Best GPS Watches for Kayaking [2021 Reviewed]

As we live in a world in which technology is the ruler of gadgets, there is no reason why we shouldn’t comply even when we are outdoors and in need of a navigational aid. Kayaking is no different, and a GPS watch is a crucial piece of equipment for paddlers. Let’s just say that the paper maps are not really water resistant and the last thing you should be doing on a lousy weather is to struggle with a map in order to find your way. Knowing this, GPS watches come in abundance so why not use it to your convenience?

Depending on the specifications you wish to have, you can track your position, the length of your destination, check your speed, your pulse, set checkpoints, or simply see how much time flew by while you were paddling. So it is important to know what watch best suits you and your needs. The tricky part is finding the right watch to suit your needs. To make life a little easier we’ve assembled this review to help you find the best GPS watches for kayaking, so you can choose the one you wish to use.

As you probably know by now, kayaking has become a very popular outdoor activity for many people. Now, as in every sport, you have great enthusiasts which pride themselves on having the best equipment, and they should, as it is not only about looking good but also their safety and being prepared. This goes from having the best kayak to having the best technology to support those adventures.

BEFORE YOU BUY: HERE 5 THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING A GPS WATCH FOR KAYAKING

As always, the market for GPS watches is growing exponentially and it is becoming more and more necessary to have a way of monitoring all the statistics during your rides. And it is for that very reason that we will help you find the best GPS watches for kayaking. But, before we give you this list of top 10, there are a few things you should consider before entering the purchase mode.

1. HOW LONG IS THE BATTERY LIFE?

This is one of the most important if not the most important feature to consider in a GPS watch. We all know technology and batteries are not very reliable, so knowing how long the battery life is, on a beautiful day when you are kayaking for hours and hours is crucial. So knowing about the endurance of your battery and its life-saving features will be vital to preventing draining the power easily.

Like we said, when you’re heading out for an adventure with your family and friends, the last thing you want to think about is your battery and is it going to die when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere. Therefore, buying a GPS watch with durability is a must if you are a serious kayaker.

2. IS IT WATER RESISTANT AND CAN IT TAKE SOME ABUSE?

Being resistant to water is self-explanatory when you are kayaking. You will be encountering waves and strong currents while kayaking, so it is essential that you find a water resistant one since you can easily get drench it from paddling, bad weather or tipping over.

We must emphasize that, although a watch is waterproof, it does not mean it is fully functional underwater, so you must still be careful with how you approach such situations. So for the needs of experienced and beginner kayakers, you will need a watch that is waterproof due to waves and rainy weather. So before buying, we would suggest you do your research and find out if your desired watch, is actually water resistant and just how much. That is why we must highlight the fact that a GPS watch is never waterproof, it is rather water resistant.

3. WHAT SIZE IS IT?

Now you might wonder, why is the size of a watch important?!

First and foremost, it is a general rule that GPS watches designed for trekkers and walkers, tend to be larger and heavier than those designed for use during sport. But as you’re in a kayak, the space you have is limited. And yes, your watch will not limit you exponentially, but GPS watches are not the only portable and lightweight technology there is. In this case, size matters.

4. COMPATIBILITY AND MEMORY

What do we actually mean by compatibility in this case?

In this case, we mean with you, your needs, your plans for the use of the watch and with your computer or phone. Depending on the model you have, you can sync your watch with your phone via Bluetooth which will help you gather data like how much you paddled, where you went, how much time it took you and your pulse during this adventure. Talk about convenient.

Some devices are also compatible with GLONASS. For you who don’t know what GLONASS is, it is a Russian navigation system that uses satellites for GPS and due to which you can get t notifications on your watch from your phone which can be of great help if you don’t want to bring your phone.

The memory of the GPS is also important, as it can help you save more maps, trails, and tracks you paddled on. It is always good to know you can insert a memory card to make more room for new tracks and trails.

5. ACCURATE AND DETAILED MAPS

If you love to go on long adventures, staying on the right path and knowing your location is very important. When you’re out on a stream kayaking, getting lost can be quite dangerous. This is a must-have feature for any GPS device to prevent you from being lost wherever you go. This is why your GPS watch should have a clear map filled with details and be open to more memory card information in order to learn about where the valleys are and where the mountains go.

This feature is crucial especially when you go forth to unsafe and unfamiliar routes. It is all about having the precise location and exact navigation in order for you to reach your destination safely. Having a reliable GPS watch for kayaking enables you to feel at ease and navigate with confidence. It is as simple as that.

