Garmin 86 SCI feedback please

Anyone have one? What do you use to mount it to your deck to read it easily. Battery life on it?

Thanks :+1:

I’ve got a Garmin GPSMap86sc - no inReach stuff.

I don’t have it mounted, I just have it tethered (in drybag - I don’t trust waterproofness) to kayak and placed right in front of me (I always wear a sprayskirt).

The site:

has good comparisons, though it says that the 86SC doesn’t have tide tables which is incorrect (unless they’ve modified the device since I bought one)

Don’t know about the 35hours at 10min tracking (as mentioned in the above comparison), I leave mine on highest tracking, and, for example, have used on 12-13 hour paddle, about 1/2 in darkness (so had background light on (dim)) with plenty of battery life left (little more than 1/4).

My complaints with the 86:

  • too big (much bigger that the 78)
  • I don’t like the background light settings. The lowest setting is not enough, and the next setting is too bright.
  • can’t see display in sunlight very well (and almost not at all with polarized sunglasses on). Again - compared to 78 - which was much better.

I still use it most of the time (over my 78), but, I paddle mostly in the dark, if I’m going out for a long day (many daylight hours), I will use the 78.

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Thanks for your help.

This is the style I have for my current 400C Oregon and the old Coloodo. They don’t mention specific models thst it fits. I bought one for each boat. There are others, but type is great if it fits.

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:+1::+1::+1::+1: thanks

Hope that works. Its not a strong mount, but it works for what I put it through. I plan to call Garmin tomorrow to see if it fits my model. Will check about other applications if you haven’t gotten to it by then.

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Following is a lengthy review I wrote for Watertribe in 2020 after using the GPSMap86sc in the 300 mile Everglades Challenge (EC). In this review I’m mainly comparing the 86 to the 78 series that I used for many years. Prices are all 2020 prices. I’m still using the GPSMap86 as my primary (and recommend it), and a GPSMap79sc as my backup.

In a nutshell, my recommendations are that if you like a rechargeable get the 86, otherwise get the 79. The 79 seems a little faster. For Inreach I prefer not to have all my eggs in one basket and use a separate Inreach Mini 2.

For the 2020 EC I tested the new flagship Garmin handheld, the GPSMap86. This unit replaces the venerable and aging GPSmap78 series (this was before the GPSmap79 series was announced. I have since used the GPSMap86sc for the 2021, 2023 and 2023 EC).


  • Screen at 3” diagonal (versus 2.6”) is slightly bigger and more usable than older 78 series.
  • Much faster than its predecessor with much greater memory (screen doesn’t lag as badly when you press buttons quickly, pan the map or zoom in/out). That said, there are still times when the GPS bogs down and you wait.
  • Optional Inreach Capability for 2 way texting / SOS (GPSMap86sci version only)
  • Sealed internal battery may make the unit more water-resistant to failure (but still only rated IPX7).
  • Interface is very similar to GPSMap78, learning curve is low if you already use a 78.
  • BirdsEye satellite imagery is provided with no subscription required (normally $29.00 / year).
  • All units include Bluetooth (can pair to your phone) and can connect to WIFI.
  • You can record your activities to Garmin Connect.
  • All “86” models can receive basic weather reports including a precipitation radar scan. For the non-Inreach versions this requires you to pair with your smartphone or to access WIFI. The Inreach version can pull the information from the Inreach network.
  • Fix for route navigation – when you are navigating a route and turn the power off and back on, you are still navigating the route, as expected. For the 78 series this worked for navigating to waypoints but not for routes (you had to find your route again and navigate to it again).

The BAD:

  • Internal battery lasted only 14 hours (screen constantly on at night at 10% level) during the EC. Requires carrying a charging brick.
  • Backlight is either too dim (Night Vision setting) or too bright (10% lamp setting) for night use.
  • $$$. The non-Inreach version with preloaded Bluechart costs $350 (base version without Bluechart is $300).
  • Inreach version supports GPS tracking (but that will further reduce battery life). I prefer to use a separate Inreach Mini 2 for GPS tracking.
  • Waterproofing is still IPX7 (not rated for submersion).
  • The processor is still slow for some operations making you wait at times, but much better than the 78. The new GPSMap 79 is noticeably faster than the 86.


