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Buyers Guide & Information

Best Off Road GPS Devices

We have compared the best off road gps devices for all types of navigation.

by

Buyers Guide & Information

Best Off Road GPS Devices

We have compared the best off road gps devices for all types of navigation.

by PITeam

by PITeam

Using an in-vehicle GPS system or pulling up Google Maps on a smartphone is something that we have all come to rely on. Modern devices that utilize GPS help people to navigate the world and remain safe while doing it. This is especially true when it comes to off-road GPS devices.

The best off-road GPS devices were designed to pinpoint a user’s location, even in areas with no wireless signal. This is the main difference between a basic smartphone GPS and one that is meant for off-roading. This feature is essential because let's face it; most off-roading adventures suggest that no signal will be present.

Choosing the right GPS device for hiking, biking, trekking, fishing, camping, kayaking - whichever off-road activity you’re into - is no easy feat. If you’re in the market for a high-quality GPS device to help with off-road navigation, reading this review can help. Here you can learn about the best off-road GPS devices for all types of navigation, including both mounted units and iPhone/Android GPS apps.

Image

Product

Screen Size

Battery Type & Life

Check Price

Garmin GPSMAP 64st, TOPO U.S. 100K with...

Garmin GPSMAP 64st

2.6”

Dual (2AA or NiMH Rechargeable), 16 Hrs

Garmin Edge 520 Plus, GPS Cycling/Bike Computer...

Garmin Edge 520 Plus

2.3”

Lithium-Ion Rechargeable, 15 Hrs

Wahoo ELEMNT GPS Bike Computer

Wahoo ELEMNT GPS

2.7”

USB Rechargeable, 17 Hrs

Garmin Edge 1030 GPS Cycling Computer with...

Garmin Edge 1030

3.5”

Lithium-Ion Rechargeable, 20 Hrs

Garmin eTrex 30x, Handheld GPS Navigator with...

Garmin eTrex 30x

2.2”

Dual (2AA or NiMH Rechargeable), 25 Hrs

Garmin Oregon 650t 3-Inch Handheld GPS with 8MP...

Garmin Oregon 650t

3”

Dual (2AA or NiMH Rechargeable), 16 Hrs

Garmin eTrex 20x, Handheld GPS Navigator, Enhanced...

Garmin eTrex 20x

2.2”

Dual (2AA or NiMH Rechargeable), 25 Hrs

Garmin Montana 680t

Garmin Montana 680t

4”

Dual (2AA or Lithium-Ion Rechargeable), 22 Hrs

Magellan TRX7 CS Dual Mount Trail and Street GPS...

Magellan TRX7 CS

7”

Lithium-Ion Rechargeable, 8 Hrs

How Off-Road GPS Systems Work

All devices that use GPS are able to provide location and navigation info by connecting to a network of satellites orbiting Earth. Unlike traditional GPS, off-road systems are specifically designed to help with route tracking and location updates, even when no satellite signal is present. Off-road GPS users don't have to worry about dense forests, peaking mountains, or cloudy skies from getting in the way of navigation.

These systems are able to work without a signal because they come preloaded with hundreds of thousands of maps. This allows an off-road adventurer to plan a route ahead of time, and then stick to it no matter what happens along the way. Since off-road navigation is the name of the game, these GPS devices are made to be durable with water and impact resistance features.


Types of Off-Road GPS

Not all off-roading activities are the same. Just consider the differences between hiking, biking, and fishing. A handheld GPS might work well for a hiker, but it's definitely not suitable for a mountain biker. This is why it is crucial to consider the different types of off-road GPS devices before purchasing one.

