Tech & Gear Accessories The 10 Best Depth Finders of 2022 The Lowrance HDS-7 Live comes in at number one By Nathan Borchelt Nathan Borchelt LinkedIn American University Nathan Borchelt has been working in the travel industry for more than 15 years as a writer, photographer, editor, and product manager. He covers everything from trail cameras to ski equipment. TripSavvy's editorial guidelines Updated on 07/17/22 Fact checked by Nathan Allen Fact checked by Nathan Allen University of Missouri-Columbia Lindenwood University Nathan Allen is the Outdoor Gear Editor for TripSavvy. Nathan loves many outdoor activities but makes it a priority to run or bike on singletrack every day. TripSavvy's fact-checking Share Pin Email We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission. TripSavvy / Chloe Jeong TripSavvy's Pick For a powerful depth finder that offers chip sonar with both down and side imaging, reach for the Lowrance HDS-7 Live. We also like the HawkEye DepthTrax H1 Handheld Depth Finder, which won't break the bank. Knowing even the most basic information about what's under the surface can save you from running aground. But today's depth finders can do much more than simply give you a sense of where the bottom lies. Most devices focus on helping anglers understand the ocean floor's depth and topography. But they also paint a high-resolution picture of where the fish are swimming or hiding, the various water temps in the water column to help pinpoint your casting, and have loads of other technologies to help with navigation and custom readings and alarms. From handheld devices to in-depth high-res displays that will compliment the most kitted-out of consoles, these are the best depth finders. Table of contents Expand Our Picks What to Look For Why Trust TripSavvy Best Overall: Lowrance HDS-7 Live with Active Imaging 3-in-1 4.9 Cabela's View On Amazon View On Basspro.com View On Cabelas.com What We Like Comprehensive package for most uses Connects with smart phone (or not) What We Don't Like The screen size dictates the level of tech in each device, which may prove tricky to marry your needs if you have a crowded console To get a clear picture of everything that’s happening below the surface of the water, go with the HDS-7 Live with Active Imaging 3-in-1 from Lowrance. The SolarMAX HD touch screen makes it easy to access all types of data, and with four different screen size options, you can find the perfect device to match your console. It comes with a pre-loaded C-Map Contour+ mapping tech and coastal charts that can capture image detail down to a half foot, which is supplemented with Active Imaging 3-in-1 with chirp sonar, side- and down-scan imaging, FishReveal, and a Ghost Trolling Motor. High-res ActiveTarget Live Sonar shows where the fish are moving, swimming in and around cover, and responding to your lure to let you know if things are working, or if you need to change strategies. It even syncs with your smartphone via the HDS Live tech, displaying a pop-up notice when you receive calls or texts (a function you can easily disable by turning off your phone). Type: Chirp sonar with side- and down-scan imaging | Screen Size: 7, 9, 12, and 16 inches | Dimensions: 9.21 x 5.73 inches in the smallest screen size, 16.98 x 10.20 inches in the largest Best Budget: HawkEye DepthTrax 1H Handheld Depth Finder Bass Pro View On Amazon View On Walmart View On Basspro.com What We Like Simple Inexpensive Includes a wrist lanyard What We Don't Like It might be too simple for anglers looking for reliable fish beta Simplicity reigns supreme with the lightweight, hand-held HawkEye DepthTrax 1H Handheld Depth Finder. A clear digital display provides depth measurements from 2.5 feet down to 300 feet, as well as temperature readings that are accurate to within a tenth of a degree. Measurements are provided by 300-watt DepthTrax Sonar powered by a nine-volt battery. And the device is encased in a robust ABS housing, along with dual O-rings that make it fully waterproof down to 200 feet. Bonus: A two-year warranty reinforces how reliable the device will be. It can read the water depth through the hull of most boats, but can’t cut through air pockets, wood, or thick aluminum. Type: Sonar transducer| Screen Size: 1.65 x 0.87 inches | Dimensions: 2 x 2 x 8 inches Best Splurge: Humminbird Helix 15 Chirp Mega SI+ GPS G4N Cabela's View On Amazon View On Basspro.com View On Cabelas.com What We Like Everything you’ll ever need for confident navigation and fish-finding Comes with extensive library of maps What We Don't Like No inline