10 Best GPS Watches for Kayaking – 2018 Buyer’s Guide
Kayaking has become somewhat of a popular pastime for many people. Of course, just like any popular pastime, kayaking has attracted its fair share of gear heads. You know, those people who get all the latest and greatest toys and other tech to complement their favorite hobby?
Well, when it comes to kayaking, one of the forms this takes is in the form of wearable tech and GPS oriented toys.
And it is for that very reason that today we are comparing the top 10 kayak GPS watches on the market today. As always, we hope that this list helps you narrow down your choices when it comes to picking out your next GPS watch.
Table of Contents
- 0.1 Top 10 GPS Watches for Kayaking
- 0.2 Garmin Fenix 5
- 0.3 Polar M400 GPS Smart Watch
- 0.4 Suunto Traverse
- 0.5 Casio Pro Trek WSD-F20
- 0.6 Suunto Spartan Ultra HR
- 0.7 Fitbit Surge
- 0.8 Garmin Forerunner 15
- 0.9 Suunto Ambit3
- 0.10 Garmin Vivoactive
- 0.11 Magellan Switch Crossover
- 1 10 Best GPS Watches for Kayaking in 2018
- 1.1 Cons:
- 1.2 Things Your Kayak Watch Should Do
- 1.3 Final Thoughts on the Best GPS Watch for Kayaking
Top 10 GPS Watches for Kayaking
Garmin Fenix 5
Silicone band: 85 g / Metal band: 156 g
Up to 2 weeks in power saving mode
Polar M400 GPS Smart Watch
Up to 8 hours
Up to 100 hours
Casio Pro Trek WSD-F20
Up to one day
Suunto Spartan Ultra HR
Up to 26 hours
Up to 100 hours
Garmin Forerunner 15
Up to 8 hours with GPS on / up to 5 weeks in watch mode
Up to 100 hours
Up to 10 hours with GPS on / up to 50 hours with basic usage
Magellan Switch Crossover
10 Best GPS Watches for Kayaking in 2018
1. Garmin Fenix 5
The Fenix 5 from Garmin is a premium multisport GPS watch that can handle all of your toughest adventures.
This watch features all of the best in design, features, and comfort. The rugged overall design of the Fenix 5 GPS watch features steel bezel, buttons, and rear case.
The outdoor sensors include both GPS and GLONASS reception and a 3-axis compass complete with a gyroscope and a barometric meter. You can rest assured that you will always get an accurate reading on pressure and direction when it comes to this watch.
The features you'll find onboard include the Garmin Chroma LED backlit display, the Elevate heart rate monitor, and various performance monitors... but that is just for starters.
Where things really get neat is when you dive into the multi-sport profiles functions. The Fenix 5 offers this special feature as a tool for athletes to use to track their progress and help them train. This means you can finally count your paddle strokes.
There are a ton of reasons to love the Fenix 5, and if you need something that has all the bells and whistles while remaining practical, you need the Garmin Fenix 5 GPS watch.
- Great data management
- Very long battery life
- Is rather bulky
2. Polar M400 GPS Smart Watch
Not exactly what you would probably call a kayak watch, the Polar M400 sure does keep up rather well on the water.
Made as a watch primarily for the runner, the M400 from Polar is made to help you train, navigate and stay connected while out on a trip.
The sleek design makes it ideal for anyone who needs to have full, unobstructed use of their arms and the space around them, like when you're paddling. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that it's waterproof.
When we dive into the features this watch packs, we will find a few useful tools such as fitness tests, activity guides that show how you've been performing and even calorie burning and heart rate monitors.
All of this goodness can then also be synced up to the Polar Flow Web Service so that you can track and monitor all the input data from your watch directly from your computer.
- Long battery life
- 6 heart rate sensors
- Sleep tracking tool isn't very helpful
- Screen can be hard to read
3. Suunto Traverse
Built primarily for hikers and trekkers who need a rugged watch to take on their journeys, the Suunto Traverse makes for a perfect kayak GPS watch.
The Suunto Traverse utilizes not only GPS but also GLONASS navigation to make sure you have access to everything you need to properly navigate as well as get back home safely and quickly.
And to top off the GPS goodness, the firmware is constantly being upgraded to improve things like general tracking and accuracy.
The sleek, easy to read display makes it the perfect watch for both cloudy or sunny days out on the water. The interchangeable various colored wrist straps are a nice touch for those who enjoy being able to customize their gear as well.
