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Kayak Accessories

10 Best Kayak GPS for 2024: Hidden Gems Reviewed!

GPS devices are a must for a kayaker to have on board to make kayaking safer and more fun. Smartphones are now commonly used for navigational purposes but with a GPS specially designed for navigation, you won’t have to wait for detailed maps, mobile network or data signals or a charger to power your quickly-draining smartphone when using the GPS feature in the middle of nowhere.

But how do you find the best GPS for your kayaking needs from so many options? Well, now is the time to find your best match with us! Our avid kayakers reviewed today’s top units and shared how well they fared when we hit the water.

Top 10 Kayaking GPS Ranked and Reviewed

01 Garmin GPSMAP 64ST High-Sensitivity GPS (Top Choice)


Why it Stands Out To Us

The 64ST is one of the most popular GPS devices in the paddling community for good reason. Armed with all the features that make your GPS use all the more fun, get this to make your upcoming kayak touring or fishing trip a memorable one.

Our Experience with the Garmin 64st

  • The 64st’s platform looks the same as the classic Garmin dashboard GPS systems that makes it quite intuitive and simple to use right off the bat.
  • To stand out in a world full of GPS systems and navigation apps, Garmin gave the BaseCamp and BirdsEye Satellite Imagery software their best shot. BaseCamp gives you access to high-resolution color maps (e.g. TOPO 24K, TOPO 100K, etc.) with useful trip planning features.
  • The unit always works flawlessly. Functional, long battery life, easy to use, compact, water resistant and reliable – what else could you ask for?
  • Signal, accuracy and battery life are always the most important factors that determine the quality of a GPS device. There are options for both rechargeable and disposable batteries and they lasted close to 16 hours in our case.
  • Although it doesn’t have the Galileo satellite support like the 64SX, it comes with high-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS receiver systems that are enough to do the job with high accuracy.
  • In terms of features, there is plenty more to enjoy. The Tracks are nothing but a series of digital breadcrumbs for every trip that you can use to retrace your steps easily. The Geocaching feature is so fun to use for the treasure seekers while BaseCamp allows you to check the elevation of a certain point and retroactively change a favorite hike and share that info with a friend.

What We Didn’t Like

  • Batteries are not included in the package. Well, anybody would expect 2 AA batteries on such a pricey product so they can use it right out of the box

Who Is It Great for

  • Like any niche-specific product, you need to know your kayaking needs first so as to determine whether such a high-end GPS will really be necessary. This may not be the perfect choice for the occasional kayakers since most of its amazing features will be left unused. But if you are a regular outgoer, get it without a second thought.

What Could Be Improved and Why

    • The simple keypad is so easy to use but you will need some time to get used to the system before navigation becomes second nature.
    • The small screen is a matter of concern for many but Garmin had to gave up on the extra size to make space for the buttons and keypad

Our Recommendations

You will need your computer to download BaseCamp maps and once installed, you can zoom in on your prospective trip, crop the area, and pick the quality of the map. But higher quality maps require more data than lower quality maps which may limit the size of the region area you’ll be able to download at once.

As a result, you may have to download several high-resolution maps to cover the larger areas or choose larger lower quality maps for your convenience and easy storage.


  • 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


  • Comparatively expensive

02 Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof GPS (Also Great)

Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof GPS

Why it Stands Out To Us

The Foretrex 401 is another top-rated Garmin GPS that’s commonly used by the US military since it can accurately read out in military grid coordinates for the reporting locations. But we love it since it’s also great for setting waypoints to plan your kayaking routes, mark a certain location on the shore to return to, and track your trips over long distances.

Compact, inexpensive, tough, accurate, and good battery life – this GPS unit is your go-to choice no matter the type of kayaking adventure you partake in.

Our Experience with the Foretrex 401

  • First comes the ease of use. You will need a couple hours of tinkering to get familiar with the intuitive interface and different features. Once you’re thorough, it’s just a matter of pushing a button to use all the features to your benefit. It locks up with the satellites instantly.
  • The display isn’t so large like the handheld ones, but it’s large enough for a wrist-wrapped device. The customizable data display fields are the best part where you can add only what you want to see no matter it’s the time, altitude, covered distance, and so on.
  • Tracking, back track, elevation profile, GPS location – you get fairly accurate every time. This is actually what makes it so reliable.
  • The battery life is up to par and you can easily replace the AAA batteries out on the waters if the charge gets low. Although some users complained about fast-draining batteries, we never faced that issue ourselves.
  • The device is made to last. You can use it in all weather conditions and it will stand any kind of abuse that it goes through.
  • The Foretrex 401 excels in the waterproof department as well. One of our teammates once flipped their kayak and his GPS unit made a quick underwater trip. As expected, no harm was done.

