Benefits of Using Standalone GPS
Service and Signals
If you’re going camping, backpacking, or Overlanding, you’re likely to be far from a cell phone signal. The further away the more likely you’ll see the dreaded “NO SERVICE” message. You can download as many offline maps as you want before embarking on your adventure, but few of us have the foresight to know the exact location of every trail we’ll follow.
With weather events, wildfires or road closures blocking your way, you’ll need to find an alternative route. If you are relying on your cell phone’s GPS app and your signal is gone, where can you turn for directions? An Overlanding GPS system can really come to the rescue in times like this. They rely on satellite signals, which are far more common and reliable.
Your phone must do more than just power your navigation app. It must also…well…do phone things. It runs apps, looks for mobile service, sends texts, and plays the road-trip playlist your traveling companions are sick of. Because GPS devices only have one function, power is sipped slowly rather than sucked dry in a few hours.
Sure, some recent vehicle-centric systems have a lot more functionality and are designed to be used when plugged in, but many Overlanding GPS units include a multitude of charging options. When compared to your smartphone, they also have a longer battery life.
While there are some extremely tough phone cases out there, a GPS tracker is built from the ground up to be used for outdoor adventures. The units are (for the most part) extremely impact-resistant, water-resistant, and simple to hold and use. While cell phones suffer from the effects of heat, cold, and precipitation, Overlanding GPS systems laugh in the face of Mother Nature. Your encased iPhone just adopted toughness, whereas trackers were born in it and sculpted by it.
This does not contain the ever-growing feature set seen in many standalone GPS units. Trip-planning and optimization software, two-way radio, geocaching capability, and comprehensive trip data and record-keeping are among them. Phone apps may undoubtedly perform those things as well. We’d trust these features more if they came from our satellite-guided GPS unit because of the GPS’s far more exact positional location.
So, now that we’ve persuaded you to just use your phone for awesome Instagram-worthy panoramic shots, what kind of Overlanding GPS unit should you be looking for? Let’s take a look at some of our favorite tablet-style devices for 2022.
Note: In this article, we will focus on the physical GPS units you can use. In our next article we will highlight the various Overlanding apps like Gaia GPS, iOverlander and others.
Best Overlanding GPS Units
At the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show, three new Garmin Tread off-road navigators were unveiled. Off-road communication and navigation has never been simpler, but power and features come at a cost.
The three new devices are the Tread Overland, Tread XL Overland, and Tread SxS. The new Garmin Tread GPS devices include the company’s sharpest, most durable technology to date, as well as off-grid features that might raise the bar on recreational navigation technology.
Garmin has packed a vast range of navigational and communication features into all three of its newest Tread devices including:
- Touchscreen interface with sensors that can be used with gloves
- Large displays (8 inch for Overland and SxS; 10 inch for Overland XL) are available.
- Waterproof and dustproof to IP67
- Extensive turn-by-turn trail navigation technology based on OpenStreetMap and motor vehicle maps from the US Forest Service.
- Global satellite communication, two-way texting, location sharing, and interactive SOS are all available onboard inReach technology.
- Tread devices combined with the Tread mobile app provide possibilities for friend tracking and group rides.
- 3D maps, iOverlander, and Ultimate Public Campgrounds provide campground location services.
- Birdseye Satellite Imagery of Public and Private Landowners in the United States (subscription required)
- Customized roadway routing that takes the vehicle’s actual dimensions into account
- Some Garmin products, such as Garmin’s Group Ride Radio, PowerSwitch digital switch box, and particular GPS dog trackers, are compatible and syncable.
The Tread SxS (Side-by-Side) Edition includes a two-way radio and Garmin’s most rugged military-grade build, which the company claims will withstand even the most demanding trips.
For the casual adventurer, the Garmin Overlander GPS system is a hard pill to swallow at $700. But it’s a technology that people whose rig and setup cost as much as a Land Rover need—and for good reason.
The Garmin Overlander (like the others on our list) is tablet-sized, rather than the traditional walkie-talkie-sized handheld hiking GPS. This Garmin is approximately 8″x5″ in size, with a thickness of just under 1″. It’s clear from the tan and black exterior that this device is built to take abuse. It has a dust-proof grade of IP5X and a MIL-STD-810 drop rating. But it’s Overlander’s feature set that makes it so appealing.
Offline maps and guides are where standalone GPS systems outnumber cell phone-based apps, as we’ve seen. Not only does the Overlander come with topographical and street-view maps of North America (and South America), but it also has the whole offline database of iOverlander and Ultimate Public Campgrounds, which is invaluable when you’re on the trail.
In addition to popular features like an inclinometer, barometric altimeter, and GPS-based speedometer, the Garmin Overlander has superb planning software, which many users consider to be the device’s best feature. It also uses satellite positioning from Galileo and GLONASS in addition to ordinary GPS. That means you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly where you are and where you want to go, right down to the last coordinate decimal.
While the Overlander has a rechargeable battery, it is designed for in-car use exclusively, lasting only 3 hours. Hikers may want to consider a more portable handheld GPS. However, if you’re interested in Overlanding, you won’t find a better device than this Garmin.
Trail Tech Voyager Pro
The Voyager Pro is a popular choice among powersports enthusiasts, but it’s also a popular choice among campers and overlanders. This GPS unit has a glare-resistant 4″ touchscreen and an IP67 rating to keep dust and moisture out. It comes with North American maps pre-installed, but additional regions can be downloaded for free. Base maps, topography lines, hill shading, and popular paths are all available on the map screen. The MicroSD card slot enables for the addition of new trails and riding regions, as well as the loading of music for playing on the move. Furthermore, Bluetooth is available for intercoms, phone pairing, and media control.
If you’re with a group of Voyager Pro users, the Buddy Tracking feature is quite useful. It displays where everyone in your group is in real-time, which is especially useful if you have one person who always seems to be ahead of or behind the pack. You can even summon them to your location without a cell phone signal.
The Voyager Pro is smaller than the other Overlanding GPS systems on this list, measuring 5.6″ x 3.5″. That compactness, on the other hand, gives it a little more adaptability, since it fits well on dirt bike dashboards, as well as UTVs. You should expect to spend around $600 on this unit.
The Magellan TRX7‘s standout feature is the 160,000+ trails packed into a tiny 5″x9″ unit, making it a favorite choice among the Powersports community. Magellan is known for its excellent post-purchase customer service, and the TRX7, like nearly other Magellan devices, comes with free lifetime map and software updates. It’s refreshing to see Magellan continue to provide free maps in an age when companies are constantly trying to persuade customers to upgrade to the latest and greatest.
Magellan also uses the TRX Trailhead crowdsourced database, which is a dedicated community of off-roaders and adventurers who share new trails, locations, difficulty ratings, and other information with other users. This knowledge will come in handy during the planning stages of your trip.
Cameras are also available for the TRX7. So, whether you’re wanting to capture video or share it on social media (and who isn’t these days? ), you’ve come to the right place. If the prices are a little steep for your budget, seek out the Magellan TR7. It is the cheapest on our list at $349.99.