The gadget which is on my checklist before going on any kayaking adventure nowadays is a GPS watch. GPS watches have come a long way with the advancement of technology ranging from just a simple watch with GPS to a complete smartwatch. With so many brands in the market, it can be a difficult task to select the best GPS watch for yourself.
We are going to try to break it up for you to decide. In the end, it is up to your personal preference whether it is the design that matters the most to you or its precision and accuracy of your GPS routes and maps. So, let’s dive right into our top 10 picks.
A Comparison of the 10 Best GPS Watches For Kayaking 2021
Up to 100 meter
Up to 2 weeks
Only Splash Resistant
8 Hours with GPS
25 Hours to One Month
20 Hours to 6 Days
8 Hours- 5 Weeks
13 Hours- 7 Days
14 Hours- 7 Days
1. Garmin Fenix 5 – GPS You Can Rely On
The Fenix 5 from Garmin is the coolest, most capable, best-looking multisport watch out there. Its functionality ranges from being a multisport outdoor watch to being a smartwatch with activity and sleep tracking. This watch connects with Bluetooth and ANT sensor. It comes with stainless steel EXO antenna for GPS and GLONASS. Garmin has come a long way in GPS technology, so you can rely on its accuracy.
The thing I am most impressed with about this watch is that it has got an awesome design. It is both sporty and fashionable. The standard unit comes with silicone bands, but QuickFit bands allow for quick interchange. You can go for leather or metal bands, but they are a bit on the pricey side from Garmin, but you can go with third-party bands and they are quite reasonable.
In addition to that, it has a smaller casing than Fenix 3 HR but it is reasonably heavy for a sports watch at 85 grams. If you are a woman or have small wrists, you can go for Fenix 5S which has a 42 mm casing. Moreover, Garmin Fenix 5X has full-blown topographical maps, however, the standard Garmin Fenix 5 has basic graphs but they work fine and give you your altitude, a barometer, a compass, and a few other stuff as far as navigation goes.
As far as battery life is concerned, it can go for two weeks in power-saving mode, but with GPS, Garmin says 24 hours, but I would say to expect around 18 hours. It is water-resistant up to 100 meters.
When it comes to display, it has a four-color display, but on the standard unit it has a mineral crystal display and it is prone to cracks, but if you are crack-phobic you can go with Sapphire, which also has wifi in it. When you use it as a smartwatch, it shows phone notification, but it requires your phone to be within the Bluetooth range of your watch. There is no native storage for music, but it allows to play streamed in and stored music from iTunes, Spotify, and Pandora,
2. Fitbit Blaze – Customize it as you like
Next up is Fitbit Blaze which is an activity tracker, sleep tracker, heart rate monitor, fitness watch, smartwatch, and a fashion accessory.
If being comfortable is one of your criteria to pick up a watch, then it is lightweight and comfortable and it really looks nice. You can choose from different color and material bands ranging from classic to leather and metal bands. The bands really look nice and are durable.
The Blaze has a four-color display, it is clear and beautiful. The touch screen is responsive. You can adjust the display brightness. My only complaint with the display is that bezels are large and the display in comparison to bezels is small. You have four different watch faces to choose from and they all look really good. It has a great design and looks good and mine does not have any scratch yet after a couple of months’ use.
I like it because there is an optical-based heart rate monitor sensor, it works great for running, cycling, walking, and cardio stuff and it is quite reliable for high-intensity workouts. It does not connect with any external heart rate sensor.
It has no built-in GPS or GLONASS, but it will utilize the phone’s GPS and will display distance, pace, and speed information. The Blaze will work with iOS, Android, and Windows Phone devices. So, the absence of GPS is not a big deal if you are bringing your phone for music and other needs.
There are three pre-loaded exercise routines on the FitStar, so you get a warm-up routine, a 7-minute workout, and a 10-minute abs routine. Moreover, you get a daily goal in terms of steps, but you can change it to distance traveled or calories burnt. It is pretty good at activity and sleeps tracking.
