Best Kayak GPS | 2021 Buyer’s Guide & Reviews
Navigating your kayak on an unfamiliar body of water can be daunting, especially if you are a less experienced paddler. Once you have ventured far from shore, it can be difficult to make sense of your surrounding and exact location without landmarks to help you make sense of your bearings. The problem is made even more difficult should you run into adverse weather. However, investing in a reliable GPS device is an easy way to overcome these navigation difficulties. A quality GPS system will allow you to take to the water with confidence, allowing you to always determine your exact location and access a variety of useful data sets.
GPS Systems Explained
The global positioning system utilises radio frequencies from space-based satellites to allow users of GPS receivers to determine their exact location on land or water. This positioning system uses numerous satellites to provide accurate readings at all times, meaning you can always ensure the location data you are receiving is reliable. You may encounter GPS trackers that boast compatibility with WAAS. This refers to the Wide Area Augmentation System and is essentially an updated version of conventional GPS systems. Not only does this system provide better levels of accuracy, it also allows for better availability of positioning services.
However, GPS is not the only radio navigation system currently operated and many GPS devices today support communication with other services. One such system is GLONASS. This Russian service operates in a similar manner to the GPS service, but combines the readings of both to provide you with significantly higher levels of accuracy.
If you are looking to purchase a GPS system for use when kayak fishing, you need to consider the importance of water resistance. Simply paddling your vessel can result in sizeable splashes that can come into contact with your GPS device. Therefore, you need to ensure that it is built to withstand exposure to water. A waterproof rating of IPX7 should be sufficient to ensure the electronic components of your device survive any contact with water. More advanced GPS models are designed to withstand full immersion for a limited time, while others feature housing that allows the device to float should you drop it overboard. This allows for instant retrieval of your device.
If you are unfamiliar with the specifics of how GPS devices work, you should consider mapping capabilities before you purchase a new system. Not all GPS units come with the same maps preloaded onto them. You want to ensure that any device you buy is loaded with useable maps that reflect the location you are looking to use them in. A basic worldwide map should be included as a standard feature, but you should also ensure that your device allows you to expand the map library with ease. Many GPS models will allow you to download maps readily, provided the unit is wi-fi enabled. A microSD card slot is also a must if you want to regularly update your device with new and improved maps. Even if your chosen device does not include a memory card slot, you should make sure it provides a basic level of connectivity. The most basic of models usually allow you to plan your routes and waypoints on a separate device, before transferring the data to your GPS unit via USB. Bluetooth connectivity makes transferring this type of data even more effortless.
Screen Size & Resolution
The larger the screen of your GPS unit, the more expensive the device will usually be. Therefore, you need to think seriously about about how you will be handling your GPS device. If you want a device that can be kept close by at all times and operated in a handheld manner, a smaller device and screen size should be sufficient for your needs. You can always move the screen closer to your eyes if you struggle to make sense of contour readings and other data. However, many people like to keep their GPS units fixed firmly in place by mounting them onto the hull of their vessels. In this case, you should probably look for a device with a significantly larger screen size measuring at least 7 inches. This should prove large enough that you can determine the details on screen, even when some distance from the GPS unit. If you are interested in purchasing a GPS system that provides you with high levels of topographic detail, investing in a screen with significantly high resolutions is also advisable.
The type of battery your GPS unit will require will usually be determined by the amount you are prepared to invest in the product. The most basic GPS models out there will use disposable AA batteries that will need replacing or replenishing with rechargeable batteries. With GPS enabled, these types of batteries will usually provide you with enough operational time for one or two (tandem) kayak excursions. If you enjoy getting out onto the water regularly, these types of batteries will probably prove too limiting. Instead, look for units that incorporate lithium-ion batteries that can be quickly recharged via a mains power source.
Best Kayak GPS | Reviews
Interested in purchasing a new GPS system to use when kayaking? You might want to think about investing in one of these impressive GPS units.
If you are fairly unfamiliar with GPS systems, the Garmin eTrek 10 is probably a good place to start. Ideal for use when kayaking, this compact GPS navigator unit is modest in size, with handheld dimensions that mean you will not have to worry about overloading your kayak beyond its weight capacity. This GPS unit comes loaded with a full worldwide base map, while a 2.2-inch monochrome display provides you with easy readings of essential information. You can also expect positioning and reliable signals with the Garmin eTrek 10. This GPS receiver is WAAS enabled and offers compatibility with HotFix and GONASS.
This GPS receiver also provides you with geocaching functionality and can be combined with Garmin spine mounting items. It is also easy to set elevation points or save waypoints along your planned path, giving you a good indication of time and distance between various points of your journey. This GPS device requires you to use two AA batteries that will need replacing over time, but the hardware is particularly efficient, with new batteries usually providing you with around 20 hours of use. This hardy device is also designed with watery conditions, with the Garmin eTrek 10 housing boasting IPX7 waterproof standard.
