Kayaking is a tough sport in general. It’s tiring, you’re usually on the water for a while and you need to also know where you’re going, especially if you’re traversing long areas of lagoons and caves like Halong Bay. If you are wondering what the best GPS kayaking watches are for and paddling then read on!
The chances are if you’ve been kayaking for a while, you like to go WAY off the beaten ‘track’ and explore places further afield. You’ve probably realized that the less stuff you have to carry the better, and you don’t REALLY want to take your smartphone on the water if you can help it, even with a good dry bag on your back.
So you’re here, looking for the best waterproof kayaking watches that have GPS installed. Before we get into the guide, let’s take a second to think about what you might need in a kayaking watch.
What To Look For In A Good GPS Kayaking Watch?
- Well, the first thing is it needs to be waterproof
- The GPS needs to work well even when the batteries running low (a problem for a lot of GPS watches is when the battery runs low the signal somehow gets worse!)
- It needs to be comfortable because you’ll wear it for a long time
- Ideally, it could track your heart rate and fitness as well (two birds one stone)
The Top 8 Waterproof GPS Watches For Kayaking & Paddling In 2020
Here is our list with no particular order, as we wanted to give you a range of options and budgets. There are watches here at various prices and with various features, but they are all waterproof and have GPS so you won’t get lost while kayaking!
The first Garmin on our list, (there are several because they make very good watches for kayaking and diving). Let’s start with the basics, this watch can be seen even in the brightest sunlight with its sunlight-visible Chroma display.
It’s rated up to 100 meters waterproof (so you can paddle away) and comes packed with its’ EXO antenna for a better GPS signal. That actually makes it MORE accurate than just GPS alone, and it’s all wirelessly connected of course. It has a long battery life and it’s comfortable. Not much is wrong with this Garmin, except maybe the price.
Pros Of The Garmin Fenix 3
- Waterproof up to 100 meters (from here on we won’t mention waterproof because they all are)
- EXO antenna makes the GPS signal very accurate
- The long battery life of up to 20 hours or more depending on the mode you have it set on
- Monitors heart rate
Cons Of The Garmin Fenix 3
- Quite pricey
- The heart rate has been said to be inaccurate at times
This Garmin is a good addition and with this model, they actually give you the choice of having a heart rate monitor or not, and the price difference for that feature is only $20 or so!
We would always choose the heart rate over not having it, just because it can come in really useful for tracking your fitness and exertion levels. It comes loaded with sports apps and settings, and the battery lasts up to 3 weeks with proper usage (but only up to 10 hours when using the GPS function).
Pros Of The Garmin Vivoactive
- Long battery life when not using GPS
- Can customize the watch face design with free templates
- Powerful and accurate GPs antenna
Cons Of The Garmin Vivoactive
- The display stays on all the time, although from some reports this doesn’t seem to drain the battery much
One of the more visually appealing GPS watches, this Garmin boasts racing modes and timing functions making it probably more suited to rowing and race events. That being said it’s still a great watch for kayaking and GPS kayaking situations.
It comes with features like a heart rate tracker and music linking abilities, along with a range of watch strap options making it a good choice as every day watch as well!
Pros Of The Garmin Quatix 5
- Fully waterproof
- Great GPS function
- Can connect to speakers and track your heart rate
Cons Of The Garmin Quatix 5
- You can find similar features for a much lower price in other models
The GPS receiver is very sensitive to this model, making it better than other models which tend to give a location ‘bracket’ for where you could be. Ideally, you want your GPS watch to be as accurate as possible especially when navigating tight lagoons and cave systems, etc.
This watch can also track sunrise and sunset times letting you never miss either. this is particularly useful for not only making sure you’re back before dark, but for making sure you never miss the perfect sunrise or sunset photo on the water.
Pros Of The Garmin Foretrex 401
- Very robust model
- Accurate and effective
- Supports dual position so you can read your location in various formats
- Much more affordable than almost all the other watches we’ve listed here
Cons Of The Garmin Foretrex 401
- Doesn’t look as good as similar models (doesn’t look very much like a watch with its horizontal design)
You have a few color options with this one, making it slightly more likely to become your everyday watch. There is also a bike mount you can get for it, but for the purposes of kayaking, it’s very good.
There’s a 24/7 heart rate monitor that can also track your sleep, and it gives you haptic alerts about your heart rate, running (or kayaking), and various other things. This GPS watch doesn’t require a phone to be connected for it to work, so you can easily connect to GPS without a phone nearby (some watches require a phone to be connected for GPS to work fully).
People report having used this watch for years and it still performs exactly how it did when they bought it, and this just shows how reliable and durable this GPS watch really is. For kayaking, you really need watches that are durable because they’re going to get beaten up! You might clip it with your paddle a bunch of times, get it covered in mud or sand, or almost anything else! This watch can stand the heat.
Pros Of The Garmin Forerunner 35
- Independent GPS function without phone
- Vibration alerts for a fully hands-free experience
- Fully waterproof up to 5ATM
- 24/7 heart rate monitoring
- Lots of color options
- Affordable and comfortable
Cons Of The Garmin Forerunner 35
- For shorter distance tasks like a quick run, it can take a while to find a satellite
We promised to include a wide range of products here, and this is the best budget option so far. It includes a heart rate monitor and 50-meter waterproofing. You can use it for several hours but the GPS works within 5 meters or so, making it a bit less accurate than some of the other watches.
That’s to be expected though as it’s a tiny fraction of the price of other GPS watches. It’s a very basic watch but it has the essential features, GPS, heart rate monitor, and waterproofing. Great value for money.
Pros Of The Magellan Switch Crossover
- Very cheap considering the features it includes
- Waterproof up to 50 meters
- Several activity settings and tracking modes
Cons Of The Magellan Switch Crossover
- GPS could be a bit more accurate
- When not in a workout mode, it doesn’t display the current time on the watch face
- It’s quite big on your wrist (in terms of how it feels and looks)
The Fitbit blaze has a place here for the shorter distance kayaking trips. It comes with GPS, looks great, and performs well in terms of accuracy.
It also tracks your heart rate very well (the main thing FitBit is used for typically) and is fully waterproof which makes this a GREAT addition to this list. Another bonus is that because it’s such a popular brand there are always good deals on this model online.
Pros Of The Fitbit Blaze
- Very affordable but performs well
- Fully waterproof
- 3 color options
Cons Of The Fitbit Blaze
- Battery life tends to drain fast
This has the longest battery life of the watches on this list, an amazing 14 days on time-only mode, and waterproof up to 100m. It can easily pair with your phone, and the watch strap is very comfortable despite how strange the color looks.
What we like about this GPS watch is that it’s nice and simple, it doesn’t have loads of features you’ll never use it just has some GOOD features that you WILL use.
Pros Of The Sunnto Traverse
- Robust design and well-performing features (like GPS etc)
- Waterproof up to 100m
- Huge battery life in time only mode
Cons Of The Sunnto Traverse
- Expensive considering it’s one of the more basic kayaking watches in terms of features
So What’s The Best GPS Kayaking Watch?
Well, there are of course LOTS more watch options for watches without GPS, but this list just covers the ones with GPS. If you don’t mind being flexible with price and features like GPS, you can find a good normal waterproof watch for almost no money at all.
For GPS kayaking watches, however, Garmin seems to be in the lead in a big way, and we’d probably suggest one of the first 3 we included in this list.
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