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Best GPS for French Canals

I live in France in the Marais Poitevin which has thousands of narrow canals running through it and consequently it is very easy to get lost and end up paddling around in circles. I do not require any fancy equipment with depth and fish information just an accurate and reliable canal display with a GPS locator.

I have done a bit of research and located available maps for the region but from what I have seen of the available hand held Garmins the display is nothing more than a load of dots and even the larger rivers just have jagged-edged banks with the dots running between them. The canals here are no more than 12 feet wide with junctions every 50 metres and whilst I do not expect a fancy boat symbol sailing between sharp and detailed banking I do need an accurate and well-defined canal router.

Can anyone please advise me what I should be looking for?


  • sussamb 829 Points
    I'm not sure which Garmins you looked at but none of mine are a 'load of dots'.

    I use them with detailed maps for hiking normally, but used my Etrex 20 when we hired a narrow boat on a UK canal this summer. Provided you have the correct map your position is shown by a small blue triangle.
  • Thank you sussamb. I tried to view an example of the maps but got nowhere and maybe this is where I am going wrong. My reference to a load of dots derived from a screenshot of the etrex 10 which I hope you can access from here

    From what you say the etrex 20 displays river banks and location much clearer than the above example?
  • Boyd 1999 Points
    "Load of dots", LOL :))

    I don't know anything French canals, but you are comparing apples and oranges here. The eTrex 10 does not support maps, see this comparison with the eTrex 20x

    The dots in the photo you linked to is the track of where the user has been, sometimes called a "breadcrumb trail". There is no map in that image, just the track, a waypoint destination and a direct line pointing to the destination. It looks especially ragged because the eTrex 10 doesn't have a color screen.

    For the type of use you describe, it sounds like Birdseye satellite imagery might be a good choice. It is available at a resolution greater than 1 meter per pixel which is much more precise than Garmin's traditional map products.

    In the US this subscription costs $30 for unlimited downloads. Not sure about availability and cost in your region. It would be available on just about every current Garmin handheld except the eTrex 10.
  • sussamb 829 Points
    edited December 2015
    Birdseye satellite imagery is available for about the same price in the UK/EU but as it sounds like the OP has a relevant map it shouldn't be needed. Either way neither will work as you say on the Etrex 10 ...

    I used a free OSM map to navigate canals in UK for a week, and provided the OP can find a map that shows the canals all should be well. If not then satellite imagery should provide the detail needed.

    While not showing any canals this gives an idea of the detail available from free OSM maps

  • Thank you all for your help. I know what I need now and together with the EU061R - France Inland Waters Map I should be good to go!

    Very grateful.
  • Boyd 1999 Points
    edited December 2015
    Happy to help. The reason I suggest satellite imagery was your comment about the canals only being 12 feet wide. Garmin's vector map format (such as the screenshot @sussamb posted) has a maximum resolution of +/- 8 feet. This isn't accurate enough to show your location in a 12 foot wide channel. If you were in the middle of the canal an error of 8 feet would show you on the banks. ;)

    As a practical matter, it may not be an issue. For one thing, the accuracy of the GPS itself is probably not even as good as +/- 8 feet (so don't expect too much). The Birdseye imagery is accurate to about 2 feet, however features like trees, bridges, etc. might make it hard to see the water. Looking at Google maps satellite imagery would give you some sense of what to expect, although Garmin's BirdsEye provider may use different imagery.
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