Need for a really waterproof GPS (IPX8)

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Erik Wannee
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Need for a really waterproof GPS (IPX8)

Postby Erik Wannee » Tue Dec 13, 2016 7:16 pm

Several years ago, when my wife and I started sea kayaking, we purchased a Garmin eTrex in order to be able to navigate the Archipelago Sea with its thousands of isles and skerries. As I do know now, I was not the only one who was so naive to believe that this device could be used uncovered on the deck of the kayak, because of the IPX7 rating: this claims to resist immersion for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter water. Well - that should be good enough for a sea kayak. One week later, I knew that this claim is nonsense. The window filled with condense, and from time to time the eTrex failed. One year later, the spirits had definitively gone. I decided to open it, to see where the leak might have been. I discovered that the 'joystick' on top of it had only a loose small rubber cap with a 12 mm diameter! And the edges of the eTrex were sealed with two layers of adhesive tape, hidden under a rubber band: that's all. It was immediately clear to me that this cannot be called waterproofing as we need on a (sea) kayak.
So our next GPS had to be really waterproof. I have been searching, but all 'waterproof' handheld GPS's seem to have only IPX7 rating; I could find none that is really kayak ready. Well, there is the Garmin Epix GPS watch, but that has a too small screen to be practical.

It seems that all kayakers manage with waterproof bags around it, accepting inconveniences such as condense and reflections.
My question is: WHY DON'T GPS FACTORIES MAKE A REALLY WATERPROOF GPS? Is our kayak community too small to be interesting for them? Aren't we heard? Aren't there other categories of people that need a really waterproof GPS? If there would be only one, wouldn't we all want to buy that one? I wonder if we would unite and together ask Garmin (or another GPS producer) to develop one; would they be willing to do it? Or could a covering case be produced for us, especially around a particular existing handheld GPS, like the one around GoPro cameras?
I wonder if you might be interested to come into action.

Camanche73
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Re: Need for a really waterproof GPS (IPX8)

Postby Camanche73 » Tue Dec 13, 2016 8:34 pm

Plenty of good ones. My Garmin foretrex 101 is about 15 years old, used for military exercises and deployments, and has never had an issue with water. I think they are up to the 401 now, which is the same body with updated firmware. I also use a Garmin Fenix 2 (watch) on every paddle/hike I do. It's fantastic and again no issue with water. I have even dived with it to 18m for 40 mins. The Fenix 3 looks fantastic, but too expensive for me.
They are small, but if you use them properly you should only be reading the grid references and plotting that on a map. If you want a GPS to follow a minute by minute track, you should probably get a boating GPS with marine charts and the battery banks to power them.

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Pipit
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Re: Need for a really waterproof GPS (IPX8)

Postby Pipit » Wed Dec 14, 2016 8:02 am

Have you looked at the Memory Map GPS units? Some are IP68 and Military 810G standard.
https://www.memory-map.co.uk/gps

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Erik Wannee
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Re: Need for a really waterproof GPS (IPX8)

Postby Erik Wannee » Thu Dec 15, 2016 6:55 am

Well, Pipit, that was a very good suggestion. My friend Google found even more of these devices, like f.i. Caterpillar, RugGear and CrossCall smartphones. They look all more interesting to me than those leaking Garmins. Another advantage is that those smartphones can be charged via a normal usb connection from the solar panel on our rear deck, instead of having to carry spare batteries.
I'm studying them now, and I'm sure that I will find something that I will need. Thank you very much!

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Erik Wannee
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Re: Need for a really waterproof GPS (IPX8)

Postby Erik Wannee » Sat Dec 17, 2016 7:56 am

I finally decided to order a CAT S30. Seems to be fully salt water resistant. And you can even ride a car over it, so I don't have to be very afraid for it in case of a rescue.
A practical disadvantage of that smartphone is that there seems to be no eye to attach it to a deck line. How strange - most cellphones have one. And it doesn't float. I probably will solve both by glueing a thin layer of closed cell foam under it, together with a strap.
Last edited by Erik Wannee on Sun Dec 18, 2016 8:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

Camanche73
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Re: Need for a really waterproof GPS (IPX8)

Postby Camanche73 » Sat Dec 17, 2016 12:01 pm

Interesting. The etrex you disliked was rated to IPX7, immersion to one meter for 30 mins with no harmful ingress. You also claim the gps died 12 months after getting salt water in it... that's the slowest reaction to water ingress I have ever heard of.
The cat s30 is rated IP68, the water test being that it is GREATER than IP7. Basically, if it lasts at one meter for 31 minutes, it qualifies.
A lot more electronics to go wrong in a phone if its primary use is as a gps.

