Detailed Guide To Buy The Best Kayak GPS

Can you always have prior knowledge of the direction of a fishing location? It may not be possible all the time. Without having proper directions both on the water or land, your fishing adventure becomes a less-than-good endeavor. Nowadays, technologies have blessed us with a great innovation called GPS which is an acronym for Global Positioning System. Using satellite triangulation, the system gives users an efficient representation of their current positions.

GPS and kayaking

Like many kayakers, you might have great knowledge of your favorite or regular fishing locations. So, you are likely to ask if you really need to spend extra money on a GPS. Even if you know why you need one, your next question is going to be which one you should get for your purposes.

In reply to your first question, a strict answer can be, “You do not need a GPS”. There is still a ‘but’ that could change your mind. Kayakers in general, even including those paddling on local lakes or rivers, can get a lot of advantages using a GPS properly. Apart from the basic navigational tasks, modern GPS units can work as a great diagnostic tool to help you tweak and hone your navigation skills, logistical management, pace, and overall angling plans.

In response to your second question, it can be said there is no single choice to make. In addition to the fundamental services of a GPS, you will find particular layouts and designs of GPS units useful for yourself.

Top 5 GPS devices to look for

Garmin stays as the most influential GPS manufacturing brand to date. The brand brings in a lot of models, each with an assortment of distinct features. However, products from other brands may also suit your needs. Here, a list of top 5 GPS devices has been described.

Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide

Standard features

  • Worldwide basemap
  • Paperless geocaching
  • GPS and GLONASS satellites
  • IPX7 waterproof protection


  • Type: Transflective, Monochrome
  • Size: 2.2″
  • Resolution: 128 x 160 pixels


  • Quantity: 2 AA batteries
  • Power: 25-hour

Pros & Cons

  • Display of key information like hints, descriptions, terrain, difficulty, and location
  • No manual input of coordinates or paper printouts required
  • Fast positioning
  • Not very useful user manual included


Garmin GPSMAP 78 2.6-Inch

Standard features

  • High sensitivity receiver
  • Built-in worldwide basemap
  • HotFix satellite prediction
  • Color mapping
  • Molded rubber side grips
  • 7 MB map storage


  • Type: Transflective, 65-K color TFT
  • Size: 2.6″
  • Resolution: 160 x 240 pixels


  • Quantity: 2 AA batteries
  • Power: 20 hours

Pros & Cons

  • BirdsEye Satellite Imagery available for the richer navigation experience
  • Fast positioning
  • No manual input required
  • Environment friendly
  • Poor contrast making the screen difficult to read on bright days


Garmin eTrex 20x

Standard features

  • Worldwide basemap
  • High-sensitivity, WAAS-enabled GPS receiver
  • Both GPS and GLONASS satellites tracking
  • 10,000 points and 200 saved tracks
  • Remote positioning


  • Type: 65K color display
  • Size: 2.2″
  • Resolution: 240 x 320 pixels


  • Quantity: 2 AA batteries

Pros & Cons

  • Sunlight readability
  • Faster than many other devices from the manufacturer
  • Automatic routing available
  • Durable
  • A little more expensive


Magellan eXplorist GC Waterproof Geocaching GPS

Standard features

  • High-sensitivity SiRFstarIII GPS
  • Accuracy up to 3 meters
  • 20 Pocket Queries and 1000 geocaches worldwide
  • Easy connection to with free 30-day premium membership
  • Trip odometer, picture viewer and ‘Suspend Mode’ (battery saver)


  • Type: Transflective, LCD
  • Size: 2.2″
  • Resolution: 240 x 320 pixels


  • Quantity: 2 AA batteries
  • Power: 18 hours

Pros & Cons

  • Sunlight readability
  • Free VantagePoint downloads available
  • Intuitive user interface (UI)
  • No auto navigation available


Garmin GPSMAP 64

Standard features

  • Sleek and rugged design
  • 250,000 preloaded caches
  • 4 GB internal memory
  • GPS and GLONASS receiver powered with quad helix antenna
  • BirdsEye Satellite Imagery supported


  • Type: Color display
  • Size: 2.6″


  • Quantity: 2 AA batteries
  • Power: 16 hours

Pros & Cons

  • Sunlight readability
  • Quick and precise positioning
  • Geotagged picture available for help with navigation
  • Reported inaccurate odometer reading
  • Not very useful user manual included


Some serious reasons for getting a GPS

There are several widely recognized points showing you really need a GPS for kayaking.

To avoid getting ‘lost’

There is no certainty you would always fish in the same point in the same location every time. Rather, most paddlers or anglers start from one point and end up being at a location they have no prior knowledge of. Would you feel happy to have no remembrance of your way back home? Certainly, you would not.

Sometimes, paddlers start out in a group and choose different directions to move forward. In such cases, you would love to share your current location with your fellow paddlers, so they can get to you easily or you could get to them upon their sharing.

For any of these purposes, GPS is unbeatable.

Preserving locations

A GPS can save your favorite fishing spots so that you can easily go there next time you are fishing. Even for a very specific or remote location, you can use this feature.

