The Titanic’s captain, Edward John Smith, quoted, “God himself could not sink this ship,” it then collided with an iceberg, and the rest is history. This might have happened over a hundred years ago, but one thing hasn’t changed, the importance of safety on boats. Luckily, both marine navigation technology and electronic sailing devices are continually improving.
So, if you’re a fisherman or a keen sailor, you will definitely enjoy our guide to the best marine GPS currently on the market. We have selected six great products and listed the features, as well as the pros and cons of each, to ensure you make the right decision.
So let’s get straight to it…
- 1 Top 6 Best Marine GPS In 2021 Reviews
- 1.1 1 Garmin Striker 4 GPS – Best Value for the Money Marine GPS
- 1.2 2 Hummingbird Helix 5 Chirp GPS – Best Fish Finding Marine GPS
- 1.3 3 Garmin GPSMAP 78SC Waterproof Marine GPS – Simplest to use Marine GPS
- 1.4 4 Garmin GPSMAP 78 2.6-inch Handheld GPS – Best Budget Worldwide Marine GPS
- 1.5 5 Garmin inReach Explorer+ – Best Marine GPS for Communication
- 1.6 6 Garmin GPSMAP 86i – Best Premium Marine GPS
- 2 Best Marine GPS Buyers Guide
- 3 Looking For More High-quality Gadgets?
- 4 So, What Is The Best Marine GPS?
Top 6 Best Marine GPS In 2021 Reviews
1 Garmin Striker 4 GPS – Best Value for the Money Marine GPS
Undoubtedly the top features on the Striker 4, is the Clear Vu scanning sonar. It’s a high-frequency sonar that gives you incredibly clear images of objects like fish and anomalies around your boat.
3.5-inch color display and CHIRP sonar…
Every fishing enthusiast loves this GPS. The 3.5-inch color display makes it easy to spot fish, mark positions, and navigate on open waters. The Striker 4 also relays in-depth information, so you’ll always know exactly what’s happening underneath the water’s surface.
The sonar sends a sweep of frequencies to search for fish and map the depths. It also gives you information about speed, temperature, and time of day.
Set waypoints to find your favorite fishing spots…
If you find a good fishing spot, you can always find your way back by setting waypoints using the GPS system. The GPS system is both advanced and sensitive and shows your exact position, where you are going, and in what direction. All in relation to the waypoints and markers for easier navigation.
The keyed interface is easy to use, and the buttons are simple and convenient. It features a tilt and swivel mount, and as well as other nice mounting features. The downside of the Striker 4 is that the maps won’t be visible outside of the US. However, you can still use the fish finder and GPS.
A must-have for every fishing enthusiast, it’s a good investment that helps you navigate with ease. It has a lot of features and is actually one of the cheaper marine GPSs we tested, which makes it even better. All-around it’s a good GPS and easy to set up and start using.
- CHIRP technology.
- Ability to set waypoints.
- 3.5-inch display.
- Simple keypad.
- Good price.
- Resolution is a bit low.
- No maps outside the USA.
2 Hummingbird Helix 5 Chirp GPS – Best Fish Finding Marine GPS
The Hummingbird Helix 5 is one of the most popular fish-finding and mapping units on the market. This is a GPS for anyone who wants to find the perfect fishing spots and stay on course at all times. It works great in both fresh and saltwater.
There are two display modes – Max mode and clear mode. It also has two different functions related to the search area. You can either choose a narrower search, with more precision. Or broaden the search, which will lower the level of the detail.
Works for every type of vessel…
It works for almost every type of vessel too. Fishing boats, SUPs, yachts, and even kayaks. It has everything you need to stay safe on your journey. However, it doesn’t include a screen cover, but you can buy one. But it does work with SD cards. And the transistor cable has plenty of length.
You can add waypoints. It will show buoys, hazards, markers, marinas, harbors, and other useful information around you.
The GPS system uses WAAS, which allows for excellent global positioning, and has an accuracy of 2.5 m. The chart plotting tool is also accurate, using a built-in cartography tool from Amina.
An excellent device to find fish…
Helix 5 is an excellent fish finder. It uses CHIRP digital sonar and imaging sonar to give you a detailed view of the bottom of the lake or ocean. Using live charts and down imaging helps you locate fish and the best potential fish areas. All data are shown on the 5-inch color WVGA screen.
One of the best devices for finding fish. Using many technologies, it maps the lake or ocean floors with great detail and accuracy. It also lets you save the data and waypoints to the SD card. It’s easy to use, and the 5-inch display shows everything in HD. A great GPS for every type of ship or vessel.
- Great mapping of lakes and ocean floors.
- MicroSD Card.
- Leaves trails of your path.
- Great side and down imaging.
- A bit on the pricier side.
- No screen cover.
