Kayak Accessories

Best Kayak GPS: Hidden Gems Reviewed! (Aug 2021)

Since its 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 the 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 of top models. Hopefully, by the end of the review, you’ll be able to make the right choice.

Top Kayak Gps : Comparison Chart

Pick NameThumbnailProduct NamePrice
Top ChoiceGarmin GPSMAPGarmin GPSMAPCheck Price
Also GreatGarmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof GPSGarmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof GPSCheck Price
Bang for the BuckGarmin eTrex10 GPSGarmin eTrex10 GPSCheck Price
Top GPS FishfinderGarmin Striker 4 with TransducerGarmin Striker 4 with TransducerCheck Price
5thHumminbird 410210-1 Helix 5 Chirp GPS G2 Fish FinderHumminbird 410210-1 Helix 5 Chirp GPS G2 Fish FinderCheck Price
6thBad Elf 2200 GPS ProBad Elf 2200 GPS ProCheck Price
7thGarmin eTrex 30x 010-01508-10 Handheld NavigatorGarmin eTrex 30x 010-01508-10 Handheld NavigatorCheck Price
8thGarmin eTrex 20xGarmin eTrex 20xCheck Price
9thGarmin GPSMAP 78sc Handheld GPSGarmin GPSMAP 78sc Handheld GPSCheck Price
10thGarmin Montana 680tGarmin Montana 680tCheck Price

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 models offer 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.



Explore the waterways with the GPSMAP 64ST by Garmin, and paddle your kayak safely. This high-performance handheld is rugged, sleek, and sensitive. Also, the Garmin GPSMAP 64ST device might be small, and lightweight but its 2.6″ sunlight-readable display is not a touch screen. Let’s share other exciting features that come with this product.

Dual Battery System: This handheld device uses two types of batteries. It gives the option of using a rechargeable NiMH battery or two units of traditional AA batteries.

TOPO U.S. 100K: This system comes with preloaded TOPO U.S. 100K maps and a worldwide Basemap, a great alternative to World Imagery maps. Also, you can get information on points of interest if you subscribe to the BirdsEye Satellite Imagery feature. This feature allows the user to enjoy photo-realistic views.

Downloadable Maps: The 64ST model is compatible with Garmin Custom Maps. You can convert a soft copy map into paper and electronic versions. This feature allows the download of maps, sharing of data with computers, the 64s, and 64ST models wirelessly.

Navigation Support: Although it doesn’t have the Galileo satellite support as the model GPSMAP 64SX, it comes with high-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS receiver systems which are enough to do the job with high accuracy. Also, users will enjoy superior network reception with its quad helix antenna. While kayaking, the antenna helps you locate the position quickly.


  • Display: 2.6”
  • LCD Size : 1.43” x 2.15”
  • Resolutions: 160 x 240 pixels
  • Memory Space: Expandable 8GB
  • Battery Life : 16 h
  • Weight: 9.3 oz
  • Warranty: 1 Year


  • Reliable performance every time
  • User-friendly
  • Full-of advanced features
  • Compatible with iPhones


  • No touchscreen display

Our Verdict

We’ve good reasons to choose The GPSMAP 64ST as the best kayak GPS on the list. It has high-end features that support the sharing of your geocaches, waypoints, and routes data. It can be connected with other compatible devices wirelessly. This product is ideal for kayakers with expert and intermediate skills that might need GPS devices with large memory space. So, you can install large map formats with 8GB of onboard memory.

Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof GPS (Also Great)

Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof GPS

The Foretrex 401 wrist-mounted GPS by Garmin allows much ease of use during outdoor activities. This navigation device helps you maintain balance while paddling or hiking. It’s a waterproof, lightweight device with USB ports and replaceable AAA batteries. Let’s discuss other features that made our experts include it in our top ten picks.

HotFix satellite: This GPS receiver uses the HotFix technology that predicts satellite locations based on the device’s accumulation of data. Owners of the highly-sensitive Garmin Foretrex 401 will enjoy the system’s speed of loading time. Also, the technology enhances network reception when you are kayaking in the areas with thick vegetations and deep canyons

TracBack feature: You don’t need to seek coordinates to help you navigate your way back to the launch point with this device. Instead, you can retrace your path by looking at the dotted trail on the LCD easily.

