Can You Help with GPS Advice?

Hi, I know there are many Garmin reviews here and I’ve searched those as well as this forum, but can’t find much on either the Garmin ETrex 25 or 35 (the touch-screen models) or the Garmin Oregon 600 (also a touch screen).

I want a GPS for use on day-paddles on Sarasota Bay. I know it’s not a huge area but, as my son says, I can get lost just getting out of my car! Also, all the islands and shores look similar (just Mangrove-covered islands and banks) and I have found it difficult to find specific islands or find my way back to my launch point.

I’m hoping for four bits of advice:

  1. Will the Garmins work for me? The only GPS I’ve ever used is Google Maps Navigation on my smart phone. So I’m used to being able to see where I am on the screen, see surrounding features, see the direction I’m going, and see where I SHOULD be going. I’m also used to voice direction (which I know I won’t get on these GPS systems), but I’ll need SOME way of knowing when I’m on course and when I’m not. My “course” will typically be different sets of islands in the bay, and then back to my starting point.

  2. Which of the three (ETrex 25, ETrex 35, or Oregon 600) would be best for me?

  3. Has anyone used any of these 3 devices in bright sunlight and, if so, are they viewable? The ads say they are, but I’ve yet to find a store in my area with one I can take out in the sun for a demo.

  4. Since I’ll only be in the Sarasota Bay and not out on the open Gulf waters, will I really need the BlueChart (water nav chart) or will the 25k Topo map for my area show me the water, islands (by name), bridges (by name), canals, etc., well enough for my purpose?

    Any other info or advice is also very welcome!




Garmin eTrex 20 Hiking GPS Navigator

click n begin reading with the HXCA top title

this is not opening a soup can.

Doahn buy a touchscreen

With REI buy a membership n apply for a credit card. Callem n tell them what you want to do n see f they’ll give you a deal with the card ? I got $100 off…

With the Topo package find out if the 20 will take both the Topo map and the Blue Charts east coast map at the same time.

There is an absolute necessity for following garmin directions. Garmin does not speak or write American English.

Is possible to come out even with RI and Walmart as yo will use the Topo when hiking/traveling. No hike now ? once with Garmn maybe you will tho Fla is kinda dreary.

The 78 will follow tides. If you have the $$ get a 78 with the extras like satellite photo download. Itsa toy plus tool/instrument.

The depth charts show where to paddle . Know Bernoulli ? the velocity is highest at the boundary to the main stream. In a channel the deeper area is faster. When you learn eddy paddling the yak will go upstream against the current at the boundry against an outgoing tide.

You need a waterproof container. Take a look at clear lid Otter and Pelican boxes. Tied to the yak with parachute cord. Tie it to your arm. Tie it to the car.

Use lithium batteries

Read Nigel Foster, Florida Sea Kayaking.

Hmm, my initial comments
I think it matters to take a unit out into the sun if you can. I have experienced a unit that was supposed to be fine in daylight and was not. Older model, not in production now. But the point is it can happen.

A plain old GPS that will keep a track for you, not necessarily a marine one, will tell you if you are on course. I happen to like the marine info, but the use you describe doesn’t make it as much as of a requirement as foggy days in Maine.

Hope this helps. I can’t comment on current models, that is homework I have to do myself for this coming season. My unit is older and frankly due for a replacement.

Why No Touch Screen
Thanks for the advice and links. I’ll check them out.

You said not to buy a touch screen, but didn’t say what the problem(s) with them might be. Can you expand on that?


Thank you, Celia! I always appreciate your input!

My Thoughts
Checkout a site like for reviews and other info about GPS units.

You are going to find that GPS handhelds can require more investment, time, and tinkering then just turning on a smart phone with Google Maps.

The Garmin GPS handheld units come with a base map that is pretty useless. You can buy maps or subscriptions services from Garmin in order to customize to your needs – topo maps, sat imagery, rasters, lakes, BlueCharts, and car navigation. Checkout for all the maps Garmin sells and cost (not cheap)

The Garmin BirdsEye Sat Imagery sounds like what you are interested in. You use the Garmin BaseCamp software on a computer to select the areas you want sat imagery for, then download to your PC and then transfer to your handheld (if supported). This creates a layer over another installed map on your handheld so you can see the birds eye view when in that area. $30 lets you download as much as you want for a year.

Lots of us use free maps from as the Garmin maps can get pricey. Again you need to search the areas you are interested in, download, and install to your handheld.

I never bothered with BlueCharts or the Garmin lakes for kayaking but I also don’t do ocean or big open water. I find sat imagery useful paddling as most paddling locations are free of tree cover.

Not familiar with your paddling location but if mellow and protected you might just want to stick with cell phone apps. Google My Tracks will show you your route, speed, elevation changes, etc – fun stuff to look at off water. You can now download local maps to phones which fixes the big problems cell phones had losing maps if not connected to a tower. I am sure there are other apps to let you set way-points and use the compass to let you track back.

I am sure my Oregon 450 does an overall better job and wouldn’t want to depend on a cell in many situations but for fun paddling it is probably more than enough for most people unless you just enjoy using a GPS (which I do).

