When you are out in the wild, you ideally want to have the best off roading GPS system. The worst-case scenario is getting lost/stuck in the jungle with no working navigation system and nightfall quickly approaching.
Maybe your vehicle has broken down, and there’s no network coverage in that area. It gets worse; your kids and family start panicking as the darkness takes over the sky and atmosphere. What do you do in this situation?
This is where Off-roading navigation systems come into play. They help you avoid such scenarios. They are all-encompassing devices that are fitted with many useful off-roading features. 3D mapping that shows you topographical elevation, 4WD trails, points of interest, and much more is standard with these devices.
You also get social features such as GEO-tagging cameras as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities for sharing media and routes with your family and friends. With that in mind, here is a comprehensive review and buying guide of the best off-road GPS units for sale.
Best Off Roading GPS: Editor’s Top Picks
Who Invented GPS Technology?
The GPS is one of the technologies that have lacked the consensus over who should be credited with its creation. Thankfully, four individuals have been credited with its invention. They include;
- Roger L. Easton: A former head of Naval Research Laboratory’s space applications, Easton is the brain that has been behind several engineering technologies and applications that have led to the success of the GPS technology.
- Evan Getting: Founder and president of the Aerospace Corporation, Dr. Getting is hailed for pressing forward with a GPS concept that could allow the calculation of precise positioning data for fast-moving vehicles and missiles.
- Bradford Parkinson: As part of the NAVSTAR GPS Joint Program, Parkinson was the first program manager and the chief architect of GPS throughout its developmental stages. A former Air Force Colonel, Parkinson was tasked to revive the 621B program used for navigation purposes.
- Gladys West: Dr. Gladys West was another key figure in the success of GPS technology. A mathematician by profession, DR. Gladys would use her mathematical prowess to process data from satellites to determine their exact location.
How Does GPS Work?
Now, first and foremost, a GPS system comprises three parts that are the satellites, ground stations, and receivers. Satellites are located up in the sky at an altitude of about 12,500 miles or 20,000 km. Ground stations are located on the ground and use radar to identify their location. Receivers are the smartphones you use or the GPS devices mounted on your vehicles.
Your GPS device will receive a signal from three or more satellites. It will then measure the distance to each satellite and the total time taken to receive the signal. The distance of each satellite estimates a crucial value such as the earth’s latitude, longitude, elevation, and time. Once your receiver completes all these mathematical calculations, it automatically identifies your accurate position.
Off-Roading GPS Top Brands
Garmin is among the leading brands in the manufacture of high-quality GPS systems in the business. Located in Kansas USA, this brand was founded in 1989 with its first customer being the US military. Since then, Garmin has grown into a widely recognized brand in the manufacture of various tracking equipment such as GPS systems, fish finders, dog trackers, and fitness trackers among others.
TomTom is another brand that’s hugely respected in the manufacture of technologically advanced GPS systems. Founded in 1991, this brand is located in Dutch and headquartered in Amsterdam. With over 30 offices around the globe and over 4,500 professional employees, TomTom is keen on building technologically advanced GPS systems with accurate maps, real-time traffic information, and advanced navigation software.
Trail Tech is an industry-leading manufacturer of GPS systems and other automotive accessories. Among the products, they manufacture include digital gauges, fan kits, kickstands, and an assortment of other accessories for motorcycles, snowmobiles, UTVs, and ATVs.
The last brand we’ll discuss is Magellan. Headquartered in California, USA, Magellan boasts of being the creator of the first ever-commercial GPS receiver. Today, this brand manufactures some of the best off-road and vehicle tracking GPS systems.
Off-Roading GPS Pricing
Now, the cost of GPS trackers hugely varies depending on several factors. Some of these factors include the brand, design, and advanced features. For instance, a basic GPS cannot cost the same as one loaded with advanced features such as Bluetooth/WIFI capability, compass, hands-free calling, and waterproofing capability.
That said, the price range of GPS trackers can range from $80 to $130 for a basic and budget-friendly GPS and $130 to $200 for a GPS with advanced features such as Bluetooth, WIFI, compass, and waterproof, and hands-free calling features. Lastly, with over $200, you’ll get a GPS with more exclusive features such as satellite communication and a GLONASS navigation system.
Smartphone vs Dedicated Off-Road GPS
It wasn’t until a couple of decades ago that GPS devices hit the civilian market by storm. Today, these devices come with advanced features that make off-roading fun and secure. But, other than the normal GPS devices we’re used to, the world of technology has flipped the GPS market by introducing navigation apps that turn your Smartphone into a handheld GPS device.