Display Screen: The size of its LCD is 1.42 x 0.91 inches, and the display has a resolution of 100 x 64 pixels. Also, you’ll find features like the trip computer, barometric altimeter, electronic compass, sunrise, and sunset times.

Track Your Data: Both the wireless technology and USB port allows seamless connection with a computer where you can store waypoints, routes, track data, and other useful information. Also, the Foretrex 401 device has built-in cadence sensors and allows users to monitor their heart rate.


  • Display: 1.42” x 0.91”
  • Resolution: 100 x 64 pixels
  • Memory Space: Built-in 4.2 MB, Expandable 128 MB
  • Weight: 3.04 oz
  • Battery life: 17 h
  • Warranty: 1 Year


  • Top-notch HotFix technology
  • Dual position readout in multiple formats
  • Foretrex’s TracBack feature
  • Audible tones
  • Wrist-mounted
  • Replaceable Battery


  • No mounting option for kayaks
  • Less memory power

Our Verdict

Do you need a GPS device that’s easy to carry? This lightweight Foretrex 401 device is ideal for kayakers, skiers, hikers, and campers. It’s a highly-sensitive waterproof model that’s portable. The wrist-mounted, Garmin Foretrex 401 device allows you to share routes, and waypoints with a similar model wirelessly.

Garmin eTrex10 GPS

Garmin eTrex10 GPS

Take charge of your next kayak adventure with the Garmin eTrex10 GPS. This Handheld navigation tool comes with a BaseCamp map and satellite-enabled software that allows you to view and organize maps. Apart from enjoying high-quality network signals along waterways with heavy vegetative cover and deep canyons, there are other amazing features of this device.

The Ease of Use: The eTrex10 comes with an impressive user interface because of its high-end navigation and tracking features. It can be mounted and it supports paperless geocaching.  Also, the device’s core functionality allows for much ease of use.

Navigation Technology: This model by Garmin processes data with speed, offers reliable signals, and supports fast positioning. It comes with the WAAS-enabled GPS receiver, HotFix satellite prediction, and GLONASS technology.

The Sturdy Construction: The strength of any material determines its durability. Usually, a rugged handheld navigator is waterproof and weather-resistant. While kayaking, water splashes from paddles, rain, and tides are inevitable. So, this waterproof eTrex10 comes with the IPX7 rating that improves protection against moisture.

Enhanced Software: The BaseCamp is free trip-planning software that displays 3-D and 2-D topographic map data. The user can also view contour lines, altitude and elevation profiles. While kayaking the software also supports tracking of logging (10,000 points) and storage of waypoints (200) along with a track.


  • Display: 1.4” x 1.7”
  • Resolution: 128 x 160 pixels
  • Weight: 5 oz
  • Battery life: 25 h
  • Warranty: 1 Year


  • Low priced
  • Great for entry-level users
  • Easy to use
  • Tough build


  • Monochrome screen
  • No lanyard/clip included

Our Verdict

The Garmin eTrex10 is a lightweight handheld device that comes with free trip-planning software, supports GLONASS and GPS satellite data. However, while kayaking the built-in U.S. and Russian satellite technologies support fast positioning and a reliable network signal. It’s ideal for buyers that need a waterproof GPS kayak navigation for any outdoor event.

Garmin Striker 4 with Transducer

Garmin Striker 4 with Transducer

Don’t go fishing without the Garmin STRIKER 4 GPS fishfinder combo. This portable device comes with an easy-to-use zoom feature that allows the user to track the movement of fishes easily. Also, beneath its keypad is a (tilt/swivel) suction cup transducer mount for kayaks. Let’s discuss why our navigation experts rate this Garmin product highly.

CLEARVÜ Scanning Sonar: While you paddle in fresh and saltwater, fishes move underneath your inflatable boat. However, tracking is easy with the CLEARVÜ Scanning Sonar feature. You can get clear graphic details of deepwater structures and fish movements by using the technology that supports this high-frequency sonar scanner. Also, its sonar history allows users to return to hot spots, rewind images, and access the speed of your kayak.

