Understanding where you are, where you’re going, and how you’re going to get there is extremely important in any type of boating. A jet ski GPS should always be with you on the water. Find out which device we recommend over all others as the perfect PWC GPS companion.
A GPS for your jet ski is one of the most essential accessories to own. Chart your exact location, plot routes, mark places of interest, and a whole lot more at just the press of a button or two.
In this guide, we take a close look at the best GPS for jet skiing currently on the market. Find out about all the key features and just why it deserves your attention.
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What Determines the Best Jet Ski GPS?
Jet ski or PWC GPS systems are a special breed, they aren’t your conventional GPS devices and they have to be able to stand some pretty demanding conditions.
Here are a few of the things to look out for when searching for a new GPS for a jet ski:
- Price: Some GPS units cost up to a thousand dollars or more, which is way out of most people’s price range. A decent GPS for a jet ski shouldn’t cost more than a few hundred dollars. The important thing to remember here is that you need something reasonably small and easy to operate. It can be tempting to spend more in the quest for a quality device but these more expensive models can be overwhelming to operate with the sheer amount of options on offer. It’s best to stick with something that does the essentials well and intuitively.
- Features: These devices come with all kinds of bells and whistles these days. Typically you want something that uses multiple satellite navigation systems (GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo for example), sets waypoints, saves locations, and can be easily updated. Anything more than that is an unnecessary bonus! Strong battery life is also something that needs to be delivered.
- Usability: It’s important that a GPS is easy to use. This all comes down to the design of the user interface and this is typically what stands the great devices apart from the average. The big-name manufacturers generally have the most intuitive user interfaces because they have the money to invest in the development of them.
- Durability: If a GPS is being used on a jet ski, it’s more than likely going to get bumped around occasionally. Aside from being waterproof, a good GPS for a jet ski needs to be durable. This doesn’t mean it needs to be indestructible, just strong enough to handle average wear and tear.
What’s the Best GPS for a Jet Ski?
There are plenty of great marine GPS units, but in our opinion, the Garmin GPSMAP 64SX is the one that fits jet skiing the best.
It’s affordable, durable, easy to use, and comes with all the standard features you need for life on the water.
Garmin GPSMAP 64SX Review
Garmin is arguably the top producer of high-end navigation systems, so it comes as no surprise that they make such great marine GPS units.
The 64SX is a great GPS for jet skis, waverunners, and just about every other type of PWC imaginable. It’s compact, intuitive to use, and has great battery life too.
The Garmin GPSMAP 64SX is a recent upgrade to the previous GPSMAP 64ST that we liked so much. It retains the same functionality as the older model and adds to it some really nice new features.
Let’s take a look at what’s on offer.
- 2.6-inch sunlight-readable color display
- Preloaded Topoactive maps
- High sensitivity receiver with quad helix antenna
- Durable & water-resistant
- Multi GNSS support (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo)
- 3-axis compass
- Wireless BLUETOOTH connectivity
- Smart notifications
- Up to 16 hours battery life in GPS mode
It’s designed primarily for handheld use but fits nicely into a mount. At 2.4″ x 6.3″ x 1.4″ it’s a pretty compact device.
It should be noted that it doesn’t actually float. However, you can attach one of these to it and you won’t need to worry should it end up in the drink.
Is it Easy to Use?
The 64SX is relatively straightforward to use. If you’ve uses a handheld GPS device before you’ll know that they can be a bit awkward due to the size of the screen and lack of a touchscreen. However, the 64SX keeps things pretty simple.
With the current level of technology, touchscreens just don’t work with these devices. Water and touchscreens aren’t a good combination and if you’re riding with gloves on then don’t even bother! Besides, the size of the screen you’re working with would make it too awkward anyway. It may seem old-fashioned but button-based interaction is the way to go with a jet ski GPS.
The button layout works well with the navigation arrows positioned centrally with the function buttons surrounding them. It can easily be used with one hand which is really important. The buttons are also large enough to be pressed with gloves on.
The screen measures 2.6 inches diagonally with a resolution of 160 x 240 pixels. This sounds terrible (and it would be on a larger screen) but maps and text show up clearly, even in bright sunlight.
Learning how to operate a GPS can sometimes be tricky, and Garmin’s customer service department does a great job at answering technical questions. If for whatever reason you find yourself having trouble with any of their GPS units, give them a call. Garmin’s tech specialists do a great job at explaining how to use their GPS devices.