I like the most basic Garmin Etrex best
To me the fancier they get the harder they are to use.

I have several Garmins and a Suunto, but the simplest Garmin gets the most use.

blue charts
East coast is $100

on the gallows…

reactionary !
Last discussed, posters supported touchscreens as reliable in moist that is variable capacitance conditions.

Moist your TouchPad finger n navigate…

nova !

Now tellus why you’re looking for a touch pad screen ?

A biggie is a 360 degree compass mechanism so the unit need not be held flat for a correct bearing

read Burch
Burch describes using a stick then moves toward complex hand motions…

I decided on the Garmin Oregon 600 (touch screen), which I’m ordering today from They were the cheapest price so far ($229.99).

I’m going to try the free topo map from first, to see if that gives me everything I need. If that doesn’t fit what I need, then I’ll try the Garmin map - either the 24k topo for my area or the City Navigation map. I’m hoping the free map works well!

I’ll leave an update here and a review in the reviews section, once I’ve gotten my Oregon 600, loaded the map, and tried it out on the water.

yes but

– Last Updated: Dec-10-15 7:07 PM EST –

why a touchscreen if the unit needs to be in a water proof container

why an ad hoc land chart for close quarters marine use age ? when an experts marine map is available for $100 from the GPS maker.

why a touchscreen....which is sloppy for precise conditions in the living room....wait you get this downwind off the tide...

read Nigel's book.

No Need to Wait
You should be able to download and install Garmin’s BaseCamp while waiting, then download any maps you want from GPSFileDepot to view in BaseCamp.

Once your handheld comes you should be good to go to install the maps to your Oregon.

The Oregon is IPX7 and never had any water problems with mine. I do throw it in a Aquapak case if I am taking it into whitewater. Never had a problem with using the touchscreen through a case designed for a touch screen phone.

I do agree that touchscreens can be a pain at times. I always felt that it was more due to my fat sausage fingers as I have that problem with touch screens in all conditions.

My Oregon 450 is tolerable in bright light. Usually I can get enough shade with my hand, hat or deck bag to see the screen clearly enough otherwise it is just readable. One of the drawbacks of touchscreens. Maybe they improved on that with the 600–curious if they did.

Depends on where you are re bright

At home in the forest, no problem. Is a problem when paddling in Florida in the wide open Gulf of Mexico.

As always your location matters.

I have an Oregon 450. Other issues are when the screen gets smeared with mud… it does happen in the Everglades. I wash it off with sea water and when I finish the trip (usually days later) I rinse the unit in fresh water. I wear it on me so it is never in a dry bag.

Wear it on you?
Kayakmedic, where do you wear the GPS and how do you see it? Just curious.

I can certainly imagine the reason: “If it isn’t on you, you don’t have it.”

The Oregon is small enough to
carabiner on my PFD, which has straps and loops for that sort of thing. Yours could be different.

I did that not because the GPS is a lifesaving gizmo but because I was tired of kicking it around on the floor of my sea canoe. I don’t have a deck to tether it to and keep it readable.

the compass
and ? for older and economy units needs to be level…a Garmin 78 boasts a compass mechanism for not level readings.

With a 76csx, in canyon satellite reception diminished with not a not level position.

GPS tech developed with the market threat from handheld cell and computer phones. I have a Samsung S5. With Google software, a tower connection, the directions are better than a GPS handheld esp in an urban environment looking for a commercial destination.

Both visually and simply done.

If using a spray skirt, a mesh pocket there is use able or a KK clear vinyl envelop tied on with a 1/8th" shock cord.

Accepting the waterproof rating for a consumer unit that is not mil spec or ‘tactical’ is foolish when the $300 unit is use able thru a vinyl window.

Is best taping the seams with 3M 33 electrical tape after an isopropyl wipedown…eg the battery cover

what you are lookimg for here
is a fail safe environment not a fashion environment.

Everything is fail safe.

the injury and fatality not to mention the inconvenience stories “HOW WE SPENT 36 HOURS IN A SNAKE INFESTED SWAMP” are true, appling to you not them.

whose talking fashion?
In your dreams. I speak as one with no cell phone service where I paddle and a GPS program in the phone that sucks when it does work. I don’t need it telling me I am driving in the lake.

No way am I relying on a cell phone for two weeks in the BigCypress/Everglades. For 15 year I have relied on a map and compass but that GPS is most handy for the small picture. I know exactly what mangrove to aim for…

And indispensible in the fog… Fog happens.

I have a Montana 600
Its a touch screen type and has the largest screen of all Garmins I believe. it is also the brightest screen that iam aware of by quite a bit. . BUT its also a BIG handheld. plus costly. I got a refurb model last year on sale for $339. I have a suction cup mount I use on kayak. I can see it while paddling along. I don’t use any plastic case. I never roll at least on purpose when I have the gps mounted. The mount I I don’t think would work if gps was inn plastic bag.

Here is a picture of montana next to my other Dakota 20. Both set at brightest screen level. huge difference.