GPS For Kayaking

I’m thinking about purchasing an inexpensive ($200 or less) handheld GPS unit to take kayaking. I’d like something that will allow me to download my travels to my computer when I get home. It would also be nice if I can use it to retrace my course back. Waterproof is not a requirement.Can anyone recommend a good unit?

– Last Updated: Feb-08-13 8:17 PM EST –

I think this is a great website for handheld GPS reviews as well as the following buyers guide:

The good news is that what you want is pretty basic functionality for a GPS unit.

The Garmin eTrex 20 is probably the lowest end you want to consider, the main reason is a GPS unit really is only as good as the maps you can load, and the eTrex 20 will allow you to load other maps then the base (unlike the cheaper eTrex 10). For kayaking I do lakes, rivers, streams and I use a bunch of free topo maps for my area but what is really useful is the ability to download the BirdsEye's Aerial Images (well worth the yearly cost). For kayaking you are frequently in areas without any ground cover and the sat photo image is helpful on the water.

I don't sea kayak or do large open water so no clue what people prefer on open water.

I have a Garmin Oregon 450 which is a bit more ($250 on Amazon) and I would reco you consider it as well. I had a hard time justifying the more expensive GPS units. I use my Oregon for kayaking, biking, hiking, Geo-caching, as well as just tracking general miles walked for fitness in my neighborhood.

One thing about handheld GPS is they are not great for people who expect them to work like a car GPS (you throw them on the dash and go). They are good for people willing to take the time to dig for maps they like and take the time needed to learn how to use them well. If you want something simple that you don't really need to mess with then you probably better off with a smart phone and map apps for them. Just don't count on it always having a 3G/4G signal when you need it or enough battery charge after being in GPS mode on the water for 6+ hours.

smart phone?
If so, check out the motionx gps app and get a waterproof lifecase. The app allows you to download maps so you don’t need internet access. You can also share your routes via email.

Otherwise, any of the garmin etrex units would probably work for you.

any of the Garmin Etrex series
They are compact, waterproof and handy for hiking and cycling too. Etrex 20 may be best bet and under $200 but compare features vs price and decide for yourself. These don’t float but you should keep on a lanyard anyway so that shouldn’t matter.

I actually use a smart phone app called Strava. It’s designed for running and biking but works really well on the lake and river. The only problem with it is that it drains my cell phone battery pretty fast. It’s only good for about 6 or 7 hours.

yes, the biggest reason I don’t like using my phone as a gps is that it’s even more valuable in an emergency as an actual phone and I want full charge. So if you have good reception then turning the gps on now and then to check is okay but not to continuously track all day.

Garmin Etrex Venture Hc
This is what I have and it works great. Under $200.00 and you can download it to your computer. It is waterproof. I would not recommend using your phone. If for some reason u lose reception it won’t work but the GPS always will as long as u have batteries.I use mine all the time.

Still on my Garmin GPS 60
My Garmin GPS 60 just keeps going and going and going.

Tracks great, allows me to get back to car everytime.

Throw the data into Garmin Connect.

Logs distances, times, etc., etc., etc. actually extracting something usefull out of the gps data

I have the Etrex 20
I downloaded the free topo maps for the states I hike drive and paddle at

A powerful small unit that your can change micro SD cards for greater map storage. It has tides as well. Plus you can use the Garmin website base camp for free. You can also pay an annual fee for their map site.

It isn’t touch screen, but has a long on time.

I got mine for about $160. I think it is about the the best for the price.

I like Delorme…
I’m sure you can find a PN40 or so pretty inexpensively. Comes with detailed topo maps, and a removeable SD memory card. It’s waterproof and has more features than I’ll ever use. Check 'em out.


Check the “Reviews Section” here
there are quite a few with reviews

Jack L