  • For Driving Vehicles
    The majority of drivers have used an in-vehicle GPS device before. Just like a traditional car GPS, off-road driving GPS systems are designed to fit within a vehicle’s console. They have bright screens, clear navigation instructions, and come equipped with maps of off-road tracks and trails. They also feature on-road maps as well, so you can start using the system as soon as you leave the driveway.
  • For Riding Bikes
    An off-road biking enthusiast should stray away from a handheld device. Both hands need to be securely grasping a bike’s handlebar’s, not attempting to navigate. Anyone planning on mountain biking or cycling off-road should look for a clip-on device that can attach to a bike’s handlebars or a wristwatch device. Look for a GPS system that tracks more than just location, but also monitors heart rate and overall performance.
  • Handheld GPS Systems
    Also called portable GPS systems, handheld systems for off-roading have seen a considerable boost in popularity. A handheld device serves as a digital map and can display everything from altitude and location to topographical features. This is the perfect navigation solution for fishing, camping, and hiking in remote areas. It's not just helpful to have a handheld GPS system while navigating, but it can also save your life.
  • Smartphone GPS
    As it turns out, purchasing a separate device for navigating an off-road adventure isn’t always necessary. The other option is to download an app onto your smartphone. There are a few highly-rated off-roading GPS apps available today, but some are much more reliable and easier to use than others. This isn’t the ideal option, though, since a smartphone does not offer the same durability as a separate off-road GPS unit.

Choosing a High-Quality Off-Road GPS

Passive vs Real-Time Tracking

Trackimo says that the difference between passive and active GPS has to do with time. "If you purchase a passive GPS tracker, also known as a data logger, you do not get real-time updates unlike an active tracker. Data loggers store their information through an internal memory, memory card, or a USB stick.”

Fitness and outdoor enthusiasts often opt for passive GPS trackers. This type of device is perfect for logging activity data, tracking distance covered, and monitoring overall performance. Since active trackers are able to deliver real-time data updates, they are the more ideal choice for driving off-road vehicles.

Detailed/Accurate Mapping

Of course, accuracy needs to be a concern when choosing any type of GPS device. Ideally, the GPS will show a user exact mapping details of the area. Look for a system that shows landmarks and points of interest, like campsites, parks, and gas stations. You'll also want your GPS to display information on unsealed roads and popular 4WD trails.

Just remember that the main objective of an off-road GPS device is to provide the user with highly accurate maps of the surrounding terrain. Even if you wish to visit the most remote areas of the world, your GPS should be able to notify you of any upcoming obstacles, like rocky terrain, cliffs, and swamplands.

Battery Length & Charging

Part of the beauty that comes along with off-roading is the disconnect from the rest of the world. However, this also means that you might not have access to a power source for charging your GPS. Consider the battery type that is best for you, like AA batteries or a rechargeable lithium-ion.

If you choose a device that uses AA batteries, be sure to bring an extra battery supply. The more reliable option is to find a device that uses a lithium-ion, but you’ll want to find one that features a long battery life. Keep in mind that devices that come equipped with lithium-ion batteries are often more expensive, but there’s a reason for this.

Durability

No matter your off-roading activity of choice, you’ll want to find a device that can keep up with every aspect of the adventure. Consider your personal activity preferences, specifically if they involve water or not. For fishing, kayaking, rafting, and any other water sport, you’ll want something that is either waterproof or highly resistant to water.

Even if you don’t plan to engage in any on-water off-roading, it’s a good idea to choose a water-resistant device - you never know when rainy weather will hit while off-road. In addition to water resistance, look for a device that is resistant to shock. This will help to alleviate the bumps and dips that are common in offroad trails and tracks. You never know when a device will

Alerts & Notifications

Are you looking for a device to guide you with step-by-step navigations instructions? Or is this device merely meant to give you peace of mind and enhance safety? If your preference is the former, look for a GPS system that offers a thorough alert and notification system.

If you choose to use an off-road GPS app on a smartphone rather than a standalone device, be sure to set your notifications for the app to "On." If you forget to do this, then you might not receive the notifications necessary to navigate an off-road area effectively.

Mounting Options

The mounting style of the device you choose depends on how you intend to use this GPS system. Is it for in-vehicle use for those fun off-road driving adventures, or is cycling more your style? There is no right or wrong mounting style, you just need to consider which one will make your life off-the-road easier.

For drivers, a device that mounts on the window or dash is a great choice. The other option is to install a GPS within the vehicle’s console, but this means that you won’t be able to use the device elsewhere. Cyclists should look for the proper bike connections, and anyone else should weigh the pros and cons of a handheld vs wristwatch device.

