Kayaking can be a very fun-filled and thrilling activity, especially when you’re wading out in uncharted waters. However, when you’re out in the middle of the lake or the sea, the last thing you want to do is pore over paper maps. The wind could make them difficult to read, or worse, they could get wet. This is why GPS watches are becoming popular amongst anglers more and more. The best kayak GPS watch options make kayaking an enthralling yet safe experience, as you know where you are all the time. They operate via the Global Positioning System, also known as GPS, a space-based radio navigation system owned by the American government. The watch features a GPS receiver which employs multiple satellites and ultra-accurate time for determining your precise location.
With wearable tech becoming more popular day by day, it’s no wonder that GPS watches have seen an immense rise in popularity. Not only do they look sleek and smart, but they help you navigate no matter the time of day or weather. To that end, here are the 13 best kayak GPS watches for every kayaking activity from fishing to paddling for recreation.
How To Choose The Best Kayak GPS Watches?
The market is flooded with accessories today to make kayaking a safer and more fun-filled experience. However, every kayaking accessory, whether it’s GPS watches, the Best Kayaking GPS Units, or even the Best Kayaking Anchors need to be chosen with care. Even if it’s a recreational accessory such as the Best Kayak Fish Finders, a not-so-good accessory can ruin your entire experience. Thus, there are a lot of attributes you need to pay attention to before you invest in an expensive accessory such as a GPS watch. So, what should you be looking out for? Read on.
Kayak GPS jargons
- GLONASS – It’s a radio navigation satellite service similar to GPS operated by the Russian Federal Space Agency. Some modern watches use both GPS and GLONASS satellites for pointing to a more accurate position.
- Profile – The profile of a watch refers to the dimensions of its strap, face, and overall weight. Generally, GPS watches for adventure activities are heavier and larger than others.
- LED (Light Emitting Diode) – Used for lighting watch faces, they use up significantly less energy and space than standard bulbs.
- Barometer – This is what measures atmospheric pressure and can even be used to predict weather changes and track changes in altitude.
- Gyroscope – This measures or maintains angular velocity and orientation, and detects sudden changes in angle and direction.
- Bezel – Bezels are essentially the grooved ring within which the cover of the watch face sits. Usually, bezels are adjustable on GPS watches to be used as timers.
- HRM (Heart Rate Monitor) – Many GPS watches use an HRM for monitoring your heart rate during exercise, which can help you track your performance and fitness.
What you need to understand is that no GPS watch is waterproof, but rather they’re water-resistant. The watch you go for should be able to withstand everything from downpours and splashes to shortlived submersions, and still remain functional and working. While it’s impossible to find a 100 percent waterproof GPS watch, one with a water-resistant rating of at least 50 meters/5 ATM (atmospheres) will be sufficient.
Size and display
The size and display of the watch face should be large enough so that you can easily read it even if you mount it on the deck. At the same time, it shouldn’t be so large that it’s uncomfortable and bulky on your wrist. Plus, the watch display should be clearly visible at all times of the day and in all weather conditions, especially bright sunlight. You should also be able to read it easily whether you strap it to the bungees or on your wrist too. Finally, the band length of your GPS kayaking watch should be perfect for your wrist size, and not too loose or tight.
Battery life and memory
GPS tracking tends to drain the battery life of a kayak GPS watch very fast. So, go for a unit whose battery life even in GPS mode is long enough to at least last through your kayaking expedition. That way, you won’t be left stranded sans navigation in the middle of your journey. Furthermore, the internal memory of the watch should be sufficient enough to accommodate all the apps, tracks, and maps you will possibly need, and still be responsive and quick. What’s more, you should also be able to insert a cable or a memory card to transfer some of the stored data onto another device.
Many GPS watch options for kayaking are compatible with both Android and iPhone smartphones. It’s this very connectivity that allows you to send data to your Android or iOS phone for analysis and storage. Moreover, you can also control music on your phone or receive smartphone notifications through your watch.
Ease of use
Finally, we come to a rather critical factor, which is the ease of use while you’re out on the water. You want to go for watches that can be operated with even gloved or wet hands, so the best choice is to go for a button-based interface. It’s also great if you can customise your watch’s display so that it suits the atmosphere while you’re kayaking.
Why is use a GPS watch for kayaking at all?
