Garmin GPSMAP 78sc Marine Handheld GPS Receiver with Compass and Barometer

Priced: $349.99 Rated:   - 4 stars out of 5 by 40 reviews.
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Garmin GPSMAP 78sc Marine Handheld GPS Receiver with Compass and Barometer -
High performance, rugged marine GPS with US g2 coastal charts, 3-axis compass, barometer and more!

Garmin has updated the popular GPSMAP 76 with the new GPSMAP 78 Series, powerful marine handheld units that now feature color mapping, a high-sensitivity GPS receiver and a built-in MicroSD card slot for loading additional maps. A whopping 1.7GB of built-in memory provides cutting-edge performance, and you can also add maps from Garmin’s wide array of detailed marine BlueChart g2, topographic and City Navigator road maps. Plus, the 78 Series supports BirdsEye Satellite Imagery, and is compatible with Custom Maps, free software that transforms paper and electronic maps into downloadable maps for your device.

Like earlier generations, these new handhelds feature the same soft-key interface but with a sleek easy-to-hold design with rubber side grips. The “s” models also add a three-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass, which shows your heading even when you're standing still. Each unit features a worldwide basemap, and the 78Cs comes with built-in BlueChart® g2 coastal charts for the U.S. And with the 78 Series, you can share your waypoints, tracks, routes and geocaches wirelessly with other compatible devices. So whether you're kayaking, fishing or just cruising around, the 78 Series has everything a mariner needs. They’re completely submersible and float if dropped overboard.

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Garmin GPSMAP 78sc Marine Handheld GPS Receiver with Compass and Barometer Reviews:

Positive Reviews:

Excellent GPS for boating and all around

When my local West Marine put the 78SC on sale, I jumped on it. I also bought a set of 2300mah NiMh batteries as well (I read some complaints about battery life, so I bought the highest mah batteries that I could find - make sure you read the label, the battery capacity varies widely. Just because there is a cute animal pictured on the box does not mean they are the highest capacity batteries available).

I put in the batteries, powered it up, and started playing with it (I got around to reading the manual a couple of days later). I set it up for marine navigation and customized the screens to my liking (for example, I reordered the data display to first show SOG then VMG and moved the tile showing elapsed time to the bottom. I also set up the barometer and watched a front move through our area - very neat, and useful if you are out cruising. It seems like there is no end on how you can personalize the displays. Just keep tweaking until you like it.

I then took it out for one of our local "around the bouy" races. I found it easy to use on the course and easy to see. The backlight is dimmable, great at night, and it was still easy to read. I have not been cruising with it yet, so I can't say much about the features such as - anchor drag alarm, alarm clock, etc.

After a full day of playing with it- programming, experimenting, bouy racing, etc. the batteries finally gave out. Although it was a little short of the 20 hours (more like 18+) I was not disappointed. I had it on all day, programming and paging through the pages constantly - using it interactively much more than I would normally.

The WM salesman said I could charge the unit using the supplied USB cord -WRONG. I think Garmin missed the mark here. Almost everything is charged through the USB cable these days. Having to remove he batteries to charge them is an unnecessary pain.

I have not purchased the "Birds Eye View" maps, but if we start cruising more I might.

That said, I am very happy with this unit. I knocked off one star because of the USB charging.

PS: One interesting accessory available is a wireless heart rate monitor. That might be nice to have at a port-starboard crossing, or a "room at the mark" event.
Ted in Tampa at on 04/04/2013

Superb Marine GPS

I do sea kayaking out on the San Francisco, Half Moon and Monterey Bays, as well as out in the unprotected, open Pacific Ocean. Needless to say the swells and wind waves out there are often formidable to say the least. One cannot spare the time or concentration to fool around with an unintuitive, difficult to use GPS as one's kayak is bouncing around under him. The Garmin GPSMAP 78sc excels, not only in simplicity of use, but in clarity of view and ease of reading statistics as well. Best of all, it comes with all USA BlueChart G2 maps preloaded! In terms of reception, it is so sensitive that it actually reads my position inside my house!
It should be noted that, like all other marine hand held GPS devices, it is waterproof rated only to IPX7. Therefore, if used on the water in a small boat such as a kayak, it should be first placed in a waterproof protection bag. I use one of those clear plastic waterproof bags so that I can clearly see the display and press any button therefore making it fully and easily usable while being protected from water damage.
If you are looking for the best of the best hand held marine GPS the Garmin GPSMAP 78sc is the one to purchase.
M the kayaker at on 12/12/2011

Great handheld chart plotter

I sail and race on the San Francisco Bay and in the near coastal ocean. I take the GPSMap 78sc with me on every sail and I use it to track my boat's course and speed. I download GPS data to Home Port on my Mac and export the data to a GPX file that becomes part of my electronic logbook. I use this when on the water to get a bearing to a mark especially if the ship doesn't have a GPS. The chart plotter seems to work well although the screen is so small that you have to do a lot of gymnastics with the zoom to see what you want to see. Given that the screen is small, that is understandable. The unit has a very sensitive GPS receiver that works very well below decks and in my sailing bag. I recently purchased the power/data cable so that I can connect this unit to instrument systems on boats that don't have GPS but can accept NMEA GPS input. Very nice feature of the unit! Garmin support is also top notch as is their cartography.
Thurston Howell, III at on 05/05/2013

Love it!

