GPS selection - kayaking and hiking

I searched and looked but didn’t see a topic on this though I am POSITIVE this has been covered a few times.

I’m looking for a hand held gps device to use while kayaking and hiking. If I could use it while driving my vehicle that would be nice but I think I’m asking too much with that addition.

Waypoints are very important. Color would be nice but not necessary. Topography would be nice but not necessary.

I have read in other posts (Condensation in GPS, etc.) that several have the Garmin 76Cx.

My river kayking needs are simple, just pre-plot some points so I know when to take out and for some landmarks along the way. My hiking (actually hunting) are more critical, meaning if I get lost there the consequences are larger. Sure, I take my map, compass, etc. and know how to use them but in general getting lost on the hunt is a bigger deal (for me).


Look at the eTrex models
Two things to look for are the “H” for high sensitiviyy which helps under a tree canopy and the “x” for expansion cards. You can get topo maps free and put them on a memory card (cheap).

Garmin comparison:

Free topo maps:

With the topo maps and a few waypoints, you can use them to navigate your car. It’s not like a real nav system, but it’s better than nothing. If I set a waypoint at each turn, I get a beep to let me know I need to turn soon, then I can take a peek at the map to know which way.

I went with the Vista HCx which has the compass and altimeter. I rarely use wither of those.


I’ll check those links out. I don’t think I’d use much of those types of extras either, but if the unit came with them I’d play.

MAP76 Cx
Mine’s been waterproof.

i have the garmin
i would not recommendit for kayaking. it gets condensation…the handheld format ldoes not bode well with having it on a kayak deck

I beg to differ

– Last Updated: Nov-04-09 6:13 PM EST –


where there is a will, there is a way !

Totally waterpoof, and easy to operate.
that little Etrex has since been replaced with the GARMIN Map-76 and has been used for thousands of miles, year after year.

A gray foam wedge cut on my bandsaw - half inch pvc pipe to keep the bungee from cutting through it. Attach the hooks to a safety line on each side of your yak.
Glue on velcro on the back of the pouch with the matching piece glued to the face of the wedge.
Loop the lanyard through your deck cross bungees, just in case, and you are good to go.


Garmin experience`
I have a GPSMAP 60CSx and also a ForeTex 101.

On waterproofness, I have had issues with the 101. Guess is that the battery compartments are the major issue, so a Foretrex 201 (or similar) with an internal rechargeable battery may have less chance of an issue. No issues yet with the 60CSx, but now I keep my GPS in dry bags when used for kayaking, just in case. Aquapac makes ones that work just fine.

Many of the Garmins come in “x” and non-“x” versions. Difference is whether they use the higher resolution SIRF chip. For kayaking, either likely would work well. But for hiking, the “x” version would be much better, as it would get better signals in trees, canyons, etc. The 101 I have does not have it, and loses signal quickly in cases like this.

The GPS File Depot web site is great for topo maps and such. Doesn’t seem to have the ocean navigation maps, but those aren’t always that useful for kayaks and canoes (where Topos often are).

Garmin 76CSX
The Garmin Map 76CSX and 76CX or its sister unit, the Map 60CSX and CX are great choices. The 76 line has an advantage for boating because it’s one of the few hand helds that floats.

These units have been around for a while and are still very popular because they are rugged, have outstanding reception and great features. I have several units, some older and some newer, but for my money the Garmin Map 76X and Map 60X lines are still the best all around units available.

If you get Garmin’s City Navigator software you have a decent unit for driving as well. Not perfect (smaller screen, no voice prompts) but it gets you where you need to go quite nicely.

Beware however of the Garmin 76S, 76CS and 76CS. They are older units that don’t get the great reception of the X models.

I have the Garmin CSx, keep it on my deck (tethered, because it doesn’t float), and it’s been great. Have used it hiking and cycling as well. I liked the form factor and grip better than the 7-series.

Garmin X
"Many of the Garmins come in “x” and non-“x” versions. Difference is whether they use the higher resolution SIRF chip."

Actually the X in the name of a Garmin unit means expandable memory. Most Garmin units with a high sensitivity receiver have an “H” in the name (e.g. Venture HC, eTrex H)

With most Garmin hand helds, H=high sensitivity receiver, C=Color display, X=Expandable memory

For example the Legend H has a high sensitivity receiver but a B/W display. The Vista HCX has a color display, high sensitivity receiver and expandible memory and a Venture HC has a high sensitivity receiver and a color display.

The only exception are the Map 76X and 60X lines. They have high sensitivity receivers but don’t have an H in the name. Still the X means expandable memory with these units.

