When it comes to Overlanding, the journey is more important than the destination. If you plan on taking a trip over some rough, unknown terrain or down back roads that aren’t usually found on a map, you’re going to need a great Global Positioning System (GPS) to lead your way.
The top ten best GPS for overlanding are the following:
- Garmin Overlander
- Garmin GPSMAP
- Garmin inReach Explorer
- Trail Tech Voyager
- TR5 Trail and Street Navigator
- Gaia GPS, ONX Offroad
- Magellan CS Trail and Street Navigator
- Bivy Stick
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons these made it into our top choices.
What to Look for in a GPS
When choosing a GPS for Overlanding, you want to pick one that will offer the best solutions to your own situations. While there are several features you may want, you should also consider the following features for your future GPS.
The most important thing you want to look for is accurate maps and topography. This is an obvious thing you’re going to need when looking for your GPS.
The biggest thing you want to remember is that you need a GPS that will show unsealed roads, contour lines, and even geographical points that could be an issue for you. A really good GPS will offer alerts when you are getting too close to bodies of water or other dangers in your path.
Points of Interest
When choosing a GPS, keep in mind your sleeping arrangements and refueling stops. You’re going to want a system that will show you where these points of interest will be with your route.
Try to find a GPS that will show you good campsites, fuel stops, overlooks, and RV parks as well as food stops or where you can stop to rest or use the bathroom. Having a GPS that can show you these things will help you find the most reliable path to your designation.
Waypoint Memory and Tracking
This is an important feature because it will help you if you get lost. You can use this to set up a starting point, and if you get lost, simply push a button, and the GPS will take you back to that starting point.
A good GPS will have enough memory to log at least 500 waypoints, 200 routes, and 2,000 tracklogs that can be downloaded onto a computer.
As well as being a great feature for safety, this will also allow you to save your favorite trails and return to them at another time. You can also set up points of scenery you enjoyed so that in the future, you can return to those as well.
Let’s take a more in depth look at the Best GPS currently on the market.
When you think of GPS, it’s easy to think of Garmin. Founded in 1989, they specialize in GPS systems, among other things. Their Overlander GPS is made with that purpose in mind.
The Overlander is possibly one of the more expensive options out there. It was made to get you to your destination by whatever means necessary. You can find this GPS on Amazon for $645, while on the Garmin store website, this GPS runs for $699.00.
The features you get with this GPS are voice command for hands-free operation, preloaded maps for campsites, inReach technology, and so much more.
Having your maps preloaded onto the device can help when you are in areas with little to no cell reception. The voice command is great, so you don’t have to stop to input your destination.
The Overlander will also send you warnings from tight spots ahead to keep you from getting stuck or wrecking your vehicle.
It also comes with a powerful magnetic mount with a suction cup feature, so you don’t have to worry about where to put the GPS device in your vehicle.
Another Garmin GPS, however, this one is considerably cheaper than the Overlander. On Amazon, you can get it for $375. One of the most notable design features of this GPS is that it’s small enough to fit in a single hand. It looks almost like an old Nokia phone.
The features on this device include 8 GB internal memory, a 16-hour battery life, and a screen that allows for high-resolution topographic maps. It can also sync with your smartphone to use the Garmin Connect app and view additional features there.
You can also send and receive emails, texts, and alerts using the smart notifications, so you don’t have to search for your phone.
Even though the screen is smaller than a mounted GPS, this little device is water-resistant withstanding 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes. If you happen to geocache, this device is compatible with 250,000 preloaded caches from Geocaching.com.
This GPS system is designed with your safety in mind. It uses satellite communication abilities to make sure you can send texts and alerts through the device itself. It allows you to trigger an SOS, which will then prompt a rescue team to your location.
Also, you’re able to communicate with your rescue team through the device as well. This will allow you to call off the rescue in the event you no longer need assistance. Or you can explain what the emergency is so they can be prepared. No cell phone signal is required for these features to work for you.
This GPS will also pair with your mobile device, as well as the contacts on your phone so you don’t have to worry about losing touch with the people who matter.
It’s impact-resistant and water-resistant for up to 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes. This GPS also has weather forecast services, tracking capabilities, and so much more.
You can get this GPS on Amazon for $378.
This GPS is designed especially for off-roading. It also comes with three screen settings that offer a different set of features per screen.
- Screen 1 – has a clock, temperature, speed, compass, altitude, trip distance, and engine temperature.
- Screen 2 – displays your odometer, average speed, max speed, and run time (total hours).
- Screen 3 – you’ll find the tachometer bar graph, engine temperature, speed, and clock on this screen.
Depending on your preferences, you can change which screen is your default. The screen is where this device really excels. It comes with a durable outer case and back-lit screen for optimal visibility.
You can also integrate it into your car and use your vehicle sensors to gather information for the most accurate ride data.
This GPS can be purchased on Amazon for $300.
This GPS has a 5-inch screen that will work great for trucks and other enclosed vehicles. It offers high-resolution topography and preloaded maps of the USA and Canada.
The TR5 Trail and Street Navigator also has a backtrack feature. This allows you to go out and return safely to your starting point without hassle or stress. You simply push a button, and the GPS will guide you back to your start point.
It offers turn-by-turn navigation that works on both the street and off-road, so you don’t have to worry about missing your turn if you aren’t on a well-known street.
This GPS can be found on Amazon for $200.
