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A GPS is often one of the overland modifications that get overlooked. You know, in most cases, when people ask for mods, it is something along the lines of what suspension do you have? What wheels and tires?
What about the common stuff? No one seems to ask about the best GPS for overlanding devices, and that got us thinking.
From a logical point of view, the GPS may perhaps be the most important device in an overland vehicle. Let’s face it – many people do not know how to read an old-school map anymore!
Therefore, if the GPS goes wrong or if you do not have one at all, you might have trouble finding your way on a trail or out of it.
Because of that, we decided to put together a list of our top systems to help you decide which is the best GPS for overlanding.
Table of Contents
- Why Does a Normal GPS Device Not Work for Overlanding?
- Off-Road Navigation
- Garmin Overlander
- Tablet/Phone + GAIA GPS
- Tablet/Phone + OnX Off-Road
- Garmin Montana 700i
- Garmin GPSMAP
- Garmin InReach Explorer
- Magellan TRX7 CS Off-Road and Trail GPS
- Paper Maps
- The Best GPS for Overland Travel
- Other Recommended Overlanding Gear
Why Does a Normal GPS Device Not Work for Overlanding?
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GPS devices are in pretty much everyone’s pockets nowadays. Your phone has one, your car has one, and sometimes even your watch has one.
Since they are so readily available, why would someone go out and spend a bunch of money on another one that suggests it is dedicated to overland travel?
Well, there are many reasons for this.
The first reason is that normal GPS devices cannot provide any valuable information as to where you are located when you leave the normal road and enter the trails. In most cases, all you will see is an arrow and a huge green field.
Also, a normal GPS does not provide the ability to download maps and save them for offline use. Therefore, as soon as you lose signal, you also lose your maps.
An off-road GPS, in many cases, will also give you the chance to log in and plot a route from home. This is a great feature as you can be sure that your trip will take you through some stunning places, and you won’t be trying to figure out where to go while you are out there.
Off-road GPS devices also include other features such as a compass and even satellite communication in the case of an emergency in areas where there is no signal. Therefore, you do not just get navigation, but you also get a sense of safety.
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Before we continue to the best GPS for overlanding list, we should also have a look at what an off-road GPS interface looks like.
It is a common misconception that an off-road GPS will give you voice commands just like a normal GPS does when driving on the road – that is not true. Some of the best GPS for overlanding devices may give commands on-road, but the majority will not do the same when you are off-road.
This is mainly because trails are not registered roads, and the GPS does not have accurate enough information on the track to be able to provide such detailed navigation.
Therefore, it is up to you to keep having a look at the screen and make sure you are following the line of the trail.
Since in most cases traveling off-road involves slower speeds, this is not as much of an issue. At such slow speeds, you have time to think and make sure you are on the correct route.
Garmin has been in the overland GPS game for decades, and there is no surprise that it makes most of the choices for the best GPS for overlanding.
The Garmin Overlander is one of the most widely used overlanding GPS systems in the market and has some amazing features such as 3D maps, downloadable maps, and offline maps.
Additionally, you get route shaping, specialized routing for the size and weight of your vehicle, ioverlander points of interest, some very cool pitch and roll gauges, and many more!
The Garmin Overlander is a slightly more expensive option, but there is no denying that it is a strong contender on our best GPS for overlanding list.
Tablet/Phone + GAIA GPS
GAIA GPS is not a device but an application that can be downloaded to your existing tablet or even your phone.
This application can do the job most of the bigger and far more expensive devices can for less than a tenth of the price.
GAIA GPS offers offline maps adjustable layers that can be changed to topometric, satellite, elevation, voice navigation even when off-road, route plotting, route tracking, campsites, and many more.
I have been using this application for a year and have never had any issues with it. The ability to plot routes beforehand is great as you can create an interesting system of trails from the comfort of your home and then head out and drive them.
For $40, there is no denying it deserves a high spot in the best GPS for overlanding list.
Tablet/Phone + OnX Off-Road
OnX Off-Road is once again an application and not a device. Therefore, we once again have the advantage of low pricing since the only thing you need to buy is the application.
Just like GAIA GPS, you have access to thousands of 4×4 trails, you can save maps for offline use, track save and share trips, have public and private land info on tap, customize maps with markups, and even sync the application with CarPlay or Android Auto.
