Measuring distance while paddling

What do I use to measure the distance I’ve paddled on the water?

Is there a digital reader?

It’s 2009. Ever heard of GPS? :slight_smile:
That said, GPS can help you track actual distance traveled over a particular area, but if you’re paddling against current and/or wind, your boat and paddles may have actually traveled a greater distance “through water”. There may be some mechanical device that could measure this “distance”, but it’s not anything I’ve thought much about or looked into.


A cheap one will do…

you can measure distance
seriously, if you want to know how much water has passed by you, there devices in rower web sites that attach to the hull and with wires or wirelessly will measure how much water you have plowed through. This gives one an interesting measure on a day where you paddled through 3 knots of current against you and traveled only 6 nautical miles actual distance.

Yes otherwise GPS is very easy way.



How would I know what you use?
I could take a guess what you use. Let’s see, maybe string? You tie one end at the put in and let it out as you go, then cut it off at the take out?

Stainless steel tape measure? But that would only be useful on really short paddles.

Electronic rain gauge? Maybe you have one mounted under your boat and you use the reading at the end of a paddle to compute how much water you went through and then correlate that to a distance based on the currents and such?

Seriously though, if you are planning a trip, google maps will let you see a satellite image and you can trace out a paddle and see the distance. If you want to measure actual paddling distance, GPS is the way to go. After a trip, you can map it pretty accurately on google maps.


Don’t forget your sextant, sight
reduction tables, chronometer and calculator. Excellent backup plan when the GPS batteries fail.

There is a device
that I believe is called a Speed-something. It’s attached to the bottom of your boat and consists of a propeller that spins and measures speed through the water. Have heard of racers using it, but not so much lately since GPS’s are so much easier to use.

It can be handy for pacing and training.

On boats, a speed-measuring instrument is generally called a knotmeter, or a knot/log (speedometer/odometer in car terms).

I’m not familiar with these devices for crew boats and the like, so maybe those have a different name.

it is called the speed coach

Iphone now has a Kayak/canoe application
If you have an iPhone it now has a mobile app for measuring speed distance etc. i have it and love it.

If you want to know approximate distances you’ve paddled without any gadgets you should get to know your speed by feel. Every time you go for a paddle check out how far you’ve gone, how long it took you, and how hard you were paddling. I always do this so that i can gauge my speed and distance travelled by feel. With practice you can get pretty accurate with it. If i know that i was paddling at a 4 knot pace for 3 hours then i can almost guarantee that i’ve gone 12 miles within a quarter of a mile or so. The hard part is factoring in the effects of wind and current.

I used to use one of these with my small sailboat

I would love to have a kayak friendly version

google pedometer
Until I can afford to buy a GPS, I have been calculating my mileage using Google pedometer.

To use it, zoom in to the area you are paddling. Set the “Draw route” function on “Manually.” Then click “Start Recording.” Each time you double-click on a point, it will calculate your mileage to that point. It is very accurate. I have compared the mileage totals on Google pedometer with the results on my bike commuter, and the numbers are very close.

garmin 76
It cost $100 and is programable to have speed and distance on same screen. Most gps are designed to get you to hunting camp and back.

Eventually I am assuming that a GPS is what I will purchase also. Currently, I am using my iPhone to track my path. Application MotionX GPS is great!