Help Selecting a GPS

Up to this point I’ve relied on a compass for my navigational needs. This spring I’m planning on a trip on Lake Superior and feel it’s time for a GPS. I just got off the Garmin site and was amazed at how many different types there are!

I need some advice on just what functions and features are beneficial for kayaking. All I know is that I want one that is hand held and not loaded with features or capabilities that I don’t need (also keeps the price down), just a good hand held basic GPS.

Also if anyone wants to let me know what kind they have and use that would be great, then I’d get an idea of the popular ones for kayaking.

Thanks – Bill

Waterproof, foolproof & AAA batteries

– Last Updated: Mar-17-06 9:06 AM EST –

See the Amazon reviews at bottom of linked page. This GPS unit, which does speeds, distances, simple maps (complex maps are not necessary) and the whole works, is only about $125, and solves the number one issue with GPS in a kayak... where to put it. Most units are not conveniently located on a hip belt for reading or setting/pushing buttons, and others have posted on here in the past about minicelled rigging, specially made deck boxes, etc. This Foretrex solves all those issues. Good luck.

I’ve had a Garmin E-trex Legend for about 3 years now and use it quite a bit. It’s still waterproof and reliable. I use it on my kayak, bike, and hiking.

You can buy marine or topo map software to download to it.

The cost at the time was around $150.00. The software is extra, of course.

Even though the thing is reliable, I still take the map and compass as backup, and on some trips I still like to use the GPS as the backup, just so I can practice the traditional orientation skills.


Garmen e-Trex "Legend"
I asked the same question here 2 summers ago, and the overwhelming responce was to look at the Garmen e-Trex “Legend”. I bought one, and have loved it ever since.

It comes with waterway, and road maps already loaded. Plus it has a computer port and cable, so you can install newer or more detailed maps.

The “Legend” model has a programable screen. You can set several of many options to view as you paddle. You can also set the screen for a large font, which is large enough for me to lay it on my deck under a bungie, and still read it. Or you can set it for a smaller font, and display more items at a time. I display the speed I am paddling, the direction I am paddling, the miles I have paddled, the time of day, and I can’t remember the others.

I use it for paddling, and when I go on road trips with my car. It has saved me from getting lost many times. Plus the 2 batteries last a long time.

It also has a moving map display, that you can zoom in to see close up where you are, or zoom out and see your relationship to the larger area. Plus it keeps a “track” of where you paddled, so if you get lost, you can follow the track back to your start.

The unit is advertied as being waterproof, except for the battery compartment. Since batteries give off a tiny bit of gasses as they work, the compartment can’t be sealed. I put a little vaseline around the edge of the battery door, and that has kept water out. I wrap the lanyard around my deck lines, and put the GPS under a bungie. I have knocked it into the water a couple times, and never had any water in the battery compartment. Also, smear a little vaseline under the rubber flap that covers the computer cable attachment area. This keeps the contacts from corroding if around salt water.

I got mine for $169.95 and Walmart, and I have used it A LOT! You can spend more, for a more deluxe unit, but this does all I need.

I just purchased a GPS 12 from a freind for $50. See the advice from people in this forum. I am a beginner at GPS and this unit does everything I need, except mapping. I will learn on this unit and maybe upgrade to something better. Check Ebay you can purcahse the GPS12 for > $70.00. This unit was used by the military for many years. If they use it, its good enough for me.

Garmin GPSMAP 76S
check out the GPSMAP76S I have had one since they came out, great unit, has electronic compass that you can use sitting still, some have to be moving. You can load Blue Charts which I think would be handy on superior. Nothing wrong with the Etrex units, I just found the bigger screen of the GPSMAP76S easier to read. I have had nothing but good luck with this unit. You should be able to pick one up relatively cheap since they now have the same unit in color instead of the monochromatic lcd screen like mine.

Go Simple
The least expensive Garmin will do everything you need for kayaking. You still need to have maps and compass as a back up no matter which GPS you buy.

Amen. K.I.S.S.
A paper map and a simple gps (I use the e-trex) is a combo that’s hard to beat on the water.

But …
Having the ability to download and upload waypoints and routes to and from a PC is a very handy feature. It allows you to preload your GPS with key waypoints and routes and to download field-entered waypoints and track logs. It also allows the user to install software updates to the GPS, if needed.

I’ve had a Garmin III+ for several years (3-5?), but two days ago I just bought a Garmin Geko 201 if it means anything.

2 way VHF and GPS
That is what I am thinking of getting. Best of both worlds. Here is the link for one:

Scroll down to 3rd radio to see VHF/GPS combo

Thanks Everybody
I’ve looked at the GPS’s you guys mentioned and really feel like I’m headed in the right direction now. Thanks for the replies and advice.


GPS Site is one of the best GPS sites on the net. Includes some great reviews.

Stay safe on the water

new Garmin may be better!
The newest Garmin Edge may be the best ticket out there. The antennae and processor are much much better than any out there. This is the next step in GPS performance and a mighty small pacakge. It is submersible too. There is also a wrist model as well.

This is the successor to the Forerunner.

Unless you need mega memory for ocean travel or charts and maps, this GPS will provide much more accurate current speed and location information for you.