We bought this GPS to supplement our Chartplotter and love it. We had tried another handheld Garmin unit which was not as reliable or intuitive and this unit far surpasses any others we have used. We have purchased additional maps which we have used in the Caribbean on many occasions. It is bright, easy to read and very easy to set up and learn. My only advice is to purchase rechargeable batteries to use with it, as it tends to go through batteries if you use it all day - we have two batteries in the unit and two in the charger at any given time.
Lisa at on 03/03/2011

What an improvement from older Garmins

Like others I reviwed comments for this Garmin. This GPS is a vast improvement from my older Garmin GPS. After you set it up reception takes about 2 seconds and this is inside my home!! I appreciate the compass. No need to rely on a seperate compass when hiking or fishing. You wont loose signal in heavy wooded areas like my old GPS. I would suggest reviwing detailed instructions to get the best use. You get what you pay for with this GPS. Im glad I decided to buy this GPS instead of a less costly unit.
evrglades at on 04/04/2012

Outstanding GPS

This is my 6th Garmin I have owned since 2000. All of my Garmin units STILL function, and best of all Garmin still supports units made 8 years ago. Garmin's the controls are intuitive and the detail packed into such a small display is quite impressive. For a portable, handheld unit that can be taken and used in rental boats, cars, and as a back up to a mounted unit this model is hard to beat! Battery life is excellent.
Cap10Light at on 06/06/2011

Good Product

I wanted a good back-up chart plotter/GPS for my sailboat. It does a very good job. I found the device to be easy to use. I was able to use it from the moment I opened the box. I have an etrex by Garmin and found the 78sc to be similar but more complex. I recommend this device to anyone who would like a good emergency back-up GPS or a primary for the lake. I like mine.
Butterchurn at on 01/01/2014

Does the Job

This product works great for what I bought it for, exploring new areas and avoiding hazards and shallow water. Could also see it being a life saver if caught at night or poor visibility. The menu can be frustrating at times to navigate. For beginner users, plan to set up your courses/checkpoints and data before leaving, it is not something you can do on the fly easily.
Donzi 2+3 at on 09/09/2013

Garmin GPSMAP 78SC saved the Day!

The GPS MAP 78SC Handheld worked perfectly as a backup to my chartplotter during recent rough weather when my main unit malfunctioned. Without this handheld and its preloaded maps an already stressful situation could have put us on shoals during our recent trip from Miami to Norfolk both on the ICW and offshore. With the handheld as backup we continued without pause.
Jacob at on 03/03/2011

Garmin Marine GPS

I bought this for my better half. He had an older model he liked but it was stolen and he missed it. He will get to try it out this spring. My only beef is the other one you could hang so you could read it without holding it. This one I've had to find a holder for it.
Babeboots at on 01/01/2014

Negative Reviews:

Save your money, buy an older model.

I use this for kayaking. Like to track kayaking trips and then upload the tracks through google earth after I open the tracks in mapsource. Problem is sometimes the tracks don't appear, sometimes it will connect tracks from where I turn it off and where I turn it on and there is no way to delete that line the connects both locations, very frustrating. It only shows the current track in mapsource, so if you have more then one trip in a day rcorded on your unit you can only view the last one! (Are you kidding me garmin?) To get to the tracks and track manager is a joke. The menu systenm is terrible IMO. This is a [$] unit, things should work and it shouldn't be complicated to get them to work.The display isn't nearly as bright and clear as the 76 was. Also unit will turn the back light off when battery is half strenth which makes it very difficult to see display, and there is no way to turn this stupid, stupid function off.
Kayaking Doug at on 06/06/2011

Very disappointed!

I have two earlier Garmin GPS models and wanted to upgrade for a recent off-shore passage. I purchased this model based on the claims of all it can do. Maybe it can, but the manual is anything but helpful. I spent two hours on the phone with tech support at Garmin and they were helpful, but short of teaching a course on the set up and use of waypoints, routes and tracking, the current manual is useless. I reverted back to a Garmin 48 which is so easy to use. I will continue to work on setting this model up, but it shouldn't be this difficult. BTW, the Garmin tech people said they agreed and spend much of their time trying to instruct people how to use this model because of the poorly written manual.
Shellback at on 11/11/2012

Check out before you purchase

The 78sc is a step down from previous Garmin handhelds as far as features. Examples cannot filter speed, rounte info is very limited (when displaying the waypoints in the route, distance between legs is not shown, only the name of the waypoint in the route, not able to advance a waypoint in a route and not able to restart XT while following a route. Heading cannot be filtered. With heading and speed not able to be filtered both are very erratic. Support is lacking with techs not familiar with the unit and not willing to pass feedback to the idea people within Garmin. This is not a professional piece of equipment.
TW at on 11/11/2012

Might be a good devise, but good luck

I've had this GPS for a couple months now, and it's basically a good compass and I assume it is giving me an accurate speed for trollng for those walleye, but I am not fimiliar with using a GPS, and find this unit not very user friendly.

