Have you scoured the world wide web for the best depth finder reviews to no avail? That’s not entirely surprising. Searching for depth finder devices on the internet is indeed an arduous task, and this is because they are now merged with fish finders.
There are many inland bodies of water that have dried up because of drought conditions, and the low spots could put your vessel at tremendous risk.
Whether you’re a yachter, a kayaker, or a full-fledged sailor, you need a device that would assure you you’ll never run aground. We’ve purposely prepared this best depth finders review to make your search easier.
Reviews of Best Marine Depth Finders
Despite the fact that depth finders are produced to serve the same basic function, they aren’t all made alike. You need one that can reliably provide you with real-time depth updates to stay safe, whatever activity you’re doing on the water. After hours of painstaking research, we have compiled the products that we believe can do that for you. Here is a short list complete with their specifications, and advantages and drawbacks.
1. Vexilar LPs-1 Handheld Digital Depth Sounder
Another handheld depth finder device that makes for a great companion for boaters, kayakers, scuba divers, and anglers alike, the Vexilar Lps-1 features a clearer, highly readable display, performing exactly as it promises.
While not brimming with a lot of extra features, the LPs-1 boasts sheer functionality and versatility, that you can take it with you as you go ice fishing, which is why we have included it in this best depth finders review. Many users are impressed at how long lasting the battery life the Lps-1 has, only needing a single replacement even after more than a couple of years.
Very easy to use and waterproof, the Vexilar Lps-1 is ideal for virtually any marine application, be it ice angling, scuba diving, kayaking, boating, etc. The device, which is nautical yellow in color, is designed for absolute portability and versatility. Weighing only 11 ounces, Lps-1 is equipped with a backlit display for good readability for both low-light and nighttime use.
To use, simply bring it with you in the water, point it, then push the power button. The depth or distance is digitally displayed for 10 seconds, before getting automatically shut off, which significantly preserves battery power. When fishing, just take the device to the water surface. When diving, you can use the device to measure depths or distances of underwater structures, such as reefs, shipwrecks, and even your distance to the surface.
The LPs-1 comes with a built-in 200-kHz transducer, which provides readings as low as 200 feet under the water. It penetrates underwater obstructions, which comes in handy when you go ice fishing. The model relies on the power supply of 9V batteries and sports a power-saving feature.
Apart from being waterproof up to 150 feet below, the device is also equipped with positive buoyancy, which means that it will just bob on top in the unfortunate event that you drop it or let go of it in the water.
2. HawkEye DT1B DepthTrax 1B
Delivering uninterrupted readings up to 200 feet underwater with 1/10th precision, the HawkEye DepthTrax 1B is not your run-of-the-mill depth finder. It comes with dual alarms that will prompt you on point and get you informed of the waters you’re traversing.
It is equipped with an adaptive software programming, which minimizes errors in the depth readings. The device’s keel offset feature is designed to automatically adjust the depth readings according to vessel draft requirements.
The 1.65 x 0.85-inch LCD uses Soft Glow™ backlighting, which ensures effortless and reliable readability even at nighttime. The device also comes with a transducer, which you can surface-mount using the 1000-10 surface mount bracket or laid into a 2 ⅛-inch diameter mounting hole. This gauge looks like a wristwatch and ships with black-and-white faceplates and bezels that you can interchange when you want a different look.
The HawkEye DT1B delivers depth readings from 2.5 to 200 feet even at increased speeds up to 63 mph, which is ideal when the boat is already underway. The device incorporates an advanced three-stage depth alarm system, which can be adjusted to provide alarms for both deep and shallow waters, for reliable performance regardless of the setting. Geared with state-of-the-art auto-ranging and sensitivity features, the device also features a keel-offset function, which allows adjustments on readings to accommodate vessel draft.
For some users, depths of more than 200 feet aren’t any cause for concern. The performance of a depth finder is rigorously put to test when the device is used on a very fast watercraft. Many products fall short of providing precise readings at speeds higher than 30mph.
This is the problem that the DT1B solves. The device can deliver precise readings starting from 2.5 feet up to 200 feet. It is ideal for speedboating, as it stays accurate even at speeds greater than 60mph. The device includes a gauge and marine connectors that allow for easy installation on your existing 2⅛-inch gauge opening. In case you don’t have that gauge opening, you can get the ACC-DF-1000 surface mount bracket to install it.
3. Faria 13751 Chesapeake Black Depth Sounder with In-Hull Transducer
Merely looking at the interface of the Faria 13751 Chesapeake, you won’t find it hard to tell what it’s all about. Straightforward and easy to install, Chesapeake is capable of calculating depths up to 199 feet underwater.