Unlimited opportunities for exploration

With a GPS, you are no longer confined in your own knowledge of locations. With proper safety precautions and essentials, you can now go anywhere you want. Exploring unknown places becomes fun with GPS.

To take paddling to an enhanced level

So far, you have learned the traditional benefits of a GPS. If you are a paddler with serious intention to improve your repertoire of paddling tricks, you will be happy to have a modern GPS in hand. Need more explanation? Upon proper use of GPS, you can keep track of the speed, direction, efficiency, and consistency of your paddling. You need not get a high-end unit since a basic one would provide you with useful information, such as average moving speed, total mileage, trip odometer, etc. All you need to do is understand these types of information and interpret them in an understandable way so that you can monitor any changes to your paddling style, diet, resting periods and diet.

You can analyze the data, and reach a comprehensive outline of your day-to-day kayak tours. You will discover how fast you reach a particular location within how much time. In addition, how much rest you need to complete a good day of fishing. Practically speaking, all these discoveries will help you become an efficient paddler over time.

You have a GPS enabled Smartphone. Do you still need a GPS device?

Well, the answer may not be equally useful for everyone, especially for those who are not interested in throwing some extra bucks. However, Smartphone GPS options are never as efficient as mainstream GPS devices for some reason. Keep reading…

Availability of direction

Smartphone manufacturers do not take GPS features as their main selling points. So, they will not work that much on the option. Also, for them, providing directions for populated areas is beneficial, whereas, for remote locations or areas with small population and traffic, there is barely anything advantageous to them. However, GPS units are specifically designed for working everywhere you take them.

Network connectivity

In some areas, your Smartphone GPS will not work due to poor or no network signal as you need active internet connection for the majority of devices. GPS devices are one step ahead in this case as they require no network connection for mere directions.

Battery life

Probably, you have experienced how fast your Smartphone battery drains out upon active GPS features. If you are planning on a day-long fishing trip or similar pursuits, a GPS device can be more convenient as it will easily serve you for many more hours.


Most GPS devices are designed to take more wears and tears than any common Smartphone. Some kayak GPS devices are waterproof and resistant to harsh marine atmosphere.


As described above, Smartphone GPS does not work as good in remote areas as GPS units. Even though your Smartphone comes with a high-end receiver, you cannot expect to get a precise direction, except for a spot that is a few meters away from your desired one.

How do you make your own choice?

Any single GPS unit will provide you what you need for directions. So, what makes one device preferable to another? Except for a very few technical aspects, how a particular device is designed stays on top of most kayakers’ consideration. In fact, there are some features and design matters to expect.


Before buying a GPS, you should put attention to the three most important features of the display, such as contrast, clarity and size of the screen. Although micro-size units may attract you, they do not offer great readability under most circumstances. The ideal screen size can be 2″ x 2″ or larger depending on your preference and budget. Check to see if-

  • The contrast is legible in direct sunlight or bright atmosphere
  • The screen is backlit with night vision


Sure, you want the buttons of your device to be raised and well-spaced so that you can operate the device without taking it by the hand. Buttons that are not recessed are easy to operate even in the dark; once you can figure out the layout.

Also, make sure the buttons are mounted on the front. Buttons on the sides of the device might become hard to operate, especially when you are too busy to pick up the device by the hand.

Mapping features

Paddlers who use their devices for diagnostic purposes may not consider this as a must. However, you never know when your mind requires you to make long trips in locations you do not know. Make sure your device comes with built-in memory or an add-on storage facility to store the detailed map, so you are always comfortable in unfamiliar areas.

Configurable fields for data

You might want particular types of information displayed on the screen. So, you will love to have the option to set your desired data fields to be displayed. Common values include speed, total mileage, etc. Some devices also feature display all information on a single screen, meaning that paddlers do not have to take their hands of their paddles often.

Battery power

Typically, GPS devices use at least a couple of “AA” batteries while some have more. What you must look for is a device that comes with a decent battery life up to 10-12 hours along with a ‘battery saver’ function. This feature will save your device’s battery from draining due to unnecessary background services.

Some other things to consider

Some might say these features are optional, and you can get the most of your GPS without them. Well, they are not speaking impractically. However, the availability of these features might take your GPS experience to a more comfortable and richer level.

Color screen

Color screen will help you get visuals in a more distinct fashion, especially when you look at certain areas and symbols. However, a black-and-white display will also work fine but consume less battery power.

Anchor alarm

An anchor alarm notifies the kayak owner if the boat starts drifting and dragging its anchor when not in use. Unless you have a larger boat, you can avoid considering this feature.

Electronic compass

An electronic compass will register your heading position. However, you can carry two more affordable compasses. One is deck-mounted while the other can be pocket-sized.

Waterproof build

A waterproof GPS comes with adequate resistance against rough marine conditions. Yet, you can use a waterproof case for your device.

 Final Words

The above list does not essentially include GPS devices with the most advanced features and state-of-the-art constructions. However, the list is carefully chosen for those who are more interested to use their GPSD devices for angling purposes other than hiking or land exploration.

Share on: