Gps Combo
Gps Combo

Do You Need a Portable GPS on Your Boat?

So you just invested in a Chart Plotter/GPS combo which is handsomely embedded in your boat’s dash while your best friend and revered mariner buddy is telling you all about his brand new handheld GPS that he just can’t live without. It seems like just about every piece of marine electronics these days comes fitted, equipped or ready wired for integrated GPS. So just how many GPS devices do you need on board your boat and is there really a need for a separate handheld device?

Well the short answer is mariners lived without electronic GPS devices for eons before they became a can’t-live-without-it necessity, but there are a few fine points to consider in favor of having a handheld GPS.

If you don’t already have a marine GPS on board your boat, a handheld is a versatile and relatively cheap way to keep track of where you are, where you’ve been and where you’re going. There are a whole range of prices from under a hundred dollars to several hundred depending on what features you wish to pay for and there are certainly handheld GPS models that accept marine charts, including Garmin’s highly regarded BlueChart G2 series.  

If you don’t already have a dash-mounted GPS, a handheld could provide a useful gap f iller until you are ready to invest in the real thing but keep in mind that handhelds will have smaller buttons and smaller display screens by design, although there are some very rugged, fun and useful units out there, such as the Garmin Oregon series. The Oregon line features large, color display screens and they are waterproof and ruggedized for the outdoor adventurer. They accommodate road maps with turn by turn directions as well the full complement of Blue Chart maps for mariners.

The Lowrance line of handheld GPS is also worth looking into. Lowrance is an expert at building at marine electronics and their GPS products, such as the Endurance Sierra, feature an MP3 player, a video player and full range of contour and topographic maps to keep you entertained as you pursue high adventures out on the water or on dry land in the great outdoors.  

If you already have a dash-mounted GPS or GPS marine device combo then a handheld is a luxury but a luxury that does have certain benefits attached. For example, let’s say you want to dock the boat at a new marina and take a stroll into a town you’ve never been to before. Setting a waypoint on a handheld GPS ensures that you will be able to find your way back to the boat, and looking up points of interest will help you find interesting places to visit, dine, or even stay the night. In addition, a handheld is a great backup in case your primary on-board GPS develops any glitches – it’s also a good idea to duplicate way points in both devices if you are dependent on the GPS for finding your way home.

Finally, consider a GPS enabled phone. That way you can have a portable GPS device for when you dock the boat and wish to get out and about and you will have a backup transmitter/receiver device in case you run into any trouble on your watery travels.

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