Though a blessing, this turnaround has created a heated debate on which device is the best between smartphones and GPS devices. So, in this section, we’re going to see which device is the best when it comes to off-road GPS.
- User Interface
Smartphones have sharper and clearer displays with capacitive touchscreens that are more responsive. The problem with smartphones is that they have smaller displays that are hard to see. This is different from GPS devices that have larger fonts and wider displays. This, therefore, makes personal navigation devices (PNDs) the winners.
- Dashboard and Windshield Mounting
When using a smartphone for turn-by-turn navigation, you need to place it on the passenger’s seat or a flat surface. Otherwise, using a smartphone windshield mount means that you’ll have to spend a lot to get one.
On the other hand, dedicated PNDs come with windshield and dash mounts as part of the deal. The mounts are adjustable and well-built giving you an easier time viewing your location. Again, mounting concerns make the GPS device the winner.
- Quality and Accuracy of Maps and Directions
When it comes to the quality and accuracy of maps and directions, both smartphones and GPS devices offer the same level of experience. The only downside is that smartphones can sometimes fail when driving in remote areas without any cellphone towers. Otherwise, when it comes to quality and accuracy, both of these devices are superb.
Lastly, there’s connectivity. With smartphones, you enjoy real-time notifications such as traffic updates as they’re always connected to a cellular network. With GPS devices, you need to find a device that has a cellular network and WIFI connectivity as a feature. Since such a device will be expensive, smartphones automatically become the undisputed winner in this category.
15 Best Off Roading GPS Reviews:
1. Garmin GPSMAP 64st
The Garmin GPSMAP 64st is everything you need in an off-road navigation system. Right off the bat, you get a taste of its high-quality build that gives you the feeling that it is a durable device. The GPSMAP 64st is also lightweight and fits perfectly in the palm of your hand.
This means that you can use it with one hand and do other things with your free hand.
The next thing you notice about the GPSMAP 64st is its physical buttons which are more intuitive to use than touchscreen buttons.
Also, despite not having a touchscreen display, the screen on the GPSMAP 64st is quite large at 2.6”. It displays all the information on the screen adequately so that you don’t have to squint your eyes.
At the top of the GPSMAP 64st is a multidirectional antenna that works with other inbuilt systems and sensors to triangulate your location to map your terrain accurately.
Other features fitted in this device include a camera for capturing memorable moments and beautiful scenery as well as Ant, Bluetooth, and USB connectivity for sharing. You also get 16 hours of battery life with this device.
- Sunlight-Readable 2.6″ color display with a display resolution of 160 x 240 pixels
- DUAL BATTERY SYSTEM
- Battery life: 16 hours
- Expanded Internal Memory 8GB
- Weight 8.1 oz (230 g) with batteries
- Connectivity: ANT+, high-speed USB, and NMEA 0183 compatible such as
- Sensors: heart rate monitor, 3-axis compass with barometric altimeter, speed/cadence, and Tempe temperature sensor
2. Garmin Oregon 650t GPS
It is easy to see why the Garmin Oregon 650t features second on our list of off-road GPS reviews. It has a lot going for it. Its robust body features a 3-inch multi-touchscreen display that is readable under direct sunlight.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the features of this portable Oregon 650t.
As expected, the Oregon 650t comes fitted with a dual-band satellite positioning system and three terrain sensors. These systems work in tandem to scan the off-road terrain to provide an accurate topological mapping.
You also get additional features such as an 8MP camera with GEO-tagging capabilities and Bluetooth technology that allows you to share routes, photos, and so on with your friends and family.
Last but not least, the Oregon 650t is compatible with AA batteries that can be used when you drain its rechargeable battery.
- 3-Inch multi-touch screen display
- Sensors: 3-axis compass, accelerometer, barometric altimeter
- Dual-band GPS/GLONASS satellite positioning
- Bluetooth technology and ANT for sharing routes, maps, and tracks wirelessly
- Dual orientation view: Landscape and portrait
- Dual battery system -2 AA batteries and a rechargeable NiMH battery pack
- 8MP autofocus camera
When traveling you want the very best out of the experience and nothing beats that other than a reliable navigating system. It is good to keep track of the travel to avoid getting lost or searching for destinations for hours.
To make the most out of your travels even when on off-highway roads Magellan TRX7 CS Trail and Street Navigator is your best bet.
The GPS navigator has an inbuilt camera of up to 5MP 1080p and a flash that allows continuous loop recording. It provides you with quality recording and the ability to take amazing pictures while navigating.