  • $$$$$, The Inreach version (GPSMAP86sci) costs $550 and requires a subscription to use Inreach services.
  • Map screen froze several times during the EC while navigating a route, requiring a restart. [ This is still an issue, although rare, in 2023 ].

GPSMAP86s: base version with world basemap. $300.
GPSMAP86sc includes pre-installed BlueChart G3 (Garmin and Navionics data). $350.
GPSMAP86sci: above plus inReach capabilities including SOS, two-way texting and tracking. $550.

All come with digital Compass, Altimeter and Accelerometer. All models permit Bluetooth pairing with your phone, WIFI (both Bluetooth and WIFI can be disabled to prolong battery life), and
LED lamp (with SOS feature) on the back of the unit and more.

First Impressions

The 86 is based on the GPSMap66i series, originally designed for hiking. Visually, the 86 is a departure from the 78 series, and features an external antennae (requires a larger bag if you use one), and buttons at the bottom of the unit. The 86 is bulkier than the 66 (and the 78) due to the internal battery and to allow it to float. Although its rounded bottom fits well in the hand, it does not sit flat on your deck without an accessory. While only two ounces heavier than the 78, the new 86 feels much heavier in the hand at 9.5oz.

Due to wireless connectivity there are a lot of features built-in that most small boaters can ignore. Per Garmin the GPSMap86; “can connect to onboard Garmin chartplotters and instruments to stream real-time boat data, including depth, heading, sea temperature and more, directly to the handheld. With a sunlight-readable 3-inch color display and water-resistant, floating design, they even double as a remote control for convenient operation of an onboard Garmin autopilot or select FUSION marine stereos and speakers”.


The screen is 3" diagonal but looks much larger than the 78. It’s still much smaller than any smartphone but it’s a big improvement. Whereas I have a hard time improvising a route on the small screen of the 78, the 86 is more “workable”, being bigger, brighter and clearer, and works well even in bright sunlight.

The screen size difference is even more amplified if you use the 86 without a bag. Normally my GPSMap78 (primary and backup) are placed in an Aquapac bag with a color indicating desiccant packet. That provides protection but it makes the screen even more difficult to read in low-light conditions and when the sun is not overhead. I generally don’t change batteries on the water, but if you do, and get even a small amount of water in the bag, condensation can overwhelm the desiccant, fog the screen and make reading the GPS frustratingly difficult.

The 86 has an internal rechargable li-on battery which means no battery compartment to leak. While the jury is still out, it survived just fine, without being bagged, on the 2020-2023 ECs.


The 78 allows micro-adjustment of the backlight, in 5% increments.
The 86 allows adjustments in only 10% increments (11 possible settings) including a “Night Vision” (NV) mode.
I had trouble reading the dim screen in the NV setting, and the next setting, 10%, was too bright, destroying my night vision. Garmin has not been forthcoming with a software fix. My workaround hack is to put a small red or grey square of plastic filter material (search Amazon for Correction Gel Light Filter) over the display at night, secured by some rubber bands. I recommend a gray filter, since red will make your route line almost invisible.

Weather Reports

The 86 allows you to get basic weather reports including a precipitation radar scan. For the non-Inreach versions this requires you to pair with your smartphone or to access wifi. The inreach version can pull the information from the Inreach satellite network.

Mount / Charging

I use the Garmin Backpack Mount (attaches a flat Velcro pad to back of the GPS spine mount) and then mate this to Velcro on a homemade minicel stand. The Garmin Marine Mount works OK too, I attached it to a separate base that velcros to my deck.
During the EC I charge by swapping to my alternate GPS and putting the 86 in an Aquapac bag with a charging brick, in the day hatch. I haven’t had any issues with the GPS heating up while charging in the closed bag.


:scream::flushed: thank you very much!