Best GPS device for kayaking

I kayak a lot on the Chesapeake Bay. What is a good waterproof GPS device? A lot of the inlets and bays can look the same and sometimes it’s hard to navigate back to the boat ramp. I was realy lost for a while yesterday. I don’t have any experience yet with GPS.


My vote…
for practicality, useability and waterproofness

Garmin Foretrex 201.

Not the most feature laden model but I’m looking to it for basic gps navigation not to see what the underwater topography looks like.

See you on the water,


Hyde Park, NY

Tough question
without being biased.

I like my Garmin ETrex Legend. It’s water proof and easy to use. Has more features than I thought it had but I guess I may want them later.

The Garmin GPSMAPs 76 was one I thought about getting but it cost more. I got my Legend for $75. The Garmin ETrex Vista is another I was considering too. In the end $75 was hard to beat.


mixed feeling on Garmins
I see some votes for Garmin units, and I use a Foretrex 101 myself.

Plus - inexpensive, connects to computer, has all the features you need for navigating, and small.

Minus - no color, no maps of area. But a biggie is questions on waterproofness.

This last point is what has me questioning whether to recommend Garmin or not. The Garmin units are listed by their marketing folks as waterproof, but when you go to warranty it after they get water in it, they tell you that the units are IPX7, which is actually dust proof (not water proof, which would be IPX8 or better). So the unit can withstand accidental drops in shallow water, but not really made to be strapped on the deck of a kayak and exposed to waves.

I am on my second unit now, after warrantying the first (water got inside it). A friend is on his 3rd or 4th.

If you do buy, it may be worth getting from a store like REI that has a very liberal return policy. This saves fighting with Garmin to warranty it. Garmin did replace mine the first time, but made it sound like they would not replace it a second time for water entry.

Oh - Foretrex 101 versus 201 - basically the same unit, but 201 comes with a built in rechargeable battery and the cable, where 101 uses AAA batteries and the data cable needs to be bought separately. If you plan to do any multiple day trips with no access to a way to recharge the unit, the 101 may be better, as you can bring along extra AAA batteries to keep it going. But perhaps 201 is better able to handle water, as they don’t need to have an opening in the case to change batteries.

I like the …
Garmin eTrex Venture CX. I purchased mine a few weeks ago. Because it has no memory I had to buy a memory card that I loaded with Topo US. I purchased it for it’s ability to resisit water and show an actual map(color)… not just coorinates. We are looking at the same bodies of water as I’m on the OBX and I am very impressed with its user friendly features. I did however purchase a small pelican box to house it as I have yet to find anything truly “water proof”.

Whatever You Do
Make sure it’s waterproof. Not somewhat waterproof. Not waterproof… except for the battery case.

Make sure it’s SUBMERSIBLE waterproof.

My Garmin MAP 76 is.

Compare at Garmin
For comparison of Garmin hand held features look here

Note that the Garmin waterproof standard of IPX7 is pretty much the standard for most Garmin hand held models. A soft clear waterproof pouch/case is advisable and will allow you to use the keys without getting it out of the pouch.

One feature you may consider is an on the fly tide reading found on some models.

Look on the back
at all the places water could get past rubber seals given half a chance. I’ve got one, but would never trust it submerged for any length of time. I am trusting it to resist paddling drips however.


I wouldn’t go deep sea diving with mine but I routinely hold it under a faucet or a garden hose to get the salt off. No problems.

I bought it so I wouldn’t HAVE to try to use it through some kind of bag. So far so good.

Roll with mine - no bag
Had a GPSMAP76 for over 4 years before recently upgrading to color version.

Just don’t leave it in wet gear/bags/sun - and check battery compartment after each use.

The Best is the Best…

No one ever regretted buying the best…

BIG difference between no map, map and color map…

I have 2 Magellan Marine gps and they
work fine for me. The one thing I reccomend is that which ever one you buy get a dry bag for it. I keep my gps and vhs in dry bags just incase they go for a swim, why take a chance with them.

Garmin GPSmap76S
I got my Garmin GPSmap 76S 4 years ago before color was available and before they came with USB. I have never needed a waterproof bag. Lots of water and rain has splashed on it. I cannot imagine GPS without maps. While I don’t intentionally abuse it, I don’t coddle it. Actually, I hope it will fail so I can get color. :slight_smile:

currently playing with the 76CSx, its has a micrSD slot which is a plus and I think you can charge via the USB and some small solar panels now come with USB out, so you can sloooooowly charge it while on rest stops, wouldnt do in underway unless a very calm day.

The map that comes with the unit is worthless, you have to buy additional maps. I bought the topo southeast and northeast and the inland lakes south…I thought it would be nice to have all of them on one 1gb microSD but you cant do that…so if you are hiking and paddling you’ll need to switch them out sometime on the tip depending on how far away from the kayak you hike. It took me a while to get used to the buttons on the upper portion of the face side of the unit and the unit is sizeable compared to others but its true that you can get a signal where you would never believe your could.

My only problem with Garmin
The only problem with Garmin is that they are constantly upgrading their models and after about 3 yrs. the model you get will no longer be in production. I had that happen to me. I have the Garmin Legend C and it’s now out of production. Works just fine. FishHawk

Tell me about it
A GPS got me out of a confusing area near Deal Island.

I lost a Rino, apparently to water, so I am a firm believer in a WP pouch even if the unit is supposed to be WP.


Anyone have a Lowrance H2Oc ?
The screen looked good in the store, reviews sounded ok on the BassProShops website. I just wonder if you can really see the color screen good in bright sunlight, I have trouble with the color screen on my cell phone in bright sun.

I will only comment on the display size,
because if you are young and don’t wear glasses, then the display size may not matter much if it is small. If you are over 40 and wear glasses for reading only, then you should consider a large display, which is what I bought.

IPX8 GPS Units?
Where can I buy IPX8-rated GPS handheld units?

201 & h2o proofness
Sealed rechargeable battery makes for a much more watertight unit. Less intrusion issues.

See you on the water,


Hyde Park, NY