Best Kayak GPS for 2023

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Kayaking allows you to discover parts of the coastline, islands, and other natural wonders that other boats can't reach.

It's easy to get carried away when you're on a journey into the unknown. You may lose sight of where you are or how to go back to where you began before you realize it.

However, being lost on the water is no laughing matter, and all of my fellow paddlers should get the best kayak GPS.

Here are my picks for the top GPS systems on the market today!

In A Rush? The Winner After 40 Hours Of Research:

Garmin GPSMAP 64st

Why is it better?

GPS satellites are used, however GLONASS satellites are included for improved precision.

The antenna's quad-helix design assures a steady connection.

Maps of the United States are included on the device.

A micro SD card slot for storing new maps that may be downloaded.

It's built to last, and it's waterproofed to IPX7 standards.

Disposable AA batteries or rechargeable NiMH batteries may be used in place of the device's single battery.

Do Kayakers Need A Dedicated GPS Device?

Is it really necessary to spend money on the finest kayaking GPS when you already have a smartphone with a built-in GPS, or is it?

Wrong.

It's hard to deny the practicality of a smartphone in modern life. When I travel, I rely heavily on my phone's built-in GPS to get to my final location and discover the correct address.

Finding your way back to the shore in unfamiliar seas is a whole other ball game altogether.

If you're going kayaking, you may not have access to Wi-Fi or cellphone networks. Kayak GPS systems come into their own when cellphones are rendered pointless.

The satellite-based navigation method used by dedicated Kayak GPS devices eliminates the need for extra network connections.

Since it constantly collects data from orbiting satellites, the Global Positioning System (GPS) allows you to:
  • Using coordinates, you may pinpoint your precise position at any given time.
  • Assist you in returning to crab traps that have already been set.
  • Route planning is a great method to keep track of your journey and remember your favorite sites as well.
  • Indicate your speed and the direction you're driving in.

While I'm at it, I'd like to dispel a second prevalent fallacy.

GPS units and fish finders are not the same, and they cannot be used interchangeably.

Both use satellites to broadcast data and monitor the land, but only one uses sonar technology to map the ocean floor and find fish.

If you're a fisherman, a kayak fish finder may be a lifesaver, but it can't be relied upon for navigating reasons.

Keep a compass and a paper map in your kayak as a backup in case anything goes wrong.

Kayak GPS Device Buying Guide: How To Pick a GPS for Kayaking

Wearable, Handheld, Or Console Kayak GPS Unit: Which Style Do You Prefer?

When looking for the best GPS for kayaking, start by looking at its favored style.

There are just three choices: wearable, handheld, or wall-mountable, all of which seem to be straightforward. However, it has an impact on the size, weight, mobility, and even the operation of the GPS device.

A look at the three most common styles:

  • Wearable GPS systems, such as wrist watch-style GPS units, take up almost little onboard space, are constantly visible, and are less likely to be dropped accidentally. There are certain compromises to be made, however, such as the lack of functionality and the small screen size.
  • As a result of its small size, portability, and ability to be stored in a dry storage bag, handheld GPS systems are the preferred method of navigation for most paddlers. They also tend to have a bigger screen and more complex functions than wearable devices.
  • Kayaks don't often have console-mounted GPS units, despite their modern and feature-rich capabilities. They're large and need a power supply to operate. Fishing kayaks, on the other hand, may have models with built-in fish finders. For example, the Humminbird Helix 5.

Check The Water Resistance Rating 

The IP (Ingress Protection) rating is critical when looking for the finest GPS for kayaking, since many GPS systems are not specifically intended for watersports.

Waterproof GPS systems, particularly those suitable for kayaking in turbulent seas, are something I always suggest. For example, an IPX7 grade provides reliable protection against water damage, even in the event of immersion.

You may want to consider purchasing a waterproof case for your GPS if it simply has basic water-resistance capabilities.

The paddle may simply make a little splash, or it may completely capsize. If you're going kayaking with your GPS, it's almost certain that it will get wet.

And when it happens, you'll be pleased that it's water-resistant because you'll need it.

Accuracy And Coverage As Two Key Performance-Related Factors 

When using standard US-based GPS technology, you'll be tracked by 31 satellites in total. The Russian-based GLONASS system, which has an additional 24 satellites, may be used in conjunction with select GPS systems to boost speed and accuracy.

An excellent GPS for kayaking should work with both the United States' and Russia's top satellite navigation systems, although most paddlers will be OK with just a GPS. As a result of this, you will be able to rely on dependable and precise navigation in a broader range of locations.

Kayak GPS devices also have WAAS, or Wide Area Augmentation System, as an additional capability. Because GPS readings may be inaccurate under harsh circumstances, the Federal Aviation Administration created this technique.

In addition to the HotFix, kayak GPS units now include a useful capability. If you want the greatest GPS, you need to have a device that can gather data and estimate the location of satellites in the sky.

Detailed Mapping Is Essential

Getting a kayak GPS for navigation, tracking, and mapping is a no-brainer, right? It's a good idea to review both the pre-installed maps and those that can be downloaded.

With most GPS receivers, preloaded maps are standard — but they might differ greatly in depth and style.

Only the United States and its surrounding seas may be available in certain cases. In contrast, the top GPS systems on the market will come pre-loaded with a detailed global map of the United States and other countries. You should be able to either download new maps or update the ones you already have.

In addition to comprehensive topographical information, fishing contours, tidal graphs, and current arrows, marine cartography and maps with coast guard locations can be very helpful for kayakers.

There are "bluemaps" available from certain manufacturers, which include extensive maritime cartography, fishing contours, tide graphs, current arrows, and the location of marine services like the Coast Guard. Some gps watch models are also equipped with this feature as well.

Display Size And Readability For A Better User Experience

You rely on the display to provide you with data. To avoid straining your eyes or worse, missing anything vital because it isn't visible, avoid doing this as much as you can.

As a result, display size and readability are essential considerations when selecting a kayak GPS device. It's the same as with any other electrical device: search for the following things:

Ideally, you want a GPS screen that is large enough to see clearly in all lighting settings, as well as high-resolution if you can afford to pay for that option.

In order to have the best of both worlds, you'll likely have to compromise. Smaller displays are more difficult to read, whereas larger screens are more cumbersome to transport.

In terms of screen size, kayak GPS devices worn on the wrist or in a hand cannot match with those mounted on the kayak. There are two to five inches of diagonal, corner-to-corner display.

Battery Life: The Longer, The Better

One of the last things you should be concerned about while paddling your kayak is whether or not the GPS battery will endure. When you're stranded in the middle of nowhere, a dead GPS device is of little use.

As a result, examine how long your phone's battery lasts.

Ideally, you should be able to obtain 16 to 18 hours of use from the battery. A battery-saving option is good, even though it restricts the GPS unit's capabilities to some extent.

In addition, be sure to verify the battery type:

When you don't have access to energy or a method to recharge your lithium-ion batteries, they're practically worthless.

When it comes to kayaking outings that last longer than a few hours, disposable batteries may be a better option because of their environmental effect. Having a few backup batteries on hand is usually a good idea.

Best Kayak GPS Device Reviews & Recommendations: Top 3 Picks For 2023

1. Garmin GPSMAP 64st GPS

  • Award: Overall Best Kayak GPS
  • Rating: 5/5 Stars 
  • Price: 5/5 Stars 
  • If you're looking for the best portable GPS device on the market, go no further than the GPSMAP 64st.

    With a quad-helix antenna and GPS/GLONASS compatibility, it's able to provide pinpoint accuracy and reception even in the most distant locations. Additionally, a globe base map, TOPO US 100K maps, and a one-year subscription to BirdsEye Satellite Imagery are pre-installed.

    Although the 2.6-inch screen is modest, it is readable even in direct sunlight. Despite the fact that it isn't touch-sensitive, this isn't a deal-breaker.

    The dual battery setup is also a huge plus in my book. A rechargeable NiMH battery may also be used for optimal convenience.

    Technical Specs

  • Handheld design 
  • GLONASS-compatible GPS receiver 
  • IPX7 waterproof rating 
  • 2.6-inch color display 
  • 16-hour dual battery system 
  • Pros:

    • Compatible with both GPS and GLONASS satellite systems..
    • We've got a subscription to BirdsEye Satellite Imagery and the 100K TOPO US Maps preloaded.
    • A display that can be used in direct sunlight.
    • Two AA batteries may be used in place of the NiMH battery pack.

    Cons: 

    • This phone has a 2.6-inch screen that isn't touch-sensitive, making it difficult to use.
    • The user interface doesn't have a contemporary, intuitive, or inviting feel to it.
    • The process of downloading extra maps is a little cumbersome.

    Tips: 

    With the Garmin GPSMAP 64st, kayakers can take on the world's oceans with complete confidence. You don't have to stress about getting lost while you're planning your next paddling vacation.

    2. Magellan eXplorist 510

  • Award: Best Kayak GPS For Anglers
  • Rating: 5/5 Stars 
  • Price: 4/5 Stars 
  • A high-end product like the Magellan Marine Bundle can set you back a pretty penny.

    In addition to its 3-inch touchscreen and two hard buttons, the eXplorist 510 features a waterproof, portable GPS. When kayak fishing, your hands might become fairly filthy, so having an option to contact the screen is a plus.

    In order to create geo-tagged footage while you're on-the-go, it is equipped with a 3.2MP camera, microphone, and speaker. Plus, it has a vast collection of topographic maps, which include 12000 lakes in the United States.

    It comes with two AA batteries, but it's always a good idea to have more on hand.

    Batteries are depleted in less than 15 hours while using this device.

    Technical Specs

  • Handheld design 
  • WAAS-enabled GPS receiver 
  • IPX7 waterproof rating 
  • 3-inch touch-sensitive display 
  • 15-hour battery life
  • Pros

    • High-quality construction and features.
    • A 3-inch capacitive touchscreen is included.
    • A high-resolution screen that is easy to read.
    • Two programmable buttons are included .'s
    • Camera, microphone and speaker are all included.
    • 12000 US lake topographic maps are already preloaded.

    Cons

    • In terms of price, this is the most exorbitant option.
    • Despite claiming to have a 15-hour battery life, this device quickly drains them.
    • Direct sunlight reduces the screen's visibility.

    Tips

    Magellan is a household brand in the GPS sector. Expensive, but still one of kayak fishing's greatest GPS devices: eXplorist 510.

    3. Garmin GPSMAP 78sc Waterproof Marine GPS  

  • Award: Best Sea And Ocean Kayak GP
  • Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 
  • Price: 4.5/5 Stars 
  • GPSMAP 78sc, a portable GPS device built expressly for watersports usage, is another example of Garmin rising to the occasion:

    As if it weren't impressive enough, it floats on water!

    The WAAS-enabled GPS technology with HotFix prediction it uses for speedy and accurate navigation is not GLONASS-compatible. With a microSD card, you may add more map data to your BlueChart g2 device, including coastal charts and globe base maps.

    The 2.6-inch screen does a good job of displaying depth contours, ports, marinas, and shorelines, but I would have preferred a larger display. The 78sc's battery life is also outstanding, lasting up to 20 hours.

    Technical Specs

  • Handheld design 
  • WAAS-enabled GPS receiver 
  • IPX7 waterproof rating 
  • 2.6-inch color display 
  • 20-hour battery life 
  • Pros

    • The IPX7 waterproof certification and floating shape make it ideal for use in a marine setting.
    • The HotFix feature of this GPS receiver is compatible with WAAS.
    • Additional maps may be added to the preloaded coastal charts and globe base maps.
    • Battery life is 20 hours.

    Cons

    • The 2.6-inch screen is relatively small and is not touch-sensitive.
    • It’s not GLONASS-enabled.
    •  The interface feels a bit outdated and hard to navigate.

    Tips

    A floatable, waterproof, and, most importantly, extremely accurate handheld GPS like the Garmin GPSMAP 78sc is ideal for sea or ocean kayakers.

    Final Thoughts On The Best Kayak GPS

    Yes, kayaks are a great way to go out and see the world. No matter how experienced a paddler or how well they believe they know the waterways are, they will still get into trouble.

    A sensible purchase in terms of safety is a kayak GPS.

    You can get by with any of the GPS systems you looked at today. So, if pricing, screen size, battery life, or sophisticated mapping functions are most important to you, then go with that one.

    Garmin GPSMAP 64st is what I'd recommend.

    GPS and GLONASS compatibility, a dual battery system, and the ability to download new maps are just some of the things this device has to offer. It's also water-resistant.

    Is there anything more a paddler could ask for?