Best GPS Watches for Kayaking | Reviewed For 2019

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If you’re an adventurer just like me, staying on the right path and knowing your location is important. When you’re out on a stream kayaking, getting lost can be dangerous. Having a reliable GPS watch for kayaking enables you to feel at ease and navigate with confidence.

To save you from confusion on choosing the right GPS watch for you, I’ve put together a helpful guide of the best kayak watches. I included the pros and cons of each item so you could have the full idea before buying one.


My Top 7 GPS Watches for Kayaking



Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire - Black with Black Band

If you like to get lost in nature, then the Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire is ideal for you. It offers a high-resolution display of built-in maps, sensor alerts, and a long-lasting battery which makes it a perfect partner for your outdoor adventures. It also monitors your heart rate, distance, and pace which is great for runners, cyclists, and swimmers. It also does an excellent performance underwater since it can go down to 100 meters deep!

This model also pairs with ANT+ sensors. The setup is pretty simple; all you have to do is download the Garmin Connect app, create an account, and sync it via USB and Bluetooth for the display. The app supports iOS, Android, and Windows platforms. It also acts as a semi-smart watch since it relays your phone notifications and informs you about the weather and date.

The build quality is great. It has a stainless-steel exile antenna for GPS and GLONASS. Although you can swap straps, the given metallic strap might need some tools and adjustments to get your preferred size. As for its appearance, I find the watch good-looking. However, it’s quite heavy for a sports watch.

Pros

  • Multi-sports features
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    Water-resistant down to 100 meters deep
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    Attractive design

Cons

  • No native storage for music
  • Quite heavy and bulky
Polar M430 GPS Running Watch, Black

The Polar M430 GPS watch comes with different colors to choose from and only weighs 51 grams. It comes with seven menu options including my day, diary, settings, fitness test, favorites, and heart rate. The “my day” option is quite useful since it shows you how much sleep you had, what activities you scheduled for today, steps taken, calories burned, etc.

It’s also customizable since it allows you to change the view of the main face. You can add activities such as biking, swimming, and many more. You can use the polar flow app or the polar flow website to see a detailed analysis. It comes with training programs and has tons of information to help you train better.

The downside is that it’s quite uncomfortable to wear and basically looks like a running watch. Therefore, if you're looking for something small, discreet, and fashionable, this may not be for you. I also noticed that while the watch’s face is quite large, the actual screen is surrounded by black space where the logo is, making the display smaller.

Pros

  • Fully customizable
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    Water-resistant 
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     Tons of training programs

Cons

  • Bulky and unfashionable
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    Small display size
Garmin Forerunner 15 Large, Black/Blue (Certified Refurbished)

Staying active between workouts is important to your overall fitness. The Garmin Forerunner 15 helps you monitor that with the activity tracking. The activity tracking feature records your steps, calories burned, and distance traveled throughout the entire day.

Sitting for long periods of time can decrease your body's production of fat burning enzymes. It displays a move alert and beeps softly when you've been sitting for an hour. Its inactivity indicator tells you to move when you've been resting too long. Its battery life can also go up to 8 hours in training mode or 5 weeks in watch mode.

The Forerunner 15 also creates a daily step goal based on your previous day's step count. If you hit any personal records on a run like your longest run, Forerunner 15 shows them too. You can also get the details of your previous runs by connecting to the Garmin app and even share it with your friends.

It’s also waterproof down to 50 meters which is great for swimming. Unlike most fitness trackers, this model doesn’t have a wireless syncing. You’ll have to manually connect the cable into your watch and plug it into your computer.  Also, the “move” alert can be quite annoying along the way.

Pros

  • Water-resistant down to 50 meters
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    Affordable and lightweight
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    Comes with various functions

Cons

  • No wireless syncing
  • Limited data fields
Suunto Ambit3 Sport Black (HR) Digital Display Quartz Watch, Black Elastomer Band, Round 50mm Case

The Suunto Ambit3 is a multi-sport tool that analyzes your sleep recovery, keeps track of your running activities, and helps you discover new routes. It uses an app called Suunto Movescount to help you plan workouts. With this app, you can relive your experiences and adjust it wherever you go.