In terms of Smartwatch, you can see your phone notifications, text messages, calendar reminders as long as you are within 20-30 feet of your phone. You can control your stored and streamed music.
3. Suunto Traverse – Durable to the extreme
Suunto Traverse can claim to rival Garmin Fenix 3 or Fenix 5 as far as GPS and navigation goes. It is built for mountaineering, climbing, and backpacking.
Furthermore, it has got an amazing design. It has got silicone bands & It comes in a range of colors to choose from. It comes in only one size, but it can be adjusted. Personally, I like its design more than the Fenix.
In addition to this, it has a battery life of 14 days if you are wearing it as a watch and 15 hours in GPS mode with 5-second interval samples, and 100 hours if you take one-minute samples. Suunto Transverse can track all your activity by being compatible with Suunto’s Movescount app.
As far as features are concerned, it has got the ABC tools (altimeter, barometer, and compass). It has a heart rate monitor, step counter, alarm, incoming calls, time, push notifications, storm alarm, sunrise-sunset times, the backlight in flashlight mode, Vibration alarm, GPS time update, and daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly activity tracking of steps and calories.
Traverse has an easy-to-use user interface. You can select different functions and screen options by its five buttons. I do not think we can call it “intuitive”, but with experience it becomes easy. It does not it’s not too bad. It is water-resistant up to 100 meters.
Garmin Fenix 5 vs Suunto
If you would ask my view on Fenix 5 versus Suunto, Fenix is more comfortable to wear, but I like the display on the Suunto. You can have dual time on Suunto. On Fenix, you can have different watch faces and backgrounds, so you can put an analog watch face or a digital watch face, so Fenix gives a little more customization as far as the display is concerned. One cool feature that Suunto has is a built-in flashlight which is much brighter than the backlight on Garmin. You get better fitness tracking on Fenix, but you get better navigation on Suunto.
4. Casio Pro Trek WSD-F20 – Catchy Interface
This watch comes with a built-in Android 2.0 operating system. It’s a thick watch, however, it’s thinner from its previous version, but still thicker when compared with other watches. It has comfortable rubber straps. It comes in black and orange color. This watch has a good-looking sporty design.
Let’s talk more about it, this watch has all the features that you need for your outdoor activities like hiking, climbing, fishing, camping, etc. Features include GPS, compass, barometer, and altimeter. It’s a military standard watch, so that should be enough to tell you about its durability.
This beast of watches is compatible with smartphones having an android version of 4.3 and more. It has limited functionality with Iphones but works just fine with iOS 8.2 or above. It keeps the location history, shows the current location, and also allows you to write memos on the map.
If you ask me, it has a catchy and colorful interface that is pretty easy to use. The quartz movement of the watch is also an attractive feature of this watch. (Sporty yet classic, cool! Isn’t it?). Battery timing is up to 25 hours when GPS mode is activated and one month when only timepiece mode is activated.
Hold on before you decide, it’s water-resistant down to 50 meters which are suitable for recreational swimming, but not for diving and snorkeling. So, you decide if it is something you can compromise on.
5. Garmin Fenix 3 HR – Proper Smartwatch
If you’re looking for a GPS watch, sports watch outdoor watch, triathlon watch, activity tracker, sleep tracker, heart rate monitor, and a proper smartwatch. Garmin Fenix 3 HR is just the right watch for you.
As far as design is concerned Fenix 3 HR lines up really as an oddity but in a good way as it balances so many elements and functions. It’s extra durable yet comfortable to wear and its design is really nice. It’s so catchy and decent you may want to wear it all day long. It comes with only one pair of silicon straps but you can get more online. It has stainless steel bezel which has an antenna embedded in it.
Moreover, its display is incredibly clear even in the sunlight and its readability is wonderful. It has sapphire glass which makes it incredibly durable.