The Garmin GPSMAP 78s has been designed with kayakers and water sports fan in mind. This rugged GPS unit boasts a variety of very useful features, including a barometric altimeter and 3-axis compass, along with a high-sensitivity receiver. This de ice also offers full colour mapping and a microSD card. This last feature is particularly handy as it allows you to load more maps for unrivalled exploration potential. The GPSMAP 78s already comes with a full worldwide base map, meaning you can navigate just about anywhere in the world without any issues. This is also very durable, with a IPX7 waterproof housing and a lightweight build that ensures the unit will float should you drop it in the water.
You can also get your bearings with the Garmin GPSMAP 78s. The 3-axis electronic compass means you can always find your location, even when you are in a stationary position. You also do not need to hold the device level in order to get your bearings, thanks to the tilt-compensated design of the compass. The integrated barometric altimeter is also highly effective at determining any changes in pressure, giving you accurate altitude readings at all times. This GPS receiver also offers wireless sharing functionality. You can use the GPSMAP 78s to share things like routes, tracks and waypoints, as well geocaches with any nearby device with wireless compatibility. Sharing this information is as easy as pressing the send button. The ergonomic design of this GPS unit, along with its large display and vibrant resolutions, makes it particularly user-friendly.
The Garmin Striker 7SV is definitely an expensive GPS option, but it does not skimp on premium features. The superior functionality of the Striker 7SV certainly makes this device something to seriously consider. The Garmin Striker 7SV offers worldwide mapping for unrestricted exploration, with a transducer that includes integrated CHIRP sonar, along with CHIRP ClearVu and SideVu functionality. This makes the Striker 7SV almost unrivalled when it comes to scanning sonar technology. This GPS unit with touchscreen also offers you some impressive mapping capabilities. The Quickdraw Contours software makes it easy to create and save maps with contours, providing you with incredible coverage. You can also enjoy fantastic resolutions that leaves little room for error.
The Striker 7SV also is completely wireless and compatible with the ActiveCaptain app which you can download to your smartphone. This means you can choose to receive notifications directly to your mobile device, as well as access to the online Quickdraw Contours community. This provides you with convenient transfer waypoint information as well as find out when suitable software updates are available for download. The superior technology at work here provides you with constant updates while you are paddling. The effective GPS technology means you can easily mark waypoints, craft preferred routes and determine the travelling speed of your boat or kayak. The 7-inch display is also a standout feature of this receiver. Not only is the touchscreen easy to read in bright weather, it provides you with a highly intuitive interface that will allow you to master control over the device features in no time.
The Humminbird HELIX 7 is one of the more expensive choices of kayak GPS systems out there, but the advanced features on offer more than make up for the price tag. This GPS tracker unit instantly stands out with its large 7-inch screen. Essential readings are easy to make sense of thanks to the vibrant colour resolution of the TFT display. Intuitive controls are also within easy reach, with the robust housing ensuring this is a piece of hardware you can put through its paces, even in challenging condition. This Humminbird GPS system also includes a Navionics+ SD card, which comes loaded with more than 21,000 highly detailed maps. You can of course add further maps at a later point if you do not have the coverage you need for your individual excursions.
If you regularly fish in deeper water, this Humminbird GPS device is a good option. The Mega Down Imaging functionality of this system means you can enjoy superior underwater clarity at all times. In fact, this unit provides you with coverage of depths up to 125 feet. There is some premium technology working behind the scenes with this GPS unit. The Low Q CHIRP transducer, combines with Dual Spectrum CHIRP technology, means you have two different search modes to choose from. This provides you with maximum detail and coverage when searching for a potential catch. This device also comes with mounting hardware and brackets so you can keep your hands free for casting off and reeling in your catches.
Garmin 010-01550-00 Striker 4 with Transducer, 3.5″ GPS Fishfinder with Chirp Traditional Transducer
The Garmin Striker 4 brings you all the essential features you need for kayak fishing at a very affordable price. This compact GPS device utilises ClearVu scanning sonar that gives you a clear oversight of what is happening in the water around your vessel. The high frequencies used by the sonar means you can look forward to incredibly detailed images at all times, making it easy to avoid obstacles in the water and track down potential catches in no time. Although this compact device does not offer touchscreen functionality, the controls can be found beneath the screen itself. All keys are large enough that functions and features can be accessed easily, with little margin for error.
The waypoint map functionality of this device is impressive. You can use this mapping function to view and mark maps, as well as navigate to exact locations for better fishing possibilities. This functionality performs well at maximum depths of 1,600 feet when fishing in freshwater. If you are looking to fish in saltwater, you can expect the device to provide readings at maximum depths of 750 feet. Both limits should be more than enough for everyday anglers. This GPS tracker also includes chirp sonar technology that continuously sweeps your surroundings to locate nearby fish. You can expect high levels of precision and improved target separation as standard with this device.
The Garmin Striker Plus 4 with dual-beam transducer is very affordable and loaded with impressive technology to make kayak fishing as effortless and enjoyable as possible. Despite a modest appearance, there is some standout spec on offer here. The dual-beam transducer is arguably the most appealing technology provided by the Striker. This transducer, when combined with the conventional Garmin Chirp technology, provides you with crisp imaging and superior target separation, making it far easier to determine the location of nearby obstacles and lock onto potential catches. This GPS tracker also includes Garmin Quickdraaw Contours mapping software. This software allows you to create and store custom maps with detailed contours across an incredibly wide range.