This GPS watch has advanced swim, cycle, and run functions. It’s great for athletes since it records your pace, distance, speed, heart rate, and GPS altitude. Its battery life can last up to 100 hours. This powerful watch, unlike other devices on the market, allows you to track your heart rate even when you’re out swimming.

It includes a smart mobile connection that lets you instantly share to your social media. You could even create a Suunto Movie with your highlights from your adventures to keep a good memory and show it to your friends and family. However, it doesn't have colorful and nice graphics on the screen. There's also unused space in the display of the circular design of the watch which makes it hard to read when exposed to sunlight. 

Pros

  • Water-resistant 
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     Multisport and navigation features

Cons

  • Bulky and uncomfortable on the wrist
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    Limited fitness summary
Garmin vívoactive Black W/Heart Monitor (Regular Strap)

The Garmin Vivoactive Black smartwatch offers an ultra-thin 8mm design and a built-in GPS that enables you to view your stats when you're not on your phone. You can have access to weather conditions and even customize the face design of the watch. It also looks pretty cool and sleek with its black color.

It monitors your cardiovascular workouts with its built-in sports apps. It has a touchscreen display that is sunlight-readable. It is also great for swimming since it is water-resistant down to 50 meters and even shows your distance covered, laps, strokes, and interval. Its battery life can last up to 3 weeks in activity mode and up to 10 hours in GPS mode.

When paired with your Bluetooth enabled smartphone, it can gently alert you to the notifications that appear on your smartphone such as incoming calls, texts, and emails as well as notifications from your social media apps. You can also set your watch to gently vibrate when it receives a new notification.

Pros

  • Water-resistant down to 50m
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    Thin and sleek design
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    Easy touch-and-swipe operation
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    Sends notification from your phone

Cons

  • No built-in heart rate monitor
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    The bands are not interchangeable
Magellan Switch Crossover GPS Watch with Heart Rate Monitor

The Magellan Switch Crossover GPS watch is a versatile tracking technology. It can fit into a bicycle mount and your wristband. It includes a GPS to map hiking, running, and cycling routes. This device is also compatible with the Bluetooth technology.

You can also view its online portal to look back and keep track of your progress. The online dashboard provides you with with a comprehensive view and breakdown of your data in a simple interface. For activities, you can customize what the Switch Up will show you. These include the pace, time, auto pause, and alerts when you get to reach a new goal. 

I also liked the Activity Pacer feature which helps you set a goal when you're doing a workout or training for a race. As for the design, it looks like a rectangular block. It has 5 buttons on the side and a tall profile which makes it appear bulky. It is also heavier than the Garmin Forerunner 15.


Pros

  • Customizable activities
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    Interchangeable between bike mount and wristband
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    Compatibility with ANT+

Cons

  • Bulky
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     Not stylish
Garmin Oregon 600 3-Inch Worldwide Handheld GPS

If you're not that much of a techy person, the Garmin Oregon 600 is an excellent choice. This device operates like a smartphone and even has a touchscreen feature. This model has two buttons: one for the menu and the other for the power. The screen also has a dual orientation feature which allows you to switch from portrait to landscape. Its high-resolution display, mineralized glass cover, and display size are also impressive.

The text can be smoothly read since it offers options to make it smaller or bigger. The interface is also easy to understand. You can even customize the menu to make it convenient and adaptable to your preference. If you like to wear it around your neck, you can attach the girth hitch point to a lanyard.

This model is incredibly sensitive which makes it a fast unit. It can be easily placed in your pockets without weighing you down. It also features an electronic compass, barometric altimer, and wireless communication which make it versatile than other units. However, this device is not suited for extremely cold weather since it can ‘freeze up’. Also, it doesn’t have a voice, camera, and video recorder to document your hiking adventures.

Pros

  • Good size and feel 
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    Very easy to use
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    Versatile

Cons

  • Not suitable for extremely cold weathers
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    Doesn’t have a record feature

Why Do You Need A Kayak GPS

Kayaking is one of the best outdoor activities. It gives an opportunity for people to be one with nature, bond with friends, and at the same time have a little exercise.