It comes with a high-quality touchscreen. The 7-inch HD Touchscreen display is the best you are likely ever to get. It is water, dust, and shock-resistant. You don’t have to worry about things like bad weather or traveling through tough terrains.
The GPS is preloaded with more than 115,000 navigable off-highways trails and is the largest in the market currently. The best thing about this product is the fact that it allows customers to get a replacement or repair in case something goes wrong. You don’t have to worry about being ripped off by being offered a duplicate.
Magellan TRX7 CS has precision GPS routing and spoken turn-by-turn navigation. It enables the user to navigate whether on or off-road easily
The most important thing is to get the best service from the product you use. Customer satisfaction is a priority with the Magellan TRX7 CS Trail & Street Navigator with RAM Windshield Mount, and its performance is incredible. Get a good deal by grabbing one today.
- High-quality camera
- Easy to use
- High resistance
- It covers a large area
- It comes with a warranty
4. Garmin Edge 1030 GPS Cycling Computer
Cycling has never been made funnier and more interesting. With your Garmin Edge 1030 GPS Cycling Computer with Original Garmin Silicone Case and Wearable4U Power Pack Bundle (Device Only, Black), you get to cycle as far as you wish without the fear that you could get lost on the way.
It has been designed to show you the best on and off routes to give you confidence during your ride.
It comes as a combo of a Garmin edge 1030 GPS bike computer, a USB charging cable, a standard mount, flush out-front mount, Garmin silicone case for edges 1030, a power bank and car charging USB adapter. It also includes a Garmin Premium Heart rate monitor and speed and cadence sensors.
The edge 1030 code is a GPS bike computer that allows you to ride longer and stronger trusting its connectivity to show you the on and off-road routes. It is ideal for both commuters and adventure seekers. It includes a map, and navigation alert meant to inform you when you are about to approach a sharp turn.
That is not all; edge 1030 can also suggest routes for you depending on your starting point, and where you wish to go. What’s better? You do not have to worry about communicating with your fellow riders as the rider-to-rider messaging allows you to send pre-written messages from your device to theirs.
- Wearable 4U power pack
- Rider-to-rider messaging
- Battery life of up to 20 hours
- Routes suggestions using Garmin connect ride data
- Garmin cycle map offering turn-by-turn directions
- Provides navigation alerts
- Comes with a warranty
Garmin Edge 520 Plus is a GPS Cycling/Bike Computer for Competing and Navigation through different terrains. This piece of tech has many cool features that make the cycling experience very interesting. If you are discovering new routes or improving your race time, then this is the ideal GPS.
The Edge 520 Plus is personalized with a race day power plan from the best bike split to help cyclists attain the highest bike split ever. It enables one to improve their goal race time by creating a perfect power plan when off to racing.
There is a lot of potentials that cyclists do not exploit. However, with this feature, you can dig deep and produce amazing results. The best thing is that you only need to link the Best Bike Split account with The Edge 520 Plus and you are taken care of.
Cycling is all about efficiency and learning how your body works so that you don’t push too hard. The Edge 520 plus is designed to ensure you reach the highest performance possible while giving you an update of real-time results on the screen. It is also compatible with your Smartphone which makes it convenient in many dimensions.
- 15-hour battery life depending on the usage
- Smartphone compatibility using LiveTrack and GroupTrack, smart notifications, rider-to-rider messaging, and built-in Incident Detection
- Has advanced navigation like alerting a cyclist of a new rider around as well as a Garmin Cycle Map with turn-by-turn directions
- Has an option power cycling and heart rate, monitor
- Vector power meters
If you are looking for the best off-road GPS app, then this might be the solution for you. This product comes preloaded with more than 115,000 designated OHV routes especially off roads such as public lands and forest routes.
It also includes Magellan’s award-winning street navigation database which helps you get from your starting point to the trail. The database is made up of user-generated tracks, which were created by previous off-roaders. You can easily access the database from your desktop, mobile, or tablet.
The tracks entail personal observations which allow you to search for them by location, rankings, or track difficulties to mention a few.
With a single touch, you can start tracking as you drive and the TRX7 CS will automatically begin to bread-crumb your track. It also makes it possible for you to save waypoints and personal observations with just a few taps. Once you make a stopover or pause tracks, the TRX7 CS helps you create a more detailed waypoints description.
You can mark the waypoints using coordinates, audio recording, or points on a map. The options are endless, and once you save the track, all your waypoints will be saved with the routes such that our fellow off-roaders can follow them.