fuse included Boasting a large 15.4-inch display the Humminbird Helix 15 Chirp Mega SI+ GPS G4N justifies its spendy price tag. It comes with MEGA side and down imaging tech that maps out to 200 feet, and dual-spectrum chirp sonar, which pairs with an internal GPS and an extensive library of Hummingbird Basemaps (more than 100,00 lakes and most of the continental US). Push-button controls line the right side of the device, making it easy to access preloaded views. You can also toggle through either wide mode sonar to maximize coverage and capture fish arches and fish-holding structures and the narrow mode to drill in on smaller details. Customization via AutoChart Live lets you create real-time maps of your fishing and navigation spots, including details like depth contours, bottom hardness, and vegetation, all with an eight-hour-long recording time. And if you want to go really big on the data, it can create an ethernet network to sync up with other fish finders and provides Bluetooth connectivity to Hummingbird products like the Talon and Raptor shallow-water anchors and downriggers. Type: Chirp sonar with down and side imaging | Screen Size: 15.4 inches | Dimensions: 17.63 x 10.62 inches. Best Controls: Raymarine Axiom Pro 9 RVX West Marine View On Amazon View On Westmarine.com What We Like Robust display options and easy navigation Fairly easy installation What We Don't Like No custom mapping Raymarine’s Axiom Pro 9 RVX packs a lot of features into a small package, employing an easy-to-read multifunction display on its 9-inch screen. Touch controls are supplemented by a small sequence of buttons and a rotary knob on the right side, making it easy to toggle through the different options. And options abound. An offshore-rated 1KW chirp sonar captures clear images of the terrain, features, and fish lurking under the water, and includes low, medium, and high settings to target deep or shallow-water fish. Everything is displayed on a super-bright high-def IPS screen, powered by a super-fast quad-core processor and the smart LightHouse operating system. You also get FLIR thermal night vision tech, multiple Axiom displays, Evolution autopilot, and RealVision 3D with GPS to construct the most accurate model of the underwater terrain. As with most high-end depth finders, the Axiom Pro 9 can network with Raynet Ethernet, and built-in WiFi lets you control the device from your phone or tablet. Type: Chirp sonar with RealVision 3D mapping | Screen Size: 9 inches | Dimensions: 11.9 x 6.85 inches The 10 Best Depth Finders of 2022 Best GPS Depth Finder: Garmin STRIKER Vivid 9sv Garmin View On Amazon View On Cabelas.com View On Garmin.com What We Like Accurate GPS Relatively inexpensive Stores up to 2 million acres of maps What We Don't Like Detail-obsessed anglers may want a larger screen It’s no surprise that navigation pioneers Garmin make some of the best GPS-enabled depth finders, and the STRIKER Vivid 9sv hits the sweet spot of ample features and a relatively modest price tag. Powered by a GT52HW-TM transducer, you can choose from chirp traditional, ClearVu, and SideVu sonars, which pick up contours for objects and terrain as small as one foot, and also choose from seven vivid color display options to illustrate the fish and underwater structures in a way that resonates with your preferred aesthetic and reading preferences. You can also customize your maps with waypoint marking to track hot spots and quickdraw contour tech that lets you store up to 2 million acres of maps. All of this partners with a high-sensitivity GPS, letting you plan and create routes, as well as view your boat’s speed. Naturally, it’s WiFi-enabled and can pair with Garmin’s ActiveCaptain app to transfer waypoints, receive notifications and software updates, and drop into the Garmin Quickdraw Community. The small device comes on a tilt/swivel mount, along with transom and trolling motor mounting hardware and cable. Type: Chirp traditional as well as side and down view | Screen Size: 9 inches | Dimensions: 11.1 x 6.5 inches The 9 Best Handheld GPSes of 2022 Best with Temperature: Faria Beede Depth Sounder Amazon View On Amazon What We Like Simple and easy to use Relatively inexpensive What We Don't Like Only applicable for transom mounting If you’re just looking for a device that offers a quick-glimpse read of salient data like depth and temperature, go with the Faria Beede Depth Sounder. Operating on a 235 kHz frequency, it reaches down to 199 feet and comes with deep and shallow water alarms. Choose from US standard or metric units, which