CHIRP Sonar: Apart from the STRIKER 4’s convenient keypad operation, another great feature is the CHIRP sonar.  This CHIRP operates it’s sonar transducer at 77/200 kHz, to transmit frequencies and power at 1,600 W peak-to-peak. These attributes ensure the handheld model’s wider range of information and the production of crisper fish arches. The scanner can locate fishes at a maximum depth-1,600 feet  (freshwater), and 750 feet of saltwater.

Built-in-Flasher: The 3.5-inch color fishfinder has a built-in flasher and speedometer that tracks, and displays speed data of the kayak. This feature is ideal for vertical jigging, ice fishing, and displays the sonar data in a clear flasher format.

Smooth Scaling Graphics: This highly-sensitive STRIKER 4 device offers smooth scaling graphics for every view along with your waypoints and routes. With this feature, you can also enjoy uninterrupted imagery, and switch between depth-range scales.


  • Display: 3.5-inch
  • Color Display: Yes
  • Resolution: 480 x 320 pixels
  • Weight: 8.1 ounce
  • GPS: Built-in


  • Boat’s speed shown on the screen
  • Built-in waypoint map to view & mark locations
  • Rechargeable Li-ion battery


  • Display not sunlight protected

Our Verdict

You can view uninterrupted images of fishes at a depth of 750 feet (salt water), and 1,600 feet (freshwater) easily. Also, it’s seamless to track your boat’s speed with the Garmin STRIKER 4 fishfinder’s built-in flasher. The speed data assists fishermen when they come around their favorite fishing spots. This Garmin GPS model is the ideal product for buyers that need improved transducers that receive signals from shallow and deeper depths of the ocean.

Humminbird 410210-1 Helix 5 Chirp GPS G2 Fish Finder

Humminbird 410210-1 Helix 5 Chirp GPS G2 Fish Finder

The Humminbird Helix 5 GPS Fish Finder comes with a 2D sonar scanner that provides a clear view of your environment and prey. This device can track and save waypoints information while kayaking to hunt fishes in icy freshwater lakes or coastal waters. Here are the unique features that make this product a favorite of our top picks.

Digital CHIRP: The Helix 5 GPS Fish Finder comes with the CHIRP (Compressed High-Intensity Radar Pulse) technology. Unlike the 2D sonar technology, you can view underwater structure, and fishes with the Humminbird CHIRP digital sonar. It’s a feature that works by scanning with a range of frequencies to reveal objects and sea creatures at the lake’s bottom.

DualBeam Plus Sonar System: Precise and accurate image data can be obtained with wide and narrow beams. The DualBeam Plus sonar system shoots high-frequency signals to the bottom of the sea, and reveal its features. Also, the crystal clear images can reveal fish and objects under your kayak.

SwitchFire Technology: The SwitchFire works by recalling the history of viewed or stored images. When the Switch Fire is activated, you can choose how the thermoclines, images, and details appear.  Also, the Switch Fire controls how your returns appear and can switch between the Max and Clear display modes.

Built-In Basemap and Internal GPS Chart: The Humminbird Helix 5 comes with the standard Basemap software that gives crystal clear images of underwater terrains. While kayaking, the Basemap can also reveal points of interest, identify hazards and buoys. The internal GPS Chart offers precise plotting and has a built-in Anima cartography. Also, it comes with a memory card slot where you can save waypoints.


  • Display: 5 inches
  • Color Display: Yes
  • Resolution: 800 x 480 pixels
  • Weight: 10.1 ounce
  • GPS: Built-in


  • Autochart Live to create real-time maps of fishing spots
  • Bigger display
  • 2 beams (narrow and wide) of high-frequency sound waves for precise tracking
  • Easy to operate


  • Few reviewers complained about faulty products

Our Verdict

The HELIX 5 CHIRP G2 is ideal for buyers that need all-inclusive GPS and fish-finding tools. This original Hummingbird model comes with a transducer, power cable, mounting bracket, and mounting hardware. You’ll enjoy its high tracking speed, and clearer digital readouts.