The device boasts an outstanding performance, with one user claiming that they cruised speeds of 40mph, and the device still worked flawlessly, unlike others that are generally hit-and-miss on high speeds. One of the best depth finders under $300 on the market, Chesapeake is not your ordinary depth finder device, as it can also gauge air and water temperatures.
The advantage of this depth finder is the considerable size of the display. The Chesapeake features a relatively large display, which lets you see the data with just one glance. Its LCD backlight makes it equally readable both at daytime and at nighttime.
The Chesapeake finder does need a bit of time dedicated to set it up, but it does come equipped with its transom mounted transducer already, which allows for a totally fuss-free installation.
The 1380 is capable of tracking depths for distances as far as 199 feet. It comes with an automatic gain control, which means regardless of whether the signal that is being received is too flimsy or too strong, the result remains as is. You can also set alarms for both shallow and deep waters, so you can get alerted when you’re about to reach your desired depth. It also comes with a keel-offset feature which, as mentioned, allows you to customize the settings according to the vessel draft.
There are some caveats about the depth that the 1380 can work up to. For instance, if you’re traversing deeper waters, the device would give out sporadic false readings and doesn’t function as you need it to. Nonetheless, if you want to cruise at moderate to high speed on relatively shallow water, then you will find the 1389 very handy.
4. HawkEye DT1H Handheld Depth Finder with Temperature
One of the best portable depth finders and most versatile handheld sonar systems ever produced, the Hawk-Eye DT1H Handheld Depth Finder yields instant depth readings, ranging from 2.5 to 199 feet at 1/10th precision.
With just a press of a button, the device will show you real-time air, water, and fish readings, making it one of the best depth finders for fishing as well. What it lacks in display size, it hugely makes up with its LCD backlight technology, providing excellent readability even at night.
And because the DT1H is so small, the display screen is also correspondingly minimal, which can make it difficult for some users to read. Its LCD backlight, however, significantly makes up for this drawback.
Notwithstanding its miniature size, the device does more than just depth reading, as it can also provide you with air, water, and limited fish readings.
Included in the package are the handheld sonar system, user manual, and wrist strap. Unit needs 9V batteries, which are not included. The product is designed for shore readings, tube floating, kayaking, diving/ snorkeling, and even ice fishing.
The DT1H works by transmitting sonar signals to determine the depth of a particular area. It is capable of reading depths from 2.5 feet to 300 feet. Flaunting amazing flexibility, the device is waterproof up to 150 feet, so it guarantees optimal performance wherever you take it—even diving or fishing. The DT1H offers up to 1/10th precision and displays both feet and meter readouts.
Complete Depth Finders Buying Guide
We understand how daunting it can be to pick the right product, especially when you don’t have the proper knowhow. Before we proceed with our best depth finders review, we urge you to read this section, so you know exactly what to look for. In this website, we’re not in the business of endorsing products; rather, we’re here to guide our readers and provide them with a clear, straightforward review of the best depth finder choices on the market.
1. What is a depth finder (sounder)?
Also referred to as echo sounder, a depth finder is a device used on ships to determine the depth of water by calculating the time it takes a sonic pulse produced underwater to bounce back from the lake/river/seabed. Sonic depth finders are used on practically every important class of ship and even small watercrafts.
Sonic pulses are also sent out to track underwater objects by the same concept. During World War II, the term ‘sonar’ was used correspondingly to ‘radar.’ Depth finders were widely used to detect submarines. Sonic depth finders can be utilized repetitively, storing a multitude of recordings an hour, to prepare an outline of the ocean bed. Hydrographers use sonic depth finders in documenting the oceans and in their survey work to locate subsurface pinnacles and shoals.
2. Depth finder vs Fish Finder: Which should you buy?
Some technical analysis is considerably required to decide whether or not a depth finder is ideal for you, or you should go for a fish finder. It all boils down to deciding for which purpose you will need it.
If say you’re a boater, kayaker, or a sailor, you’ll be most concerned about ensuring your boat will not run aground. If you’re a diver, you’ll be after the depth of the water and not the fish. You’ll also need a depth finder to help you discover the best diving spots.
While it’s true that fish finders do provide a lot more functionality and can also help you determine the depth of the water, they can also cost more and are practically pointless if you’re not into fishing. Fish finders are designed to cover certain depths mainly for the purpose of tracking where the fish are. They’re not without limitations.
If you’re not an angler, you can just look for the best simple depth finder and spare yourself the unnecessary expense of fish finder features that you won’t be needing anyway. And even if you’re an angler, you can always use a depth finder for fishing at the same time, only that you have to consider its limitation.