The plain fact is – you don’t want to get lost navigating in uncharted waters! Even the most professional and on-point kayakers have gotten lost in the water on occasion, which is why GPS is extremely important. The importance of a GPS watch as opposed to a GPS unit, is that you don’t have to worry about mounting it, or carrying it, or stashing it safely somewhere. It stays safe and secure on your wrist all the time, so navigating is as simple at looking at your hand. Finally, these watches come with a slew of other activity-based features such as heart rate monitor, gyroscope, barometer, etc. and are water-resistant too.
Garmin Vivoactive 3 GPS Smartwatch
The Garmin Vivoactive 3 Smartwatch is hands-down the best kayak GPS watch on this list. Built exclusively with GPS and ANT+ technology, the lightweight watch is versatile to boot. So, you can use it for everything from stress record monitoring to making contactless payments. The build is slick with a round beveled shape, complete with a fully corning Gorilla glass. Moreover, the stainless steel bezel makes it look even more good-looking. It can also be used in any weather conditions and environments, whether it’s saltwater, freshwater, cold, hot, or rainy.
This smart device comes with more than 15 preloaded apps that help you ease into the process of customizing it according to a specific sport. The watch even accurately records the heart rate variability and maximum oxygen level consumption, thus allowing you to control your stress levels during kayaking. Furthermore, the smart notifications ensure that in times of emergencies, you’re always able to communicate.
- Looks extremely stylish and distinctive.
- Excellent 50-meter water-resistance rating.
- Up to 4 GB music storage.
- Battery life is 13 hours in GPS mode and charges fast.
Garmin Vivoactive Black GPS Watch (CU)
Another Garmin product makes an appearance on this list, the Garmin Vivoactive Black GPS Watch. With this one, Garmin proves yet again that it knows what it exactly takes to accurately track a person’s location along with their stats and keep them in the know all the time. Built for a truly active lifestyle, the watch is a cincher for its high resolution, high visibility color touchscreen display that’s easily readable in the bright sunlight. So, it’s easy to read and navigate even when the sun is beaming right on top of your head.
The form-fitting, ultra-sleek, and wider square-shaped screen is perfect for those who don’t prefer bulkier dials. The watch has an activity tracking feature for a slew of activities. These include free watch face designs, widgets, and a heart rate monitor, all of which can be downloaded from the Connect IQ store. What’s more, the battery lasts up to 10 hours in the GPS mode, which takes care of an entire day of kayaking at least.
- Good GPS battery life.
- Options for watch faces and widgets.
- High resolution and readable display.
- Some users said that figuring out the instructions was slightly difficult.
If you don’t exactly want all bells and whistles on your kayak GPS watch and neither do you prefer a rough-and-tough one, then consider the Fitbit Surge. The compact, sleek, and very thin designed watch sits nicely on your wrist. Moreover, it boasts superior GPS tracking, right from distance, elevation, and pace you’ve climbed at. What’s more, you can even split times and review the routes that you can possibly take. The Surge is even water-resistant up to 5 ATM or 50 meters. So while it cannot be submerged, it can certainly survive more than just a few splashes.
Besides GPS, the watch comes with a bevy of cool features, which include an in-built sleep monitor, a pure pulse heart rate monitor, and more. Plus, the watch can wirelessly sync all your data recorded to your Android/iOS smartphone as well. When it comes to a brand name like Fitbit, you know that you’re assured a good piece of wearable technology.
- One-piece secure band perfect for paddlers and kayakers.
- Accurate GPS.
- Lots of other activity functions.
- Lack of push notification abilities.
Suunto Spartan Ultra
If you love sleek, minimalistic watches, then you’ll absolutely love the Spartan Ultra from Suunto. At the same time, it packs in a whole lot of features and looks good while doing so. The multisport GPS watch sports a crisp, completely color touchscreen and also comes with accurate, spot-on route navigation. What’s more, the watch is built to withstand a good beating, thanks to its steel and Titanium 5 bezel. However, what’s more, impressive is that the watch employs sapphire glass for constructing its lens. When it comes to hardness, sapphire glass is second only to diamond!
Since kayaking and paddling require you to move your arms around a lot, the sleek watch stays out of the way for the most part. The watch also boasts a 26-hour life along with GPS use, making it one of the best entire-day GPS watches out there. Finally, what you’ll love about it is the 80 pre-installed sports modes are can perfectly pair with just about any kind of activity.
- Well-designed, high-quality watch.
- Accurate GPS.
- 80 in-built sport modes.
- Not compatible with Android phones.