3 Garmin GPSMAP 78SC Waterproof Marine GPS – Simplest to use Marine GPS
The GPSMAP 78SC is another great device from Garmin. Equipped with a 2.6-inch display. The handheld navigator is perfect for boating, kayaking, and watersports. You can even use it for recording speeds in your car, along with other things, but it’s primarily designed to be used on boats.
It’s waterproof, and it floats!
It’s not only waterproof to IPX7 standards, but it also floats if you happen to drop it overboard. Speaking of overboard, there is a dedicated MOB – Man OverBoard button. It marks the spot and relays it to the Coast guard and other nearby vessels.
The built-in 3-axis electronic compass gives detailed information about bearing, location, and heading. The barometric altimeter shows altitude and predicts any change in the weather.
Use the BlueChart g2 or load maps using the microSD…
The GPSMAP 78SC comes with BlueChart g2 coastal charts but can load new maps using the microSD. The maps show details of the shoreline, depth, harbors, marinas, and other useful information for the entire USA and the Bahamas. You can also mark waypoints of your favorite routes or favorite fishing spots.
The GPS system uses WAAS and can pinpoint your location with ease. It uses HotFix satellite prediction tools, which show your position, even in the toughest of conditions. The Garmin Connect allows you to share your waypoints, routes, and other information. Plus, if you connect it to a computer, you can use Google Earth to plan or trace your trips.
A good, affordable GPS navigator. It’s filled with useful features that make it ideal for fishing, boating, and water sports. It doesn’t include a mounting but can be held, or you can use the included lanyard to attach it to your boat. It’s easy to use and keeps you safe.
- 20-hours of battery.
- Waterproof and floats.
- May need reading glasses for the low-resolution display.
4 Garmin GPSMAP 78 2.6-inch Handheld GPS – Best Budget Worldwide Marine GPS
Much like the GPSMAP 78SC, the GPS78 2.6-inch is packed with useful features. It has a clean, easy-to-use design and works on lakes and on open waters. It’s waterproof and floats, making it ideal for any type of water sports. The SD card is found in the waterproof battery compartment. So, even if you should drop it in the water, it will still work fine.
The BirdsEye satellite imagery…
Unlike many of its competitors, it contains maps of the entire world. These are available through the BirdsEye satellite imagery. So, no matter where you are, you can still use it. It’s a good device; it’s durable, can withstand any weather conditions, and is responsive.
The combination of maps, high-performing GPS, tri-axis compass always makes you feel safe. It’s not as detailed as other devices. But you can still plot routes, set waypoints, and locate your favorite fishing areas.
If you don’t already have a marine GPS or are using an older model, consider upgrading to the Garmin 78-series. This is a good solid GPS that shows you all the basics that you need for a safe trip. It may not be as good as the 78SC, but the GPS78 2.6-inch is an inexpensive device that we recommend.
- 1.7 GB of built-in storage.
- WAAS enabled GPS.
- Low resolution when zooming.
- Need to download maps.
5 Garmin inReach Explorer+ – Best Marine GPS for Communication
This is a top-notch GPS tracking device. Not only is it a great GPS, but the Explorer+ is also a satellite communicator. It allows you to send and receive text messages, no matter where you are, even in areas where cell phones don’t work.
The Interactive SOS function…
The interactive SOS connects you to search and rescue centers. Allowing you to always be in close contact with them in emergency situations. You can also request weather reports and send SOS messages.
Since it’s a high-end marine GPS from Garmin, it’s accurate. It comes pre-loaded with detailed maps of the US. It also has a built-in electronic compass, barometric altimeter, and an accelerometer. Of course, you can create routes, waypoints, and store crucial information for easy navigation.
Built to last…
It features an incredibly impressive battery life of over 100-hours, and is also waterproof. Another great feature is the display, which is easy to read and allows you to see the relevant details, even in bright sunlight.
It is very durable and will last for years, which makes it an even better investment.
What makes the inReach Explorer+ stand out is all the amazing features. No matter if your rock climbing, off-piste skiing, or on a boat, it’s a must-have. And you will always stay connected. It’s one of the most fully-featured, functional GPSs we ever tested. But it comes with a hefty price-tag. If you are only going to use it for aquatic journeys, it might be a little overkill. But if you are also an adventurer, it doesn’t get much better than this.
- Impressive battery life.
- Track and share your location.
- SOS button.
- Detailed pre-loaded maps.
6 Garmin GPSMAP 86i – Best Premium Marine GPS
Last in our review is the GPSMAP 86i, which is also the most expensive marine GPS we tested. Its price-tag exceeds even the inReach Explorer+. So, let’s find out why!
First of all, it’s waterproof, and it floats. Yes, there is nothing special about that. But it has a lot, yes, we mean a lot of features that make this one of the best GPSs we have ever tested.
