GPS solutions

What do you use offroad to keep track of where you are going, where you’ve been?

This is always an interesting subject and to be honest there are no wrong answers.  It’s really about what works best for you.  What makes sense to you.  Also what helps you get to your destination.

I have tried a few different products to include (in not any particular order):

  • old fashion paper maps
  • gaia gps
  • vvmapping on Garmin
  • vvmapping on Android
  • onx offroad

Now I’m not going to beat up any of these but figured I’d share with you my experience because thats what we do.

SOFTWARE

My favorite pick after years and years of using it is Gaia GPS and its mostly because it has so many Pro’s versus the Con’s.  I’ve used GAIA for the trail riding I’ve done and its worked pretty good.  Is it perfect? No but I am running it on my iPhone (which you can also run it on any Android or iOS device with GPS) and so I don’t need to have multiple charge ports (1 for a GPS unit, 1 for my phone)..  just keep it charged and hundreds of possible mounts for a phone versus a certain GPS unit.

 

Pro’s
  • compatible on Android and Apple products
  • its very easy to import and export trails that you have run
  • online trail planning that you can download to your device or share with your group
  • so many map overlays (I believe it crushes all competition on map overlays)
Con’s
  • steep learning curve and its mainly due to how advanced the product is

The company is most popular for the onX Hunt app which was known for how awesome at showing you if you are on private land and who’s land versus state land.

In 2019 the company expanded their lineup to include onX Offroad and is really pushing strong with the product.

onX Offroad app not only highlights more than 400,000 miles of rugged motorized trails all over the country, but it also opens up a world of trip-planning utilities like government info for public lands, noteworthy sites and points of interest (gas stations, campgrounds, etc.), difficulty ratings, vehicle restrictions, area history, and more.

While onX has a growing network of trails, the majority of its content resides in the American West. And that makes sense, as the bulk of off-road trails live on public land — 75% of which sits in the western U.S. But onX also has trails on the East Coast in areas like private off-road parks.

onX offers its Offroad app free for a 7-day trial. I recommend trying it out and spending some time tapping, reading, and creating some sample expeditions of your own.

This app has so much potential and I’m not counting it out yet and may try it again in the future.

Pro’s
  • compatible on Android and Apple products
  • Recording and Sharing Location with others.
  • online trail planning that you can download to your device or share with your group
Con’s
  • steep learning curve and its mainly due to how advanced the product is
  • Expensive

The community seems to all rave about vvmapping that requires you have a Garmin unit if you want turn by turn instructions on the trails which could come in handy.

A GPS unit will be a Garmin and it has to be able to be portable (in case you break down, you could use the GPS unit to find your way to civilization and hopefully mark your spot that your down and broke so you can find your way back).

vvmapping only supports the following GPS models at the top of this blog post

  • Dakota, Colorado, Montana, Monterra & Oregon (all model numbers for these)
  • DEZL (all model numbers for these)
  • DRIVE (including DriveSmart, DriveAssist, DriveLuxe, DriveTrack) (all model numbers for these)
  • eTrex: 20, 30, Legend C/CX/HCX, Vista C/CX/HCX, Venture HC; Touch; (must be color unit)
  • GPSMap 60, 62, 64, 66, 76, 78, 620, 640 (all in each model series, must be color unit)
  • GPSMap 276C, 376C, 378, 478 (these take special Garmin data cards, not the card we provide)
  • GPSMap 276CX
  • Nuvi & Nuvi Track (all model numbers for these)
  • Overlander
  • Rino 530 HCX and 6xx/7xx
  • RV (all model numbers for these)
  • Zumo (all model numbers for these)

From my understanding the Garmin Nuvi models are not waterproof, so something to consider.  I’ve been leaning on a Garmin Montana but not sure yet.

Pro’s
  • very very detailed maps for whatever you ride on the trails
  • tells you what streets you can drive on
  • very easy to use for any level of user
  • support is excellent
Con’s
  • Only compatible with select Android and select GPS units
  • Only available for certain states
  • Not so easy to install (but great doco)
  • No Online planning available

HARDWARE

Not all Android Tablets are created equally.  Make sure you get an Android Tablet that has a strong GPS that doesn’t rely on WiFi.  From the little bit I looked into this it appears most everyone is using the Samsung Tab A successfully.  Check out this article that discusses using a Samsung Tab A for some overlanding

Pro’s
  • Not restricted to one GPS software
  • You can use for more than a GPS
Con’s
  • Not Waterproof (issue when on trail)
  • GPS isn’t as strong as dedicated GPS units
  • Can be difficult to keep up with all the Android updates and each update may break GPS software.

Apple (iPhone / iPad)

When someone talks about quality vs quantity Apple is referenced as the quality side which is why they are so dang expensive but you can tell that every product they create doesn’t creek when using it like other manufactures that are cheaper.

Now would you want to use your Apple iPhone or iPad as a GPS for your offroad adventures?  There are some Pro’s and Con’s but everything has Pro’s and Con’s.

If you have an IPAD with a Cell service option, (even without it activated) the GPS will work great, i use several different GPS apps. If you don’t have a Cellular iPad, you can always use a Bedelf BT GPS adapter but not sure I would continue down this path if you have to use adapters..  it adds more risk for failure.

Now your iPhone already has cell service and therefore has GPS.. and very good GPS at that.

There are some pretty inexpensive GPS apps built for offroading and the apps that aren’t free you can typically get a free trial to just try it to see if its worth the investment.

Pro’s
  • Used heavily and proven reliable
  • GPS is strong doesn’t require WiFi or Cellular
Con’s
  • Some software like VVMapping are not compatible
  • GPS not as strong as dedicated GPS units.

Garmin

Garmin has been a leader in the GPS world for years and is still the go to for the military and overlanding community.

Not all dedicated GPS devices are created equally.  Some are waterproof and some aren’t and that’s something to consider if you are going offroad.

Accuracy of a Garmin GPS is going to far exceed that of an Android or Apple product.  It’s the whole purpose of its existence is to provide detailed location of where you are.

Now having a Garmin or any dedicated GPS device is you can’t install anything you want.  Its a pretty locked down Operating System.  There is an exception which is VVMapping Software which is highly recommended for anyone in the regions it covers.  Just make sure your GPS unit is covered.

If accuracy, reliability is very important to you then I would recommend a Garmin GPS unit.

Pro’s
  • Leader in GPS for military, hunting, hiking and overlanding.
  • Supports VVMapping via SDCard
  • online trail planning that you can download to your device or share with your group
  • Waterproof Case with many models
Con’s
  • Strictly a GPS (unable to install any other apps like onX Offroad, GAIA)

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