are very readable thanks to the back-lit digital display, and a programmable keel off-set helps dial the device to match your boat. Outside air and water temp readings range from 32 to 200 degrees. Type: Standard transducer | Dimensions: 2 inches The 6 Best Marine Batteries of 2022 Best with Speed: Raymarine i50 Tridata Digital Instrument Display West Marine View On Amazon View On Westmarine.com What We Like Front-mounted design makes it easy to install Easy to use push-button controls What To Consider If you want a depth finder to help with your fishing, this isn’t it Ideal for smaller powerboats, rigid inflatables, and yachts, the Raymarine i50 Digital Instrument Display provides quick insight into the depth and boat speed, with a red-back lighting option for enhanced nighttime visibility. All stats are displayed across three lines (depth, speed, and log info), and the device can also track sea temperature and SOG–a measurement that captures the boat’s speed through the water plus other factors like current and wind. Push-button controls simplify operation, letting you toggle through three data display options and set shallow-depth alarms. Type: Traditional transducer | Dimensions: 11.5 x 5.5 x 4 inches Best Handheld: HawkEye Fishtrax 1c Fish Finder HawkEye View On Amazon View On Walmart View On Cabelas.com What We Like An integrated mounting system lets you marry the device with any fishing platform Easy to toggle through displays What We Don't Like No recording or waypoint functionality HawkEye has packed a lot of fish-finding features into the Fishtrax 1c Fish Finder. Active solar locates fish depth down to 240 feet and measured water temp and bottom contour to quickly help you orient where to cast. A simple network of buttons makes it easy to toggle through the various displays–bottom contour, fish icons, and data modes, with everything displayed on the easy-to-read HD color display. An automatic mode makes it easy to start using, or you can program in precise readings via manual mode and program alarms that trigger when fish are present or the desired depth has been measured. The VariableZone Temperature Setting tracks temps throughout the water column to pinpoint specific fish species. It also runs on AAA batteries, it comes in a durable waterproof housing, and the ice mode flasher makes it a four-season, ice-fishing-ready depth finder. Pro-tip: To save on cost and waste, check out the rechargeable lithium batteries from Pale Blue Earth. Type: Dual-frequency sonar | Screen Size: 2 by 1.6 inches | Dimensions: 6 by 3 inches. Best for Ice Fishing: Humminbird Ice Helix 5 Chirp G3 Humminbird View On Basspro.com View On Cabelas.com What We Like Easy to see whether on the ice or in a shed Glove-friendly controls What We Don't Like The 5-inch display is pretty small, though you can upgrade to as large as 9 inches Ice fishing is challenging enough without having to wrestle with your depth finder. So if you like to ply the frozen lakes of the world, arm yourself with the Ice Helix 5 Chirp G3 from Humminbird. It employs dual-spectrum chirp sonar to render a high-res image of individual fish, bait, and structure in both flasher and traditional 2D views, separating targets down to three-quarters of an inch. Six settings keep competing signals from cluttering the screen, and an adjustable sonar zoom feature helps you focus in on fish, whether they’re hiding at the bottom or elsewhere in the water column (two-times zoom in flasher mode, 16-times in 2D). The whole package comes in a soft-sided shuttle/carrying case, with a built-in cable and transducer management system to keep things organized. You can even use the device to charge any glow-painted spoons or jigs. Type: Dual-spectrum chip sonar | Screen Size: 5 inches The 4 Best Bass Boats of 2022 Best for Kayaks: Garmin STRIKER 4 Garmin View On Amazon View On Walmart View On Garmin.com What We Like Inexpensive Compatible with higher-performance Garmin transducers What We Don't Like No smart device or Garmin map integration Small enough to stash under your PDF and easy to mount on the helm of your kayak, the Garmin STRIKER 4 comes with a dual-beam transducer to more accurately map the contours and fish locations lying under the waves. Smooth Scaling graphics on the 3.5-inch display provides uninterrupted imagery while cycling through depth-range scales, and a history feature lets you scroll back through images to mark waypoints you might’ve missed. A built-in flasher and speed displays add versatility, and you can also mark hot points with the GPS-enabled device, and