10 BEST GPS WATCHES FOR KAYAKING 2018

As this article is made of a lot of information, we wish you to feel no pressure while reading through all the features to have in mind, so here is a list of top 10 best GPS watches for Kayaking to help you go over all of this. We included the pros and cons of each watch so you can have the full idea before you go to buy one.

1. Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire

Garmin-Fenix-5-GPS-Watch

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This watch is for all you adventurers out there as it allows you to get lost in nature and lose track of time. It possesses a high-resolution display with built-in maps, sensor alerts, and a long-lasting battery of 2 weeks in power saving mode. In case you want to monitor your heart rate, your crossed distance and the pace in which you were going, you will also have the opportunity of doing so with Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire. Remember the water resistance talk? This watch is a guru for that as it has excellent performance underwater.

It supports connectivity to iOS, Android, and Windows platforms and not only that, but it also helps your phone notifications pass through and shows you the date and weather.

The build quality is superb. It supports both GPS and GLONASS which can be of use especially deep in the woods and a long way down rivers.

PROS:

  • Multi-sports features
  • Long-standing battery
  • Water-resistant
  • Lightweight
  • Readable screen under sunlight

CONS:

  • Bulky

2. Polar M430 GPS Running Watch

If you're looking for something simpler, the Polar M430 should be what you are looking for. While it isn't explicitly designed as a kayaking GPS watch, it is water resistant.

The Polar M430 GPS weighs 51g. And is easy to use. It also comes with seven menu options including a fitness test, settings, heart rate, my diary, my day and favorites. It allows you to add activities you like, which you can later analyze via the Polar Flow app. It does not only share information on how you did but it has additional information on how you can help yourself and train better. Again, ask yourself what is the reason for needing a GPS and see if these specifications help you as it is not one of the most attractive watches.

Polar-M400-M430-GPS-Running-Smart-Sports.jpg

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PROS:

  • Simple and easy to use
  • Water resistant
  • Sleep and recovery monitoring
  • Editable sports profiles
  • Slimline profile

CONS:

  • Only eight hours battery life on GPS mode
  • Small display

3. Polar M400 GPS Smart Watch

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Again, not exactly a watch made for kayaking, but it is water resistant. This watch was issued primarily for runners, to help them train and navigate, all while staying connected on a trip.

The sleek design does help paddlers when in full motion as it is made ideally for anyone who needs to have full, unobstructed use of their arms and the space around them.

Such as the previous Polar M 430, M400 also allows you to do fitness tests, and activity guides to help you perform better and check your calorie burn and heart rate. 

PROS:

  • Long battery life
  • Water resistant
  • 6 heart rate sensors
  • Training benefit
  • Improvement feature

CONS:

  • Screen hard to read
  • Unfashionable

4. Suunto Traverse

This watch was built primarily for hikers and trackers but also it is the perfect kayak GPS watch. It uses both GPS and GLONASS navigation system to make sure you have the proper navigation to get around safely and effectively, but also quickly.

 The display is easy to read in both sunny and cloudy weather. This watch comes with a compass, activity tracking, mobile notifications, storm alerts, heat maps and more.
Suunto-Traverse

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PROS:

  • Constantly improving
  • Water resistant
  • Notifications
  • Compass
  • 100h battery life

CONS:

  • Buttons are harder to press than most GPS watches

5. Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR

Suunto-Spartan-Trainer-Wrist-HR

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What is noticeable about this GPS watch is its beautiful design and its minimalistic look without it actually being full of features you can use. Inside of it, is a GPS receiver, accelerometer, digital compass, and an optical heart rate monitor.

And if that isn’t enough the Spartan is filled with 80 different sports categories, and of course to our benefit, one of them is kayaking!

The sports software tracks your daily step, has a stopwatch and interval training for all you sports enthusiasts. This watch offers perfect combinations of multiple sports and features since it allows you to track your performance in detail to identify spots where you can improve.

PROS:

  • Extensive range of sports functions including kayaking
  • Accurate optical heart rate monitor
  • Water resistant to 100 meters
  • Slimmer and lighter than the Fenix
  • Route and workout planning with Suunto Movescount app

CONS:

  • No storm alarm
  • No weather tracking
  • No topographical maps

6. Fitbit Surge Fitness Superwatch

This GPS watch offers a sleek, thin, compact design that is not intended for roughing it. It is mostly designed for people who love to do land-based sports, but it is water resistant and can be used for kayaking expeditions as its features come with a range of basic functions such as GPS, heart rate monitor, route review, sleep monitor and the Wi-Fi sync up with your smartphone.