Also I don’t think Garmin is shipping anits with the SiRF chip anymore. The newer Map 60’s and 76’s are being shipped with the MTK II chip.

Very nice!
Great to see a problem, solve a problem.

I’ll make sure I look out for the older models.

Looking around
As I’m looking into all the things that y’all are telling me I came across some good reviews of the Delorme brand. Any thoughts on those?

GPSMap 76Cx
I will second (or third) the recommendations for the Garmin GPSMap 76Cx. The floating feature alone almost sells the entire unit, but there’s another feature as well that makes it ideal for kayakers: the tide charts.

Dennis Dwyer, on his excellent Inside Passage paddling blog, describes using a Palm Pilot loaded with tide software. If he’d used the 76, he would not have needed this extra piece of gear.

Read his IP report at



– Last Updated: Nov-04-09 11:24 PM EST –

Mine is the 76csx or something like that.

My ideal GPS unit should be as flat as possible, larger than average screen, lightweight, waterproof (really)... I would still have it in a plastic map case or something like that. and would be set to be reliably charged by a solar charger. 5x5 inches would be nice.

I stand corrected
One possible clarification to what you wrote is that the GPSMAP 60 series does come in base, Cx, and CSx, and only the versions with the x are high sensitivity. But it appears that the X units are also the only ones with the expandable card. Guess they figured adding an H would be too much.


– Last Updated: Nov-05-09 1:04 PM EST –

just updated their line..

I have an iFinder.. and would check them out.. the nautical maps are much more reasonable.. with no unlock codes $$$ for each area you want to use..

they all have their pros and cons..

GPS are useful but once I saved a trail on a bike path in the mountains and it wouldn't display.. I got back fine but don't use mine very often..

We are going camping paddling down the coast this weekend and I don't think it's worth the extra weight to carry along..

There are other situations when it is nice to have though.

check out the delorme models
I have a pn20 that i use for hiking and kayaking.

its very user friendly. Im 100% confident in its waterproofness… I let it hang off my deck bungie while i paddled a couple miles and not even any condensation. When something claims to be waterproof I make sure to test it before I need to trust it only to find it doesnt work.

also most of these units come with an acessory bundle that includes $100 worth of download credits for maps etc that you have to pay for for most other models. im nowhere near using the whole 100 and have more maps than I need

my 2cts worth…

– Last Updated: Nov-05-09 9:16 PM EST –

HI...I have the Garmin eTrex legend model....not a good model for heavy woods... mine will lose the signal in heavy overhead foliage. if Money is no object i suggest the Rino models you want a 2-way radio? SD card? digital compass? weather channel in the unit? do you want the option of using lithium batteries and/or dry cell in the unit? once you decide on options w/GPS , the field will narrow down. don't forget waterproof /resistance either. I also remember reading reviews about how some of the newer GPS units ( oregon? colorado? ) do not have functions useful to hikers/hunters. the link below my help you.

eTrex Features and Limitations
My experience with the eTrex Vista HCx is that it works well under heavy cover. The only place I get anomalies is near large rock bluffs and in caves. The signals bounce around and it thinks I’m kayaking up the opposite bank sometimes.

I have used the eTrex for driving, but it isn’t like a real nav system. If you program your turns beforehand (as a route) you can have it beep just before each turn. With the free toop maps you can see road names and such as well. Not ideal, but it is functional.

Color is worth the extra money if you’ll be actively watching where you are onscreen. They post above has the free maps that work with the “x” models. If you don’t care about maps, the B&W is okay.

I have dumped and swam 3 or 4 times while kayaking whitewater with the eTrex with no problems other than fogging on the outside of the screen. The waterproofing doesn’t really seem like much for the battery compartment, but it works pretty well.

When planning for a trip, you can set waypoints and routes for driving, hiking, boating, etc. Waypoints are the single points and routes are the paths you’ll travel. Generally each route will have several waypoints at the major turns and intersections.

As you go along, the units automatically track where you are, so the trail of crumbs is automatic (unless you turn it off). The units let you reverse your track to get back to your starting point and can provide direction and distance info along the way (even if you don’t have the compass model).

The eTrex units also connect to the Garmin MapSource software as well as Google Earth and EveryTrail (and others I’m sure). These allow you to see the tracks on a map and share them with others (along with statistics and photos). These web sites can apparently talk directly to the unit once you set it up and I’m sure this trend will continue.

If you want to use the screen for constant navigation, the larger units are better, but for the occasional check and for tracking/backtracking, the small units are quite nice. A lot of my trips, I probably check the GPS less than a dozen times, so a small, compact unit that can be operated with one hand is great.