As much fun as it can be, it still has its own share of risks. If you love kayaking, a GPS watch is a must-have equipment. It makes your next paddling sessions safer and exciting. Below are 3 main reasons why you should own one:

  • It Helps You Navigate with Ease

Gone are the days of asking the locals for directions as GPS watches will act as your portable guide to where you're heading. Whether you’re stravelling on roads or going out on adventures like kayaking, it helps you navigate the best route to your destination.

GPS watches enable users to travel and have fun without losing sight of their path. These devices are designed to give accurate locations so you wouldn't have any problem heading towards your target destination or prevent yourself from getting lost while kayaking.

  • Safety Assurance

When you’re out on your kayaking adventures, a kayaking GPS watch will serve as your life-saver when something goes wrong. A GPS can give you the exact location of where you are. Thanks to the information it provides, people can easily find you in case an emergency occurs.

Parents and guardians can also feel at ease while their kids are carrying this item. They are immediately alerted if their children go beyond the perimeter. It makes it easier and convenient for them to find them especially when dangerous situations arise while kayaking.

  • It Lets You Keep Track of Time

When you’re kayaking, you wouldn’t want to be out in the dark for a long time. Those GPS watches we’ve talked about earlier are perfect in telling you what time it is. Whether you’re having an important meeting after or just wanted to go back before the sun sets, you could easily keep track of time while having fun. 


Key Features to Look for in a Kayak GPS

Knowing the basic features that a kayaking GPS must have is critical before heading to the stores and buying one. To prevent you from making impulsive decisions and choosing low-quality devices, I’ve compiled the main features you should consider when buying high quality GPS watches for kayaking.  

  • Water Resistant

Being resistant to water is among the most important features for your GPS to have since you’ll be encountering waves and currents while kayaking. It is essential since you can easily get wet from paddling, raining, and even falling overboard.

Although some GPS watches are waterproof, it doesn’t fully mean that they’re fully functional when submerged in water. For kayaking, you’d probably want a device that is adequate for rain and splashes. If your GPS doesn’t have this feature, it might get easily affected by water hindrances.

  • Size

Since you’re in a kayak, space is limited. Therefore, you should make sure to choose and bring with you a lightweight and portable GPS technology. Some can be worn on the wrist which is a great option to help you save space. You wouldn’t want to buy a heavy and bulky one to slow you down from paddling.

  • Battery Life

An ideal kayak GPS should save you a lot of power because being out in the lake or ocean for hours will mean that your batteries should last longer. It should also come with battery life-saving features to prevent draining the power easily.

When you’re heading out for an adventure with your family and friends, the last thing you’ll wish is for your battery to die when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere. Therefore, consider buying a GPS watch that has a long battery life.

  • Accurate and Detailed Maps

This is a must-have feature for any GPS device to prevent you from being lost wherever you go. You should look for GPS watches that have clear, detailed maps and will enable you to load more maps on your device. Some systems even have maps that allow them to identify lands, valleys, mountains, and many more.  

This feature is crucial especially when you venture out to unsafe and unfamiliar routes. It provides you the precise location and helps you navigate safely to your destination.

  • Compatibility

With the advancement of technology, GPS watches today now have the power to connect directly to your computers and phones. Depending on the model you have, it can sync via Bluetooth which makes it convenient for gathering data and sharing on social media.

Some devices are also compatible with the Russian navigation system GLONASS that uses 24 satellites for GPS. You can also get notifications on your watch from you phone which is helpful when you don’t have your phone with you.

  • Amount of Memory

If you have plenty of storage on your kayak GPS, the more maps, trails, and tracks you could store. It is important for a device to have the ability to be inserted with a memory card to make room for more spaces. Others can be inserted with cables to connect them straight from their computers.

  • Display

It’s extremely necessary to make sure that your kayak GPS has a clear display. The texts and maps should be visible by the naked eye so that you wouldn’t have a hard time pinpointing your location. If you want a more precise view, you should consider looking for devices that offer a zoom option.

Final Notes

This guide is dedicated to all kayak lovers and adventurers out there. Since there are a lot of brands competing in the market, it gets harder for us to pick the perfect one. Thus, I made a review list of the best GPS watches for kayaking to help you guys out.


I hope these devices will make your next journey fun and safer. If you have any opinions regarding my list, comment down below and let me know what you think. Happy kayaking!