Get ready, 2022 is “shore” to be a great year out on the water! As we wrap up 2021 and move into 2022, we’re doing a roundup of 10 of the best and most essential electronics for boaters available on the market. Below are some great products currently available in a few key categories to help you stay safe and equipped out on the water in the new year.
As technology advances it becomes more powerful, increasingly compact and deeply integrated into seemingly all aspects of our lives, begging the question are we ourselves merging with technology? Regardless of your view on simulation theory and our modern sci-fi world, one thing is abundantly clear: great tech equals great safety and great experiences when it comes to exploring, sailing and motoring on water both inshore and out at sea.
There are so many on-the-water tools available to boaters these days it can be a bit overwhelming, so we’ve gone ahead and broken them down by category. Having the right gear can mean the difference in getting a good catch for dinner or not, or whether or not your onboard guests have a great experience – in extreme cases, boat electronics can even ensure a safe return home. These items represent some of the best marine electronics to have for any avid boating enthusiast.
Best Boat Navigation Equipment
Garmin GPSMAP 8600 Series
How to get where you are going is top of our priority list. The Garmin GPSMAP 8600 series of touch screen units comes in varying sizes from 10 to 24 inches and are some of the most popular MFD systems on the market today. The larger the screen, the more real estate you have to play with, in regards to what information you want displayed with the customizable screen layouts. Featuring automatic guidance and sonar systems it’s understandable why the National Marine Electronics Association awarded Garmin with a “Product of Excellence Award” back in 2018 for this product line. Always innovating and integrating the newest technologies into their products, Garmin’s GPS 8600 series will keep you heading in the right direction.
Simrad NSX Series
Another option for precise nautical navigation, this MFD system from Simrad is another heavy hitting contender and was just introduced early this year. Available in seven-, nine-, and 12-inch displays the technology behind this durable touch screen means it will be there when you need it most, no matter the conditions. Configurable with various transducers, NSX features plug-and-play integrated radar, autopilot, and fishfinder functionality including CHIRP sonar, SideScan, and DownScan Imaging. to find exactly what you’re looking for with HD imaging. Included with this device is the C-MAP Easy Routing application and a plethora of charts giving abundant choices for plotting routes almost as effortlessly as newly licensed teens use their phones to direct them to the nearest shopping mall.
SiriusXM Marine Weather
“How’s the weather?” Answer this question clearly, quickly, and accurately when you have SiriusXM satellite services aboard. You’ll also know what’s coming in the future with near real-time weather radar, forecasts, and detailed data on everything from barometric pressure to lightning strike indicators. With the addition of a receiver SiriusXM can be added to MFD systems from Garmin, Raymarine, Simrad, Lowrance, B&G, and Furuno. While SiriusXM has been around for years, they just started offering a new bonus feature: sign up for their new Fish Mapping service, and you’ll also receive up-to-date data on sea surface temperatures, chlorophyll fronts, and major weedlines, plus color-coded fishing hotspot intel provided by scientists who study the current conditions.
Davis Vantage Pro2
Another great option for hobbyists and professionals, the Davis Vantage Pro2 boasts being tough enough to withstand a category five hurricane. This station recorded a 199-mph wind gust at the front eyewall of hurricane Irma in 2017. According to Davis Instruments, “the station, owned by Serge Brin, was mounted on a 21’ pole on a bluff on the north coast of St. Barthelemy, squarely in the path of the storm’s north-northeast winds.”
This package includes a console and versatile sensor suite capable of providing detailed information on temperature and humidity inside and outside, dewpoint, rainfall, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, and with additional options UV/solar radiation. Installation options include wired and wireless setups. Designed to be extremely rugged, the Davis Vantage Pro2 is a great option for reliable and accurate weather data on board your vessel.
Garmin inReach Mini
Satellite positioning and emergency communication are essential to staying safe when traveling off the beaten path. A great option comes from Garmin, in the form of the pam-sized inReach Mini. This highly capable compact device packs a whopping amount of technology in the palm of your hand. Global Iridium satellite coverage plus Bluetooth connectivity means that you can go anywhere and remain connected with two-way text messaging.
Once your device is set up it can be preloaded with contacts and messages that can be sent at the push of a button for quick delivery when time may be critical. It also features the ability to receive detailed weather information. In case of emergency, just press the SOS button and your location and preset message are sent to emergency response services. It is fully waterproof, lightweight, and easy to use.
Electronic flares are quickly replacing the old analog pyrotechnic variety, and the newest to hit the market is the ACR ResQFlare. Compliant with US Coast Guard 33 CFR 175.130 regs as an approved replacement for pyrotechnics, this floating electronic flare has an array of LEDs visible from six-plus miles for 360-degrees around. With a burn-time of over 20 hours the ResQFlare has no expiration date, is waterproof, and it floats.
Lowrance HOOK2 Series
Technology has come a long way in the arena of underwater imaging and sonar for consumers and professionals. This series from Lowrance is available as stand-alone sonar or combo fishfinder and chartplotter, and features wide-angle CHIRP sonar coverage as well as SideScan and DownScan Imaging™, simple menus, quick access to the most important functions, and unprecedented auto-tuning sonar. For clear viewing even in direct sunlight there is a high-resolution SolarMAX™ screen. The massive available database of 3,000+ US lake maps with one-foot contours, and a global basemap ensure that no matter where you go, you will find what you’re looking for under the water. Although this series has been around for a few years it still stands out in 2022, in part because it delivers such a whopping punch of tech for a shockingly low price – the five-inch display unit starts at a mere $249.99 and the fully functional 12-incher is $999.
Furuno Navnet TZ Touch3 Fish-It and Drift-It
The Furuno Navnet system has long stood as a top electronics option for serious saltwater anglers, and it incorporates just about every function available in a modern MFD, ranging from radar to 3-D sonar imaging to the ability to create your own bathymetric charts utilizing the pings from the sonar and position data from the GPS. New for 2022, however, the system gives a boost to anglers with the Fish-It and Drift-It functionality. This allows you to tap the MFD screen and mark a spot you want to fish, automatically creating course lines and dynamic range rings so you know where to position your boat in order to drift across it. You can even choose varying time increments, and the system will tell you when you’re in the perfect position to drift over the hotspot in three minutes, five minutes, 10 minutes, and so on.
JL Audio M6-650X
JL Audio takes the cake when it comes to marine quality speakers for your boat. The M6-650X line can handle up to 75 watts each, at four ohms. These 6.5” coaxial marine speakers stand up and satisfy your listening needs. Construction includes injection-molded mica-filled polypropylene cone bodies with UV-inhibitor treated synthetic rubber surrounds, synthetic fiber spiders, UV-resistant polymer baskets, gold-plated brass marine-grade connection terminals, and stainless-steel hardware.
When it comes to marine stereos more power is more better, but small boats don’t have a ton of room for mounting those big amps. The new Clarion XC2410 is a micro-sized amp just seven inches long, 3.25 inches wide, and 1.5 inches tall, so it can be mounted in just about any compartment. Yet it pushes out 400 total watts of power through 4/3/2 channel systems. It features a MOS-FET amp circuit and is conformal coated for marine use.
On top of these goodies there’s an entire universe of new electronics out there for boaters, and each and every year brings a whole new crop. But these 10 stand-outs deserve your attention as you seek to set up your boat with the coolest new marine electronics on the market.
This article was last updated in May of 2022.