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total novice on handheld GPS - river floating questions

The main use I would have for a handheld GPS such as Garmin GPSMap 62S or Garmin ETrex20 would be for use on a Kayak river float. I would like to have a map of the river or creek including access points. I would like it to be able to take me to the access points, although I do have a Garmin nuvi that can give me road directions. I would then like to be able to put in start and stop points for the trip and be able to know where I am on the route. I want to know when I am close to the take-out point in order to look for that particular point without floating past it.

Can these Garmin devices do that and can I find maps and info that I need?

Garmin has a US trail maps whitewater edition for $20 or $25. Has anybody used it and does it do what I want to do?

Also, is there a place to be instructed on this?


  • Boyd 1980 Points
    edited April 2014
    Either of those devices should do what you want, just be aware that while they have a waterproof rating (IIRC it is good for 1 hour under 1 meter of water), they will not float. If you want a device that floats, look at the GPSMap78, I think it's basically a 62 that floats.

    Only you can decide whether a particular map does what you need. Take a look at for starters, most of the maps there are free and will include the standard USGS hydrology data.

    You could create your own routes in Garmin's free basecamp program using these maps - see the tutorials at gpsfiledepot. This would be a good start and you don't even need to purchase the gps to do that.

    You could also use Garmin Birdseye satellite imagery once you get the GPS - $30 for unlimited downloads.

    I don't know of any maps that contain routable rivers and streams, but they may very well exist. Since I don't have a kayak, I've never looked into this (kind of ironic, because a wild stream actually runs through my property, LOL). Without a routable map, you would have to place via points closely since they will be connected with straight lines.

    Also, try to visit a store where you can actually see and hold both of those devices. You might be surprised at how different they really are. The first time I saw an eTrex 20 I was, like, "Wow, that thing is tiny!" :)

    The eTrex 20 doesn't have a magnetic compass or altimeter and the 62 does, if that matters to you. The eTrex 30 has the compass but in the past it's always seemed a bit overpriced to me. Personally, I like to have a compass in a handheld. There were many complaints about the compass in the eTrex 30 initially, not sure if they have been completely resolved.
  • joramo 0 Points
    Thanks for the quick response. I think I made a lot of progress in understanding the process last night. I do like the GPSMap78 choice better. Also, I watched a video on Garmin Birdseye and it showed how you can mark an area on a map and get a map of that area - perfect for following a river and the roads near it. I also learned a little more about marking way points, etc.

    I tried to experiment with Basecamp and a free map, but to install any map you have to list the device and I don't have the device yet. It would probably work with the Nuvi device I have but I didn't want to confuse the issue.

    Thanks for all your suggestions.

  • Boyd 1980 Points
    I tried to experiment with Basecamp and a free map, but to install any map you have to list the device
    Not sure what you mean there. You can install any of the free maps in basecamp that you like. You don't need to connect a GPS for this at all. See this tutorial:

    Once you have it in basecamp you can do whatever you like - create waypoints and routes, etc. Obviously you can't send it to a device you don't have though. :)
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