Bad Elf 2200 GPS Pro

Bad Elf 2200 GPS Pro

The GPS Pro by Bad Elf is a lightweight device of about 3.2 ounces. It has a large screen that allows you to read navigation and location details at a glance. Also, this device allows a Bluetooth connection with a maximum of five iOS devices simultaneously. So, the Bad Elf 2200 Pro can serve while you embark on group kayaking. Here are other amazing features you’ll find with this product.

Handy and Portable: With a dimension of 3 x 2.5 x 0.7 inches, this lightweight handheld fits snugly in your palm and it’s portable. This 3.2 ounces GPS tool is rugged and has a water-resistant enclosure for outdoor use. Also, this device works with all location-based navigation apps.

GPS Datalogger: The GPS datalogger stores over 100 hours of tracked data. You can record and share your trip log by downloading the Bad Elf Utility App. After downloading from the App Store, you can transfer your trip log from this device to tablets, computers, and phones through Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connections. Additionally, the datalog in KML or GPX formats can be shared through email.

Water Resistance: While kayaking it’s inevitable to avoid splashes of water from turbulence and paddles. The Bad Elf 2200 GPS Pro has an impressive IPX4 rating that offers protection from moisture. Its water-resistant enclosure increases the durability of this device.

Large Display: It has a large LCD screen with backlight. Also, the backlit LCD screen shows the speed of your kayak, location coordinates, and altitude. At night, it shines brighter and allows you to access your position data easily.


  • Display: LCD
  • Display resolution: 128 x 96 pixels
  • Weight: 3.2 oz
  • Battery Life: 35 h
  • Warranty: Varies from Seller to Seller


  • Works fine at all altitudes
  • Long-lasting battery
  • Accurate GPS info
  •  Great support from the manufacturer


  • No good offline map application

Our Verdict

The Bad Elf GPS Pro is ideal for kayakers, bikers, hikers, flyers, and skiers that need portable, and handy navigation devices. It has a built-in data-logging system that allows you to record over 100 hours of trip data, and transfer the same to your iPod, iPhones, and iPads. This device is rugged, and it’s fitted with a water-resistant material to serve outdoor use.

Garmin eTrex 30x 010-01508-10 Handheld Navigator

Garmin eTrex 30x 010-01508-10 Handheld Navigator

Take control of your next kayak adventure with the Garmin eTrex 30x. It comes with a colored sunlight-readable display and an impressive image resolution of 240 x 320 pixels. The 2.2-inch wide transflective screen displays a compass dial, boat speed, and other details. Let’s highlight the other basic features of this product. It’s an upgrade from Garmin eTrex 30.

Resolution and Memory: The eTrex 30x has an impressive resolution of 240 x 320 pixels. At night, the image resolution is brighter and offers improved readability. Also, this handheld model has a large internal memory space of 3.7GB that allows you to load a variety of maps.

High-Quality Coverage: Network coverage on this device is impressive. It’s supported by both the WAAS-enabled GPS receiver and HotFix quick-loading satellite. However, the built-in GPS receiver enables this tool to track your position quickly.

Versatility: This navigation tool has much ease-of-use, and it’s versatile. You’ll find a pre-installed BaseCamp software with shaded relief for organizing maps in 2-D or 3-D formats. It’s a versatile tool that helps you share waypoints and routes data with compatible devices. Apart from being for kayaks only, it is widely used for receiving positional data for cars, aircraft, and hot air balloons.

Built-in-Sensors: The Garmin eTrex 30x is legendary for having the 3-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass. Apart from the compass, there are built-in sensors and a barometric altimeter that gives altitude data.


  • Display: 2.2” (Transflective)
  • Image Resolution: 240 x 320 pixels
  • Weight: 5 oz
  • Internal memory: 3.7 GB
  • Warranty: 1 Year


  • Waterproof, humidity-proof & shock-resistant
  • Quite accurate data
  • Easy to use
  • Compact and convenient to carry


  • No ‘key lock’ function

Our Verdict

This affordable model is for buyers who need navigation tools with high-detail maps, large internal memory (3.7 GB), and long battery life. You can download maps like the City Navigator NT, HuntView, and BlueChart g2 in the device.