Connectivity & Versatility

Having a wireless connection isn’t entirely necessary, but it will make the entire off-roading experience more enjoyable. The best off-road GPS devices feature a variety of connectivity options. Look for a device that features WiFi, Bluetooth, and ANT capabilities. Many adventurers love that they can quickly share and transfer relevant information (like POIs and routes) with buddies who have compatible devices.

The other thing to consider is a device’s connectivity to a mobile device. Even if you don’t plan on using your phone during your excursion, you’ll want to find a GPS device that easily connects to your phone. There are tons of apps out there that help to enhance the already cool features of a GPS device. For example, you’ll be able to share your adventures with loved ones by connecting your phone and GPS.

Extra Features

The main purpose of using an off-road GPS is to keep a user safe while he or she explores off-road locations. But investing in this type of device is more than just a safety precaution, it should also be fun to use. Look for extra features like rider-to-rider messaging for cycling GPS devices or instant weather updates. These things will make the entire off-roading experience more enjoyable.

Price & Warranty

The price of an off-road GPS system depends on the type of device as well as the added features. Generally speaking, a small handheld tracker will be cheaper than a large in-dash unit for vehicle navigation. Price is also dependent on whether the device comes with wireless connectivity, instant updates, and cool gadgets like a compass or altimeter. 

No matter the type of device you choose and the extra features that come along with it, try to find one that comes with a warranty included. Warranties for the best off-road GPS systems vary, but many manufacturers offer at least 1 year of coverage. Even refurbished/renewed GPS systems come with a warranty, typically for 90 days.


9 Best Off-Road GPS Systems Reviewed

1. Garmin GPSMAP 64st

Best For Hiking

Screen Size

2.6”

Display Resolution

160 x 240 Pixels

Battery Type & Life

Dual (2AA or NiMH Rechargeable), 16 Hrs

Connectivity

Bluetooth, ANT+

Storage Capacity

8GB

Warranty

1 Year

One of our top picks for best off-road GPS devices is the Garmin GPSMAP 64. Any off-road adventurers can use the 64st, but it is especially useful for hikers and trekkers. This handheld device looks like an old-school cell phone, similar to the Nokia design. The screen is sunlight readable and provides a user with colored maps of the area.

Long battery life in a GPS device is a must for avid hikers. The 64st features an impressive 16-hour lifespan per charge. Users love the dual battery system since it offers the option for 2 traditional AA batteries or the rechargeable NiMH battery pack. The perk of using the NiMH is that it can be conveniently charged while protected inside the device.

The device is preloaded with over 100,000 maps of the US. Every purchase comes with a 1-year BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription. You’ll have all the tools that are necessary for finding your way around rough terrain. This includes a 3-axis electronic compass with barometric altimeter and wireless connectivity via Bluetooth or ANT+.

On top of sharing information wirelessly with other compatible devices, the 64st features a Smart Notification system. If you have an iOS device that is later than the iPhone 4s, you'll be able to stay connected with email and text alerts sent directly to your mobile device. There have been complaints about the durability of this GPS, and the small size of the screen can be challenging to read.

Pros

  • 100K+ maps and counting
  • Shares information wirelessly
  • Handy compass and altimeter
  • Instant iPhone alerts

Cons

  • Not rugged enough
  • Small screen size

2. Garmin Edge 520 Plus

Best For Biking

Screen Size

2.3”

Display Resolution

200 x 265 Pixels

Battery Type & Life

Lithium-Ion Rechargeable, 15 Hrs

Connectivity

Bluetooth, ANT+

Storage Capacity

Up to 200 Hrs

Warranty

1 Year

If your off-road adventure of choice is biking, you’ll want to check out the Garmin Edge 520 Plus. This advanced bike GPS is the perfect bike computer for competing and navigating. It features advanced navigation tools like preloaded maps specific to cycling and turn-by-turn direction while on and off the road. Cyclists love that the device is smart enough to guide them back to the route when they get off course.

The Edge 520 Plus comes with preloaded Strava Live Segments. These allow a rider to compete second-by-second with his or her own previous cycling stats. You’ll be able to see real-time progress results, right on your screen. Not only does it monitor overall performance, but the device can also keep tabs on heart rate. You’ll need to purchase the Garmin heart rate strap separately for this.