3. How To Choose The Best Depth Finder?
Having a depth finder that can generate reliable information that you can use to navigate through a vast expanse of water definitely gives you an upper hand. We believe it pays to know what the essential aspects of the ideal depth finder are, so we have included a considerable amount of information in this best depth finders review.
Transom mount, by far, is the most conventional application for the best depth finders for the sailboat. When using a depth finder to accompany you on your boating trips, the positioning of the device is crucial for obtaining accurate readings. There are depth finder products that easily fit into a standard gauge hole for mounting. Securing the device in a proper position can be a trial-and-error exercise, especially when the vessel is already underway.
The ideal depth finder should be able to provide highly efficient readings while the boat is in motion. While there are some models that conk out on high boat speeds, superb-quality depth finders can easily show accurate depth readings in either both standard units of measurement (feet and meters), ranging from 2.5 to 200 feet at elevated speeds of up to 63 mph. These depth finders are often equipped with a depth alarm warning system, which features adjustable alarms for both shallow and deep waters. These devices often provide instant real-time depth updates.
Fundamentally, depth finders are purposed to gauge the depth of the body of water you’re on. However, they do oftentimes come with further functionalities, which you can use for other activities such as fishing. Some depth finders are equipped with advanced sonar technology that is beneficial for tracking where the fishes are beneath the surface. The best depth finders for fishing are often engineered with GPS technology, which can determine your exact location on the water.
Moreover, there are depth finder devices that are designed with an algorithmic, easy-touch, digital programming that converts to precise readings and fishing results. There are also others that provide both water and air temperature readings, doing away with the need to have two different gadgets on hand to gauge if the water conditions are optimal for boating, kayaking, fishing, or sailing. Depth finders that don’t come with fish-finding features are still equally useful. Like we said, it all boils down to what you’re purpose you’re getting one for.
We always want the things we buy to be well built and that last us a long time. It’s no different with getting a depth finder with a transducer, which may be prone to wear and tear especially when exposed to harsh conditions. If the main unit and transducer come separately, which is usually the case, you have to assess both of their build quality and protection. The device has to be tightly sealed and waterproof, and able to withstand water immersions.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
1. What's the most suitable piece of kit that I can use to verify the accuracy of this information for a channel of about 1,140 feet long and between 3 and 12 feet deep?
Compared to depth finders that only come with a digital display, fish finders can provide you with a better view of what’s underneath your vessel. However, in shallow depths, it can be easy to overlook say even a spike of rock. If you use fish finders, especially those that have built-in GPS, you can try some parallel passes a few feet apart.
2. Can I use my fish finder for the survey?
Modern fish finders, which are now equipped with sonar technology, utilize innovative DSP (Digital Signal Processing) techniques to display the bottom surface and fish targets in the water column. As far as beamwidth is concerned, the electronics of typical fish finders aren’t geared for survey use. Their depth values are either heavily estimated to display a seamless transition in numeric depth values or are enhanced to show the lowest depth observed in the particular beam area.
3. What affects sound velocity?
The speed sound travels through water is directly proportionate to the density of the water itself. The factors that affect the density are listed below, all of which can vary considerably in any specific water column.
- Turbidity - This is the haziness of the water caused by the saturation of sediments that are usually invisible to the naked eye.
- Salinity - This is the amount of salt dissolved in a body of water.
- Temperature – The is the degree of heat present in the body of water.
- Pressure – This is the sum of water depth and barometric pressure.
7. Is dual frequency required?
Dual-frequency echo sounders were primarily equipped for use by seafaring vessels to determine reliable depths in deep-water situations (low frequency) and more precise navigation within shallow areas (high frequency). Low frequency is almost pointless in shallow-water surveys.
After consideration of the positive reviews from dozens of users and careful assessment of their features and performance, we finally have our winner for this best depth finders review. Admittedly, it was tough for us, as all the other options are equally excellent.
For its ultra-modest price point, the HawkEye DT1B DepthTrax 1B is incredibly packed with sophisticated features and functionalities, which make it so hard to resist. You’ll have a hard time looking for dual-depth alarms, glare-free, SoftGlow-backlit display, interchangeable face plates, Adaptive Software Programming, and a bunch of other functionalities all bundled up into a wee-sized gadget at such an affordable price tag.
Don’t you think it’s amazing how a gadget as seemingly simple as a depth finder can demand so much astuteness from the buyer? They’re supposed to do only one job, and that is to determine the depth of the water beneath you. But when you begin to delve into the myriad of design features and the state-of-the-art technology that the products in this list might possess, it’s easy to see that these electronic devices are nowhere near basic. In fact, they can be great fish finders, too. We hope this best depth finder review has somehow helped you make an informed decision.