How many miles ??

Is there a way to gauge how many miles you Have paddled. We go on long day trips but have no clue as to how many miles we have gone. all we know is how much time it takes us to get from point A to point B

If I am planning a trip I will measure the distance on a map, it wil give you a rough estamite. If Iam going out to the lake and just paddleing around I can keep track of how far I have traved with my GPS.

my gps is very inaccurate
so I measure on a map before or after. If I forget and am bored at work, I use Google Maps for an estimate.

Google Earth
is your only other option.

Get a GPS.
You can get the little el Cheapo yellow Garmin Etrex for less than a hundred dollars.



“Inaccurate” ???
First you have to turn it on, and then you have to

keep it on.




is what i use to pull down portions of USGS topographic maps off the web for paddling. They have higher level options that cost a fee but what i’ve needed is free.

If I’m on the coast I use NOAAs online chart viewer,, to pull down charts of where I’ll be or have been.

The only time I find these less than adequate is on the rare occasion when i’m on a coast without discernable features.

Maybe my reluctance to buy a GPS stems from the fact that 30 years ago I was a land surveyor and mapmaker.

Google Pedometer
Allows you to record a point by point route. I prefer to use the Satellite view, as that makes plotting an accurate route easier.

Nautical charts
Learn how to read paper charts too. Good skill to have.

Get a GPS put it in a bag!!!

GPS accuracy
GPS units record distances from point A to point B assuming a straight line between the points. If you did not travel in a straight line to get from point A to point B the reading will not represent the length of your non linear path. To get a more accurate reading when you course includes turns, curves etc. you must break down the start stop line into smaller line segments each time you change course (by setting GPS marker points each time you shift course). At least thats how I have to do it with my GPS unit (an older model).

it doesnt say that in the manual…
Actually, after battling with Garmin for 3 months, they finally caved and are letting me exchange my GPS72 through them. The unit never worked properly from the beginning but since it was my first GPS, I assumed I was doing something wrong. By the time Garmin support said the unit was defective, it was past the 30 days that I could exchange with the retailer.

That sure beats me measuring a google map in photoshop.

I like, which is similar to the gmap-pedometer. I also use the satellite or hybrid view to make it easier.

two ways
Load your map from Use a string and trace the major path of your trip down the river. Be very careful to lay the string as accurately as possible. Then you can stretch the string out and measure on the scale beneath the map where you marked the string. This gives a pretty accurate measure of the RIVER LENGTH for your journey. You may travel somewhat farther as you negotiate obstacles etc.

Use a GPS but keep these thoughts in mind. Most GPS units will only record your distance as you exceed a certain threshold speed. That threshold can be set in the setup menues of your system. Normally, they come from the factory with 5 to 10 MPH threshold. So that just about eliminates the GPS recording your distance as you paddle. You can dial the threshold down to 1 MPH and it will track your progress much better. Still, you can lazy drift for half a mile and record nothing on the trip meter. You can also usually set the resolution with which the GPS records your progress. You can set it to record either by time or distance. Set it to record every one second. This will give you the most number of samples and the straight line distance you travel each one second will be VERY close to the actual distance travelled at canoe and kayak speeds. You may research further to understand why the feature is implemented this way, if you care that much. Know that the GPS mileage will be shorter than the actual mileage.

Miles traveled
Get a new GPS. My Garmin Legend will tell exactly

how far that I have traveled from the last time that I reset it. I have marked a waypoint at the launch site and checked how far I have paddled verses the distance back to the launch as the crow flies. On one trip it was only 5.8 miles from the take-out to the launch, waypoint to waypoint. We had paddled 15.8 miles as the river was very crooked. Mine will read as you drift with the current. It will give both moving and stoped time.

Not a replacement for navigation, but…
depending on where you are paddling, a chart may not be available (e.g., if you’re inland), or may not be produced in a scale that makes for a very accurate assessment of your mileage.

Chart skills are key for navigating on the water…this poster was looking for a way to precisely figure out his mileage after he was off the water.

As an aside, I think looking at Google Earth, GMAPS Pedometer, or some other site is a great way to hone your chart skills, especially in learning how to translate what you see on the chart to the actual landforms with elevation (as you can get in Google Earth).

A taffrail log and an hourglass.

You can get it to plot your route
depending on your unit.

Suunto watch
I hopped on the fitness bandwagon and bought the Suunto T3 watch which comes with heart rate monitor. It also uses optional PODS, one of which is a GPS POD. It’s features are extremely limited, speed and distance only, no waypoints or coordinates. I like it for paddling because I know how fast I’m going compared to how hard I am working.

For anyone fitness minded, I highly recommend this setup.