Choosing A Gps Receiver For Kayaking: Durability, Navigation, And How They Work

Sea kayakers can now take advantage of satellite navigation technology to make paddling an unfamiliar coast much safer.

Choosing a GPS receiver for kayaking

Hand held GPS (global positioning system) receivers have revolutionized navigation for the captains of yachts, fishing vessels and commercial ships. Owners of small boats have also benefited greatly from this wonderful technology, and there is no reason why sea kayakers should not also take advantage of the safety and accuracy GPS can offer for navigation. Although they were expensive when first introduced, today's hand-held GPS units are as cheap as $100.00 for a model with basic features, and most are extremely durable and waterproof, and designed to operate on disposable alkaline batteries, making them perfect for sea kayakers.

When considering a GPS receiver to take along on your kayak trips, consider the basic functions you would like to have and what additional bells and whistles you would enjoy, even if they are not necessary for the purpose of navigation. All GPS receivers are designed for one primary and fundamental function: that is to receive signals from orbiting navigation satellites placed in space by the U.S. military and to process these signals and display the exact position coordinates of the receiver. These coordinates are given in degrees of latitude and longitude. In addition to this basic function, practically all GPS units provide storage capacity allowing the user to store the coordinates of "waypoints," which are locations taken off of a chart or map or locations you can mark as you pass an area with the GPS unit on. Most units now can store up to 500 waypoints, although few users will ever need that capacity. Other basic functions all GPS units can perform are calculations of distance to particular waypoints and the current speed the unit is moving over the ground, whether in a vehicle or a kayak. They can all be set to record units of measure and speed in standard miles, nautical miles or in metric units. These units also come with a backlit display for nighttime use, which is also quite handy for kayakers.

Beginning at $200.00 and ranging as high as $500.00, you can start shopping for much more sophisticated hand-held GPS receivers that also incorporate electronic chart plotters. Chart plotters feature an on-screen display of an electronic chart or map, showing the surrounding features of the area you are navigating, as well as a moving icon that represents your location in a boat or kayak so that you know exactly where you are in relation to everything you see around you. These units come with a basic built-in database map that shows a large area such as the entire United States, or all the coastal areas of the United States, but these large-scale maps are not detailed enough for serious navigation. Chart plotting GPS units have a means of inputting additional data in the form of detailed, specific maps or charts of the area you wish to travel. These additional maps must be purchased separately and are loaded into the hand-held unit by means of an electronic data card or by connecting the unit to a home computer to download the information from a CD-ROM.

This type of GPS with an electronic chart plotter can eliminate the need to carry additional paper maps or charts, and this is a great advantage for kayakers who have limited storage capacity, especially on long trips. On a trip of several weeks along an unfamiliar coastline, a kayaker navigating with paper charts would have to carry a heavy and bulky package of paper charts and would always face the risk of getting them wet.

Modern GPS receivers are so well-built and waterproof that they can be used in the worst conditions, mounted right on deck and swept by breaking waves. Purpose-made marine mounting hardware can be purchased separately for the unit you buy, and this allows you to mount the unit where it is easily visible and secure while you paddle.

Choosing a GPS unit really boils down to the amount of money you want to invest. The most basic units, without chart plotting ability are still nothing short of miraculous in that they tell you where you are at all times, how far it is to where you're going, and when you will get there based on your current speed. Chart plotting GPS units give you all the above information as well as allowing you to see where you are on the screen. But buying the electronic charts for download into your unit can get expensive if you paddle in a variety of geographic locations.

One way or the other, all kayakers should consider investing in at least a basic GPS unit for increased safety and accuracy in navigation.

© High Speed Ventures 2011