Since inception, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) revolutionized worldwide navigations. We no longer belong to the world of Columbus when manual compass and stars in the night sky gave directions to the sailors. Not until 1980s, civilians started enjoying the benefits of GPS and now there are numerous smaller devices with unprecedented accuracy are providing this navigation service for travelers around the world.
Outdoor adventure enthusiasts like me can't do without a GPS device when kayaking in distant water bodies. The models I use makes it seamless to obtain satellite images, weather report, and location coordinates. Sometimes poor visibility, turbulence, choppy seas, or fog might increase your risk of getting lost while having fun. These nightmares are not limited to kayak paddlers that traverse multiple lake systems or rustic waters. So, you got to have an effective GPS device when out into the wild waters.
In this article, I'll be reviewing the best kayak GPS systems on the market. The KayakFisherly team dug deep into this field with a view to providing you a comprehensive review on top models. Hopefully, by the end of the review you'll be able to make the right choice.
How Did We Pick These Products?
We maintained a strict research protocol for getting a reliable result. Our product picking process involved extensive online research, comparisons, and analysis of data that we collect from online research and hands-on field-tests. Initially, we ran a 30-hour vehement online research in a bid to find out 25 most reviewed products with high ratings.
Next, our team and a group of community-based volunteers participated in a week-long field-testing session. We handpicked and tested each of the listed products in our lab. We closely monitored how these devices were designed and what features they had. We took the devices out in different locations to test their accuracy. Based on their build quality, weather sealing features, display technology, GPS accuracy, and fishing-friendly features, we championed 10 final candidates.
Later, we consulted with top industry specialists and GPS experts showing them our list and noted their insights. They guided us ranking the top models based on their distinctive features and capacities. That's pretty much the gist of our enterprise. We worked hard on this with a view to helping our audience gain an upper hand when facing so many different options to pick from.
I'll advise both novice and professional users of kayaks to choose a GPS system that's compatible with their needs. Any of our recommended model offers high accuracy and reliability.
Our Top 10 Best GPS for Kayaking
Generally, these features are technical, and you might have to be knowledgeable to make a good choice. It's risky to take an adventure into the sea without having a radio navigation tool. However, models with basic and additional features can guide you safely.
Additionally, the GPS devices for kayakers should be more adept at mapping, have an impressive IP rating, anti-glare screen protector, and the ability to track locations accurately. Our team of navigation system experts has to offer your GPS models that fit your budget.
Why Use a GPS for Kayaking
The kayak GPS is a handheld radio-navigation system that uses the position of satellites and the accuracy of time to locate places, objects, and people for the receiver. While kayaking in the ocean or lake, the receiver is a paddler that uses the coordinates from a water-resistant GPS to track routes and record waypoints. During adventures, you'll need guidance on directions because the route on the water is not detailed like lands.
Generally, a GPS device helps you get signals from the satellites that provide accurate coordinates of locations. You might be thinking of cutting costs and using your mobile phone-assisted GPS. Well, unlike mobile phone maps that need internet connectivity to work, a dedicated GPS device doesn't need network connections. It provides a continuous signal from multiple satellites. These satellites are in outer space and have links with land-based satellites too.
So, you don't have to pay for the service anymore and it's free to use from any part of the world. Apart from your location details, a GPS system can also confirm your kayak's speed, track distance, and how far you have traveled. These pieces of information allow kayak paddlers to manage their journey during adventures. Additionally, the batteries of mobile phones are less efficient than that of a dedicated GPS kit. These are more appealing reasons to buy a dedicated device than use your mobile phones for navigation purposes.
Who Are Kayak GPS For?
Who can benefit from a kayaking GPS? Well, these devices are for land and sea adventurers. Ideally, these navigation tools allow you to travel on the water with confidence. The products with high-end features are user-friendly, weather-proof, reliable, and accurate.
People Who like to Plan a Journey Effectively
Do you enjoy outdoor activities like kayaking and sailing? It doesn't matter whether you love to trek, hike, or ascend mountains. Kayaking involves journey management like other adventures. So, a GPS tracker must be added to your safety gear compartment. As a portable safety equipment, this tool proves to be superbly useful +and has been ranked as one of the must-haves for water adventures. Also, you'll find the features of this crucial piece of kit easy to use.