A long list of features…
Let’s start with the boat data. You can sync it with Garmin chart plotters and other tools to see real-time data. Then there’s the Fusion-link audio, which lets you see different on-board Fusion marine products. It shows distance to destination, local time, time of arrival, and more.
The adjustable GPS filter allows for smoother speeds and accurate tracking. Even when passing over swells.
Worldwide base map…
The pre-loaded base map shows you worldwide shaded relief coverage. This includes oceans, seas, lakes, and even rivers. It will even show international and state boundaries, as well as their time zones. You can add the BlueChart g3 coastal charts. This gives you even greater coverage, clarity, and detail over surrounding objects in the water.
You can even control your boat using the autopilot app. It allows you to set a route which it follows or change heading when you are not at the wheel.
And of course, it has an altimeter, barometer, and 3-axis electronic compass.
Two-way messaging system…
Like the inReach explorer+, you can subscribe to the 2-way messaging system. And you can share your adventures with loved ones using the web-based MapShare. This allows people to follow your trips and ping your device to see your GPS-location. Should you ever find yourself in an emergency situation, the SOS button quickly connects to nearby rescue units.
The battery life is also pretty impressive. The battery is rechargeable and has two main settings. In the 10-min tracking mode, it lasts up to 35 hours. If you set it to expedition mode, it lasts for up to 200 hours.
One of the best maritime GPS we have ever come across. The impressive list of features seems never-ending. It’s by far the most expensive GPS in our review but keeps you connected at all times, and it will last for a very long time.
- Impressive features.
- Long-lasting battery.
- Two-way messaging.
- Wireless connections.
- None, as long as you can afford it.
Best Marine GPS Buyers Guide
Finding the right marine GPS can be crucial for your safety. And there are certain features that make a great marine GPS and that you should be looking for when buying one.
- Resolution and the size of the display
Don’t forget that you will be reading the information while on open water. Thus, the resolution and screen size are very important. If the screen is too small or the resolution too low, it’s hard to see details when you’re riding over waves at high speeds.
Details should be easy to see, no matter the weather and even while wearing sunglasses. If size and weight aren’t an issue, you should buy a device with the highest resolution and the biggest screen.
If you want to buy a handheld device, the display will be smaller but make sure it’s still easy to read.
If you’re on a boat or going fishing, the GPS is an important instrument for navigation purposes. The last thing you want is for the GPS to run out of juice. So, it’s important that you know how long battery life you can expect or what power device it uses.
If you plan to mount it on your boat, buy a GPS with a powered system. Otherwise, you should get a rechargeable GPS with a good amount of battery life.
If you are a fishing enthusiast, the fish finder or transducer is a vital feature. It sends signals into the water, detecting things like fish and vegetation, and sends back the information to the display.
What’s important on a transducer are the frequencies, beams, power-output, and depth range. GPS devices that use CHIRP sonar are usually the best at finding fish.
- Water Resistance
A GPS used in a boat or kayak will get wet. Kayaks have a tendency to capsize so you need to make sure that it’s waterproof and can float. Make sure it is either IPX7 or IPX8 rated. If you are mounting it on a boat, you won’t need one that is waterproof to as high a degree, but it should withstand splashing, humidity, and moisture.
- Navigation Sensors (Barometer and Compass)
Added features like the barometric altimeter and electronic compass are great. The barometer lets you know what kind of weather you can expect. It even warns you of short-term changes in the weather patterns. This can help you predict if a storm is approaching.
The 3-axis compass lets you know which direction you are heading while on open water.
- Maps and charts
The maps and charts are important since you most likely will use the GPS system to navigate. It’s important that you know how detailed the maps are and what type of information they provide. This will make sure you always know exactly where you are.
If you want to add more maps to your GPS, make sure it has a MicroSD slot or enough memory to store the data. Devices equipped with Topo maps and marine charts are often the best options.
Depending on where and how you will use the GPS, portability can be a major factor. The larger devices are meant to be permanently mounted on your boat. The smaller handheld ones can be taken everywhere.
The smaller portable devices are optimal if you are on a fishing kayak or plan to do water sports. You can easily hold them in one hand and just slip them into your pocket if you need both hands to be free. Some of them even come with a clip or wrist lanyard.
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So, What Is The Best Marine GPS?
Since GPSs are so different in size and vary so much in usage, we decided to award a winner for a few different categories. For handheld devices, we chose the…Garmin GPSMAP 86i
It has everything you could possibly need but is expensive. If you are looking for a quality, lower-priced option, the Garmin GPSMAP 78SC is also very good at a fair price.
If you plan on mounting the GPS to your boat, the…Hummingbird Helix 5 Chirp GPS
…is the way to go. It works for every type of vessel and is equipped with great features, including quality mapping, a useful MicroSD Card, and fantastic all-round imaging.
This concludes our best boat GPS review, so until next time, stay safe and happy boating.