This post is all about navigation and how to go about it on your overland travels. As per the Overland Checklist, navigation is very important and can be quite tricky at times. There are quite a few different options nowadays, however through my personal experience I found that each and every one of those has advantages and disadvantages. Below I am going to run through the variations I know of and as conclusion I will share my current setup and also my ideal setup, since these are different. We can always improve on the whatever system we have.
These can be both inbuilt in the dashboard and standalone units. In my personal experience I love the inbuilt dashboard units for the comfort and integration to the whole in car experience. For example the simplest thing is the auto volume dimming over gps instructions. However the cons to this setup is that the unit is not easily transferrable to other vehicles such as rentals.
As for the Standalone units, I used some different brands, however I always went back to Garmin products. After some research I bought the Garmin 770LMT-D, which is a unit developed for camping enthusiasts. I personally love this since it has options designed for camping. There are quite a lot of campsites already marked on the device itself. Also there is an option to set the size and weight of the vehicle and the device will help you choose a route according to those values. This will help you avoid low bridges, narrow roads and roads with weight limits. This is great when renting or owning motorhomes or other large vehicles.
There is the option to work through mobile apps. I have a number of these that I use.
Gaia is a free app, available on both android and ios. The app provides upgrades to a membership and a premium membership. This app is really cool since especially with the memberships, you get more maps. It can be used for trails, hiking and camping. It also has the options to record routes and share these. I will do a more comprehensive review of this app later on.
Wikiloc is also a free app, available on both android and ios. It also has about 5 different layers for the maps and members can upload their own routes and GPS trails. I normally use this for the off the typical road routes.
Sygic is a direct contingency to the Garmin unit. It is available on both android and ios. However it is not free. There are 3 different plans that offer the same things apart from real time traffic updates and worldwide map coverage. It also offers the offline downloads of maps.
I use Maps.me constantly. This is great since the offline files are really small and there is a lot of information that most maps do not provide such as restaurants, atms and petrol stations.
iOverlander is a very good app by a non profit project. It shows amenities nearby, together with descriptions and other overlander’s reviews. It is a really good idea that more people need to get on board with. They accept donations in time and money, so if anyone can, I urge you to help out in any way you can.
Everyone knows Google Maps. I use this normally when I have mobile data available freely and at no additional costs. This helps since it has traffic data and it is very easy to set up. It has an offline feature, however it requires lots of storage space and is not really easy to use in my personal opinion.
The Garmin InReach is really cool since you can be sure that anywhere on the planet you would have location and a way to communicate. It is quite costly, however if you travel to remote places, and especially on your own, it is a very good thing to have.
Old School – Paper Maps
Ultimately there is the old school way, paper maps. I always had a fascination with maps. In my opinion the fact that they are there no matter what, no batteries or connectivity to worry about. Also the fact that they just give you a very rough idea of where you are and where to go, leaves room for adventure. Whereas with any other navigation tech, you go on the route, towards destination, no surprises there. So I always keep paper maps with me as a backup to everything. I personally bought the Michelin Motoring Atlas Europe 2018. This book is very cheap and of very good quality, covering all of Europe.
I personally always try to have a contingency plan in anything I do. In the navigation perspective I prefer to have multiple contingencies due to the fact that almost every option has its weaknesses. I normally use either the Garmin or Google Maps as primary, in conjunction with all Gaia for offroad trails, Maps.me for city exploration and iOverlander for safe campsites with no surprises. As a fail safe to all of that I use the paper maps which I keep next to me at all times.
To be honest my current setup is very close to the ideal setup, although I always try and keep on the lookout to improve the whole system. All I wish to add is the Satellite Navigation, which is not really needed if not going to those remote areas, which I hope I get to go in the near future.
What do you guys think? Anyone has any suggestions on ways to improve this?