My friend Matt was interested in buying a waterproof handheld GPS for kayaking and asked my opinion on which one to get… assuming I would know as I am an avid kayaker. However the extent of my knowledge on GPS units was that I knew Garmin was the name to look for.
The only reason I knew that was because last year I purchased a heart rate monitor for running and found Garmin to have the best products. During my research at that time I remembered seeing Garmin GPS devices and heard they were excellent.
The product he ended up purchasing was the Garmin GPSMAP 76 Waterproof Handheld GPS. It is a nifty little device for what I thought was a very good price.
Over the course of my friend doing his own research and myself taking an interest in what he found out I decided a review of this waterproof GPS unit would be perfect for our site and hopefully helpful to others.
What to Look for When Buying a Handheld GPS
We learned quite quickly during our research that there are some key features that are important in a handheld GPS unit. They are:
- Preloaded Maps and Memory Storage
- Trip Computer Details
- WAAS Enabled
- Size & Weight
- Setup, Display and Battery Length
- Waterproof Level
If you are looking for a good quality, functional waterproof handheld GPS device then hopefully what we have learned will be of help to you in your own decision making process. I will explain each of the points above in relation to the Garmin GPSMAP 76 Waterproof Handheld GPS.
It’s All About the Maps and Storage Space
This Garmin waterproof GPS has preloaded maps of:
- worldwide cities
- tide data
Navaids, for those who don’t know the GPS lingo as I didn’t, are markers that help with navigation… for example a lighthouse or buoys. So in other words this handheld GPS device has everything you need in order to get you from point A to point B smoothly whether on water or on land.
The Garmin GPSMAP 76 has 8 MB of memory so you can also download data from the optional Garmin MapSource CD-Roms. Available maps include:
- topographical maps
- BlueChart marine cartography maps
- city maps with detailed information on streets and points of interest
Basically if there is a very specific map you need that is not already included then you can add this map to the internal memory.
We noticed that some people have commented that 8 MB is not a lot of memory compared to some other GPS units. I suppose it all depends on your needs. For what Matt was looking for this was more than enough and I think you would be surprised how much 8 MB can actually hold (can save up to 1000 of your favorite places!).
What Can the Trip Computer Tell You?
The trip computer on this handheld GPS offers:
- Current and average speed – so you can always know how fast you are going
- A timer – so that you can time your excursion or certain parts of your trip
- Trip distance – so you will always know how far you are going or how far you have gone
- Alarms – that can be programmed to go off at certain points or to alert you of specific details
- Tables and 500 waypoints – there are numerous reference points available to help guide you along your trip
- Information on tides – if you have ever done any all day or multi day kayak or boating trips you know how important this is in order to keep safe
- Sunrise and sunset times – a very cool feature to keep you informed
There is also a large LCD backlit screen on the Garmin GPSMAP 76 which makes reading the maps and information easy and even a cool TracBack feature that allows you to retrace your steps back to where you started from. I imagine I would personally get a lot of use out of that feature… it is a common joke amongst my family and friends that I should never be allowed to be the “navigator”.
The Garmin GPSMAP 76 would be extremely beneficial for any outdoor enthusiast. The fact is the more information you have the safer you will be.
Is It WAAS Enabled?
This waterproof handheld GPS does have the support of WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System). Once again I had no idea what that means so I looked it up and turns out that WAAS was developed by the Federal Aviation Administration to augment the GPS in order to improve its accuracy and availability. It does this by using additional satellites as well as 25 ground stations to measure GPS errors and broadcast these corrections to WAAS enabled GPS units.
What this means in terms of a GPS unit is that it is able to provide fast and accurate information which is very important. A GPS device that is WAAS enabled makes it more functional and accurate without wasting your time.
How Big is It?
In my opinion a handheld GPS unit needs to be big enough to be able to easily read the screen and small enough to easily store away while doing outdoor activities.
The exact dimensions of the GPSMAP 76 are 1.4 x 2.7 x 6.2 and it weighs 8 ounces. It is described as fitting comfortably in the palm of your hand. Not too small and not too big – a very functional size for outdoor activities.
Ease of Setup and Use
I know some people are really talented at setting up and using electrical devices. However I myself do not like to waste time on complicated setups and I knew Matt simply wouldn’t have the patience… he really needed ease of use.
A big advantage to this Garmin waterproof GPS is that the setup is easy… in fact there is none. Besides putting in a couple of AA batteries all you have to do is turn it on, go outside and wait. It takes about a minute for it to determine your location and it is accurate to about three meters.
One of the big advantages that most people seem to love about this waterproof GPS is that it is really simple to use. It has:
- eight buttons
- a directional rocker thumbpad
- and a menu-based interface
You can easily customize the display, set and name waypoints and build planned routes if you choose.
The batteries for the GPSMAP 76 can last for up to 16 hours. We noticed that this unit in particular had a long battery life compared to most others in its price range.
How Waterproof Is It?
This handheld GPS device can be used in your car, on a bike or in the trails but it is also ideal for all types of water activities because it is completely waterproof. It is rated IPX7 waterproof which is exactly what you want.
- An IPX7 rating means that the GPS unit can withstand accidental immersion in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes.
The GPSMAP 76 can also float in water.
How Much Should You Expect to Pay?
The price of the Garmin GPSMAP 76 waterproof handheld GPS can vary on different websites and the Garmin list price is just under $200. The cheapest I have seen is on Amazon who consistently sell it for just under $155.
Does It Include a Warranty?
Yes it comes with Garmin’s standard 1 year warranty.
What Others Are Saying
This handheld GPS unit has received rave reviews from most consumers on the net with an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars from most reviewers on Amazon. Here are some of the comments to date:
- ”A great sea kayaking companion”
- ”Proven handheld very reliable”
- ”Hits the sweet spot for GPS price/performance”
- ”Great backup GPS”
- Excellent value for the money
- Great GPS for the price
- ”Very useful and versatile”
Most consumer reviews have been extremely positive. The couple of complaints we noticed were:
- It is too big to fit in a shirt pocket – Although that may be true we felt that the extra large screen was still worth it for the easy viewing.
- The 8 MB of built-in memory can not be expanded – We found that this is fairly standard with other units of similar price so in order to be able to expand the memory you will likely have to look in a higher price range. However as others have noted 8 MB can actually hold one heck of a lot.
Where Can You Buy the Garmin GPSMAP 76 Waterproof Handheld GPS?
You can buy this Garmin handheld GPS from Amazon. At the moment they include free shipping and from what I can tell when comparing prices with other online merchants, Amazon do currently have the best deal especially with the free shipping option. Click here to view on Amazon.
Where Can You Read More Reviews for the Garmin GPSMAP 76 Waterproof Handheld GPS?
The best place for reviews from people who actually use the product is Amazon. Click here to read more.