OnX Off-Road will cost you $30 or $100 depending on which subscription you opt for. The premium, which is $30, offers trails, unlimited saved maps, photo waypoints, 3D Maps, and more.
The Elite membership for $100 adds property boundaries, landowner names, and lot info.
The choice between GAIA and OnX is a tough one and may come down to personal preferences rather than which one of the two is the best. However, there is no denying that Onx Off-Road deserves a spot on the best GPS for overlanding list.
Garmin Montana 700i
The Garmin Montana 700i isn’t a GPS solely made for overlanding, but it is a device that is aimed towards the outdoor enthusiast.
The smaller screen makes it a bit harder to use as an overland GPS, but when combined with its robust build, it makes the perfect device to take with you on long hikes or mountain biking trips.
The Montana 700i also features inReach and an SOS button that can help rescue services know you are in trouble, therefore enabling them to come in for help.
The Montana 700i will set you back around $700, which is a high price tag. However, when you consider the durability and safety features it provides, the price and spot on the best GPS for overlanding list can be justified.
The Garmin GPSMAP is an even smaller device than the Garmin Montana 700i, but it does deserve a spot on the best GPS for overlanding list.
In my opinion, this Garmin GPS off road device is best used in conjunction with a device that has an application such as GAIA GPS installed on it.
The device with GAIA GPS will do most of the routing when driving, and this will come in handy when hiking or exploring areas around camp on foot.
Once again, it is a rugged and portable device with great battery life and map compatibility that can be invaluable both as a backup in case another device fails or as the main navigation device when on foot.
If your idea for the best GPS for overlanding involves something small and portable, the Garmin GPSMAP is the way to go.
Garmin InReach Explorer
Once again, InReach Explorer from Garmin can be considered one of the best GPS for overlanding because it combines GPS capacities with navigation, satellite messaging, and emergency SOS abilities that work even if you’re out of range of cell towers.
In the case of needing help, the inReach Explorer will update its location every minute during the first 10 minutes, and every 10 minutes if you are moving or 30 minutes if you remain stationary.
If a rescue is no longer needed, you can cancel it.
Even more impressive about this Garmin GPS off road device is the ability to communicate with the rescue personnel. For example, if you have had an accident on a hiking trail, they can come prepared because you can describe the situation.
When it comes to GPS, it may not be the best device for in-car usage due to its small screen. However, if you once again pair it with something like GAIA GPS on another device, the safety and peace of mind it provides are priceless.
The inReach Explorer is one of the best GPS for overlanding due to its safety abilities and GPS abilities.
Magellan TRX7 CS Off-Road and Trail GPS
This GPS device is designed in the US, but the mother company is based in Taiwan. The TRX7 is a rugged off-road GPS device that guides you off the beaten path.
With it, you will get many preloaded routes that are crowdsourced from other users.
Keep in mind that there are five different versions of this device; therefore, you must make sure to check which one you are buying and what it includes.
This device is only for sale in the US and does not have on-road navigation; therefore, it is placed further down the list of our best GPS for overlanding list.
Now, I know this may be a bit old school, and I am not suggesting you head out with just a paper map as a navigation device.
However, I am suggesting that you always keep some paper maps inside your truck. Furthermore, if you are serious about overlanding and getting into remote areas, take the time to learn how to read them.
The reason I am suggesting you do this is that you never know when a device might fail.
By being educated on how to read maps and having them with you finding your way back home will be easier if a GPS fails
Therefore, view this as an extra layer of safety and a learning exercise. Plus, it’s one of the cheapest off-road navigation devices you could possibly ask for!
The Best GPS for Overland Travel
For someone who is just getting into overlanding, we would suggest getting a subscription to GAIA GPS and using your phone for the first few months. This is to help you avoid spending a bunch of money on a device you may end up not using.
It must also be stressed that GAIA GPS is so good it can even be used by experienced overlanders as a replacement for an actual GPS.
Now, if we were to choose a dedicated device to do the job of being the best GPS for overlanding, in our opinion, it is the Garmin Overlander.
It provides great quality mapping due to a good screen, it has a durable design, and it is perhaps the most widely used device out there.
If you have any further questions regarding the best GPS for overlanding, post them in the forum section of our page.
Other Recommended Overlanding Gear
- First Aid Kit
- Camp Grill
- GMRS Radio
- Camp Chair
- Camping Lantern
- Waterproof Tarp
- Camping Table
- Small Axe
- Solar Shower
- Camping Cookset