What We Didn’t Like

  • The barometric altimeter is literally useless since it sucks in changing weather. But no doubt barometric altimeters do better in stable weather conditions.

Who Is It Great for

  • Any kayak enthusiasts – weather beginner or pro – will find this simple yet effective GPS device very useful. In fact, the more you use it, the more you’ll love it

What Could Be Improved and Why

  • Some complained that the velcro wristband did feel as secure as they expected. Garmin may use a durable rubber watch band instead.
  • A rechargeable battery could be added

Our Recommendations

  • Make sure your coordinates are always on point so the GPS doesn’t send you to the wrong direction


  • 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


  • Less memory power

03 Garmin eTrex10 GPS (Bang for the Buck)

Garmin eTrex10 GPS

Why it Stands Out To Us

The eTrex 10 is a gem for kayakers, boaters, hikers, walkers, on-road and off-road cyclists, and travellers. Garmin designed this model with preloaded worldwide basemaps so you can roam the whole world with its help. But we’ll keep our focus on the kayaking aspect for now.

Our Experience with the eTrex10

  • The best part about this small GPS is its simplicity.  It is easy to flip through its single-screen menu and figure out the major features in a matter of minutes. There are four preset profiles so you can easily manage the different settings and options. But we could do with the stopwatch and calculator.
  • All Garmin GPS units are known for their incredible signal accuracy due to being armed with EGNOS/WAAS-enabled receivers. Although a baseline unit, the TRX 10 is accurate no matter if you’re in a wide open area or in dense bush.
  • Without the mapping capability, it does fail to be a great navigational tool. But considering the price, size, simplicity, speed, and other features, it’s okay since you can still easily upload and follow your preset track or waypoint to the destination with Garmin BaseCamp. You can also review your tracks after the trip on your computer through Garmin BaseCamp. Again, don’t forget the fact that you get what you pay for.
  • Garmin claims that their eTrex series is the first consumer-grade GPS to simultaneously use both GLONASS and GPS satellite systems. Well, we found that true when field-testing. It took less than a minute to locate us within its resolution once powered on.
  • This handheld device fits nicely in the palm that makes it easy to operate with just one hand. The 2.2” monochromatic display with a resolution of just 128 x 160 pixels is still easy and simple to read even in bright sunlight.

What We Didn’t Like

  • Does not support topo maps that many look for in their GPS devices
  • Not the most versatile GPS unit out there

Who Is It Great for

  • Beginners and occasional kayakers will be fine with this device

Our Recommendations

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.

04 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 reveals what’s there. 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.

05 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.

06 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 route 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 on the device.

07 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.

08 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.

09 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 inputting coordinates and paper printouts 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 the network when you paddle your kayak along heavy vegetation 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.

10 Garmin Striker 4 with Transducer

Garmin Striker 4 with Transducer

Don’t go fishing without the Garmin STRIKER 4 GPS f.ishfinder 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.

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.

Best Kayak GPS: Comprehensive Buying Guide

Best Kayak GPS 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.

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.

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.


1. Where Do I Keep the Kayak GPS?

Ans: Depending on the size and shape of the kayak GPS, you can mount it on the kayak or keep it in your pocket. Make sure the device is easily accessible and placed securely.

2. Can I Leave the Map and Compass Behind?

Ans: Don’t ever think of keeping your map and compass back at home when kayaking. Even the best of Kayak GPS units need a good backup. Your modern electronic device can fail, the battery can run out of power, even a device malfunction can happen any time. You will need to rely on the traditional map and compass to navigate in such unwanted circumstances.

3. How Well Does the Kayak Gps Work in the Dark?

Ans: Kayak GPS devices work just as fine in the dark as in the daytime. The backlit display allows you to read at dark.

4. Do the Kayak Gps Units Come With a Nautical Chart?

Ans: Some kayak GPS devices come with a nautical chart but most of them don’t have one. This is the reason you have to pay close attention to all the features a device offers. Get a kayak GPS unit with preloaded charts and chart plotting capability if you need a nautical 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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