and GLONASS. It offers a wide variety of useful navigation functions, a dual battery system, and expandable storage so that you may download any additional maps you require. Plus, it's waterproof.