- Built-in 5m rear-facing camera
- Preloaded with more than 115,000 4WD, ATV, Snowmobile, and motorcycle trails
- RAM dual mount
- Turn-by-turn trail navigation
- Comes with a free lifetime map and free software updates
- 7’’ touch-screen display
- Online community track database
- Publish user tracks
- Companion app
- Can create off-road waypoints
- Hi-Res 10M) 3D Basemap and 2D Topo
7. Garmin eTrex 20x
If you are looking for an affordable handheld GPS with great value, Garmin eTrex 20x could be the best suit for you. This unit is very affordable, and you get to enjoy the numerous amazing features that come in handy with it.
This includes a 25 hours battery life and its large internal memo. That is not all; you will enjoy all the basic functions of a GPS unit.
The device can hold up to 2000 waypoints and even better, it can hold approximately 200 routes. It is the best for navigation through the backcountry, and you will also be impressed by its accuracy. It comes with the basic map and an option to upload TOPO maps.
It uses both GPS and GLONASS satellite networks for enhanced accuracy. It supports the geocaching GPX files which are essential for downloading geocaches and other details to your unit. It allows you to store and display critical information such as location, difficulty, terrain, descriptions, and hints which helps you to find fun places.
It is incorporated with WAAS-enabled GPS receiver and HotFix satellite prediction which makes it quick when it comes to locating positions, and it maintains the GPS location even in a case of deep canyons.
The fun does not end there. As mentioned, this GPS receiver can utilize both GPS and GLONASS simultaneously allowing you to go global.
- Pre-loaded base map
- Allows you to load more maps including TOPO with its large internal memory and microSD card slot
- Its WAAS-enabled GPS receiver allows you to keep your fix
- Includes a 2.2’’ 65K color sunlight for upgraded display and better resolution
- It is easy to use and carry around
8. Trail Tech 912-4010 Voyager Stealth Black Moto-GPS Computer
The hype that comes with this device is totally worth it. The trail-tech voyage features GPS speed distance-compass-altitude- temperature maps not forgetting the wheel sensor 2.7 on 400×240 WQVFA LCD readable even in the brightest sunlight.
You will find none like this on the market. The GPS is well crafted for off-road and works best regardless of whether you are riding a motorcycle, snowmobile, ATVs or a four-wheel drive. It comes with an LED backlight to light the display once the sun goes down.
You only need to mount the voyage directly to your vehicle, or you can place it below the handlebars, and it is good to go. This allows it to become a fundamental part of your car. This is the first GPS product that has a simple mounting for off-road motorcycles.
It also entails smart logging such that when your vehicle stops, the GPS trail logging stops too. This ensures that there are no random or unwanted data points recorded when you are not moving the car.
This device aims to allow you to explore new areas with confidence and without the fear of getting lost. It provides you with an on and off-trail file sharing through the waterproof MicroSD card.
It offers both engine and ambient temperature by saving the engine temperature in the track data points, and therefore you can make a comparison of the temperature with altitude changes. You can also review the engine’s performance through a diagnostic screen on the GPS.
- It fits in Kawasaki KFX700 04-09, Honda TRX250EX 07-12 and TRX250R 86-89
- It features a back-lit 240×400 WQVGA LCD screen display which shows the speed, compass, altitude, distance, maps, and temperature
- Entails a smart logging
- Comes with a track manager which allows you to view and share the trail system in 3D
- Has a waterproof SD card that will enable you to download trail maps online
It is a handheld navigator with a 3-axis compass, fantastic resolution, and memory. The GPS has an inbuilt memory as well as a high-resolution screen that enables the user to store and display vital information including location, terrain difficulty, hints, and descriptions.
It ensures that users don’t have to manually enter coordinates to avoid the inconvenience of getting some small details wrong.
The eTrex has a high-sensitivity, WAAS-enabled GPS receiver, and HotFix satellite prediction to facilitate locating a specific area effectively using the minimum time possible. These features also enable the GPS to quickly establish where you are despite many barriers like deep covers or when under the surface in deep tunnels.
This handheld navigator locks on a speedy location thanks to its ability to track both GPS and GLONASS satellites at the same time. The convenience of this receiver is that you don’t have to get stuck at a specific location waiting to find out where exactly you are. It saves time and allows the user to have a fantastic adventure.
When going for adventure whether with family, friends, or workmates it is crucial that you don’t get lost or stuck due to a lack of knowledge of your location. With the eTrex, things are more comfortable, and it’s convenient for people to visit new destinations. Its ability to pin down a specific location fast is a distinct feature that makes it very reliable.
