gps, necessity?

Do you always take a gps on expeditions? or is it obvious.

I was just in puget sound. If I were to go for longer do you think a gps is a must have, or is everything so small there that it’s easy to do with compass and map? Thanks.

Don’t rely on electronics on the water
learn how to navigate without one and then get one. It’s just a safety thing.


I would take mine.
If you already have one, it’s a no brainer. Take it.

If you don’t already have one, you should get one anyway.

That said, GPS is no replacement for navigational skill. Though from the sound of it, you already know how to navigate with compass and maps. So the GPS will be a very helpful aid.

Not a must at all. But a really nice addition.

On expeditions -always
and almost on every day trip.

On the day trips I like to see distance traveled and all the other parameters.

I always have my wife along with her Map-76, and a supply of batteries, so we have a back up between us, but if I were by myself, I would either have a second as a back up or the old way, compass and charts.



But as the others have said it is foolish to rely on a GPS alone. I always have the maps in a waterproof case on my deck and a compass forward of that. The GPS is also available on the deck or the sprayskirt tied to a deck line. It provides lots of useful info in an easy to use form.

Useful tool
But, I’ve paddled over 20 years without using one. I now carry a hand held and have used it twice on crossings. People have transited the oceans for some time now (thousands of years) w/o one

Depemds upon the Person and conditions
If you are navigating along a well definde coastline or shore it is fairly easy to navigate using a map and compass. But back in areas with a lot of twisty channels even experts can get lost. The same with people. My wife has no sense of direction and gets lost easily in the woods lake or ocean. I on the other hand rarely get lost. But the few times that I have gotten lost it was nice to have a GPS for a backup. This was mostly at night or in foggy conditions. IMHO with a GPS being so cheap it is kind of silly to be out without one. BUT even with a GPS a map and compass should be on board in areas where you might get lost. I got turned around in a swamp a couple of years ago and thought that I was spending the night. But fortunately the compass was right and achannel lead me back to open water and a known location. Paddling around after dark with alligators is not myu ideal of fun. Even the beavers can scare the crap out of me after dark when I can’t see them.

no gps.
Ive never used a gps and have done some long trips including some two and 6 months solo. I dont feel i need a gps and it takes soooooo much away from being aware of your surroundings.

I think with a gps you end up being a lacky with a map. I feel i can read a map with very good accuracy. even if i am a quater mile OFF from where i am in reality…who cares?! Not that I even knew I was ever OFF etc…

Look at the major explorations in the last two hundred years and there was no GPS used. Too me they can be a crutch. Im sure people will disagree but thats ok with me. I dont feel i still need one.

I think I would bring one in a heavily island or bayed area such as the Inside Passage BUT!!! I know several people who’ve done the whole Calif to Alaska paddle and they never even brought a GPS .

Its amazing how people have sort of let the MAP knowledge fade away. A good understanding of a map is all you need.

Its like having that gut instinct or intuition when you are sick or ill. You just KNOW something is wrong with you…to me thats like reading a MAP…however relying on the DR.s ekg or hospitol test is using technology to determine your health…its just not the same.

my two cents

Know limitations
I really like the rumour about the mountaineers on Mt Rainier, navigating in fog, that stepped right off the cliff- even though the GPS they were blindly following showed the cliff farther away!

One thing to note is that most kayak nav is piloting- and that requires keeping a good lookout and making constant assessments and re-assessments. If you are looking down at the GPS constantly, you might miss something.

Like what, you might ask? Well, most open water use of the GPS is for strategic planning, farther from shore. It is recognized that the limits of error in a GPS is far less than the limits of error in charts. For a chart, the real picture is that any objects of potential danger on a chart are accurate only in relation to one another, not the UTM grid. That reef you might be trying to miss, just .5nm off a headland? A GPS might take you right over it! The cautious mariner will note their position relative to other observable objects.

Doing a crossing? If avoidance of hazards is not the main issue, but maintaining speed made good over deep water, and hitting another shore with reasonable accuracy is the goal, then a GPS can be cool. But it certainly doesn’t replace the knowledge necessary to do the same think without the GPS! Battery failure, or the unexpected “gift to Neptune” dictates otherwise.

Personally, the only consistent use I have found for them is to use it with a heart rate monitor. In that case, I can run eperiments on efficiency. Stroke rate vs speed vs heart rate, or different paddle lengths (or types). Kinda fascinating, that.


A must…No as long as there is
a sun, moon and stars.