Garmin Fenix 3 HR GPS Smartwatch
Another excellent kayak GPS watch is the Fenix 3 HR GPS Smartwatch from Garmin which works perfectly for all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts. This smartwatch boasts a PVD coating that protects the thin stainless steel bezel, beneath which sits a smart MIP display. Powered by the Garmin Chroma display, the crystal-clear watch face is visible in all weather conditions, including on bright sun-kissed days. However, the lightweight watch is most famous for its in-built GPS/GLONASS feature, which allows accurate navigation and even records all customized data. So, you can reach wherever you want to in record time, and find your way to a previously visited spot again too. This is thanks to the trackback feature. Plus, its battery life with GPS is about 16 hours.
Going further, the watch boasts various versions of the HRM (heart rate monitor) strap which accurately records your heart’s rate and helps you rein in your speed and pace accordingly. Besides smart push notifications, the watch features the MGRS (Military Grid Reference System) facility which can be synced with the Position Plus connecting app. Rounding up the features are its 100-meter (10 ATM) water resistance.
- No extra chest strap for recording heart rate.
- Water resistance of 10 ATM/100 meters.
- Quick and accurate GPS.
- No touchscreen functionality.
Polar M400 GPS Smart Sports Watch
It’s not specifically a GPS watch designed for overwater adventures, but the Polar M400 GPS Smart Sports Watch sure holds up its own when you’re out kayaking on the water. The M400 is designed to help you navigate and stay connected while out on a kayaking trip in the middle of the lake or the sea. Thanks to the sleek design, you have the complete and unobstructed use of the space around you as well as your arms. What’s more, it’s waterproof up to a whopping 30 meters, just like any good GPS unit for kayaking. It comes in two versions, with and without a heart rate monitor.
The watch also packs in a slew of useful tools and apps such as heart rate monitors, calorie-burning apps, activity guides for showing how you’re even performing, and even fitness tests. Moreover, all this recorded and stored data can also be synced to the Polar Flow Web Service, allowing you to track and monitor all data that your watch records on your PC.
- Battery charges quickly.
- Features 130 diffrene tsports profiles.
- Tracks pace cadence, distance from starting point, speed, calories burned, heart rate, etc.
- The battery lasts only 8 hours when the GPS and HRM are both active.
Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch (CU)
For those who always want to have their phone with them and stay connected, the Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch is one of the best kayak GPS watch options on this list. Fully censored with the Smart Track mechanism, the watch automatically updates the tracking record of the distance covered, the energy-burning rate, the heart rate monitor, and a slew of other apps. Besides the watch, the package comes with a wristband, a bracket and a charging USB cord, each of which allows assembling and dissembling after use. Lightweight in design, the watch boasts four different watch faces depending on what you want during your kayaking activity.
The highlight, however, is the next-generation Connected GPS when you connect it to your phone. The responsive feature allows you to not only map your routes but also see run stats such as duration and pace on display. The touchscreen is equally responsive, while the watch syncs wonderfully with both iOS and Android smartphones. Rounding up the features are the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and the sleep tracker.
- Easy to use and simple.
- Quickly syncs with iOS, Android, and Windows devices.
- The next-gen GPS isn’t in-built.
Magellan Switch Crossover
If you want a GPS watch for kayaking for specifically building up skills, then look no further than the Magellan Switch Crossover. With a water resistance rating of 50 meters/5 ATM and an 8-hour battery runtime with GPS, this entry-level watch is a good choice for beginner kayakers. The highly sensitive GPS allows the watch to acquire satellite range quickly and accurately pinpoint your location, whether you’re kayaking near a heavy tree cover or far away from the shore. Furthermore, thanks to the ANT+ wireless technology, the Switch easily connects to any ANT+ compatible heart rate monitor, power meter, cadence/bike speed sensor, and a foot pod.
Going further, you’ll love the high-resolution display of the watch, which makes it really easy to view the screen even in a variety of light conditions, including the bright sunlight. It’s also from here that you can access a slew of apps and tools such as the GPS navigation settings, Activity Pacer, and more.
- The presence of the activity pacer.
- ANT+ compatible heart rate monitor.
- Highly sensitive and accurate GPS.
- None, really.
Suunto Ambit 3
An all-around kayak GPS watch for all sorts of water explorers is the Suunto Ambit 3, one of the most reliable and durable watches on this list. The unobtrusive, sophisticated, and sleek watch boasts a litany of features, including temperature alerts, sunrise/sunset alerts, FusedAlti altitude, and even a compass. One of the standout features of the watch, however, is the presence of GPS along with route navigation. In fact, the watch boasts five-second GPS accuracy, along with a whopping 30-hour battery when the GPS is on!