- 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter
- Internal memory of 3.7 GB and also microSD card slots to expand the storage when need be. This allows users to store more maps
- It provides wireless connectivity with other compatible devices, therefore, enabling the user to share information conveniently
- It has a fantastic display thanks to an increased resolution of (240 x 320 pixels)
- A preloaded base map
- Easily portable
Start tracking as you drive on the base map with just a single touch. The TR5 will start to record your track automatically which will help you save your waypoints and personal observations. With just a few taps you will be able o save a waypoint to the track with little hassle.
The device features a 5” touch-screen display which works best for trucks and other enclosed vehicles. It comes pre-loaded with more than 115,000 authorized navigate off-highway trails. It also has a pre-loaded U.S and Canada map for the easier and funnier ride not to mention the high-resolution topography, street detail and over 6.6 million points of interest.
The TR5 comes with a precision GPS routing plus spoken turn-by-turn navigation which works on both on and off-road navigation. The Magellan Backtrack allows you to go for a ride and return safely to your starting point with just a single click. This feature is ideal especially when you are going on unfamiliar or forest routes.
It allows for custom points of interest, and you can get hundreds and thousands of these. It has a map view in 2-D topographic with contour lines and 3-D terrain with land features and elevations. It is incorporated with text-to-speech which notifies you of the actual street names and each turn you make.
- Barometric altimeter and an electronic compass
- Off-track notification
- It has a custom trail system and custom waypoints with their descriptions
- Allows for route recording and backtrack
- Has a headphone jack
- Portable GPS navigator designed for both on and off-road use
- A built-in rechargeable battery with 1 hour of life
11. Wahoo Elemnt GPS
This GPS unit has the largest-in-class display. It offers a crisp day bright view which makes it extremely easy to see your performance metrics by simply glancing down no matter how high the glare or how low the lights are.
This device has a companion app set up which uses your smartphone’s intuitive interface in order to pair, customize your settings, configure your workout pages, or link to other wireless sensors or cycling apps.
Turn by turn navigation ensures that your routes are optimized and you have free preloaded maps from all over the world. With this GPS, there won’t be any road that you cannot follow. The unit also allows you to pair your phone so you can receive your emails and text messages as well as call alerts.
There’s also a feature which allows you to turn on ‘do not disturb’ if you so choose.
Live group tracking lets you go online to locate any of your friends who are also out riding. If you are searching for the best off-roading GPS that will make it easy for you to stay in touch while you’re on your ride, this is a great product to consider.
- Free companion app automatically pairs and configures
- Sync with third-party apps for automatic route downloads
- LED notifications on the screen during route
- Live group tracking to find other riders in real-time
- 100% wireless device with built-in Wifi
When you purchase this product, you get a GPS navigator, a car charger for the cigarette lighter outlet, a USB cable to conduct data transmission, a suction cup mount, a back bracket, a user manual, and a sunshade. That’s a lot of value for the relatively low price of the product.
This 7-inch car GPS is compact and portable. It comes with lifetime map updates, real voice turn-to-turn alerts, and 8GB ROM which allows you to store as many maps as you want. This device comes with free lifetime map updates and has over 1 million miles of pre-loaded mapped roads including Canada, Mexico, and the United States.
There are no pop-up ads and the device will assist you in placing your position by selecting landmarks in 3-D. You’ll be able to easily choose which lane you need to take before approaching the turn, exit, or any difficult intersections.
You’ll also be able to customize better routes according to the length, weight, height, and width of your vehicle, which means you can conveniently avoid roads with any restrictions.
- Free lifetime map updates
- Comes loaded with over 1 million miles of the latest mapped roads
- 3-D navigation select landmarks to help place your position
- The device has 8GB of storage for your maps
- Comes with a 90-day money-back guarantee
This GPS has 8GB of memory and an LCD display with a TFT screen. The high-quality and durable touchscreen offers super precision and accuracy at all times. It comes with a built-in high-fidelity speaker as well as a high-fidelity stereo earphone.
The built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasts for a long time and recharges quickly so you never have to worry about the inconvenience of being without a battery on the roads. When charging the device the red light comes on and when the charge is done, the blue light will be on.
The package includes a GPS navigator, car charger, data transmission cable, back bracket, sunshade, and user manual.
You get lifetime maps that are updated for free as well as the preloaded set of maps for North America. The manufacturer offers a website where you can go to easily and quickly update your maps.
The device has multilanguage directions guide and rich features, such as video, audio, pictures, etc. It gives you alerts for upcoming speed changes, sharp curves, school zones, speed cameras, and much more.