This isn’t a device you can purchase — it’s an app for your phone or other mobile devices. However, this app has all of the best features that a physical GPS would.
With the Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM) feature, you can check on road restrictions and seasonal closures that may interfere with your routes.
You can use this public and private land feature to search for legal routes of travel and potentially free camping sites. It also gives you the precipitation forecast for your area and updates every 12 hours.
This little app will also provide hundreds of map overlays that you can use to find your way. The best part is that you can get started for free. If you like the app and want to purchase it to get more features, you can buy it for just $40 a year, with 10% off your first year.
Check out this video below for why this app is considered one of the best for outdoor navigation.
The ONX Offroad GPS system is another app for your phone or mobile device. The app is updated daily and provides you with an easy-to-view display of your potential routes.
You can also pre-program information if your smartphone loses signal so that you never lose access to your routes. The app includes information on over 900 million acres of public lands, 54 thousand campsites, and 35 thousand miles of trails to follow.
The trials are featured in three easy to view colors. Green is open and ready to explore, the red trails are temporarily closed, and the blue trails are featured paths with detailed descriptions and photos.
The featured trails will show you how difficult a trail will be, and how long it will take to finish it. You can also track the trails on your own to make the trip to your start point easier.
You can purchase this app for $30 per year on the ONX website.
The Lowrance brand is typically seen with marine products; however, this GPS system was designed for off-road trail navigation.
The Lowrance Trophy-5M Baja offers a 5-inch display with high-resolution color. It includes a dash and bracket mounting option. There are topographic maps that cover the contiguous 48 states as well as Mexico.
You can record and track your trails for future navigation. The outer casing is water and shock-resistant. You can customize the displays to show the information you need for your trips, such as speed and heading data.
This device is available on Amazon for $350, which is cheaper than buying through their own website. It’s listed on the Lowrance online store at $400.
The Trail and Street Navigator is another GPS that is a little on the pricier side, but it has several great features to consider. You can get the Magellan Trail and Street Navigator on Amazon for $524.
This GPS comes with a 7-inch touch screen and a dual mounting system that offers a quick release feature. It’s also shock-resistant, waterproof, and dustproof.
The most noticeable feature offered on this GPS is the built-in rear-facing camera. It has high-resolution topographic maps and a 3D base map and turn-by-turn navigation regardless of whether or not you are off-road or on the street.
You can also hit the backtrack feature at any point during your journey, and it will guide your vehicle back to your starting point. There are many other features that this GPS has to offer, so, naturally, this made the top ten on this list.
This isn’t quite a GPS in the same way as the others listed above. This tool is a satellite communication tool.
It allows you to send and receive text messages and share your location with your loved ones. It will also provide you with a way to signal for help if you get lost or hurt.
It works with an app that offers you downloadable maps that you can use offline if your phone goes down.
This little device is available on their website for $350, and it comes with a 1-year warranty and 90 days to return it if you don’t like it.
Other App Options
While these didn’t make the top ten choices, they are also worth mentioning as additional options for your Overlanding journeys.
This is an app you can download onto your phone or tablet that works similarly to the other GPS systems mentioned in this article. It will work offline, but it doesn’t offer the same accuracy. The offline maps also don’t have the real-time updates available that the online version would.
It’s free to use and download, so if you’re just starting on your Overlanding adventures, this could be a good alternative to the GPS problem.
If you have access to sim cards for the areas you’ll be in, you can use Google Maps to double-check the routes you have through another device. This app will work best with well-known roads and trails. It will also work great in a big city.
Overlanding and Why You Need a GPS
Overlanding is a form of self-reliant travel that focuses on how you get to your destination, rather than on the place you end up.
Often the lodging comes in the form of camping. The roads can get rough and sometimes dangerous, but the goal isn’t to conquer the most difficult paths. They are simply the way to get to where you want to be.
It’s all about the journey and the adventure of traveling to remote locations.
Other Gear You Might Want to Consider Taking
If you’re going on an Overlanding trip, there are a few other things you might want to consider bringing with you.
Paper maps are great in case something happens to your GPS or phone. They’re also only capable of giving you a rough idea of the terrain and direction you want to go, which can make for a more adventurous journey.
Ultimately, keeping a set of recent and accurate paper maps in your vehicle in case of emergencies is a good idea. Hopefully, you won’t need them, but it’s always been to be safe.
If you are traveling in a group, having two-way radios can help keep the group together. You’ll be able to communicate with each other regarding the route without the need to stop. This is especially helpful if there is limited or no cell service in your location.
These are also helpful to reach rescue teams if you need them. However, that would require purchasing a long-range radio.
This isn’t a GPS, but it provides a large supply of resources for Overlanding, such as campsites. It links with Maps.me, so if that is a tool you are using, this website can be a valuable resource.
These devices are perfect if you intend to explore while you leave some gear behind at a campsite. They will keep track of your property while you are gone. If someone takes your stuff, you’ll know exactly where to find it.
There are many GPS options available to you. Still, the top ten are the Garmin Overlander, Garmin GPSMAP, Garmin inReach Explorer, Trail Tech Voyager, TR5 Trail, and Street Navigator, Gaia GPS, ONX Offroad, Lowrance, Magellan CS Trail and Street Navigator, and the Bivy Stick.
Now, that’s everything you need to know to choose the best GPS for your Overlanding trip.