With the Edge 520 Plus, you’ll be able to stay connected with your mobile device. With the GroupTrack app, there’s never a need to reach for the phone or pull over to read a message. As long as you have a Garmin compatible smartphone, you’ll be able to use the rider-to-rider messaging feature. You can send prewritten notes to your fellow riding buddies that are also paired with the GroupTrack app.

All in all, this is the #1 choice for off-roading cyclists. Even if you plan to stick to on-road locations, the Garmin Edge 520 Plus is an amazing tool.  Most users have only good things to say about the device, but some have complained about the difficulty they’ve experienced with connecting to an iPhone. But as long as you have an iPhone 7 or later, you should be just fine.

Pros

  • Garmin Cycle Map included
  • Messages from rider to rider
  • Advanced performance monitoring
  • Customizable features

Cons

  • iPhone connectivity issues
  • Hard-to-press buttons

3. Wahoo ELEMNT GPS

Best For Cyclists

Screen Size

2.7”

Display Resolution

N/A

Battery Type & Life

USB Rechargeable, 17 Hrs

Connectivity

Bluetooth, WiFI, ANT+

Storage Capacity

8GB

Warranty

1 Year

The Wahoo ELEMNT GPS is another top choice for cyclists and mountain bikers. Wahoo reviewers have only good things to say about the product. Most of these positive comments have to do with the device’s connectivity option. It comes equipped with Bluetooth and ANT+dual-band technology, allowing it to pair seamlessly with all cycling sensors. It’s 100% wireless.

This is one of the most integrated GPS bike computers on the market, and the ELEMNT app is partly to thank for this. This companion smartphone application comes free with every device purchase. It allows a user to set up data fields, customize profiles, track performance, and effortlessly share ride data with other riders.

The turn-by-turn navigation gives riders ease while navigating an unknown area. The device comes preloaded with global maps of North America, Asia, Oceania, and South America. It’s possible to download additional maps of other areas of the world over WiFi. Routes will be automatically updated among all compatible accounts, including Strava, SingleTracks, Ride With GPS, and more.

It’s difficult to say which biking device is better when comparing the Wahoo ELEMNT and the Garmin Edge 520. We can, however, tell you that the Wahoo device offers simplicity in every aspect. It’s simple to set up, simple to navigate, and simple to stay connected. The other perk is the extra-long battery life of 17 hours. If a simple riding experience with high connectivity is what you’re looking for, the ELEMNT is a top choice.

Pros

  • Android and iOS compatible
  • Long-lasting battery
  • Fully customizable screen
  • Various mounting option
  • Integrates with mountain bike trails

Cons

  • Lacks customer support

4. Garmin Edge 1030

Good For Biking

Screen Size

3.5”

Display Resolution

282 x 470 Pixels

Battery Type & Life

Lithium-Ion Rechargeable, 20 Hrs

Connectivity

Bluetooth, ANT+

Storage Capacity

16GB

Warranty

1 Year

The last on our list of best off-road GPS devices for biking is the Garmin Edge 1030. Similar to the Edge 520, this device is an ideal solution for mountain bikers and cyclists hoping to keep track of performance. It allows bikers to ride longer and stronger while also staying connected with the rest of the world. The coolest feature of this device is the Trendline popularity rating. This technology uses billions of miles of logged rider data to display the best routes, both on and off-road.

The preloaded Garmin Cycle Map offers turn-by-turn directions and alerts for any upcoming hazards that a rider should be aware of. A rider using the Edge 1030 will receive up-to-date information about points of interest, helpful landmarks, and elevation data. In order for the device to generate a route, all you have to do is tell Edge where you’d like to go and how long you’d like to ride. The device will then offer up to 3 unique routes to choose from.

If you prefer to ride with a group, you’ll love the device’s communication features that allow for rider-to-rider messaging. This not only makes riding in a group more fun but also much safer. What sets this device apart from the other biking off-road GPS systems is its ability to hold a continuous charge. The Edge 1030 comes with a Wearable4U USB power bank so that a rider can keep the device charged at all times.