Garmin eTrex 20x

Garmin eTrex 20x

The Garmin eTrex 20x is an improved version of the eTrex 20 GPS device. This model of eTrex series also has receivers that can track both GLONASS and GPS satellites for users. Apart from being inexpensive, this product is durable and comes with much ease-of-use. Here are the unique features that make the Garmin eTrex 20x a must-have for kayakers.

Connectivity Support: GPS devices with WAAS-enabled receiver and GLONASS support systems are more efficient with connectivity. However, the eTrex 20x has a built-in HotFix satellite prediction tool that works accurately. While kayaking in the heavy vegetative covers and deep canyons the eTrex 20x ensures high-quality signal reception. So, this is a model with high-end navigation support features.

Access to More Maps: You can load more maps applications like the BirdsEye Satellite Imagery, HuntView, City Navigator NT, and TOPO 24K. This device has a microSD card slot that allows for internal memory expansion. However, a variety of maps can fit into its 3.7 GB of internal memory.

Upgraded Display: You can enjoy crystal clear images as the resolution specs read 240 x 320 pixels. It’s 2.2-inch transflective, grade-65K color screen is sunlight-readable.

BaseCamp Software: Garmin included the BaseCamp software in this GPS model for users to analyze topographic map data in 2-D or 3-D formats. Also, this free trip-planning software allows you to organize your routes (200), tracks, and waypoints.


  • Display: 2.2” (Color)
  • Image Resolution: 240 x 320 pixels
  • Internal memory: 3.7 GB
  • Weight: 7.2 oz
  • Warranty: Varies from Seller to Seller


  • A lot of functions
  • Good price
  • Easy to use
  • Exceptional battery life


  • Not so accurate results every time

Our Verdict

This model is the successor of eTrex 20 which is a widely used model. Synchronizing the Garmin eTrex 20x with compatible devices is a great feature of this product. With the USB port, you can save favorite routes, waypoints, contour lines, and elevation profiles. Also, the BaseCamp displays topographic map data in multi-dimensional (2-D or 3-D ) graphic formats.

Garmin GPSMAP 78sc Handheld GPS

Garmin GPSMAP 78sc Handheld GPS

This marine-friendly GPS series from Garmin is one of the best handheld waterproof models on our list. The Garmin GPSMAP 78SC is ergonomically designed with soft-touch buttons above its screen. Generally, the GPSMAP 78 series are sleek, and they come with high-end features. Let’s discuss other interesting features that make this product a must-have.

Water-proof Construction: This marine-friendly handheld device is sensitive and has been made with waterproof materials (IPX rating 7) to increase its durability. There are no worries while kayaking in the rain. Also, the device’s impact-resistant screen can hold up against moisture, or particles of dust.

Built-in Sensors: In this particular series, there are built-in sensors that function differently. The 3-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass gives accurate coordinates, while it’s easy to read altitude and weather data with the barometric altimeter.

Sync and Share: You can share information with your colleagues or team after saving data from your waypoints, tracks, and favorite routes. Also, the device supports paperless geocaches because you can connect it with other compatible devices wirelessly.

Versatility: You can use the Garmin 78SC Handheld model for a variety of purposes. It comes with a pre-installed Chartplotter with BlueChart g2 U.S./Bahamas coastal charts. These charts allow users to view locations of harbors, depth contours, shorelines, marinas, and navaids along the coastal waters. Additionally, it is an ideal product for watersports because it has been waterproof to IPX7 standards


  • Display: 2.6” (TFT)
  • Image Resolution: 160 x 240 pixels
  • Internal memory: 1.7 GB
  • Weight: 7.7 ounce
  • Warranty: 1 Year


  • Sleek design and must-have GPS features
  • You can save waypoints, geocaches, tracks, and your favorite routes in the 1.7 GB of internal memory
  • This device supports BirdsEye Satellite Imagery and paperless geocaching


  • The battery compartment not waterproof

Our Verdict

As one of the finest models on the market, this handheld device comes with BlueChart g2 U.S./Bahamas coastal charts. As you enjoy your kayak water sports activity, this navigation system shows you many coastal features. It’s a high-sensitivity GPS receiver for buyers that need sleek and efficient navigation tools.

