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Best unit for bright light accurate speed

Started by Seakayak, August 29, 2015, 03:02:47 PM

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I apologize for the newbie question. I tried sorting this out with searches and reading blogs... no clear answers.
I've had Gamin units in the past, there's stuff I love, stuff that's inexcusable. I've had color and B&W. In sunlight, the color screens are a big problem.
I'm about to do some kayak speed trials. A big part of this will be the need for me to read accurate instantaneous speed (I'm aware of the way GPS does this). To be able to do this in bright sunlight. I will probably also shoot video that includes the screen of the GPS unit. (I can't see a color screen working.) I'd also like to download data, but this is secondary.
What units, systems or methods do this better than others, what should be avoided.
Also I would like to use it as for trails and street map (but turn by turn isn't really necessary). It would also be great to include charts, California coast.
There are some really nice units, when I go through Amazon, I wind up with a $600 shopping list. Out of budget. I've gone without GPS for 7-8 years because the noise to signal ratio is so high. Maybe there's a hundred dollar used or old unit that would be great for speed, and an Oregon 6xx would do the other. That would be cool. Thanks.


I don't think bright direct sunlight is a problem with any of the current Garmin handheld devices. They all have transreflective screens, which means they are viewable with light reflected off the screen and are not dependent on the backlight (like a smartphone screen, for example) in bright conditions.

The real problem is bright indirect light, like an overcast bright day. In that situation you don't have a nice point source (the sun) to reflect from the screen. I think the Montana still holds its own pretty well under these conditons. It also has a much brighter backlight than some of the older Garmin touchscreen handhelds. It has the largest screen and most pixels on a handheld as well. With any GPS however, the viewing angle is very important. You have to position it to make the best use of reflected light without too much glare that reduces contrast.

The devices without a touchscreen, like the GPSMap series, may have a bit of an edge because they don't have an extra layer on the screen to sense touch. They have smaller and lower resolution screens however.

Garmin offers a variety of maps and satellite imagery products for their handhelds. I have a copy of City Navigator, their street maps, on mine. It has full support for turn by turn navigation. If you get the automotive cradle it will even give you voice prompt through a built-in speaker.

There are plenty of free maps here at GPSFileDepot and OpenStreetMap also supports Garmin. So there are a lot of map options, both free and commercial.

As far as "accurate speed", I doubt that there is much difference. It would be a function of how good a satellite fix you get. Garmin's newest models can receive the new GLONASS satellites and that may help somewhat. They just announced an update to the Montana series this week that adds GLONASS.

I see a refurbished Montana 600 for $345 at GPSCity (although currently out of stock). Garmin refurbs have the same 1 year warranty as new. That's about the best price I have seen on a Montana. A new Montana 600 is $400 there, which is pretty typical unless you can find a sale.

The new version, the Montana 610 is listed for $500 but not available until the end of September. Not sure that the $155 premium over a refurb 600 is justified, but it is still below the $600 price point you mentioned. :)


I agree with Boyd, Garmin's outdoor GPS are clearly readable in direct sunlight, but usually you have to position the screen at right angle versus sunlight. Should be no problem if you hold GPS in your hand but if you are going to mount gps to a kayak, then I'm not so sure.

If maps aren't your primary concern, then you can try Etrex 10, which is a B&W device. Actually Etrex 10 does support maps unofficially, but since it is short on internal memory, maps should be specially designed for this device.


The biking units are probably the best for visibility in a variety of conditions.  They will all be as accurate for speed measurements.
Probably an Edge 20 or 25.