It’s highly recommended to visit their website here if you have any questions about its functionality.
I’ve used Garmin GPS devices for a number of years now and while I feel that the software can sometimes feel rushed to market, but Garmin always impresses me with how committed they are to improving their systems through regular updates.
The Garmin GPSMAP 64SX is a solid jet ski GPS at its core. Sure, it does lots more but let’s focus on the positioning system to begin with.
Multi GNSS Support
The 64 SX uses three methods of GNSS or Global Navigation Satellite System. By being served by three different types of navigation you are safer on the water because if one system is not working you have two other accurate backups. The three GNSS in question are:
GPS – Global Positioning System is the most popular type of satellite navigation and also the most accurate (available to the public). It uses up to 32 satellites positioned around the globe in different orbits to pinpoint your location. GPS is accurate down to 3.5 – 7.8m.
GLONASS – this is Russia’s version of GPS. It uses 24 satellites and is not quite as accurate as GPS as it is accurate down to 5-10m. GLONASS is an excellent backup for times when a GPS is lost.
Galileo – this is Europe’s GNSS system. It’s compatible with GPS and GLONASS. Another excellent backup for when GPS is playing up.
Due to its quad helix antenna and high-sensitivity receiver, the 64SX achieves great coverage and gets a strong signal even in adverse conditions.
The device comes preloaded with maps but extras are available on the Garmin website. There are a whole range of North American (and worldwide) coastal and inland water maps available on the Garmin website. These are detailed maps derived from official sources. They offer depth range shading and detailed one-foot contours. The maps are easily downloaded and loaded onto an SD card for use in the device.
With a Birdeye Satellite Imagery subscription, you can get a real-life representation of your surroundings. Instead of looking at a map, you can see what’s actually there. The high-resolution images are updated frequently and offer so much more information than a regular map.
A new feature with this recent iteration of the GPSMSAP is the wireless BLUETOOTH connectivity. You can now receive smart notifications like SMS messages, e-mails, and other alerts directly to your GPS device by way of paring it with another compatible device like a cell phone. This means you can leave your cellphone in your backpack and seamlessly keep in contact with the world.
Solid Battery Life
There are three ways to power the 64SX.
- It takes two conventional AA batteries which give approximately 16 hours of use.
- It can be fitted with a rechargeable NiMH battery pack (this is an optional extra). This can be charged while being used inside the device.
- It can be powered by the 12v outlet on your PWC
Sixteen hours of use out of two AA batteries is really impressive for a device that offers so much. By keeping the screen size relatively small and the resolution and colors to a minimum they’ve managed to eke out as much juice as possible.
Recommended Reading: Check out our guide to the top jet ski sound systems next.
Save Waypoints and Favorite Locations
Custom waypoints allow users to track paths to destinations. These custom waypoints are very useful when using this GPS with a jet ski because they allow you to track your path through narrow waterways accurately. Waypoints can also be saved and shared with others if you decide to share any hidden spots with your friends.
The 8GB SD memory (this is upgradeable) can hold 5000 location markers to document your journey. Save points of interest that you’d like to explore more of in the future or important landmarks to help you navigate. These are identifiable on the map as different markers.
To use this as a GPS for a jet ski, a handlebar mount is pretty essential. While Garmin does make mounts for their GPS units, it may be better to invest in a more universal mount that will also work with other devices. The Ram mount cradle works well with Garmin GPS units, but can also be used for cell phones and other devices.
Pros and Cons
Let’s find out how the benefits stack up against the negatives. We love this device but it’s not perfect.
- Long battery Life
- 3 satellite navigation systems
- It’s relatively small
- Bright Screen
- Maps are easy to read
- By nature, a button-based interface can be clunky
- Satellite imagery is a paid subscription
- Doesn’t come with a dashboard mount
This is by no means the only GPS for jet skis out there, but the Garmin GPSMAP 64SX provides the best value for your money. It’s got everything you need in a GPS device for jet skiing but doesn’t overwhelm you with options like some can. It strikes a great balance of value and appealing features. With great battery life at its core, it’s a reliable companion for your next exploration.
In our opinion, the GPSMAP 64SX is the best GPS for PWC out there right now.
Do you own this model? How has your experience been with it? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section!
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