Pros

  • Trendline routing technology
  • Advanced navigation instructions
  • Rider-to-rider communication
  • In-line flush mounting

Cons

  • High cost
  • Too large for some riders

5. Garmin eTrex 30x

Best For Trekking

Screen Size

2.2”

Display Resolution

240 x 320 Pixels

Battery Type & Life

Dual (2AA or NiMH Rechargeable), 25 Hrs

Connectivity

ANT+

Storage Capacity

3.7GB

Warranty

1 Year

Every trekking enthusiast needs a device that’s easy to use, highly durable, and features a long battery life. You’ll get all this and more with the Garmin eTrex 30x off-road GPS device. The enhanced screen is easy to read, even in direct sunlight, and the device itself was built for navigating rugged terrain. The 30x was upgraded from the original eTrex 30 model, and Garmin customers are loving the new improvements.

The large 3.7GB internal memory means that you’ll be able to save and store all of your trekking and hiking routes. While on the road - or should we say off the road - you’ll be able to share your waypoints, tracks, and routes with other compatible devices. The built-in device sensors enhance safety with a 3-axis tilt compass and a barometric altimeter.

If you want to use this device for activities other than hiking and trekking, by all means, go ahead. The 30x is compatible with a variety of mounting systems, so it can be used for biking, hiking, boating, or driving. Some users have even claimed to use this while off-roading in ATVs. No matter how you use the device, you’ll love that it comes with extra satellite coverage. This is possible since the eTrex can track both GPS and GLONASS satellites.

There are just a few criticisms that come along with the eTrex 30x. The first is that the screen can easily become scratched, especially while trekking in rugged areas. The easy solution is to invest in a screen protector. The other negativity is that users must purchase a separate microSD card, and the device is not compatible with all card types. It’s best to reach out to the Garmin Support Center to see which SD card is best.

Pros

  • Extra satellite coverage
  • Water and shock-resistant
  • Variety of mounting options
  • Sunlight-readable display
  • Suitable for global use

Cons

  • Needs compatible SD card
  • Needs better screen protection

6. Garmin Oregon 650t

Best For Camping

Screen Size

3”

Display Resolution

240 x 400 Pixels

Battery Type & Life

Dual (2AA or NiMH Rechargeable), 16 Hrs

Connectivity

Bluetooth, ANT+

Storage Capacity

8GB

Warranty

1 Year

There’s a lot of reasons to start using the Garmin Oregon 650t model, but it is mainly used for camping. This handheld device is the perfect camping tool, especially for campers who intend to move locations throughout the trip. It features a large 3-inch sunlight-readable screen and a touchscreen display with multi-touch capability.

The Oregon 650t is highly effective at tracking location and offering navigation instructions. This is because it utilizes dual-band GPS and GLONASS satellite positioning. No matter where you are off the road, you’ll be able to connect using the ANT and Bluetooth technology of the 650t. Users can wirelessly share routes, waypoints, tracks, custom maps, and photos with any compatible device.

Like most Garmin off-road GPS devices, this one comes with a dual battery system. This essentially allow s you to double your power while embarking on long outdoor adventures. If you’ve lost your bearings along the way, the 3-axis electronic compass can help to get you back on track. You’ll also be able to gauge precise altitude with the built-in barometric pressure reader.

According to one reviewer, the User Interface of this device can take a while to get used to. This isn’t true for everyone, but some have found the touchscreen to be glitchy and slow to respond. Overall, though, this is a solid device for camping, hiking, and trekking. Like all Garmin outdoor recreation products, this one was built to be reliable and durable.

Pros

  • Multi-touch capability
  • Dual battery performance
  • 100K+ preloaded maps
  • Easy wireless sharing
  • Takes quality photos

Cons

  • Lacks features of newer Oregon models

7. Garmin eTrex 20x

Good For Trekking

Screen Size

2.2”

Display Resolution

240 x 320 Pixels

Battery Type & Life

Dual (2AA or NiMH Rechargeable), 25 Hrs

Connectivity

ANT+

Storage Capacity

3.7GB

Warranty

1 Year

The affordable Garmin eTrex 20x is a useful tool for trekking, hiking, and camping. It can be used for a variety of off-road activities, but handheld usage means that is best for hiking and trekking. With the proper mounting system, this device is also suitable for boats, cars, ATVs, bicycles, hot air balloons… you name it. If you plan on using this for in-vehicle use, be sure to download the City Navigator On the Road Map by Garmin.

