Inexpensive GPS reccomendations?

… Some feedback from the “more experienced” would be helpfull. I presently own and use an “Aviation” GPS, so I fuly understand how they work. But I am interested in buying a less expensive (Aviation GPS are very expensive) GPS to take out with me Kayaking. I have also considered a “Speedmate”, but this only tells speed.

…What is a decent, inexpensive GPS that works well with a Kayak? I would like to be able to use it to see my paddling speed as one thing.

…Does the “ground use GPS” tell speed in less than 1 mph units (1/2 mph?), does it also tell you distance paddled? I know thay all tell direction being paddled.

… Some reccomendations of what to look at would save me a bunch of time looking.

Thanks!!! Bill

Try these…
Bill, there are plenty of models for about $100-$125, the Geko by garmin and the etrex. Walmart carries them for about that price and most electronics stores that have them will let you test them out/try them out…or you could always return them. They usually have the basic location lat/Long, compass and speed readings your searching for. I have the Garmin GPS 72, for a list of ones visit and search using GPS, then click handheld GPS…you’ll find plenty of info there.


Magellan Meridian
I have a Magellan Meridian that I use in my powerboat, as well as my yaks. It is waterproof, and if you lose it overboard it floats!

See this thread

Good discussion in September. Using the search feature here can yield a lot of previously discussed topics. Also check product reviews for more opinions on GPS units.


Thanks to all!
… Thanks for your feedback. I’ll check into your suggestions.


Available maps
I am interested in getting a GPS unit. I have read a lot about them and I keep seeing them refer to a “base map” that they say includes major rivers, creeks, and waterways. Is it true and what do they consider “major”? I live in South Carolina and paddle mostly rivers and creeks.

Tenths of a mile
My bottom-of-the-line E-trex will give speed in tenths of a mile, and will calculate average speed as well. It doesn’t have the ‘map’ capabilities of the higher end units, but will give position in either Lat/Long. or UTM. It performs pretty well even under tree canopy conditions.


If you have an Aldi store in the area you can pick up a Garmin ETrex for $75


Wriststrap Design Forotrex

– Last Updated: Oct-14-04 4:45 PM EST –

I just bought a Garmin Foretrex 101 that is waterproof and is made to be worn on your wrist. You can have speed, mov.avg., odom, mov'n time all on one screen or what you want. You can wrap the strap around the bungies on the kayak deck and it stays in place and you still can read it well. Also the unit is small and light and you could wear it hiking, with the elevation feature, or running or whatever. Seems to work well and it's versatile. It was $120.00 and does give tenth of a mile per hour.


Sandwich Bag

– Last Updated: Oct-14-04 4:50 PM EST –

Unless things have changed recently, inexpensive = not waterproof. I used a Garmin Etrex which seemed to do a fine job... except I had to try to read it through a sandwich bag. I got sick of the sandwich bag hassle and bought a Garmin MAP76. It maps, it's waterproof, and it floats... but it's expensive.

GPS Units
Garmin and Magellan are the 2 big players in GPS units. I have used both and would not recommend any other brands. Do yourself a favor and spend a little extra for a model that will connect to your PC for upload of detailed maps. It will also allow you to keep track logs of where you have been and all your waypoints and logs can be stored for later reference.

My preferred unit is the Garmin Etrex Legend. The Garmin maps are slighly superior to the Magellan ones, as they are easier to read on the screen of the gps at various zoom levels. The unit itself is waterproof, but the battery compartment is not, so if it spends any time underwater, the battery compartment will need to be dried out. Magellan units are better in this respect, as they are completely waterproof, but it takes more effort to change the batteries and as I said, the maps are not as good. The base model Etrex that others have mentioned is fine if you do not want any maps at all. I have found that being able to pinpoint my location on a map is an invaluable tool.

Speed accuracy at such low speeds is not perfect in itself, but average speed over several minutes or longer will be accurate. Every once in great while the calculations get wacky and I might see that i’m going 700 mph, but this is not often and is a fact of life in the technology.

You may hear a lot of things about WAAS and electronic compass/altimeter/barometer, but I don’t find these things of much value and they really suck the battery life down.