Garmin Montana 680t

Garmin Montana 680t

The Montana 680t GPS device by Garmin has a 4-inch, sunlight-readable touchscreen. Its built-in 8-megapixel autofocus camera offers high-resolution images, and this device is water-resistant. This sleek device sports other exciting features apart from its dual-orientation touchscreen.

Preloaded Geocaches: The Montana 680t has access to 250,000 preloaded worldwide geocaches that can be downloaded from geocaching.com.

So, instead of imputing coordinates and paper print outs manually, you can use paperless geocaching GPX files. Also, by using the track manager feature, it’s easy to organize and navigate your routes, waypoints, and tracklogs.

Support Software: There could be poor reception of network when you paddle your kayak along heavy vegetations and deep canyons. However, this device has a WAAS-enabled GPS receiver and GLONASS support. Also, it uses the Hotfix satellite system to predict locations accurately.

High Picture Quality: The built-in digital camera allows users to capture underwater images and other waterway features. The 8-megapixel digital camera produces a better resolution and geotags with coordinates.

BaseCamp Software: While planning your next trip, use the free BaseCamp Software to organize and view maps, routes, and waypoints. Additionally, the BaseCamp technology shows topographic map data in 2-D or 3-D. It also displays contour lines and elevation profiles.


  • Display: 4” (Touchscreen)
  • Weight: 10.02 oz
  • Digital camera: 8 megapixel
  • Battery life: 22 h
  • Warranty: 1 Year


  • Crystal clear camera  images with HQ resolution
  • Location geotagging with coordinates and store the data
  • Satellite support systems
  • Fast and accurate GPS signal


  • Menu layout not user friendly

Our Verdict

The Garmin Montana 680t is a waterproof (IPX7) product that comes with an 8-megapixel camera and produces clear images. Also, this device has a dual-orientation 65K color, a sunlight-readable 4-inch LCD. Like that of the Oregon 700 model, its touch screen LCD gives much ease of use while paddling your kayak.

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. They are even easier than getting in and out of a kayak, so to speak.

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 piece of 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. This device can be used when boating or hiking. 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 our kayak GPS reviews 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. As a starter, buying a kayak GPS is more like buying a beginner’s kayak. In both cases, beginners should stick to basic functionalities as advanced features are useless to them. For them, it’s a basic kayak GPS is the easiest way to access location information.

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.

Best Kayak GPS: Comprehensive Buying Guide

Best Kayak GPS: Comprehensive Buying Guide


I wouldn’t advise anyone to use a GPS device for kayaking when it’s not waterproof. The Best Kayak GPS devices always come with high-level IPX waterproof ratings. Apart from route tracking and provision of accurate coordinates, your preferred model should offer more features like data recording and high megapixels. Remember, these are tiny gadgets and they should fit any corner of your backpack. 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. You are not safe in the rain even if you are on a pedal kayak. 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.

3. Mapping

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 pays 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.

4. Compatibility

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.

5. Durability

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 the 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 a 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.

7. Support

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) unit 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.

11. Price

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 devices might have large memory spaces, but heavy map applications and extra features 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 devices 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.

Final Words

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 KayakFisherly 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.

About the author

Jessica Herron

Hi! This is Jessica. I can be your virtual outdoor buddy, lol! My friends call me a devotee of adventure. I believe, as any outdoor enthusiast does, adventures are all about the thrill. My love consists of a mix of fishing and camping in the wild, if you ask (what thrills you most?). So, I could be of help (through my articles on this website) to any adventure seeker as long as backpacking, survival, camping, hiking, and fishing are concerned. Are you planning to take a trip to the wild next weekend? Maybe, you already are in the middle of a journey. No matter where you are, my words are on the air!

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