- Large, 7-inch touchscreen with fast reaction
- 8GB storage for your maps
- Lifetime map updates are offered for free
- Multilanguage real direction guides
- Lifetime warranty and 90-day money-back guarantee
14. TomTom VIA GPS
If you’re searching for the best off roading GPS that will give you easy, reliable navigation, this product has a lot of features and benefits that you are sure to appreciate. The TomTom VIA a GPS will take all the unknown out of your journeys.
It helps you to conveniently find all the best routes either by using the search menu or by simply touching a point on the map. With this device at your side, you’ll be ready to drive smoothly to destinations and arrive there that much faster.
The GPS comes with free lifetime updates for your maps. This is offered for all the models, and some select models also get traffic updates. You get advanced lane guidance which highlights the correct lane for you in order to help you prepare your next directional move.
This device is available in various sizes, and you can get it with a touchscreen that ranges between 4 and 6 inches to make your navigation convenient, safe, and stress-free.
- 5-inch touchscreen for easier viewing
- Lifetime US map and traffic updates
- Simply connect to your computer for software update
- Offers advanced lane guidance at key junctions
- Easy to use search menu and reliable navigation
15. Garmin DriveSmart GPS
If you’re set on avoiding traffic, then this is one of the best devices you can get to help you do just that. Designed to outsmart traffic jams and slowdowns by simply avoiding them altogether, this GPS will alert you in a timely manner and suggest an alternate route that will steer you clear of any accidents or construction zones ahead.
The device comes ready to use straight out of the box, and the package includes a traffic cable which means you don’t have to pair the GPS with your smartphone in order to get traffic information.
The voice activation feature makes this unit easy and convenient to use. Simply say ‘OK Garmin’, and the navigator immediately starts listening to your voice commands and it will navigate you to where you need to go.
With TripAdvisor integration, you can now enjoy better road trips. You’ll be able to see the ratings for attractions, restaurants, and hotels along your journey or near your destination. You can also access real-time features by pairing your smart navigator with your phone and then downloading the Garmin drive app.
- Extremely easy to use 5-inch screen navigator
- Simple design menu and bright, clearly visible maps
- Garmin traffic app suggests alternate routes
- Voice activation for your convenience and ease
- Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity updates maps and software
Things to Consider When Buying an Off Roading GPS
If you are an off-roading enthusiast, by now you’ve noticed that standard GPS systems don’t cut it out in the wild. It is only natural for you to want to upgrade to an off-road GPS. However, there are a few things you ought to know before investing in an off-road GPS system.
This section gives you the low-down on all the elements and features you should consider when making the purchase:
1. The accuracy of the Topographic Mapping
When off-roading, you ideally want a GPS system that shows you whenever you are approaching geographical features, unsealed roads, and 4WD trails. A good system should map 4WD trails and encourage you to follow them. This is because 4WD tracks have been vetted as the safest routes by previous off-roaders.
However, the job of an excellent off-roading GPS is to offer accurate terrain mapping. In the case that you might want to go off-course and do more exploring, you should be able to rely on your GPS system.
It should map out unsealed roads, contour lines, and other geographical features on the terrain. An excellent off-roading GPS system notifies you when approaching rocky terrain, river beds, cliffs, swampy lands, and so on.
2. Landmarks and Other Points of Interest
Paper maps and standard GPS systems show landmarks and points of interest in the form of major roads, buildings, institutions, recreational centers, parks, and so on. Just like these paper maps and standard GPS systems, good off-roading GPS systems should show their own form of landmarks and points of interest out in the jungle.
Since you won’t find major buildings or structures in jungles, an excellent Off-roading GPS system should map out things such as campsites, lodges, fuel stations, viewing points, caravan parks, and so on. These are things you won’t usually find on paper maps and standard GPS maps.
In the end, knowing where these things will help you plan your off-road trip more effectively. With this information, you can plan out your entire trip from your ideal campsite to where to eat, where to refuel your thirsty SUV, and places to stop to view the natural scenery.
Also, having this information readily available in your off-road GPS device allows you to locate these places on the fly whenever the need arises.
3. Smartphone vs. a Dedicated Off Road GPS Device
Nowadays, everyone has a smartphone and with it, access to its unlimited capabilities. Yes, smartphones work just as well as dedicated off-roading devices. In fact, with your smartphone, you get all the functions associated with off-road GPS devices at a much cheaper rate. Basics such as topographic mapping and landmarks/points of interest are standard in off-road smartphone apps.