Among features, it has a heart rate sensor, elevates sensor, GLONASS, and ABC tools. It contains the training features like running dynamic with both vertical oscillation and vertical ratio. Although its heart rate monitor is very good and deserves to be praised, it doesn’t measure heart rate in the water and band monitors are still required for that. (Sorry swimmers, it ain’t for you).
Garmin Fenix 3 vs 5
When comparing Fenix 5 with Fenix 3 HR, there is not really much to separate except few features like straps on Fenix 5 can be easily removed and changed, but for Fenix 3 you require time and screwdrivers to change them. Fenix 5 has the gyroscope which Fenix 3 does not have. Fenix 5 has better battery timing than Fenix 3. Fenix 5 has a better high-resolution display. Fenix 5 and Fenix 5x are suitable for people with medium and smaller sized wrists. Storage for music is not available in Fenix 5 as this space is used to store topographical maps.
6. Huawei Watch 2 – A Featured Pack GPS Watch
This GPS watch runs with Android version 2.0. It has a sporty, rugged, and chunky look. It comes with rubber straps and the body is made up of metal. Straps are quickfit and can be changed with ease. It has just two buttons on the sides and its bezel is unmovable. It’s very light and comfortable to wear although it looks bulky and heavy.
The features which stand out for this GPS watch include a built-in GPS and a continuous heart rate monitor. This watch also has a sleep tracking feature. HUAWEI TruSleep keeps the track of light, deep sleep, and rapid eye movement sleep.
Let’s talk more about it, it serves as a workout coach as it provides real-time guidance and workout data like Vo2 max, work data, and recovery time. (Why pay the coach when your GPS watch can coach you better). This watch also serves the purpose of entertainment as it can play and download music from Google Play Music.
Another thing you need to know is that it has 4GB of internal storage allowing you to download a number watch, but another issue with this watch is its slow performance. Apps don’t really work as they should. They open up late and often get hanged.
Coming to the end, the battery life of this device is two days at max without a sim card and just over one day with a sim card. The Cradle charger makes the charging difficult unnecessarily. This watch works well even without the sim cards. It can perform all the 4G functions (calling, messaging, etc) while it’s connected to a local Wi-Fi network.
7. SUUNTO Spartan Ultra HR – Scratch-Less
This watch has a battery time of 26 hours in lower power and 16-17 hours in GPS mode. It comes in two models, with or without titanium in the bezel. It has a sapphire crystal display making it scratchless. The design is simple with an immovable bezel and rubber straps.
Talking more about its design, the body of the device is thick and looks just fine. It has three buttons on the side that can be used to operate the handheld device and a touchscreen is also available for user compliance.
Another greater feature about this watch is that it’s compatible with many smartphones and thus can sync your activities, organize on the go, calls, messages, notifications and other features of the phone can be accessed through this watch. This watch is water-resistant down to 100 meters.
The watch’s basic menu allows the user to select the mode of the exercise he/she desires and tracks with the parameters available including pace, time, and distance. It also provides the calculations of the peak training, workout recovery time, and post-exercise oxygen consumption.
8. Garmin Forerunner 15 – Battery is enough to last you a while
If you’re looking for a cheap yet effective GPS watch this is the best handheld device for you. This watch has a rectangular display and a plastic body. The straps of the watch are also of rubber. It has a simple design.
The home screen has time, date, and the battery indicator. It’s pretty thick and clunky. I have to say it’s not the most fashionable watch. Talking about features, it has a step-counting feature that Garmin Forerunner 10 didn’t have. It gives you your steps, your goal, your distance, and your calories burnt.
Moreover, it has the inactive monitor feature, so if you have been inactive for an hour or so and have not taken any steps, it will beep and tell you to get up, move and take some steps (cool, isn’t it !).
For those looking for more, it normally takes 20-30 seconds to get your location on a normal day, but on a cloudy day it can take up to a minute, so if you are willing to go on a quick run this can be really frustrating sometimes.
In addition to this, it doesn’t sync wirelessly via Bluetooth or anything to your smartphone, so you have to connect it using the cradle every day in order to download all your activities to the Garmin Connect app. It has a backlight, so you can see it in the night.
