GPS question


I am just getting into kayaking and want to buy a GPS but am not sure what I need. All I want to do is be able to turn on and not get lost in the mangroves or bays of FL.

I was looking at the Garmin 78 and I noticed you can buy something called BlueChart g2. What does that mean? Does the base model not have mapping software already installed on it?

I have tried to find a youtube review of the difference with no luck.

Anyone have some good insight?



Maps and charts
These are not the same. A marine chart will have things like water depth and navigation markers - buoys, lighthouses etc. On the ocean these are obviously terribly important. In mangrove swamps in Florida - I don’t know. You really need to look at the data you get with each.

Maps are Extra

– Last Updated: Mar-20-13 3:39 PM EST –

Garmin pricing is a bit confusing. For the majority of the handheld GPS units they sell they have a base version which comes with a worldwide base map that is near useless and then other versions which are the mostly the same hardware but different maps are installed.

The codes at the end mean:
T = includes a Topo Map
C = digital camera
S = Compass (I think)

You might want to spend sometime checking out -- they have good GPS guides and reviews.

If you are expecting something like a car GPS you might want to read more about handhelds first -- they have a lot more power but are not as simple as a car GPS. If you have a smartphone the free maps apps on them work well enough but you do need to worry about battery life and cell reception.

Generally most people seem to buy the map less versions. There are lots of great free maps on I do pay for the Garmin BirdsEye sat imagery and use that in combo with a bunch of free topo maps from gpsfiledepot on my Garmin Oregon 450.

You need the Blue Chart…
if you are going to be out on the Florida coast.

Or you can download Florida Topo at

Keep in mind, that you can follow your “bread crumb” trail back.

jack L

Topo, Blue Chart and BirdsEye

– Last Updated: Mar-20-13 4:10 PM EST –

I use both the Topo and the Blue Chart, depending on the trip. They complement each other.

Another option that is available for the 78 that I am using more and more, is the BirdsEye Satellite Imagery ($30.00 annual subscripton). This allows you to load satellite images right to your handheld and is very useful for small areas where you need maximum detail (although the images can appear dark on the small GPS screen).

For route planning, you will probably want some software. I recommend Garmin's Homeport application (available online).

It takes some time to get proficient with all these tools and maps, and of course, the GPS itself.

Greg Stamer

smart phone options
if you have a smart phone check out the nautical chart/gps options for your phone. most chart apps are 10-$20. way cheaper than a gps and garmin chart pack. A waterproof case will run about $80 for a phone.

Learn without GPS first-
- or you’ll be in a world of hurt when it fails,

gets dropped overboard, etc., etc.

Battery life gets sucked dry real, real fast.

If you live near an REI store they have a GPS course that explains the basic concept and what different features do. They will be able to tell you which model would be best for your needs.

You might consider a Delorme…
I’m sure Garmin is very fine, but take a look at Delorme PN series and the software it includes at no additional cost.

I’m liking mine, but I’ve no Garmin experience to compare the two.


Don’t rely solely on GPS!
Learning without a GPS is key. Relying solely on electronics for navigation sounds a lot like being hopelessly lost to me. That means maps/charts and compass.

Physical maps question
Ok, where do I buy physical maps from?



Marine shops

– Last Updated: Mar-21-13 11:20 AM EST –

Places like West Marine carry real maps

Scroll way down the list and try calling some of these places

You may want a compass on the boat