GPS devices

In Florida, we enjoy yak’ing in and around mangrove islands and formations. The problem is that one mangrove island pretty much looks like another. In unmarked trails or areas, a yak’er can pretty easily loose track of location & direction - - not a good thing.

Yes, I have heard of a compass, but I’m interested if anyone out there has experience with a GPS device. They, of course, are widely used on boats and cars, why not a yak?

We have one
The wife and I are into geocaching and have found several caches during kayaking outings. We use a Garmin Map 60C … but the Garmin Map 76 series although older technology was designed for the marine environment. Both are rated IPX7 for 30 minutes in water ( 76 floats). I made a foam cradle to hold our 60C at the front of the combing attached by the bungies. Both will record tracks and allow back tracking … but mostly we just mark waypoints along the way if needed. is a good starting point to find the features available on the units. Magellan and Lowrance are the other 2 main suppliers of GPS units.

“I use billion dollar satellites to find tupperware in the woods.” Impala Bob

We Can Talk
GPS is great. A simple one might be all you need. If you’re going to do some long distances or get in some maze-like places, you might prefer a unit that accepts detailed maps. I bought and like the Garmin Map76. I got detailed maps loaded onto mine and have really appreciated it.

Look for waterproof models. Garmin sells some models that they claim are waterproof… except the battery compartment is not. Try to find a model that is REALLY waterproof and floats.

Garmin GPS 72
I have the Garmin GPS 72 unit it’s like $150 at Wally World, Gander Mountain and other similiar places. It’s Garmin’s entry level marine GPS and it does survive a dunking. I got it intending to have sailing lessons. Instead I’ve ended up using it for geocaching(Geo-packrat) and Kayaking.

Once you get a GPS, you’ll want a good mapping program to download your GPS tracks to, I love Topofusion. Very good program, and you aren’t charged for upgrades(yet).

Is Mapsource the only
compatible mapping software for Garmin? I was told this recently.

Here is a whole bunch of info…

Personally, I have used the same GPS for 5 years… The “good ole’ Etrex”. $99 and it does what I need it to. Sounds like you are in need of one for just that purpose. Mine has been on (power cable) in my vehical for 4 years, not a problem atall.

I just lash it to the deck infront of me & go.

Paddle easy,


You better believe it !
We have been using them in the mangroves and the keys for the past five or six years, and would not go out in the ten thousand Islands without one.

We went to Elliot Key five or six years ago from Key Byscane National Park, and plugged in the coordinates of where we were going to camp, and followed the arrow for the eight mile open crossing right to the spot. If I was using a compass I probably would have missed it due to the tides, wind and drift.

If you are alone either have two of them or a compass as a back up. My wife has the Map-76, and I have the yellow Etrex.

Also make sure you have a stash of batteries. One set will go about two days.



With a laptop?
I know next to nothing about GPS units, but it seems to me that the primary function is to determine where you are, based on satellite readings. And the difference between the $100 unit and the $1000 unit is the bells and whistles.

If I’m correct about that, I’d think that I’d like to spend next to nothing for a unit that will simply report the exact current location, speed and direction when asked, and interface it with a laptop computer that will do all of the data analysis and display.

I understand that this is hardly everyone’s perfect solution. I’m speaking of my own specific needs. Many will want to be able to pull it easily out of their pocket and check it while there is a risk of a wave hitting them. The laptop wouldn’t be much use there.

But I would like to be able to see my current location on a nice large map. I’d also like to have the option of upgrading to new features without having my $500 unit become obsolete in a year.

Is something like this currently possible?

GPS receiver information
Try this Internet site for more information than you will ever need:

It is full of reviews, lessons, cautions, explanations, and references. My Garmin GPSMap 76S has been invaluable. Those mangrove islands in the Florida keys are indeed confusing! And the Maine northern woods equally so. The Garmin US Topo maps are very useful, but, as always, it is prudent to have backup charts and a compass.

Yes and No
I used to work in the “mapping” business and using free tools and data available from Internet, created a work-flow to enter my own custom map data. What it did was get the data into MapSource format. The work-flow was long and really not worth the trouble, but it was fun doing it!

unit for laptop use

Re: unit for laptop use
Yup - that looks like what I could use. I’d suspect that something this basic will probably drop dramatically in price before too long.

