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 for the best kayak watches. I included the pros and cons of each item so you could have the full idea before buying one.
Top 8 GPS Watches For Kayaking
- Best Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire (Best For Outdoors and Heart Rate Monitoring/Water Tracking)
- Garmin Forerunner 15 (Best For Running & Kayaking)
- Garmin Oregon 600 Handheld GPS (Best Battery Life – 16 Hours)
- Polar M430 GPS Running Watch (Best For Activity Tracking and Fitness)
- Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar (Best Solar Charging & Global Map Enabled Watch)
- Magellan Switch Crossover GPS Watch (Best Kayak Watch, Provides 50 M Water Resistance)
- Withings Steel HR Sport (Best Stylish Sports GPS Watch)
- Amazfit GTS Fitness Smartwatch (Best For Swim Tracking & Smart Notifications)
Our Best Pick
My Top 7 GPS Watches for Kayaking
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.
Wins & Fails
- Multi-sports features
- Water-resistant down to 100 meters deep
- Attractive design
- No native storage for music
- Quite heavy and bulky
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.
Wins & Fails
- Fully customizable
- Tons of training programs
- Bulky and unfashionable
- Small display size
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 wireless syncing. You’ll have to manually connect the cable to your watch and plug it into your computer. Also, the “move” alert can be quite annoying along the way.
Wins & Fails
- Water-resistant down to 50 meters
- Affordable and lightweight
- Comes with various functions
- No wireless syncing
- Limited data fields
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 them 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 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.
Wins & Fails
- Multisport and navigation features
- Bulky and uncomfortable on the wrist
- Limited fitness summary
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.
Wins & Fails
- Water-resistant down to 50m
- Thin and sleek design
- Easy touch-and-swipe operation
- Sends notification from your phone
- No built-in heart rate monitor
- The bands are not interchangeable
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 Bluetooth technology.
You can also view its online portal to look back and keep track of your progress. The online dashboard provides you 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.
Wins & Fails
- Customizable activities
- Interchangeable between bike mount and wristband
- Compatibility with ANT+
- Not stylish
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 that 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 altimeter, 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.
Wins & Fails
- Good size and feel
- Very easy to use
- Not suitable for extremely cold weathers
- 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 traveling 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 for 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.
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.
Since you’re in a kayak, space is limited. Therefore, you should make sure to choose and bring with you 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 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 a precise location and helps you navigate safely to your destination.
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 it 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 your 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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How accurate are the GPS watches?
As most of the GPS watches use Google and Apple’s Technology; the error margin for most of the watches is below 3%. That means, 97% of the time, a GPS watch can tell you about your fitness, heart rate condition, and where you are located exactly in the lake or river.
Do GPS watches have a rechargeable battery?
Almost 100% of GPS-based smartwatches come with a rechargeable battery. That means, once you are going for a kayak tour, you have to charge your watch 30 minutes prior to that tour. Even, as most of the kayaks have extra safety storage pockets these days; you can easily carry a power bank if you have a plan to go deeper into the ocean or river.
Does Fitbit track kayaking?
If you are an avid kayaker, then you may be wondering whether or not Fitbit can track your activity while kayaking. After all, it is a great way to stay healthy and in shape! Unfortunately, there isn’t a specific feature for tracking paddle boarding on the Fitbit app. However, many people have found success with using their swim tracker as well as other fitness apps that will sync with their device for accurate readings of distance traveled and calories burned during kayaking.
Do GPS Watches Have a Touchscreen?
Not all the GPS watches come with Touchscreen. But while kayaking, you may find it handy. So, it would be wise to read the features of the watches before buying one online. If a watch is touch-screen enabled you will find it clearly mentioned on their specifications list on their website or the e-commerce page.
How Long Is The Battery Life of the Average GPS Watch?
The AmazeFit watches usually offer 5+ day battery life and most of the Germin watches provide 16 to 48 hours of Battery life if you connect to your watch into a WiFi hot spot (via your Mobile) or want to receive notifications online while you are paddling.
Why is use a GPS watch for kayaking at all?
It’s all about the safety it can provide. No matter how deep you go to the ocean or river for kayaking, you will always be connected with the GPS via Satellite and you can be tracked down if any bad thing happens using the GPS of your Watch or Mobile devices.
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!
Last update on 2021-10-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API