The array of GPS choices out there is bewildering, especially to someone who has no experience with them… Sounds like they are invaluable for the touring kayaker. Any advice on the best unit for the kayaker? Thanks.
I like the Garmin Map 78 series (waterproof, floats). You can get the 78sc version with preloaded marine charts but it’s a bit pricey. For a lot of paddling, I wouldn’t say that any of them are “invaluable”, but if you’re paddling in places you haven’t been before or in areas prone to fog, or if you’re night paddling, or paddling in areas that are relatively featureless (e.g., in a salt marsh where every bend looks the same, or in the Everglades or something) then they can be a godsend. I usually mark my launch site and then, often, put it away. I have also been using it a lot lately to compare boats, paddles, stroke styles with respect to speed. I’ve had problems with all units with condensation forming on the inside of the screen making it all but useless. I thought this was due to humidity making it into the unit but apparently this will happen to all units because they are assembled in an environment with a certain amount of humidity that is optimal for assembly (as I read on Garmin’s website recently). Most often I see condensation forming under the screen where water droplets were on the outside of the screen. I’m now carrying my GPS in a plastic see-through waterproof electronics case. The unit itself is waterproof but as this will prevent water droplets from sitting directly on the screen, I am hopeful that it will reduce or eliminate condensation. Initial indications suggest it will but I need to be out a few more times.
A GPS receiver is an important part of my navigation gear, but it far from the most important. I’ll let that one stand without qualifying it, and let someone else expand on it if they desire.
- Indestructibly waterproof, or you put it in an equally waterproof container.
- Battery life is maximized by slow and simple electronics and screens
- Get a bunch of spare batteries if you’re going to use it for longer trips
If there were a “best” of anything, everyone would own it. Best for you is different from best for me.
A suggestion if you bag your GPS.
I was at the SW Kayak Symposium when an IK paddled in. I went over to see him and he commented that he almost missed the bay because the otter-box that held his GPS had fogged from the humidity and he couldn’t see the GPS, Between the humidity and heat increasing air pressure in the box, his GPS fried!
I find that putting a few silica-gel packs (the kind you get when you buy something electronic) into the box or dry-bag absorbs the humidity and saves the GPS.
Yeah, I just received a package of about 30 envelops of that stuff and have placed one in my GPS case and in another that I keep spare batteries in. I’ll be on the lookout for excessive fog though. Good to know.
Man on the moon how long ago and they can’t make a waterproof GPS sad
As a long time wilderness guide, I strongly believe the best GPS is the one that comes out of your head, using practiced skills in map and compass. On the side I teach basic land navigation skills with map and compass to law enforcement and Search and Rescue officers for U.S. Homeland Security, GPS is only briefly mentioned in the course as an adjunct tool to map and compass. After becoming an expert in M&C, they can take the GPS focused course.
Having said that, I will admit that I use a GPS for marathon canoe racing. Primary use is for speed montoring during familiar and regular races. However, and In particular during the Yukon River races, I mount 2 Garmin GPSMAP 60CsX units in the bow in front of me, and another one or two is with other crew members toward the stern of my voyageur canoe. One of my bow units is set to display the map, while the other is in compass mode, pointing to the next planned waypoint, keeping me on the desired planned fastest side of the thousands of islands and gravel shoals, staying in the fastest current. On the Yukon 1000 mile race, I have preplanned as many as 738 waypoints to guide me to a fast efficient route finish.
My 60CsX units have many thousands of miles on them in all kinds of weather, including heavy rain storms. I put a piece of duct tape over the already waterproofed rubberized ports on the back, and have never had any trouble with water entry inside.
Garmin GPSMap versions are always good, but a bit pricey. They used to come with no or 1 set of maps that you can download, so if you travel a lot, you may need to buy additional maps. Can get pricey. gpsfiledepot.com used to be a site where you could download some maps, including topos (which are open use in US).
What is battery life like in a Garmin GPS
Thanks for all the helpful comment. Recently read a newspaper piece about a couple guys paddling the length of the Mississippi. For them, the GPS was an important — invaluable, even — piece of equipment. Personally, I prefer analog navigation, i.e. maps and compass, but in a journey of that magnitude, it might be foolish not to avail yourself of the latest technology.