Travelers: Regardless of your hobby, traveling is an essential aspect of life. It involves direction, planning, and speed to have a rewarding journey. So, travelers on solo trips will find this navigation tool as the best companion. It can provide real-time updates on coordinates, names of places, and information of landmark features.
Hunters: Hunting in the wilderness can be the most tricky concern for hunters. While mapping out areas with specific games, the hunter needs a GPS to guide his quest.
However, at night it could be dangerous to run into a safari of wild elephants. Without using a navigation tool, it is difficult to know the restricted areas of a game reserve.
Competition: If you are buying a GPS device for water sports competitions, then this review should also help. It might be an uphill task to compete in large lakes or in a wide ocean when visibility is poor. So, this navigation tool helps to enjoy your hobby and competitions as smoothly as possible.
Novices: Most experts started as novices. So, it was also difficult for them to track location during adventures. There's no need of being shy because this navigation technology can ease your anxiety while practicing your paddling skills. You'll find many products in this buyers' guide as better options for beginners.
Professionals: Expert paddlers, climbers, hikers, and bikers often look forward to a memorable experience. However, their level of skill might not achieve much without effective tools. A kayak GPS with automatic features can assist professional adventurers in making the right and timely decisions that can increase their popularity.
Kayak GPS: A Comprehensive Buying Guide
I wouldn't advise anyone to use a GPS device for kayaking when it's not waterproof. Apart from route tracking and provision of accurate coordinates, your preferred model should offer more features like data recording and high megapixels. Here are the essential features that kayak users should consider before buying a GPS system.
1. Water Resistance
Saltwater, and moisture from fog can affect the durability of a GPS device. Ideally, the screen of this type of handheld devices is sensitive to touch and water. A water-resistant model is suitable for kayaking. Practically, you know how difficult it is to avoid splashes from water when you paddle, or when it rains. In extreme cases, if you drop the tool and the water is shallow, you can retrieve and reuse it without any problem.
However, it's not the same for devices that are not water-resistant. So, check the IP code system before you buy your model for kayaking. A higher IP rating like 'IPX7' makes any device protected when submerged in water.
2. Display Screen Size
The proper way to measure screen size is across the screen diagonally. Usually, a portable GPS tracker will fit into a pouch or the kayak's cockpit.
Also, many lightweight watch models with high-end features are worn like wristwatches like the Garmin Fenix 5 model. You might be lucky to get a kayak that has space to mount the GPS. In this case, the screen size should be large enough for the paddler to view any information.
Usually, GPS devices come with pre-installed maps of all regions. However, you can download maps with more features like fishing contours, current arrows, tidal graphs, and marine cartography. It only requires the owner to sign-up or pay online subscriptions for advanced mapping software.
Also, you need to download maps with coastguard locations for security. The default map might include only basic features, but high-end models process more data, show routes. A good GPS device has ports for USB or Bluetooth connections. Additionally, they can display maps with shaded relief, mountains, canyons, valleys, and other landmark features.
There's every reason to choose a device that's compatible with leading satellite navigation systems. The Russian GLONASS uses 24 satellites, but the U.S. model runs on 31 satellites for GPS. However, high-end models are compatible with both the U.S. GPS and Russian GLONASS satellites. This high level of compatibility ensures more accurate data from devices that can use both systems.
Most buyers of kayak accessories are attracted to cost-effective solutions and durable products. Usually, GPS products with rock-hard glass touch screens have high resistance to damages. A durable model shouldn't be affected by moisture from saltwater, whitewater rivers, and choppy seas. The device could also come with anti-slip covers that ensure a firm grip. Also, their rubberized guards can minimize impacts being dropped accidentally on hard surfaces.
6. Battery Life
A GPS device with a long-lasting battery ensures peace of mind even when you're lost at sea. The battery life is a valuable feature of handheld device when it stays for a significant length of time. Most buyers prefer lithium-ion batteries because they are durable but they don't come cheap. However, buyers with low budget can opt for AA batteries. An advantage of GPS tools with long battery life is that with a little charge, they can hold enough juice to last long working hours. Get a model with a high-quality battery instead of buying one that requires spare batteries.