Now, when it comes to features, this thing is pretty well packed with them so we will save you a little time and highlight what we feel are the most important. Onboard, you have a compass, activity tracking, mobile notifications, weather trend and storm alerts, heat maps, and sunrise-sunset times.
This GPS watch has it all and comes in a solid body that even the most rugged outdoorsman could appreciate.
- Is a bit heavy
- Quality of the display
- Buttons are harder to press than most GPS watches
4. Casio Pro Trek WSD-F20
The Pro Trek WSD-F20 from Casio is more than just a kayak GPS watch, it is a multi-sport, multi-activity smart watch.
It comes equipped with the latest Android Wear 2.0 technology which brings tons capabilities to this magnificent watch.
It features a full-color map display that you can use offline as well with a simple download. This is handled by syncing up with the MapBox service. The positioning data that you get when you wear this watch, comes from three sources; GPS, GLONASS, and Michibiki. Trust us, you will always have an accurate positioning system at your fingertips with this GPS watch.
Also onboard is a digital compass, altimeter, barometer, and an activity tracker. And switching between the various tools is as simple as the click of a button located on the outer bezel of the watch face.
All in all, this is a pretty nifty GPS watch and the display is unlike most any other multi-sport watches out there today.
- Two-layer screen
- Lots of sensors to increase accuracy
- Short battery life
5. Suunto Spartan Ultra
The first thing you will probably notice about the Spartan Ultra from Suunto is that it is one sleek GPS watch. And while it may look minimalistic, it actually packs a whole lot of features and looks good doing it.
The Spartan Ultra is another one of our picks for top multisport GPS watches and for very good reason. It sports a crisp, full-color touch screen, comes with spot on route navigation, and is built to withstand a good beating.
When we say that it can withstand a good beating is because this thing is made from a Titanium 5 / steel bezel. But what's more impressive is that it uses sapphire glass for its lens. In case you are unaware, sapphire glass is only second in its hardness, to diamond. That's some tough glass.
And remember how we said that it is really sleek? Well, that's a good thing for paddlers who have to constantly be moving their arms. This watch stays out of the way for the most part.
An all-around good watch if you are looking for durability and basic core features help together at given to you on a beautiful display.
- Quality of materials and design
- Software can be buggy
6. Fitbit Surge
If every single one of the bells and whistles isn't really your thing and you don't plan on being too rough on your kayak GPS watch, you should consider the Fitbit Surge.
It is a sleek, very thing, compact design that sits nicely on the wrist. It is mainly designed for people who are doing land based sports and other activities but it is water resistant so it is also suitable for your kayaking expeditions.
The features that come with this watch range from basic functions to really cool tools. A few of the neatest features we found on this GPS watch, however, are things like the pure pulse heart rate monitor, ability to review routes and split times, the built-in sleep monitor, and the ability to wirelessly sync all of your data to your smartphone.
Also, it doesn't hurt that the company behind this watch is Fitbit. Nothing quite like a name that you know knows a thing or two about the best practices when it comes to building wearable technology.
- One-piece secure band (very beneficial for paddlers)
- Very little push notification abilities
7. Garmin Forerunner 15
The Forerunner 15 from Garmin is the GPS watch you need if you just want something extremely basic. While this watch doesn't have all of the thrills you'll find with something like the Fenix 5, it stills gets the job done just as well.
Onboard you will find all of the basic features you'd find in a basic activity tracker watch; the time, date, and activity tracking options.
But it does take things a step further than that by including a heart rate monitor, tracking for distance, pace, and calories burned. As for battery life, you are looking at right about 8 hours if you have your GPS on or up to about 5 weeks when it's in watch and activity mode. You can even plan and share your activities on Garmin Connect.
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!
- Long battery life
- Back lit display
- No Bluetooth
8. Suunto Ambit 3
The Ambit 3 from Suunto is an all-around GPS watch for explorers and adventurers of all kinds. It is durable, reliable and contains a feature set that other watches envy. Oh, and the overall design here is sleek and very sophisticated but non-obtrusive looking.
On the list of features for the Ambit 3, you will find that it comes with route navigation, a compass, FusedAlti altitude, sunrise/sunset and temperature alerts. In addition to that cutting-edge stuff, you also get tools to help keep track of recovery times, speed, pace, distance and so forth.