Fitbit-Surge-Fitness-Superwatch-crop

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PROS:

  • Comfortable
  • One-piece secure band (very beneficial for paddlers)
  • Well connectivity
  • Settings option

CONS:

  • Very little push notification abilities

7. Garmin Forerunner 15

Garmin-Forerunner-15

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The Forerunner 15 from Garmin is the GPS watch you need a basic GPS. Of course, the watch doesn't come near the Fenix 5 settings possibilities, but it still does its job.

All it has is basic tracking options, time, date, tracking settings and a GPS. The battery life is basic for a GPS watch like this and it can endure up to 8 hrs on GPS or up to 5 weeks without it. Up to you what you use, but do come prepared. It allows the connectivity to Garmin Connect where you can share your activities and triumphs as it will show the distance passed, how many calories you burned and the amazing heart rate monitor that is well beyond basic.

Now while this was made as a runners GPS watch, it works just as well for kayakers who spend most of their time out on the water, as this thing has a water rating of 50 meters. It can even go for a little swim!

PROS:

  • Water resistant to 50m
  • Excellent heart monitor
  • Garmin Connect
  • Long battery life without GPS

CONS:

  • No extra settings
  • Basic look and features

8. Suunto Ambit3 Sports HR Monitor Running GPS Unit

The Ambit 3 from Suunto is an all-around GPS watch for adventurers of all kinds. Its durability, reliability and rich feature set speak for itself as all other watches stay in awe. It allows you to navigate routes, use a compass, has a built-in FusedAlti altitude, temperature alerts, speed check, pace, distance and all the features the basic GPS watches possess.

Let's be honest! This watch is amazing as it is, but on top of that, it uses one of a kind ability to use your smartphone screen as a second watch display. This will help you take photos in motion and check the distance you traveled, alongside with getting your phone calls, messages and notifications!

Suunto-Ambit3-Sports-HR-Monitor-Running-GPS

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PROS:

  • A rich number of features
  • FusedAlti altitude
  • Smartphone connectivity and featuring
  • Design and reliability of the GPS watch

CONS:

  • Glitches in the heart rate monitoring

9. Garmin Vivoactive

Garmin-Vivoactive

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Garmin hits again! Vivoactive is another proof that the Garmin family knows that they are doing when they want to accurately track the athlete’s statistics and help them improve. This GPS watch is built for all the people who lead an active and outdoor lifestyle. The features that it strives on are its high visibility, high resolution, sunlight-readable and color touchscreen display.

When using this watch you will have no problem navigating as your screen will be in HD and you will be able to actually see your screen no matter of the sun position, which is always a plus in our book. Based on its features, Vivoactive is not different to other GPS watches, it possesses the tracking activity, HR monitor, the connectivity with the Connect IQ store. When it comes to design, its faces and widgets will help you find the style that fits you.  

PROS:

  • Great design
  • High activity GPS watch
  • The readable screen in high sunlight
  • Connect IQ store
  • Long battery life

CONS:

  • Does not come with wrist heart rate.

10. Magellan Switch Up Crossover GPS Watch

Last but definitely not the least good GPS watch. The Magellan Switch Crossover GPS watch is for any outdoor athlete looking to track all of their activities, plan their routes and even build up their skills through specific target alerts directly from the watch. Again the high-resolution display allows you to fight the light conditions when being outdoor and on water as it excels in bright environments.

It allows you to use a set of tools such as the Activity Pacer and its alerts for the things important to you which you wish to track. This is a new feature for GPS watches in general and it allows you to set certain target goals and it keeps you on pace and target to achieve that goal. We all need some fitness motivation from time to time, so why not use this watch during those endeavors? 

With the battery life on this watch sits in the 8-hour range and the water rating of 50 meters, this is a very nice, entry-level kayak GPS watch which will not disappoint.

Magellan-Switch-Up-Crossover-GPS-Watch

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PROS:

  • Battery life
  • Water resistant to 50m
  • Activity Pacer that helps you plan your routines
  • Display brightness is good on sunny days out

CONS:

  • Some users report that activity tracking can start bugging, from time to time, but it is rare