In addition to all this cutting-edge GPS stuff, you also get access to a host of apps and tools that assist you in keeping track of distance traveled, pace, speed, and recovery times, etc. But, what makes this watch truly one-of-a-kind is the ability to use the screen of your smartphone as a second display. So, you can use your phone to take photos in motion displaying your current distance traveled and speed. Finally, you’ll also get push notifications.
- Ergonomic wrist strap insert is comfortable.
- Extremely good battery life, even with GPS.
- Controls aren’t very intuitive.
Suunto Traverse (CU)
Built specifically for kayakers, paddlers, and anglers who need a rugged watch for their kayaking journeys, the Suunto Traverse is a nearly perfect GPS watch. Not only does the watch boast GPS navigation, but it even uses the famed Russian-based GLONASS navigation to pinpoint your location with absolute accuracy. So, you have access to everything for navigating properly and getting back to the shore quickly and safely. Topping off the GPS goodness is the fact that the watch’s firmware is constantly being upgraded for improving aspects such as accuracy and general tracking.
Besides an excellent GPS feature, there’s a lot more to like about the watch. Firstly, the watch’s display is sleek and very easy to read, even in the bright sunlight. Thanks to the interchangeable colored wrist straps, you can even add a touch of style to your kayaking outfit. Rounding up the features are sunrise-sunset times, heat maps, storm alerts and weather trends, activity tracking, and a compass.
- The quality of the display is excellent.
- Very accurate GPS along with GLONASS.
- Interchangeable wrist straps.
- Lots of extra features.
- Some users mentioned that the buttons are slightly harder to press.
Casio Pro Trek WSD-F20
The Casio Pro Trek WSD-F20 is more than just a kayak GPS watch – it’s a multi-activity, multi-sport smart watch that’s an investment more than anything else. Since it’s equipped with the latest Android Wear 2.0 technology, it bring a ton of functionalities and capabilities to this excellent watch. To begin with, you get not one but three sources of positioning data – GPS, GLONASS, and Michibiki, a.k.a. the Quasi-Zenith Satellite System operated by the Japanese government. Thanks to this, it features a full-color map display that can even be used offline with an easy download by syncing with the MapBox service.
There’s a lot more to like about this GPS watch, which features an activity tracker, a barometer, altimeter, and a digital compass. What’s more, switching between the various apps is as simple as the click of a button that’s located on the outer bezel of the face of the watch. All-in-all, this is a pretty nifty GPS watch that makes for an excellent buy.
- Lots of sensors.
- Multiple positioning sources for heightened accuracy for pinpointing location.
- Two-layer screen.
- Battery life is slightly less.
Garmin Fenix 5 GPS Smartwatch
The Fenix 5 from Garmin is one amazing premium kayaking GPS multisport watch that can handle all of your toughest water-based adventures. Featuring the best in comfort, features, and design, this rugged yet sleek watch boasts a steel rear case, buttons, as well as a slick bezel. Furthermore, the outdoor sensors include both GLONASS and GPS reception as well as a three-axis compass, complete with a barometer and a gyroscope! So, you’re assured of always getting an accurate pinpointing of your location to map your route and navigate.
There are a lot of other features that this watch has, including performance monitors, the Elevate heart rate monitor, and the Garmin Chroma LED backlit display. However, where things get really neat is the multi-sport profiles functions. Basically, this watch comes with all bells and whistles that make it a deserving buy. The best part? Its brethren the Fenix 6 also happens to be one of the Best GPS Watches for Hiking!
- Long battery life even with GPS.
- Multi-sport profile and functions.
- Slightly on the bulkier side.
Garmin Forerunner 15 Large GPS Watch
Have you ever heard of a kayak GPS watch that ran as much as eight hours in GPS mode and a whopping five weeks in watch mode? Behold the Garmin Forerunner 15 Large GPS Watch, which sits atop this amazing list for more than one reason. For starters, it costs a very reasonable $100-120 for such a good kayaking GPS watch, and that too from a high-end brand such as Garmin. Secondly, you’ll find all features you’d find in an activity tracker watch. However, this one takes things a step further by also featuring calories burned, pace, distance tracking, and a heart rate monitor.
That said, the watch’s easy-to-use GPS function is its highlight. Not only does it accurately track how much and how fast you’ve traveled, but also it pinpoints your location accurately. Plus, you can even plan and share all your activities on Garmin Connect. Finally, with a water-resistance rating of 50 meters or 5 ATM, you don’t have to worry about the watch getting splashed with water!
- Backlit display.
- Long battery life.
- Accurate GPS.
- Slightly bulky.