What really makes this watch truly one of a kind is the ability to use your smart phone screen as a second watch display. What this means is that you can use your phone to take photos in motion that displays your current speed and distance you have traveled. On your watch, you will get your phone calls, messages and push notifications.
A really professional looking GPS watch, tons of fancy tools, what more could you really want?
- Very good battery life (up to 50 hours with minimal or basic use)
- Ergonomic wrist strap insert makes it really comfortable to wear
- Controls are not very intuitive
9. Garmin Vivoactive
With the Vivoactive, Garmin has proven once again that they know what it takes to accurately track athlete's stats and help them further improve their skills. The Vivoactive is a GPS watch built for those with a truly active lifestyle. It is for the movers and shakers of the sports world.
What makes this watch stand out the most is probably its high visibility, high resolution, sunlight-readable, color touchscreen display.
It is easy to navigate and it is nice to be able to actually see your screen options even when the sun is beaming down right on top of you. The screen itself is ultra-thin but may be a little wide for those looking for something sleeker or form fitting.
As for the features found on the Vivoactive, you will find activity tracking for various activities, a heart rate monitor, and free watch face designs and widgets from the Connect IQ store (which is built into the watches firmware). The watch faces and widgets are where things really get fun with this watch, as you can customize it to better fit your style.
- Long battery life (3 weeks with minimal or basic use)
- Does not come with wrist heart rate
10. Magellan Switch Crossover
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.
The high-resolution display makes it fairly easy to view even in a variety of light conditions but really excels in bright environments.
From this screen, you can get to your set of tools such as the Activity Pacer, alerts for various things you may want to track such as distance and pace, and all of your GPS navigation settings.
We mentioned something called the Activity Pacer. This tool is a new feature for GPS watches in general and what it does is actually really useful. The Activity Pacer allows you to set certain target goals and it keeps you on pace and target to achieving that goal.
Tell it how far you want to go, a speed you want to reach or a pace you want to maintain and it will help you reach your targets by notifying you when these have been attained, surpassed, or how to get there.
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
- Activity Pacer tool
- Some users report that activity tracking can be buggy from time to time but is rare
Things Your Kayak Watch Should Do
In general, there are a few functions and other things you should look for in your next kayak watch.
Can Tell Time
This one should go without saying, but what good is a watch that doesn't at least tell the time?
If you need to be back on land by a certain time, wouldn't it be helpful if you could tell what time it is?
Can Give Accurate GPS Coordinates
While many of the best kayaks on the market have extra space for you to be able to mount things with a little bit of work, why not just mount your GPS on your wrist?
One of the main reasons to buy a watch specifically for your kayaking expeditions is to have easy access to GPS to set waypoints to follow, find specific locations, or even find your way back to land after a long trip.
It Should Be Water-Resistant or Waterproof
You are going to be taking this watch with you primarily on your kayak trips, which means it will be exposed to water, often.
For it to last you any significant amount of time, it needs to be waterproof. While you certainly can try risking it without a waterproof watch, we don't recommend it.
Can Take Some Abuse
Your watch will be on your wrist as you are paddling away in your kayak. What this means for your kayak watch, is a lot of thrashing around, dunked in water and probably quite a few accidental beatings with your paddle. In order to take the abuse, you need a watch that is well-built with quality materials.
One major thing to look for when testing a watches durability is the quality of the strap. We've all heard the horror stories of fellow kayakers who purchased a fancy new watch, only for the clasp to come loose and take a plunge, never to be recovered. Don't let this happen to you. Before you purchase that new watch, put it on your wrist and tug on the wristband and clasp a bit.
Final Thoughts on the Best GPS Watch for Kayaking
If you've made it this far, then hopefully you have a better understanding of the choices available when it comes to GPS watches and we have helped narrow things down for you just a bit.
At the end of the day, just as with any other gear you acquire along the way, your GPS kayak watch really needs to meet all of your needs. If you are rough on your gear, then your watch is no exception and it needs to be able to keep up with no issues or surprises.
It also needs to be comfortable. It will be on your wrist for several hours, so pick something you could see yourself being able to wear in the worst conditions possible before you buy it.
And remember, it needs to be accurate and probably should have at least a small water resistance rating.
If you happen to need an actual GPS system for your kayaking trip, check out our guide.
That's all for now, but if you feel we have left anything out or you have any questions or other comments, please leave them in the comments section below!