Some apps (purchased apps) provide additional features such as recording your off-road trail and geo-tagging in photos. These features allow you to share your off-road experience with your friends and family.
When all chips are down, the choice between using an off-road GPS app and buying a dedicated off-road GPS device comes down to your personal preference and your budget.
However, it is important to remember that dedicated off-road GPS maps are optimally designed for off-roading and off-roading alone. The extra money that goes into buying a GPS device allows you to use your device in offline mode.
You can use it in areas that have no network coverage. Also, most off-road GPS devices support dual battery operation. This means you can switch to replaceable batteries when you drain the charge of your primary battery.
4. Portable Units vs. In-Dash Units
There are pros and cons associated with portable and in-dash navigation units. But ultimately, the choice comes down to your personal preference and the type of vehicle you have. However, most people opt for portable units for their portability. You can use them in multiple vehicles.
With in-dash units, you get the advantage of having everything from your music to your Bluetooth in a single unit. The downside of in-dash units is that some vehicles are not compatible (don’t allow the installation) with third-party navigation maps.
Different Types of GPS
1. Vehicle GPS System
When car GPS systems were introduced back in the day, they received a lot of plaudits. Why? Their brightly colored screens looked cool in vehicles, and they improved the accuracy of map directions when commuting to unknown locations.
Of course, over the years, vehicle navigation systems have gotten even better. Features such as voice assistance, traffic monitoring systems, and hands-free connectivity have made them more intuitional to use. Off-road GPS systems are a type of vehicle GPS system. They are mostly used by rally drivers, campers, and off-roaders.
2. Hand-Held GPS Systems
Handheld GPS systems are also known as portable GPS systems. Their portability has seen them rise in popularity over the years. They are moving digital maps that show your level of elevation and other topographical features across the terrain you’re in. Unlike permanent vehicle navigation systems, these handheld devices can be used by many people.
You can lend or borrow one from your friends when planning a trip out in the wild. When you’re out in the wild, these portable navigation devices ensure that you never miss points of interest such as campsites, fishing spots, viewpoints, and so on.
If you get lost out in the wild, these portable devices guarantee your safety. They triangulate your exact position and send it to SOS services in case of an emergency.
3. Sport & Fitness GPS Systems
Athletes and people who take sports seriously use GPS devices optimized for games. These devices are especially useful to long-distance runners (marathon runners) and cyclists.
On top of route mapping, these devices offer extra features such as time, distance, speed, cadence, and heart rate monitoring systems. Athlete trainers collect this data to evaluate it so they can enhance the training regimes of their athletes.
4. Water GPS Systems
Cruise ships, commercial ships, fishing boats, submarines, and even some deep-sea divers use marine GPS systems to navigate through vast ocean bodies. Most of these digital moving maps feature useful water features such as radar technology to help map dark ocean surfaces.
The radars help fishers detect fish; submarines avoid deep-sea coral reefs and commercial ships to avoid icebergs. They also triangulate your exact position in oceans and lakes in case of an emergency.
5. Air GPS Systems
Aviation GPS units are used in all types of air crafts. Like marine GPS systems, aviation GPS systems use radar technology to map out directions. Radar technology is especially useful in aircraft during cloudy weather when the pilots cannot see far.
Marine navigation systems also prevent aircraft from crashing into each other by scanning the area around the plane. Other features included in these units include airport data, route coordination, terrain mapping, positional mapping, route calculation systems, compass, altitude calculator, speedometers, and so on.
Benefits of Off Roading GPS
If you are planning to explore the wild with your SUV, you need to have the best equipment to help you navigate the unforgiving terrains. There is a reason why serious off-roaders and off-road enthusiasts use off-roading GPS systems.
They figured out that standard GPS systems and good old-fashioned paper maps don’t cut it on their off-road adventures. This section looks at the benefits of using dedicated off-roading GPS systems over paper maps and standard GPS systems when exploring the wild:
- 1. Offers Greater Opportunities to Explore Nature
What’s the use of going on an off-roading adventure with your friends and family when you cannot explore? Where is the fun in that? Due to the limited terrain data on paper maps and standard GPS systems, you are restricted to following established off-road tracks.
Terrain mapping in off-road GPS systems unshackles you to explore the depths of nature and find its bountiful surprises. Terrain mapping allows you to create alternative routes to reach your destination – where you get to discover new camping spots.
- 2. Provides a Safer Off-Roading Experience
The problem with paper maps and standard GPS systems is that they only provide “line data” which is not very helpful in off-road navigation. They don’t display much apart from marked landmarks and roads in national parks.