share those with other STRIKER and echoMap products. Type: Dual-beam sonar | Screen Size: 3.5 inches | Dimensions: 3.6 x 5.9 inches What to Look for in a Depth Finder Standard vs. Chirp Sonar Depth finders that use standard sonar to detect what’s below utilize a single beam of sound at a set frequency that bounces off something below to capture data like fish placements or structures on the seafloor like reefs or rocks. This provides some basic information relating to the depth at which that object sits, but it doesn’t offer much clarity as it relates to what that object might be. Chirp sonar ups the ante by sending quick bursts of sonar waves in a variety of frequencies to more accurately read what’s below, and also offering more insight into what’s being detected because the chirp sonar can also capture data on what’s moving, increasing your chances of finding fish. Down Imaging vs. Side Imaging Rather than merely detecting the depth of an object with either standard or chirp sonar, down imaging depth finders use a thin array of high-frequency sound waves and layers the data into a 3D illustration of what’s below your boat, helping you quickly ID the objects so you can distinguish between rocks, fish, or other objects. As its name implies, down imaging focuses on what’s directly below your boat. Side imaging depth finders, meanwhile, use two sonar beams (typically angled slightly away from your boat) to create images on both sides of your watercraft, capturing contour changes, fish, and other structures. Transducer The transducer is the technology that transforms electrical pulses into the sound waves that power the sonar and then transfer the data into the device so it can generate the data you read on-screen. Given this is the key component of depth finders, make sure the target product has a robust transducer (the stronger the transducer, the deeper the readings) and an overall durable construction with strong materials that will protect the “heart” of the product over prolonged use. Some devices (like handheld GPS devices) can also work with other, more powerful transducers if you want to upgrade from what comes out of the box. Frequently Asked Questions What is a depth finder? As its name implies, depth or fish finders use sonar to illustrate the distance between you (at the surface of the water) and the objects that are either directly below you, or at a set radius around you. This will help you line up your target casting depth and also respond to other underwater features like reefs, rocks, and other objects. Boaters also use standard depth finders to make sure they don’t run aground in shallow water, but the bulk of the applications for angling-specific depth finders is to make it easier to find—and land—fish. How do depth finders help with fishing? Simply put, depth finders tell you where the fish are in the water, whether moving at a set distance or holed up in an underwater feature like a crevice or crater. The data illustrates the actual depth and location of the fish to improve your chances of casting correctly, or to tease out fish from shelter. The best ones also tell you what’s not a fish, read water temps throughout the column, show where fish are hiding, and illustrate a 3D graphic of the entire topography under the waves. How do I read a depth finder? Each depth finder comes with a screen that displays the data captured by the transducer. Inexpensive, simple models may just display the depth detected in a digital display but not offer insight into what’s detected. If you’re just looking to know the depth to the bottom, these simple devices will suffice. But if you’re looking to use the depth finder as a way to detect fish, we recommend getting a device with a high-resolution screen that displays more data than simply how deep an object might be from the water’s surface. Screen sizes naturally vary, but most should provide enough real estate to accurately display the data—in handheld devices, you’ll typically scroll through depth ranges. But if you’re going with a mounted depth finder, you can go with larger screens than you might find on portable devices. Why Trust TripSavvy Nathan Borchelt has been rating, testing, and reviewing outdoor and travel products for decades. In examining each potential entry for inclusion, each product was evaluated based on its key features, ease of use, durability, and key advantages for various types of applications. This research was then supplemented by both professional and verified customer reviews. 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