- Meg McCall
The 5 Best Kayak Tracking Apps According to Avid Paddlers
We’ve seen a lot of questions posted on kayaking forums lately asking what’s the “best” kayaking app for tracking paddling routes and fitness stats (e.g., heart rate, average pace, speed, calories, distance). Curious ourselves, we did a little digging, pouring through comments on Church of the Double Bladed Paddle, Yakkers Galore, Everything Kayaking and other social media groups to find out which apps experienced paddlers were using and what they liked about them.
What follows is a high-level overview of the most oft-cited paddling fitness- and mapping-oriented tracking apps. Angle Oar has no allegiance to any of these apps, and this article doesn’t seek to review them per se.
Rather, we’ve ranked these kayak trackers based roughly on the frequency with which they were mentioned and then did a deeper dive into the five most popular ones. We’ve also included some of the verbatim comments that accompanied discussion around these kayaking apps.
Kayaking Apps & Devices We Didn’t Include
This post primarily features tracking apps with a fitness, or fitness plus mapping, component. We didn’t want to open a can of worms by getting into smart watches, phones and fitness bands, so we’ve kept it to apps you can usually integrate with those types of devices. So, while there were a lot of references to the utility of Garmin, Google Maps, Samsung Health and handheld GPS devices in the kayaking forums, for instance, we did not include those products here.
Also, there are a host of other paddling-related apps that track the weather, wind speed, water and river conditions, mapping-only, where to go kayaking, etc. We’ll cover those in a separate post.
The Five Most Popular* Paddling Tracking Apps
This app by Strava was initially geared to runners and cyclists, but our fellow paddlers also love it. According to the support requests we saw online, though, the company has a way to go before Strava kayak app is fully decked out with all kayak-specific tracking stats paddlers want. Still, it must be good because it was one of the most frequently mentioned apps among the forums we reviewed. One reason may be because of the popular “segments” feature where users mark designated stretches of road or trail (or river) with their performance time and others try to compete with that time.
"Strava has a kayaking and SUP drop down, plus you can create segments so other paddlers can compare paddle routes."
"I use it for kayaking, walking and biking. There is an advanced version which has a cost, but the free version is fine."
If you added up all the mentions of these individual apps from Under Armour, they’d probably take first place. We weren’t sure what the difference was ourselves, so we looked it up. According to the MapMyFitness website, “there’s no difference between the MapMy apps. You’ll be able to record any type of workout using any of the apps or sites. The main difference…is that each is catered toward an individual audience and will provide a default activity type, as well as nearby and recommended maps based on that app's user base.”
Using the voice feedback feature, you can get updates on your pace or distance. Track calories burned, elevation and see your performance over time with charts and graphs. With 700 activity types, GPS tracking, and a community function, the MapMy apps are popular among paddlers.
"I like MapMyWalk. I go into settings and set it to paddling. I got lost in a series of small lakes and couldn't find my way back to the ramp, the app helped me figure out where to go."
"(I use) MapMyRide. It’s made for bicycling but works fine for paddling. It provides distance, speed and a map."
3. Endomondo Sports Tracker
The Endomondo Sports Tracker, also by Under Armour, has its share of fans, too. It uses GPS tracking, lets you see your position on a map, establish goals, provides a workout history, and integrates with a wide range of watches and sensors, such as Garmin, Polar and Fitbit.
There’s a free version of the app that lets you record the basics (e.g., pace/speed, time, calories, etc.). You can set goals, get notifications when you hit those goals, and participate in challenges with friends. Add pictures to your workouts and share them on social media. All data is synched with your Endomondo profile where you can manage your account and analyze your stats. The premium plan includes even more features.
"Endomondo is fantastic. (It has) accurate tracking and it will verbally call out your splits as you go!"
This app by Relive is geared to running, biking and hiking but also seems to be a fan favorite among kayakers. It works with just your phone, as well as with many other tracking platforms (e.g., Garmin Connect, Endomondo, RunKeeper). One of the coolest features is that it has the ability to create 3D maps of your route, presenting you with a video you can share with others at the end of your journey.
"You can track any activity. Running, hiking, biking, driving, kayaking.......many choices."
"Gives you speed, distance, time, elevation. Includes pics along the way and a video at the end."
Routie is an app that works on Apple devices and is compatible with certain BlueTooth 4.0 heartrate monitors. It has the standard statistics (e.g., distance, duration) but also has interactive graphs that display speed and altitude. You can view your activity stats over three different time periods: the prior month, last year or all time.
Take photos and notes along the way and have them added to your map or share with them others (e.g., “Check out the Eagle’s nest on the left just past the bridge”).
"I use Routie. It’s GPS-based so you don’t need a phone signal. It tracks many different activities and also makes a map."
The five apps for kayaking above were referenced the most frequently, but quite a few other kayak tracking apps were mentioned, including these:
The Paddle Ready app by the American Canoe Association (ACA) was also referenced several times, but the app is no longer available.
Before You Buy: Features to Consider
Although this isn’t a product review, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention some of the key features you should look for when evaluating which kayak tracking app to use yourself.
Device Compatibility: Is it compatible with your preferred OS? You’ll want to be sure you understand which of these are the best kayaking apps for iPhones or best kayaking apps for Android, for example. Also, identify which of the top kayaking app brands are compatible with which smart devices. Do you need it to work with a fit band or smart device (e.g., Garmin, Fitbit, Polar, Huawei, Apple Watch, Samsung phone)? Finally, do you want to be able to upload your data to another device or platform to analyze your results over time?
Interface Design: Is it easy to track what you want to track, and does it make you smile when you look at your results? Hint: check out some of the screen grabs throughout this post for examples.
Connectivity: Does it work off a cell signal (i.e., through your phone's cellular carrier) or GPS (i.e., satellite) or both? If it’s cellular only, will you be in range throughout your trip? If it's GPS, research a little more to understand which has the best kayak GPS.
Price: Do you mind an ad popping up here and there, or are you willing to shell out a few bucks for an ad-free experience? (Or, in some cases, are you willing to spend extra on a compatible device?)
Battery Life: Depending on your device, you will only get a few hours at most with your tracking app, especially if you’re using GPS, which can drain phone apps from 10 – 20% per hour. Add in other applications, like streaming music, and it runs out even quicker. Regardless of which you choose, make sure you’re fully charged before heading out and/or bring a backup charger.
*This article is based on an informal analysis of anecdotal comments and data collection and is not intended to be a complete review or evaluation of available products.
Angle Oar LLC's mission is getting people who didn’t think they had the strength or endurance to kayak out on the water and keeping experienced paddlers there longer! We provide adaptive paddles, outriggers and other equipment to people with shoulder problems, physical disabilities or limited upper body strength due to age, injury or ability.