While this information is okay for light off-roading adventures, it is not sufficient for enthusiastic off-roaders that want to get into the heart of the jungle. Off-road GPS systems provide detailed information about jungle terrain and topology. This fills you with confidence and assurance to veer off your SUV to explore more of nature.
- 3. More Reliable than Off-Road Apps in Smartphones
Wait a minute; nowadays you can download dedicated off-road maps on your smartphone. Well, that’s true. You just download an off-road map to gain access to all the features you can find in an off-road GPS device at a lower price. However, dedicated GPS devices are more reliable than smartphones out in the wild.
As stated earlier, you don’t need cell phone reception to operate them, and you don’t need to free up space on your smartphone to save the off-road maps. Also, just as importantly, the dual-battery capabilities of your device mean that you can keep using your GPS device even when the main battery runs out of juice.
- 4. Ease of use
Off-road GPS devices are more intuitive to use compared to say, paper maps. With paper maps, you have to stop your vehicle to map out your route. GPS devices highlight your directions, so you don’t have to stop to check the route. All you have to do is steal a simple glace on the GPS screen to get a sense of the direction.
What’s more most GPS devices come equipped with voice guidance systems to enhance safety. These systems alert you when you’re approaching major landmarks/points of interest and tell you where to turn so that you don’t take your eyes off the road.
Also, most people nowadays have become over-reliant on electronic assistance to the point they’ve become unable to calculate/plot coordinates on a paper map.
Off-Roading GPS Tips
- When buying a GPS device, don’t overlook the importance of mounting it. Therefore, look for one with a secure mount that will let you mount it on your car’s dash or console when driving.
- In the case of a handheld off-road GPS, look for one that’s small and lightweight. Such a GPS device is considered best as it doesn’t weigh you down with its bulky weight.
- When getting a GPS device, always look for one with built-in communication features. Such a system makes it easier to communicate with other off-roaders in case you get stuck or if you get lost when driving.
- Lastly, get a GPS device with more positional sensors. More positional sensors translate to better accuracy when off-roading.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q-1: What maps and trails do the off-road GPS devices cover?
- Most off-road GPS devices feature both 2D and 3D maps that accurately depict the elevation/topology of off-road terrains. As for the trails, these navigation systems show US-based off-road trails. Most of the trails covered are lands that are managed by National Forest Service which includes game parks, reserve parks.
Q-2: How accurate is the GPS system?
- The accuracy of GPS systems is continuously being improved. GPS systems come with compass sensors and multi-directional antennas with an accuracy rate of between 3 and 5 meters.
- Most off-road GPS devices come equipped with Wi-Fi capabilities that allow you to share your trip data and photos with your friends. Only a few devices are fitted with sim card ports for cellular capabilities.
- Yes. You are spending a lot of money on these devices, and as such you get both street and off-road navigation. You can use these devices on a daily basis and not just during that one weekend you’ve planned an off-road escape.
Q-5: Do content and map updates cost extra?
- No. Everything, including all software and content, is included when you purchase these off-road navigation devices.
Q-6: Is there a monthly or yearly subscription?
- No. There are no hidden monthly or yearly subscription rates associated with these GPS units. However, some devices offer an optional subscription for satellite imagery for those deep jungle explorers.
Q-7: How do I update the map?
- All system and map updates are done over Wi-Fi. Points of interest and trails are updated continuously to provide the utmost accuracy to off-roaders. The device will notify you if new updates are pending. Updating the maps typically takes a few minutes.
Q-8: Do they come with warranties?
- Yes. All off-road navigation systems come equipped with a manufacturers’ warranty. The length of the warranty varies per manufacturer.
Q-9: How long does the internal battery last?
- Battery life varies from device to device. However, most handheld (portable) devices come equipped with dual battery capabilities. This feature allows you to use AA batteries when the main battery dies.
Q-10: How does it charge?
- They charge through AC adapters for home charging and a 12V cigarette lighter adapters for vehicle charging.
There you have it folks, 10 of the best off-road navigation devices, and their buying guide. As you’ve seen from our buying guide, you cannot compare dedicated navigation devices to off-road navigation maps. While the best off-road GPS app for iPhone and the best off-road GPS app for iPad is okay for light off-roading adventures, they don’t cut it in extreme off-roading.
You need one of the ten units we’ve featured in our review if you’re an off-road enthusiast or are planning to embrace that lifestyle. Our buying guide will help you pick out a device that best suits your needs, but the truth is that all ten devices featured on our list have their appeal, and you cannot go wrong with them.
1. Off-Road GPS Navigation & Communication