It has a heart rate alert, which means if you go above a certain heart rate, it alerts you. It keeps the record for seven days. This GPS watch has a very simple interface and is easy to use.
9. Garmin Vivoactive – Classic looks with a Touch
If you are looking for an affordable yet catchy smart GPS watch? Germin Vivoactive is just the right watch for you. It’s a rectangular-shaped watch with a metal body and mineral screen. It has rubber straps that can be removed and joined easily.
This watch is great in its own terms in that the software is pretty much basic and easy to understand, yet it allows a lot to do with the device. It is an ultrathin GPS smartwatch which makes it more attractive. It is equipped with GPS and a high-resolution color touchscreen. It has built-in sports apps like GPS-enabled running, swimming, and a feature that tracks the activities.
Moreover, this watch can be connected with a smartphone so you can get all the stats on your screen even when your phone is away. It displays the notification, messages, calls, and other notifications on its screen.
As far as battery life is concerned, battery timing is up to three weeks in watch or activity mood and just 10 hours while using GPS. It is waterproof till 50 meters which means it can be worn during rain, shower and during recreational swimming, but this is not the watch that you can wear while you are diving.
When talking about some other features, it allows you to control music stored on your phone, but not for the streamed in music. If you have not been using the watch for a couple of seconds, it returns back to the home screen. They have it pre-loaded with a run, bike, swim, walk, golf, run indoor, cycle indoor, and walk indoor.
10. Garmin Vivoactive 3 – Slim but not that Smart
Next up is Garmin Vivoactive 3, which is a midrange GPS watch, which has some smart features along with activity tracking and features you would expect a midrange GPS watch to have. It comes in three models or colors, two of them are feminine and one which the guys will be more open to wearing.
The features which attracted me the most were that it happens to be unbelievably slim and lightweight and there is not even a nub for a heart rate monitor which is awesome. It is so slim and lightweight you will forget it is on your wrist.
Talking more about its design and appeal, it has removable and interchangeable bands. The bands are 20 mm, so you can find other 20 mm bands and swap them in. It is resistant to scratches, but it looks soft, so I would not be surprised if mine will get scratches in the near future.
The display is round and the bezel is made up of metal. It is sunlight readable and it does have a backlight. It is a touchscreen watch. It has 15 sports profiles built including running, rowing, cycling, cardio, elliptical, floor climbing, etc.
If you want to know more about it, it is water-resistant to around 50 meters. The heart rate monitor is going to be switched off while you are swimming. Battery life is up to seven days, but 13 hours in GPS mode. Its GPS is quite reliable.
Another praiseworthy feature of this watch is its always being on the clock mode, so if you’re not doing anything on it, it can be your regular watch as well. Its interface is easy to read and use and there are many widgets available that can be customized.
A turn-off for this watch is that it doesn’t play music and its sleep tracker is pretty bad. I mean there will be times when you are not wearing the watch and it’s still showing the heart rate and other stuff when it shouldn’t.
Best GPS Watches For Kayaking Buyer's Guide 2021
There are many brands producing GPS watches and each brand has its own specialty and even within the same brand, a variety of GPS watches are available. With each passing day, new technology is being introduced in the market by different brands. It seems pretty easy to buy a GPS watch but in reality, there are various factors and features you need to consider before making any decision to purchase a watch.
We have reviewed the best products available in the market and each one has its own pros and cons. The question still remains. Which product you should buy? I believe it all comes down to your personal preference. Some have a better GPS system, some have better smart features, some have better compatibility with other devices and some are economic to purchase. To assist you in your decision, we have compiled a list of the factors that you need to consider before purchasing the GPS watch.
The first and most important thing while purchasing the GPS watch is obviously its GPS quality. You don’t want to get lost because of your watch so it’s important that GPS gives accurate results.