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Erik Wannee
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Re: Need for a really waterproof GPS (IPX8)

Postby Erik Wannee » Mon Dec 19, 2016 1:32 am

The gps died one year later, because that was my next holiday with the kayak. In the first summer, it gave problems several times, but after I put it in the sun for a couple of hours, the condense had disappeared and the eTrex worked again. But the next year that I used it, the troubles returned earlier and more severe. Especially several buttons didn't work from time to time. I think that was because of the damage that the salt water had already caused in the first expedition. Now that I have opened the eTrex and have seen that the only water protection under the cursor stick was a small rubber disc, I know that it could never have been resistant to 1 meter of sea water; not even a minute.
Indeed there is more to go wrong in a smartphone than in a handheld gps, but if there are no real water resistant handheld gps's, I have no choice. Next summer, I will see if the Caterpillar S30 makes its promises true.

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Re: Need for a really waterproof GPS (IPX8)

Postby Juho » Sat Jan 21, 2017 1:21 am

Back in 2009 when I started seakayaking, I was looking for a *truly* waterproof gps that floats. Well the only one back then that met the criteria was the Garmin GPSMAP76 series...

Pretty soon after I received the brand new gps I came to the realiziation that despite the wonderful marketing jargon and cool advertising phrases and terms IP68.. etc.. this lil thing isnt going to last in my intended use ie. seakayaking. The lil itsy bitsy rubber gaskets and O-seals just werent very convincing, my late father would have termed it "Mickey Mouse Quality" ;) . At the time my budjet was bare and time was short, no time to try to find an alternative solution, so I bought a Aquapac "waterproof" bag where the GPS fit snuglly.

December 2016 the particular GPS was still alive and kicking. a couple rubber buttons have started to show some signs of not being very responsive but still do work.. I have gone thru 3 Aquapac bags during the last 8 paddling seasions and I do generally paddle 1500-2000 kms each season...

I have been anticipating that the trusted and true gps may have to be retired sometime soon.. and right now If I'd have to choose a replacement gps.. I would still probably lean towards the modernized version of my old gps , which would be the Garmin GPSMAP 78xx series PLUS a aquapac or similar waterproof baggie.

On the subject of aquapacs: I'm not very convinced about those. The closure system is VERY finicky! During a 2+ week trip water ingress is imminent even if one manages to seal the closure properly every-single-time-day-or-night! I'm prety sure there are better systems out there but I have used aquapacs because the local outdoors/scouts store has a bunch which I can walk into the shop and test fit my gps in them to for fit. If there was some other product other than aquapac available, I would give it a try as well.

Cheerios, ;)
Juho
Jouhou

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Pascal
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Re: Need for a really waterproof GPS (IPX8)

Postby Pascal » Sat Jan 21, 2017 6:16 am

My GPS unit is always tethered to my PFD and is waterproof. It doesn't float, but it doesn't need to. Same with my VHF radio. Waterproof and tethered to my PFD when paddling; it doesn't float and doesn't need to.

I have been using the same Garmin 60Cx unit for 10 years with zero problem so far while sea kayaking, hiking and back-country skiing. While sea kayaking, the unit has been repeatedly exposed to salt water as it sits flat with no extra protection on my spray skirt where water often pools, and also during the occasional rolls. But when I train for rolls, I usually unhook the unit and stow it, together with my VHF radio if I have it, in the small dry back that I keep on my deck. No need to take a chance unnecessarily. I clean and grease the o-ring of the battery door about once a year but always check for particles when changing batteries.

I carry plenty of AA batteries in a small Pelikan box (plus 4 in my spray jacket) that I use for this GPS unit, my camera, headlamps and deck lamp. I gave up on the solar panel system to recharge proprietary batteries for this and that during expeditions. Didn't work for me. Too cumbersome, plus the sun is a rare nicety in my area.
Last edited by Pascal on Sat Jan 21, 2017 6:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Need for a really waterproof GPS (IPX8)

Postby Geoff » Sat Jan 21, 2017 6:17 am

I used Aquapacs for a while before decidining they were rubbish. I now use Paqua bags, infinitely superior. http://www.paqua.com.au/

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NorthSIKer
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Re: Need for a really waterproof GPS (IPX8)

Postby NorthSIKer » Sun Feb 12, 2017 12:08 pm

I have had an excellent run from the eTrex's. My original unit died only from one of the side buttons failing, but it was over 5 years old and had been used a lot (both kayaking and walking). I have replaced with a new eTrex.
One thing I do as a precaution is to liberally spread dilectic grease around the seals (both for the battery case and the flap that covers the usb connection). I can't definitively say whether that has been the reason mine has fared so well (sample N=1 :) ) but I believe it is a useful precaution.
And yes, the unit has been under the sea plenty of times - it is tethered so can only fall to less than 0.5m before it is retrieved. I also regularly splash sea water onto it and my fishfinder, as the salt that dries on the screens interferes with my view.


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