If you’ve ever driven around an unfamiliar area in your car with no map or GPS, you probably remember that gnawing fear of getting lost. What if you’re out on the water in your kayak and that happens? You can’t just pull over and ask someone for directions, so you need to come prepared.
We’ll look today at why you should consider a GPS for your kayak just like the one in your car.
Why Use A GPS When Kayaking?
A GPS for kayak is the obvious solution if you don’t want to get lost. With a global positioning system device, you can head wherever you want with confidence and also find out how fast you’re going. Being able to track and record your routes means you can quickly and easily navigate back to your favorite fishing spots when you’re paddling away.
Can’t I Use My Smartphone?
If you’re used to ambling around strange cities more or less completely reliant on Google Maps, you might be asking yourself why you can’t just use your smart phone for finding your way around on the water.
The inbuilt flaw with a cellphone is that, while it has GPS, you’ll need access to either a WiFi or cellular network to make use of it. Dedicated GPS devices, on the other hand, get their signal straight from the satellite so you can stay hooked up wherever you are on land or sea.
Another significant drawback of most smart phones is their distressingly weak battery life even under normal operating conditions. You don’t want your fishing trip cut short because that battery meter starts limping toward the red.
Difference Between A GPS And A Fish Finder
We recently looked into the best fish finders that boast GPS functionality, but a dedicated GPS system is a little different. To generalize, GPS works best on land while fish finders, unsurprisingly, come into their own on the water.
While the idea underpinning these devices is the same, the technology differs. Where GPS units harness the power of satellites, fish finders rely on sonar technology. Bursts of energy are sent out under the water helping you to interpret what’s going on beneath the surface.
When you’re expressly looking for fish, it’s this sonar that allows you to find them. With a GPS unit you won’t have that same ability. A GPS is not without merit if you’re out fishing but it’s not going to serve as anything beyond a simple navigation aid. If you’re on the hunt for fish, you’ll need a fish finder designed for that purpose.
If you are kayaking and appreciate all a GPS can do for you, here are some features you’ll see as you look at different models and brands.
Essential Things in a GPS for Kayaking
Buying the best kayak GPS doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Focus on these simple pointers, and you’ll get something to add another dimension to your kayak missions down the river, whether you’re fishing or just meandering.
For all their manifold advantages, kayaks are certainly not the roomiest vessels. Think about space limitations when you’re sizing up GPS units and make sure you’ve got room on board.
If space really is too tight to mention, consider a super-portable device that you can wear on your wrist, staying safe without sacrificing room on the deck.
More so than with most devices, battery life is key when you’re hunting for the best kayak GPS. Battery-powered devices are essential since you won’t have access to electricity on such a small craft.
Lithium-ion batteries give the best performance, and you’ll normally be able to recharge these batteries, so roll with the set-up that best fits your needs. There’s no right or wrong answer here.
Alongside adequate on-board storage, look for GPS devices that alow microSD cards or other storage units to max out the number of maps you can keep at one time.
Look for a GPS with some pre-installed maps, along with the option for you to tweak these or load up new ones. Mapping functionality really varies from device to device so if you have specific needs beyond simple navigation, laser in on this area and buy accordingly.
The US satellite system makes use of 31 satellites while the Russian system uses 24. For a belt-and-braces approach, look for GPS devices allowing you to take advantage of both systems and you’ll enjoy the most precise location tool on the market.
Now you can see whether or not a GPS would make a wise addition to your kayak so we’ll give you a look now at the cream of the crop.
1) Garmin Striker 4 With Integrated Fish Finder
First on our list is a Garmin GPS for kayak, the Striker 4. As well as GPS functionality, this model also features a fish finder so you can get the best of both worlds in one highly effective package. When space is at a premium like on a kayak, this type of double duty is appreciated.
This unit works best if you’re fishing just off-shore since it’s not water resistant. Bear this in mind before buying it for a spot of challenging paddling.
Mapping is precise so you can find all your favorite haunts without a headache. The sonar transducer can help you to find fish in freshwater or saltwater so this is an incredibly versatile unit.
If you’re looking for a space-saving GPS for your kayak from an industry titan, navigate and find fish with one very modest investment. We can’t recommend the Striker 4 highly enough, and you won’t believe how inexpensive it is.
2) Rand McNally Foris 850 GPS
This handy little GPS works extremely well for kayaking and comes with a quite remarkable set of maps, outlining millions of trails and roads along with water features. Highly water-resistant and very rugged, this is the ideal unit on the river as it will withstand plenty of punishment and is built to last.
At 9oz, it’s a little heavier than the Garmin eTrex but it’s still small enough that you won’t have any space issues. With 8Gb of internal memory, you’ve got more than enough space for thousands of markers. If you need more room, there’s a microSD card slot.
For a hard-hitting GPS for kayak at a price you’ll love, the Rand McNally Foris is well worth testing.
3) Garmin Montana 600
We generally avoid reviewing more than a single product per brand, but when you’re dealing with GPS, Garmin really has a corner on the market, and the Montana 600 rates a mention. This is a bulkier unit than the eTrex with a screen twice the size, giving you a burst of full color that’s clear even in harsh sunlight.
The rechargeable lithium-ion battery will give you perhaps 15 hours of use on a single charge. If you run out of juice, you can switch to regular AA batteries to extend your trip.
As with all Garmin outdoor GPS devices, the Montana is efficiently waterproofed, so you don’t need to worry about it as you’re paddling down the river. The maps are solid and you can log 10,000 markers.
For a compact but capable GPS tailor-made for your kayak, the Garmin Montana is a must-try.
4) Garmin GPSMAP 64st
The Garmin-fest continues with the 64st, the perfect tool for kayaking on the lake. Rated IPX7 water resistant, this piece of equipment will keep your mind at ease as you get on with your bass fishing or paddling. GLONASS satellite reception is spot-on and you’ll get one year’s subscription to satellite imagery after which point you can decide whether this is a service you’d willingly pay for.
The 16 hours of battery life from a pair of AA batteries is fairly standard and enough for most trips on the lake. The 2 ½-inch screen is crisp and clear completing an affordable and powerful GPS that will serve you well in your kayak.
5) Garmin eTrex 20x
Garmin dominates the GPS space both on land and sea, and the last of their nifty models we’ll look at today is the eTrex 20x, coming in at a budget-friendly price. Battery life lasts around 24 hours, so this GPS can cope with overnight trips.
If you get sick of straining your eyes to read displays in the sun, this neat little 2.2-inch color screen is easily readable even when it’s bright outside. With space to store up to 10,000 waypoints, you’re unlikely to run out of room. You can also store 50 routes and 200 tracks so you really can’t ask for much more in a small, inexpensive GPS.
A compact and lightweight device, the eTrex is small enough to fit in your pocket but with commendable performance to suit most reasonable needs.
We hope you’ve found these best kayak GPS reviews have assisted you on your way toward the most suitable navigation tool for your needs. Get in touch any time if you’ve got any questions or feedback. We love to hear from our readers and we’re very responsive to messages.
By the way, once you’ve found the fish maybe you’ll need to think about upgrading your rod – and here are some fishing tips to keep your lines tight.