GPSs are nice. They take a little bit of knowledge and time depending on the model. I’m still learning mine I started out with maps, the sun, moon and stars on several long river trips and I know it is hard to get lost on a river.

They are nice and like digital cameras they can be a play toy. Do you need one? No. They have exceptional values and when you get one and learn how to use it …you will be spoiled too.

Just make sure you attach it securely to yourself or the boat.

Paddlin’ on


Paddlin’ on



– Last Updated: Jul-17-08 9:15 PM EST –

Technology good.

No, I don't want a motor to propel me but all the other technology is welcome. I use a watch to tell time. Not a sundial. I use a calculator to do arithmetic. Not an abacus. I use a PC to chat with you. Not pencil, paper, and the post office. I have a marine VHF radio to contact the Coast Guard if I need them and I have a GPS to navigate with.

I've been in fog and salt marsh and GPS was absolutely the best tool for the conditions.

I'm not playing "Inuits" or re-enacting some historical period when I go kayaking. I just get a lot of satisfaction getting from here to there under my own power.

(Lots of road cyclists are going to GPS now.)

They are nice to have
if the unfortunate time comes when you need to hail the C.G. or that tug boat that you can hear though the fog and calmly relay your position . I like to load points in crossings that have a lot of current to cut down on unnecessary paddling. it is also great for finding the point of return on day trips. no, you don’t really need one but it dose in handy

If you already know
how to use charts, how to plt and follow a course, how to read maps, use a compass, etc., good for you. Keep that skill and use a GPS to check your work and boost your confidence. There are far too many people running around in the woods with a GPS who can’t read a map, which isn’t prudent, IMO.

I have a friend who is an officer in the Coast Guard. Every time they used to go on a patrol in AK, the captain would “surprise” the crew by restricting the use of the instruments and making them chart everything by hand.

use it or lose it
Map and compass skills are essential, even though GPS is a lot faster and a lot less work.

The trouble is, since I haven’t used a compass and parallel rulers for trip planning for such a long time, I’m really rusty now.

Still, I understand how it’s done. So if push comes to sholve (dead battery, wet eletronic?), I can still pick up an edge and a string to make a compass divider out of and get myself home. It’ll be slow but I know how to do it.

A GPS is definitely not a “neccesity”, even though it’s an awfully useful tool…

If there’s any chance of being stuck in fog I’d want one.

I think we agree GK
I’ve had a GPS for years and unlike GK sometimes where I paddle you can’t see the sun, moon, stars etc. In fact sometimes it’s a strain to see the bow of your boat when the fog rolls in. Despite that I tend to rely on compass and chart—the GPS is a nice back up to check my navigation skills and to get the speed of my paddling but is no substitute for the old fashion method—for one thing they tend to malfunction in the damp fog–never had a compass and chart do that.

Don’t do the wilderness trips I once did, but I’d rather rely on map and compass; technology is something I try to “Escape” from when I head out, not something I want to rely on. WW

Lost in the big woods.
Got lost pretty good in the WI Northwoods while deer hunting once while following my compass which turns out didn’t spin freely. Instinct told me where I should be going after I figured out the compass was trash but the feelings of uncertainty were right up there at the top. I happened across another hunter who verified my position using his GPS. Now I take compass and mapping GPS on almost all my outings. Kind of a belt and suspenders approach. They are both just tools and either one can get lost, broken, etc. I do like the GPS though.


Well, I’m not a 'yakker
and I don’t do oceans, so my 2 cents is worth about that.

But when I hear people talking about their prowess with a map & compass (and yes, I navigated successfully in wilderness with only that for years), I can’t help but think about the how the expert navigators of the French Navy ran their whole fleet into the rocks in the fog off the English coast. Yeah - it’s an extreme example, but I think it still applies.

In this day and age, IMO, a good GPS (one that won’t fail in the wet unless damaged) is too affordable and too reliable to be left out of one’s bag of tricks. Just don’t lean on it so hard that you forget how to get around without it.

I would always take it on a expedition. When you are paddling in dense fog, the changing wave angles and wind direction can confuse your senses. On some fog crossings, it matters where you end up. Missing a small island will leave the next landfall Japan. You may want to avoid an area of boomers. You may not have the time to wait for fog to lift before you launch, and it can come on suddenly. Also, from experience, I strongly feel I am going straight when I am actually turning right. Without a compass, I would go in circles. With a compass, I have to fight my tendency to turn right. I rarely turn mine on, and prefer the challenge of chart and compass navigation, but I personally think it is foolish to be out there without one.

The gps would also be vital to give a rescuer your exact position should the worst befall you.