I vote Garmin Etrex
Simple, rugged, reliable. I’ve used mine over two years with no problems, keep it in a waterproof case to keep it safe, but mine has been rolled in surf and washed in a washing machine and still works fine.

gps units
Inuse a Garmin Map 76 Marine gps. this goes with a mapf n. american marine features bouys etc. It will tell you time tide speed in knots ,kilometers or miles per hour. distance travelled between points (straight line only) You can store routes of up to fifty waypoints, man overboard goto feature plus a list of others you can upload up to 8 megs from your computer. Mine is a few years old and cost 400. canadian when I bought it. The new version as a lot more featuresvery easy to use. Greg

Etrax Legend in water
Mine has been in the water and it actually continue to work. The good news is water enter that compartment relatively slowly. So if you dry them out right after submersion, the unit will continue to work. Why they can’t put a rubber seal around the battery compartment to make it a bit more water resistance escapes me. Maybe because there’s no compatition?

The other weak spot for water to penetrate is the computer link. Mine got wet (salt water) and soon went GREEN, color of copperoxide! When it got too bad, it won’t talk to the computer any more. I scrape the oxidation away and made it work again. But I now learn. I clean the connector after each use. Why they couldn’t seal that tiny compartment is again beyond me.

GPS and mapping capability
I have noticed that most folks on this board prefer a GPS which can show maps on the screen, supposedly because this way you can “pinpoint your position”. That’s fine, but I don’t find that to be necessary. I have found that with the maps I print from DeLorme map software, I have no problem at all locating my position very accurately, simply by using the coordinates printed on the map margins. Sure, I can’t plot my position to within 15 feet like some of the best mapping GPSs can, but for the $100 dollars I spent I can find my location on a paper map to within one hundred feet or so at a glance. Even with a map that covers a larger area, you can plot your position within a few hundred feet, which is more accuracy than you’ll really ever need for navigation. I suppose if you really need one-handed operation or don’t want to mess with paper maps when in stormy conditions out on the ocean, there’d be an advantage to on-screen maps, but for what I do, I find paper maps to work just fine.

By the way, my Etrex has been briefly underwater a couple of times and it never had a problem. I realize they are not made for that, though.

I second
Guideboat. Don’t really need a map screen. Use my etrex hiking, geo caching and paddling. Has been submerged a few times. And has been splashed alot. As for maps , I use a clear or sealed case for maps and have a bigger ,better pict. of terrain and features than with a GPS screen.

Muti-Purpose or just paddling?
A base (yellow) Etrex would be fine for paddling if you like paper maps. I use mapping software on my Etrex Legend for navigating unfamiliar cities, woods, and water. My maps show many old logging trails, back roads, streams, and ponds that you would never see on paper unless you had 7.5 minute USGS maps. Even with this amount of detail I can fit 3/4 of Wisconsin (or any similar sized area of the U.S.) in the memory of the unit. I would have to have a briefcase full of paper maps to do the same. I am heavily into geocaching and being able to find my way around quickly and easily makes or breaks what I can accomplish in a day.

A word to the wise!
If you are going to be using your GPS as a navigation tool or a “waypoint” tool in areas like the 10,000 Islands or big time estuaries, make sure that you either have a back up one or a compass and charts.

S— happens!



Be aware of Magellan…
…Thanks again for the feedback, I am considering the Garmin eTrex Legend, as the local store has one in stock.

… Just my comment for what it is worth. I own an Aviation GPS sold by Magellan. The unit works fine, and it 5-6 years old. BUT…

… A couple of years ago, Magellan decided to stop servicing all of the aviation GPS units they ever sold. Since the FAA changes the airport information every 56 days, I would need to upgrade the info in my GPS regularly to keep it up to date for Aviation use.

… Since they quit servicing aviation GPS units in any way shape or form, I now have a $700.00 GPS that is still working with OLD outdated info. I have to keep all of the changes written down, so when I use it, I have to manually enter the waypoints. This effected the entire aviation community that owned any Magellan GPS unit, not just me.

… It still works great, but is a pain to use. So I don’t want to chance damaging it while Kayaking. But the fact is that out of the “clear blue sky”, my business is of no value to them in keeping it up to date. I was even paying for the updated information as I needed it.

…I would be afraid to buy any Magellan product from them ever again, for fear they would do the same with what I had bought. I don’t want to be “Stuck” twice.

Happy Paddling!

where are you located in Wisconsin?
I just ordered a GPS unit online yesterday (Garmin GPS V) and am looking to use it for navigation in my car, on my bikes, hiking, and on my kayak! A big draw for the purchase was also to dry geocaching which sounds like a lot of fun. I’d love to get out with an experienced geocacher to learn the ropes if you were nearby. (I’m in Appleton by the way.)