Once you have one…
You will not want to use it just for kayaking. I have the Magellan Meridian Color. I purchased the Traveller pack that came with detailed North America street level maps, power cords, SD memory card and a mounting bracket. I use it in the car, on the yaks, canoe, bicycle, walking, in airplanes and on motorized boats.

I jumped into the high end with bells and whistles and did not regret it. I rarely leave anywhere without it as the software has a database of hospitals, banks, gas station, restrauants and many other handy, searchable points of interest.

Used for sale
At the website you can go into forums and there is a section of used equipment for sale. I would strongly urge you to get a mapping GPS that can accept Marine maps for your trips into the mangroves. Garmins Blue Charts are darn near identical to any marine map of the areas I have seen. If you want to stay inexpensive a simple Etrex and a good marine map will certainly work.

I took the approach of a previous poster and bought all the bells and whistles and do not leave home without my trusty GPS. In unfamiliar areas I can find any services I need with the push of a button or two.

Geocaching is more addictive than paddling! Combining the two is priceless. Impala Bob

no matter what ya get
have a compass and map for backup.

Garmin e-Trex, “Legend” is Super
I have the Garmin e-Trex Legend. I bought it as a result of reccommendations from here on the P-Net message board. It is a super piece of electronics, and it only cost $169.99 at Walmart.

It is the next step better than the yellow e-Trex (which does a good job), but it has the main screen that you can change what you want to display. you have about 15 options to pick from such as direction of travel, speed, distance traveled, time of day, and many other choices.

It comes with road and waterway maps of the entire USA built in. PLUS it keeps track of the route you paddled so you can display the map and follow your route back home. A neat feature.

It also has the capability for you to hook it to your computer for you to download specific area maps into it.

The unit itself is waterproof, so I just stick it on the deck of my kayak under a bungie. The battery compartment is not waterproof, as batteries give off gasses when being used, and they must be able to vent any pressure that may build up. But I put a “little” vaseline around the edge of the battery door, and I have dropped it into water without any water getting into it. I have read to not put it in a waterproof bag, as heat builds up inside the bag and can hurt the GPS.

When I asked this same question on P-Net about a year or more ago, I got an overwhelming reccommendation on the Garmin e-Trex Legend. You can spend a lot more money, but you won’t get much more for it IMHO.

Juat as a safety margin, always carry a back up compas or another GPS. Anything can fail at the worse time. “Murphy’s Law” prevails!

Happy paddling!

Laptop GPS
yes that unit will work WITH your laptop, but it’s not much use without it…and do you really want to carry a laptop with you?

Where as your standard GPS will interface with a laptop or desktop. Some of the cheaper(and older) models don’t have a cable link.

I carry spare batteries
with mine and still carry a compass and map.

Re: Laptop GPS
Sure - I’d carry one. What I envision is the ability to see where I am and the surrounding map on a nice 15" screen.

The truth is that I simply can’t justify spending many hundreds of dollars on a unit that does everything, and then having to spend many hundreds more every couple of years to buy a unit that does all the things that have been invented during that time. There are too many things like lightweight paddles, camping gear, etc., that take priority.

I also know that if I buy a low priced model to give me the basics, it will just make me crave the more exotic models. From experience, I know that this is what I am. I just paid exactly twice as much on a kayak as I did only 11 months ago.

Here’s what I think would be a truly helpful system: Have your GPS unit and laptop running and stowed away safely, and a cord running to it that will send/rcv audio. You’d have a simple headseat on and could give voice commands to the application.

You: “Speed”

PC: “Current speed… three point two miles per hour”

You: “Next waypoint”

PC: “Next waypoint in zero point eight miles, 24 degrees left of current heading”

You: “Who da man?”

PC: “You da man.”

Like I said before, this isn’t a solution for everyone. But I’d like it. In the meanwhile, I’m best off going with my current method of yelling to the guy in the next yak with a GPS - “Hey, where the hell are we??”

some of those mangrove islands
can get maze-like and Nigel Foster noted that a GPS might not be of much help when the path lines start crossing over one another. He recommened a good compass and knowledge as the best way to get around in Florida mangrove country.