The highly-sensitive tracking device is able to pick up a signal on even the most remote treks and hikes. The 20x model is upgraded from the eTrex 20, with improvements made to the screen resolution and internal memory. This device is easy to use, durable, and one of the most affordable products on the list of reviewed off-road GPS devices.

For the low price, the navigation features of the 20x are impressive. Users can see the way with the sunlight-readable display that is both shock and water-resistant. The interface has been fully upgraded to withstand everything from dust and dirt to water and humidity. No matter the weather conditions, you'll be able to see the turn-by-turn directions provided by the 20x.

According to Garmin, here’s why the eTrex line of products is so accurate at delivering off-road location: “The eTrex series is the first-ever consumer-grade receivers that can track both GPS and GLONASS satellites simultaneously. When using GLONASS satellites, a system developed by the Russian Federation, the time it takes for the receiver to ‘lock on’ to a position is (on average) approximately 20 percent faster than using GPS.”

Pros

  • Highly-sensitive signal
  • High-resolution display
  • Legendary toughness
  • Auto-mount capability

Cons

  • No Bluetooth or WiFi

8. Garmin Montana 680t

Best For Geocaching

Screen Size

4”

Display Resolution

272 x 480 Pixels

Battery Type & Life

Dual (2AA or Lithium-Ion Rechargeable), 22 Hrs

Connectivity

ANT+

Storage Capacity

8GB

Warranty

1 Year

If you’re a fan of geocaching, you’ll love this next device. To give you a little bit of background on the practice of geocaching, here’s how Geocaching.com defines this fun outdoor activity: 

”Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.”

OK, so what does this have to do with the Garmin Montana 680t device? Well, this off-road tracking device has the largest database of preloaded geocaches in the world. When you purchase this device, you’ll gain immediate access to over 250,000 global geocache locations. If you’re not into geocaching, no problem. This device does so much more than just provide geocache locations.

Users can see their surroundings with a birdseye view of the area. The high-sensitivity device is capable of picking up GPS and GLONASS satellites from anywhere. Even if you’re navigating through dense forests or deep canyons, the device will be able to deliver your location quickly, and more importantly, accurately. If you lose your bearings, the 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter will come in handy.

The 680t comes with 100,000 preloaded maps, and adding more maps is easy. Sharing information wirelessly is also simple; all you have to do is press “send” to transfer your information to similar devices. Similar to the other Garmin devices on this list of best off-road GPS devices reviewed, the 680t comes with a dual battery source. The downside is the lofty price tag, and some reviewers claim that the 680t isn’t worth the high cost.

Pros

  • Mount anywhere
  • Take geotagged photos
  • 1-year of BirdsEye Satellite
  • Perfect for geocaching

Cons

  • High cost
  • No Bluetooth connectivity

9. Magellan TRX7 CS

Best For Driving

Screen Size

7”

Display Resolution

1024 x 600 Pixels

Battery Type & Life

Lithium-Ion Rechargeable, 8 Hrs

Connectivity

None

Storage Capacity

16GB

Warranty

1 Year

For off-road driving, whether it’s in a Jeep or ATV, the ultimate tool is the Magellan TRX7 CS GPS device. This GPS system provides turn-by-turn trail and street navigation with free lifetime maps and software updates. It comes preloaded with over 160,000 4WD, ATV, motorcycle, and snowmobile trails. You can drive straight from the crowded street to the hidden trail, all with the help of the TRX7 CS. Even Garmin only offers 100,000 with its most popular products.

The most-loved feature of this device is the thorough information that is provided for each track and trail. 

“You can review trails and their attributes before you head out to the trail, then save to a list of favorites for future rides,” says Magellan.

“View satellite map imagery when you search for trails on www.TRXTrailhead.com and read all of the observations and rankings to get the latest trail information so that your off-road adventures are safer and more enjoyable."