There might be slight margins of error with a GPS tracker because of signal transmission. However, the Wide Area Augmentation System (WASS) technology is a feature on GPS devices for rounding-off (correcting) units readings and data. Similar to the US WASS system, the Russian GLONASS provide also corrects imperfect measurements. Usually, devices with both support systems will provide higher degrees of data accuracy that might save lives at sea.
8. The Receiver
Think about where you'll be navigation before choosing a receiver. Water paths with thick vegetation and tall foliage might impact on the connectivity of the GPS device. Radio navigation systems are two-way communication gadgets. The receiver gets data from land and space satellites, processes, and uses the information to make decisions. However, the device can receive network and data with ease when you mount it on the kayak. Also, the receiver can sync incoming data with the built-in micro SD memory card.
9. Navigation Speed & Accuracy
The GLONASS and GPS satellites support the navigation speed of high-sensitive GPS receivers. With 31 and 24 satellites for the U.S and Russia's navigation systems, a device that supports both features will have more navigation speed and accuracy.
10. Additional Features
You might need additional features after buying a kayak GPS device. Before paddling, get a plastic mount that can hold the system firmly. Also, you'll need a camera for geotagging locations with images, and paperless geocaching software that supports automatic downloads.
Regular GPS devices cost less than $100, but those with high-end features cost between $200 to $500. The price depends on their features and quality. However, kayak navigation tools come in different designs, sizes, and shapes. Also, their processing speed and compatibility features can affect their prices too.
Can A Mobile Phone Be Used Instead of GPS?
Many people think mobile phones are better than navigation devices for GPS functions. They might be right because smartphones support a variety of maps and navigational features. However, you'll be clever by half when you depend on the assisted GPS on mobile phones. The GPS device receives signals from land and space satellites provided the battery's juice isn't out.
Unlike mobile phones, GPS cellular and Wi-Fi networks can assist your quest with navigation features. Also, mobile phones don't have a large internal memory to store maps exclusively. Modern Android and iOS device might have large memory spaces, but heavy map applications and extra feature might cause these devices to malfunction.
So, you better get a WAAS-enabled GPS receiver that shows coordinates and works with satellites like the HotFix, and GLONASS satellites. Built-in and downloadable maps in the mobile phone can give details on routes between points A and B. However, mapping software on GPS devices might have a range of features like sonar scanners, transducers, and more.
Are Kayak GPS Fish Finders?
How do you know when a fish is swimming near your inflatable boat? GPS devices are different from fish finders. Interestingly, millions of people make the mistake of thinking that both devices have the same technology. Instead, they are for different purposes. A GPS for the wilderness or fishing might not have the sonar technology to find fishes in underwater environments.
However, GPS device use satellites signal to help users navigate, and get information on their environment. Usually, a fish finder detects sea creatures by analyzing data from pulses and displaying the data on the screen. It's important for kayak fishermen to use GPS tools with fish finding devices.
You need a GPS device with high-end features to make the most of your kayaking expeditions. Maps guide you from getting lost and help retrace your route in unknown territories. So, the quality of your decision can make or mar your purpose. Besides, the compatibility of GPS devices with satellites and advanced mapping software is a basic requirement. The Wide Area Augmentation System (WASS) technology can enhance the sensitivity of any GPS device that is compatible with GLONASS satellites. Also, the degree of water-resistance is a crucial factor for kayakers that need durable GPS or fish finder devices.
Here the Kayak Fisherly team found the best kayak GPS device for you after a thorough testing process. The Garmin GPSMAP 78SC Handheld model is sleek with soft pads. Also, this model from Garmin is WASS-enabled and waterproof, making it an ideal product for buyers that need a floating device with built-in coastal charts and water maps. The Humminbird Helix 5 GPS Fish Finder is an ideal product for kayak fishermen. This fish finder has a 2D sonar technology that is supported by the Compressed High-Intensity Radar Pulse (CHIRP). You can optimize your fishing activities with the Helix 5 Fish Finder's Basemap chart.
You can also check other kayak accessories that we tested and reviewed right here on Kayak Fisherly.
a) Kayak Roof Racks
b) Kayak Coolers
c) Fishing Hats
d) Gifts for Fishermen