Different brands use different types of GPS technology. Every system has its own pros and cons. Of all the brands listed above in the review section “Garmin” has really come up leaps and bounds in terms of the best quality GPS system. Every product of this brand has better GPS than corresponding products of the other brands. Several products of this brand have made it to our list because of their GPS quality.
Battery life is also an important factor that needs to be taken into consideration. No matter how good the quality of GPS is, how beautiful it looks or how much smart features it has if its battery life is not good it’s not the type of watch you need.
One decisive factor in battery life is GPS usage. GPS mode very quickly drains the battery of any watch, so if you are into longs hikes, triathlons, etc. you need to have a watch that has above average battery life in GPS mode.
The comparison table above gives an insight into the average battery life of each watch discussed in the list to helps you make a better decision if it is the determining factor for you.
You want to go on rowing, kayaking swimming, and diving, or maybe even want to take a simple shower with your watch still on your wrist? Water-resistance is the factor you must consider.
Some watches are water-resistant, but their functionality is limited when they are submerged in water. In some watches, a heart rate monitor stops in watches when you are swimming or diving and you may need extra accessories to compensate for this.
In the end, it is up to your usage and personal preference and how much you are willing to compensate for a certain feature to have the other feature in the best possible position.
You are purchasing an expensive watch, you definitely want it to be beautiful and classy. As GPS watches are meant to be worn outside, some brands usually don’t consider this factor and functionality takes the lead and you have to settle for a less classy design.
People have different wrist sizes, some have bigger wrists and a watch with a bigger bezel will suit them as contrary to people with small wrist. For your convenience, we have described the design of each watch to assist you in making this decision.
From steps taken and distance covered to calories burnt and heart rate monitoring, GPS watches provide a plethora of features. This is an important factor in determining the GPS watch you go for. Some have limited usage in terms of different sports profiles you can select from like Forerunner 15 and others have all the possible fitness tracking features you can think of like Fenix 5 and Suunto Traverse.
The display of the watch is as important as anything. Manufacturers use different types of glasses, some use sapphire glass and some use mineral glass.
Sapphire glass is much more efficient and elegant than mineral glass. Sapphire glass is scratchless and can stand trauma, but the price for any sapphire model can be on the higher side.
Another thing in the display is the color of the screen. Some watches have black and white screen and some have a vibrant display so it depends on the user’s choice. It doesn't really affect the quality of the watch.
The readability of the display should also be considered. Some watches have good readability under sunlight and some have zero readability under the sunlight.
All of the features regarding display are mentioned in the review, go check that out if you don’t want to get in trouble after purchasing the product.
Bigger storage means you can store a large number of trail tracks, can download greater maps, and keep the record for more time.
Compatibility with Other Devices:
Some watches are compatible with Windows, iOS, and Android operating systems. Some are only compatible with androids and some have limited features when connected with iOS.
Some devices are only compatible with windows and have no connectivity. The only way to access their data is by a wire connected with a PC or laptop.
Smart features in the GPS watch is a plus point. Listening to music while kayaking is definitely pleasing.
Some devices give you all the features that you expect from a smartwatch like Garmin Fenix 5 and others give limited smartwatch features.
But, these features cause the battery to drain rapidly and you don’t want your GPS watch to be dead while you’re out in a forest camping or climbing a mountain.
Some of the watches come with interchangeable and quick change straps and others have fixed straps.
The straps come in different materials ranging from silicone and rubber to leather and metal straps. Almost every GPS has removable straps but some need screwdrivers and time and others are quick to fit.
If you want to have a watch that you want to wear as your day-to-day watch, then being comfortable is a big quality you need to consider before going for any watch. We have given a detailed description of each watch when it comes to being comfortable or not.
We hope by now you must have made up your mind as to which feature and factor matters the most to you and which watch among our list provides you the desired features.
We have provided you all the features you need to consider when buying a GPS watch for kayaking.
Battery timing should last at least the course of the adventure.
We hope this was helpful for you. If you have any further queries or comment please have the honor in the comment section.