I thought I would catch on, the more I tried to use it, but I am just as frustrated as I was the first time I tried to use it. Although it may very well be a great device, the instructions are very little help, and if you can't use it, what good is it?
Dickey at on 07/07/2013

Didnt work right out of box

My wife got me the Garmin 78SC marine for Christmas and I was really excited about setting it up and trying it out. Unfortunately, it couldnt get a satellite signal and would shut down all by-itself. Not too pleased so I returned for refund.
Mike at on 12/12/2010

unit turning off

I had the same problem as Mike, unit turning off. So I downloaded the latest software and all has worked well since.
CJ at on 03/03/2011

Somewhat dissappointed

Disappointed at the quality based on the high price. Don't feel it to be reliable in saltwater environment.
MC2 at on 03/03/2011

Not user friendly

This GPS is not user friendly, and very difficult to figure out. The manual is basically useless.
Terry at on 07/07/2013

Neutral Reviews:

Good Product but Lacking Items

It is a good product with nice technology but I feel it lacks some fundamental features:

1)Why isn't there a built in battery and removable charger? Instead, it uses two AA batteries. When these batteries go dead, you must remove and replace them with new batteries or recharge the dead batteries with a separate battery charger that doesn't come with the product. Very annoying. Come on gang, take it to the final level and perfect this product!

2) The USB port is placed on the back of the unit. I want to mount this thing on my bulkhead but can't do it with the USB port placed on the back of the unit.

3) It comes with a very short USB power cord for auxillary power. Too short for practical use in my world.

4) I still have problems adapting to the "latest technology" of screen placement on the bottom and buttons on the top. I guess I'm an old dog.

Don't get me wrong, this is a very nice product but some of the things it is missing can be annoying... especially the inability to place this thing into a chargeable cradle when the batteries go dead.

I would only recommend this product to a friend after advising her/him of the shortcomings.
JG at on 06/06/2013

So-So Unit

Purchased this unit at a good price during a WM sale, it was less expensive than . But, at regular price this unit is expensive for what it can do. I use it mostly for sailing regattas, and cruising, as backup to the TackTick Perf 40 system. Most of our racing is around the buoys, so no need for a larger fixed GPS unit. But, for those long trips doing delivery, or long distance regattas, I would like to be able to go to my PC plan my route, and upload to the 78sc. One of the few that can do this is the Colorado 400c. Now, I'm buying a navigation software to install on a Netbook, and add a USB GPS antenna; this is much more practical, and less expensive than this unit; same price if we add an economical new Netbook. Go for the the Colorado 400c, or check out navigation software plus GPS antennas for PC/PDA. As for a recommendation, it is a Yes, but No.
J Sailor at on 06/06/2011


I would trust the unit only for fair weather day sailing. Night, fog, or way point use is limited. Compared to my Uniden Mystic handheld of 10 years ago; this unit has color and slightly larger display. Out of the box, the Marine Profile is non-nautical. Defaults are vague, land oriented. The coastal charts are lacking detail, especially depth. There is not a dedicated lat/lon screen needed in emergencies. Lat/Lon eats up map display space. A screen to navigate to a way point is missing. Mounting it more that arm length is useless. Vertical tilting compass swings it 10 deg - dangerous as a hand bearing compass. Documentation is spotty. Non-intuitive setup but better than expected. Naively thought both land maps and charts were part of the package. Going to return it for an older model. It just doesn't have the bang for buck I was expecting.
Capt Bob at on 04/04/2012

No Tidechart

I am moving from a gpsmap 76 which from a field users point of view was far superior for my uses. The chart rendering ability of this unit is impressive, but the sheer volume of features makes it difficult to transition to. The lack of a tidal calculator is a bummer for me. Did not do my research well.
Chris the Tiderunner at on 01/01/2013

Not waterproof at alll

this is the second one that has died due to splashing. IPX7 is supposed to be "Protected against water immersion - Immersion for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter."

Good unit considering the charts that come with it but be sure to get a waterproof case. I just wish there was trugh in advertising
gpb at on 06/06/2012

to many features - spread to thin

.....I liked my old 175 better, of course this replacement is all there is available. Give me one like the old 175.......
Tom at on 06/06/2013


SMALLBIZGUY at on 10/10/2013

Screen too small to really be practical

disappointing instruction and maps. Even after downloading (and paying for updated maps)
gshif007 at on 01/01/2014