Kayak GPS

I am thinking of getting a basic GPS unit probably more for getting into Geo-caching with my daughter but also would use it for kayaking, hiking, and biking. Pretty much all of these activities are in safe locations near civilization, so the GPS is more of a toy then a survival tool.

I never go kayaking in open water – 1500 acres of water is the biggest I ever see. Most of my kayaking is smaller rivers, streams and calm lakes, even then I still like to have a map on hand. I am pretty comfortable with a map and compass but still it would be nice to have a back up letting me know when I reached a take out point. Also, I think it would be fun to mark interesting places I find or see miles traveled and avg speed.

I have been looking at the Magellan eXplorist 110 and 310, mainly because they seem to offer more features for the money over the Garmin units. The 510 adds the ability to use Navatronic (for an extra cost). I not very familiar with these – seem to be more for boating then kayaking or fishing, which I will never do.

Based on all of this, any suggestion on a GPS unit? Is it worth while to pay a lot more for Navatronic maps for the type of kayaking I do?


Garmin Etrex 20
I have the Etrex 20 and it is my first handheld GPS. It is simple to use and does everything i need it too. I use it for some kayaking, although normally don’t need it due to the size of the lakes. I also use it for geocaching. I haven’t had any problems with it. The map it comes with is VERY basic. I was able to download some free TOPOS for NJ and they work great.

When looking at features of the more expensive GPS models think about whether or not you will actually need them. From your description i think the etrex would be a good fit.

Everybody uses Garmin for a reason
Everybody uses Garmin for a reason; they simply have the most useful functions and features. The biggest negative for Garmin is the cost of their add on topo maps etc. the high price is a rip off. I’ve had five; 3 handheld and 2 auto. All 3 of my handheld’s had defective battery compartments–the units would randomly shut off. That was years ago, so I’m sure they fix that problem.

Avoid the Delorme PN-40. Tiny screen, battery life of about 6 hours, and useless functions. I’ve never once successfully created and followed a route with it or its included computer software. Delormes’ $29 annual all-you-can-download subscription is the best deal in town, and why I bought one. 24K USGS topo’s on you GPS, now that is cool. Too bad everything else about it sucks. The first one I had died the second day of my vacation. Dead. Delorme replace it, but not til a week after I got back to work.

Can’t say much about the Magellan. Seems like a toy, so I never bothered.

My next will be the Garmin 60 or GPSmap 76, or whatever they call it now.

To be a non-conformist… I have the Lowrance color handheld and it works just great.

I added a nav-map chip mainly to get bottom structure, but later found its also great in the offshore power boat for a quick reference depth at a glance after the bottom finder looses its brains at about 700’. Geocaching I don’t know… but yes many people I fish with also use some variation of the Garmin-map units.

Another option is if you have i-Phone there is a full nav mapping app that integrates with i-phone gps.

Garmin with Birdseye Satellite
I have the Garmin GPSMAP 78. I purchased the Birdseye satellite subscription allowing me to download very crisp pictures of the area that I will be kayaking. It really helps keep you on track in areas that are easy to get disoriented like marsh areas. I have found that a good smartphone with google maps works very well for tracking present position and seeing the area around you. If you are going to plot a track and follow it. I suggest a Garmin. If you want to see where you are only, then I suggest your smart phone with google maps.

I’d get which ever one of these models
fits your needs and budget (Garmin GPS Map 62XX). They aren’t cheap - but they work very well. If you are looking for something less expensive I’ll defer to others. But I have been down that route and my experience is that these higher end models are definitely worth the money. Keep in mind also that the smart phone while very good when you are in range of cell towers is generally not functional outside of range which is where I generally find myself (thankfully).