The integrated GPS technology means you can easily mark your waypoints and create routes, while also ensuring you can reliably determine the speed your kayak is travelling at. The 4.3-inch display should also prove sufficient for most users. You can clearly make sense of all details on screen, even when using the device in bright conditions. The user-friendly interface should also appeal to those looking for simplified design, especially if you have little prior experience with GPS tracker systems.
Garmin Striker 4CV with Transducer, 4″ GPS Fish Finder with CHIRP Traditional and ClearVu Scanning Sonar Transducer and Built In Quickdraw Contours Mapping Software
If you re looking for a more compact choice of waterproof GPS and fish finder for kayak fishing, the Garmin Striker 4CV is a good pick. This essential fishing sports gadget includes a transducer and CHIRP scanning sonar functionality so you can enjoy the best in coverage and detail. This device also features built-in Garmin Quickraw Contours software that allows you to create custom maps to your liking. This technology means you can create topographic maps with distinct covers across a significant area. The integrated GPS technology also makes it very simple to mark your waypoints when kayak fishing and creating routes. You can also use this to effective determine the speed your vessel is travelling at.
The 4.3-inch screen size will also appeal to those looking for a user-friendly design that is easy to read. Although not a conventional backlit screen, the display here will allow you to glean clear readings, even when you are out in bright sunlight. An intuitive interface is also hand so you anglers can get to grips with the specifics of their new device in no time. This device also offers good levels of water resistance, while a range of battery options are on hand to best suit your needs. Your battery choice will ultimately affect the overall mount you will spend on this device, but if you are looking for improved battery life and runtime, it is worth spending a little bit more on your purchase.
The Garmin eTrek 22x is a compact and affordable choice of GPS navigator for those looking to enjoy kayak fishing. This handheld GPS unit is incredibly user-friendly, with responsive controls and an intuitive interface that allows you to get stuck into the core features with ease. Although compact, the 2.2-inch screen size is more than sufficient to provide you with oversight of your topo maps, with 240 by 320 pixels ensuring plenty of clarity and detail. This GPS tracker comes preloaded with a huge selection of topo maps that not only include roads and driving routes, but hiking trails and cycle paths.
This handheld unit offers both support for GPS and compatibility with GLONASS satellite prediction. This is essential if you are looking to venture off the beaten track where GPS alone may not be reliable enough as a reference point to keep you on track. This device will impress when it comes to memory capacity, with 8GB of internal memory already provided for additional map downloads. A microSD card slot is also included, allowing you to add further maps as and when required. This Garmin GPS unit does require you to use two AA batteries, which will usually provide you with around 25 hours of performance when GPS is enabled. You can easily minimise the cost of powering your device by purchasing rechargeable batteries.
Garmin Striker Plus 5cv with Transducer, 5″ GPS Fishfinder with CHIRP Traditional and ClearVu Scanning Sonar Transducer and Built In Quickdraw Contours Mapping Software
This Garmin Striker Plus GPS tracker is a perfect choice of device for kayak fishing. This reliable tracker includes a transducer with integrated CHIRP sonar and ClearVU scanning sonar, providing you with excellent depth coverage and high levels of detail. You also benefit from integrated Garmin QuickDraw Contours software, providing you with reliable topographic maps that will allow you to more easily determine your exact position. With the allotted memory capacity already provided, you can store map references for up to two million acres.
The first-rate GPS technology on offer here allows you to effortlessly mar your waypoints and create routes. It also allows you to precisely determine the speed of your kayak or boat. The GPS technology on offer here works with all traditional frequencies, meaning you can expect reliable readings and consistent performance every time you use it. The 5-inch display will also satisfy those looking for user-friendly handheld device. You can enjoy clear maps with high levels of detail, even when using the device in harsh sunlight. An intuitive interface also means you will spend less time getting to grips with the ins and outs of your new tracker device.
Our Pick of the Best GPS Devices on the Market
Are you still unsure of what kayak GPS system is best for you? If you are worried about spending too much money on your first device, it might be worth giving the Garmin Striker Plus 4 a second look. This is a very cost-effective model that combines a user-friendly interface with impressive technologies. The combination of a dual-beam transducer and Garmin Chirp sonar technology makes it easy to identify fishing targets, as well as determine any nearby obstacles. This handheld device will also allow you to create and store custom maps with ease, while the built-in GPS makes it simple to mark your waypoints and create routes. The downside of this model is that it lacks a touchscreen and some may find the overall screen size a little small for their liking. However, these are minor setbacks for a very affordable option.
If you are instead looking to upgrade to a more advanced GPS device, something like the Garmin Striker 7SV might the best choice for you. Spend a bit more on your GPS purchase and you can enjoy a much larger screen size, as well as innovative technologies that make kayak fishing far easier. The Striker 7SV is particularly effective thanks to its combination of ClearVU and SideVu CHIRP scanning sonar tech, while integrated wi-fi access to the ActiveCaptain app means you are constantly alerted to new software notifications and other essential updates.