Even first-time users have no trouble figuring out how to navigate the easy-to-use device interface. All you have to do to start navigating is to choose a saved trail from your favorites or find a preloaded trail and click "Follow." Then, as you navigate your way through, the TRX7 CS will offer helpful intel on landmarks, routing, and topography.

The reason this is the best GPS device for off-road driving is that you can start tracking with one touch while behind the wheel. Along the way, you’ll be able to share your progress with loved ones by clicking the “Social Post” button. Another driving-friendly feature is the RAM dual mounting system. This allows users to quickly mount the device to a vehicle’s dash or windshield.

Pros

  • Large screen size
  • Satellite map view
  • Online community track database
  • 160K+ preloaded maps

Cons

  • Clunky device
  • Short battery life

Smartphone vs Dedicated Off-Road GPS

The major debate among off-roaders is whether a smartphone compares to a dedicated off-road GPS device. In the past, it was clear that a standalone device was the better choice. But this is all changing thanks to recent smartphone advancements.

Now a smartphone GPS is giving the dedicated GPS system a run for its money. However, many people still find a dedicated GPS device to be more accurate. The other potential downside to choosing a GPS app over a dedicated device is that smartphones are not often built with the same durability.


Portable Units vs In-Dash Units

If you’re torn between using a portable device and installing an in-dash unit for off-road vehicle navigation, just know that it’s all based on personal preference. Most off-roaders opt for a portable unit since it has certain advantages. The main perk is that a portable GPS can be used in more than one vehicle. Others like that an in-dash GPS system serves as an all-in-one device, even allowing for music control.


Off-Road GPS Phone Apps

Even though all off-road GPS phone apps serve the same purpose, they don’t all meet the same standards when it comes to off-road navigation. Here are a few top picks for off-road adventurers looking to download a reliable GPS app.

Phone App

Android

I-Phone

Best Feature

Yes

Yes

Public and private land boundaries

Yes

Yes

Syncs between all devices

Yes

Yes

Interprets topographical mapping lines

Yes

Yes

Keeps loved ones updated on your location

No

Yes

Thousands of POIs in every area


How to Use an Off-Road GPS

How you use your new off-road GPS depends entirely on the specific model. The steps for setup, operation, and downloading offline maps aren’t the same for every off-road GPS on the market. This means you’ll need to read the device User Manual or follow the instructions provided by the GPS app. For those of you with a Garmin device, this guide on downloading BaseCamp software will come in handy. 


Common Issues & Fixes

The most common problems with using a GPS have to do with improper installation or setup. Installation and setup issues can easily be prevented by carefully reading the manufacturer’s instructions as soon as the device is removed from its box. Another common issue for modern off-road GPS devices is that Bluetooth isn’t working properly. Fixing this is often as easy as making sure the Bluetooth device is connected.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is it worth it to buy renewed and refurbished GPS trackers?

Yes, if you’re looking for an off-road adventure while also sticking to a budget, buying a renewed or refurbished GPS tracker could be worth it. Just be sure that the product comes with a warranty and that the seller has a solid reputation among customers.

How do I update my off-road GPS?

Updating your off-road GPS depends on your specific device. Most updates happen simply by connecting the device to a laptop or computer and following the steps provided.

Do GPS systems come with lifetime updates? Do I have to pay for these updates?

Yes, most devices do come with lifetime updates, and no, users aren’t typically required to pay for updates to a device. For example, the Garmin company offers free lifetime updates to all Garmin customers. 

Do off-road navigation systems have cellular capabilities or WiFi?

This depends on the device you choose, but in most cases, they do. Many modern-day systems feature WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity.  

Can I use off-road GPS for street navigation and trail navigation?

Absolutely. These GPS systems were designed so that a user could go from the driveway at home to remote off-road trails with one easy-to-use device.


Conclusion

It’s difficult to give an official answer on which GPS device is the best for off-road navigation, mainly because there are so many unique off-roading activities. A device that is perfect for biking might not do the trick for hikers or kayakers. In general, though, you can't go wrong with the Garmin 64st. This device is small yet powerful with an easy-to-use interface and high-tech features. 

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