Stay on track with one of these RV- friendly GPS units as your copilot
We all know the old adage “Getting there is half the fun.” That may in fact be the case, but it’s never any fun getting lost. Tempers flare, blood pressures rise, and the good times cease to roll when you’re pulling a 40-foot fifth-wheel down a one-lane highway that seemingly leads to nowhere. In days gone by, the only recourse to get you back on track was unfolding the map, grabbing the magnifier and poring over the tendrils of tiny lines that were sometimes difficult to identify. Of course, you could stop and ask for directions, but that’s the ultimate concession that your weeks of planning have failed (at least, that’s what I think).
Global Positioning System (GPS) devices have taken most of the guesswork out of navigation, so much so that you basically have to try to get lost these days. There’s always the occasional news article or campfire story about an unfortunate driver following the GPS voice right into a river or lake, but for the most part, today’s GPS devices can be relied upon pretty heavily — provided the maps are up to date, of course.
In addition to simple navigation, GPS units contain a variety of user-friendly settings and options: points of interest, restaurants, hotels, attractions — the list goes on and on. And some units even come preloaded with campground listings, offering travelers the ultimate in RV usability, from campsites to height restrictions to access roads. Throw in the ability for instant updates, Bluetooth compatibility and even speakerphones and wristwatch units, and it’s obvious that the days of folding maps are far back in our rearview mirrors. That’s why we’ve selected the following handful of GPS units with special appeal for RVers.
The RV 760LMT from Garmin has been designed for RVers and offers users a host of features to make RV travel easy. The 760LMT ($399.99) starts with an easy-to-read 7-inch touch display that keeps the driving map onscreen at all times while displaying any additional information alongside. The info includes speed limits, current speed, accurate time of arrival and school-zone warnings.
The unit comes preloaded with America’s RV Parks & Services Directory, which includes a comprehensive listing of nearly 20,000 RV parks and campgrounds in the United States and Canada, including national and state parks and privately owned campgrounds. The directory enables users to search by preferred amenities, so you can easily find what they want, from pet-friendly parks to pull-through sites to free Wi-Fi. The directory also lists more than 14,000 service locations, including towing, tire shops, truck stops and repair centers.
Another highlight of the RV 760LMT is straight out of Star Trek: voice command. The RV 760LMT has voice-activated navigation in addition to its touch-screen interface, so you can keep your hands on the wheel while learning your exact whereabouts. Other user-friendly features include hands-free calling through the unit when it is synced (via a free app) with a compatible Bluetooth-enabled device, such as a smartphone. The RV 760LMT comes with unlimited map upgrades and the ability to receive real-time traffic updates (via your smartphone). The 760 is also available with a backup camera to help with hitching up ($499.99) and keep an eye on surroundings while in camp or on the road.
Speaking about keeping an eye on your surroundings, Garmin also offers the Dash Cam 20 ($249.99), a high-definition (HD) standalone driving recorder with a 2.3-inch display. The Dash Cam 20 records audio and video, with GPS for detailed time and location data pinpointing exactly where and when events occurred. Mount the camera to the windshield, and the Dash Cam records in a continuous loop, using the included 4 GB SD card. To add more memory, add a larger SD card (accepts up to 32 GB). Play back the footage on the LCD display or review later on your computer. The camera has a wide-angle lens that captures the entire road. Once it’s plugged into the vehicle’s 12-volt DC socket, it is recording; no need to worry about starting it up. For a close-up view of vehicle or property damage, you can easily remove the Dash Cam from the vehicle and take snapshots with it.
Garmin | 800-800-1020 | www.garmin.com/rv
Magellan offers its popular RoadMate series with a variety of functions, including several designed with RVers in mind. In fact, the RoadMate RV series runs seven models deep, six of which feature a large 7-inch display.
At the top of the food chain is the RV9490T-LMB ($379.99), which offers a unique blend of RV navigation and safety features. The 7-inch display is actually an adjustable day- and night-view high-sensitivity touch screen, and the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies make this GPS feel more like the integrated units available in many passenger cars. The wireless capability allows users to receive advanced weather updates,
up-to-the-minute gas prices and even Yelp reviews of the destinations along your route.
RV-specific information includes the preloaded Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory, RV dump stations, Walmart locations and RV-friendly fuel stations. You can also customize a route based on the RV’s size, vehicle type and driving preferences, allowing you to avoid tight clearances, one-way roads or downtown driving. MSRPs for the RoadMate RV units begin at $299, and most are available at www.campingworld.com
at discounted rates.
If you’re looking for something a little more interactive (though without the RV-specific functionality), the RoadMate 6230-LM Dashcam Navigator ($229.99) is a premium GPS device with the capability to record travel scenery or an unexpected event in front of the RV while on the road. The unit automatically records HD video with the forward-facing dash camera, as video and audio are automatically recorded in an endless loop.
The camera is designed so that the driver does not have to interact with it to record footage. When a collision occurs, a special built-in acceleration sensor called a G-Shock sensor automatically locks video footage, location data and date/time information prior to the incident, providing an accurate record of events. Videos may be played back on the device or on Windows-based computers. The 6230-LM Dashcam Navigator comes with GPS navigation features like Free Lifetime Map Updates, Traffic Camera Alerts by PhantomAlert, Junction View, Landmark Guidance, Best Parking and much more. In addition to this integrated functionality, the 6230-LM Dashcam Navigator is compatible with the Magellan Wireless Back-Up Camera ($149.99).
Magellan | 800-707-9971 | www.magellangps.com
Rand McNally’s RV GPS 7735 LM is the latest Good Sam Club-branded GPS device with access to the Good Sam Travel Guide & Campground Directory. This means that users have up-to-date information on some 8,000 rated RV parks, including more than 2,100 Good Sam Parks.
The new model’s higher resolution 7-inch screen and faster processor make trip planning, points-of-interest searches and route customization easy. The 7735 LM offers improved large-vehicle routing with 11 different selectable RV configurations, plus a car mode for when you unhitch. Advanced lane guidance at the bottom of the screen makes at-a-glance navigation easier, while enhanced route customization helps drivers avoid congested areas, low clearances and construction zones.
The 7735 LM ($349.99; Internet sale, $329.99) displays more than 70,000 junctions, using Lane Assist to help guide you to the correct lane for easier city and interstate driving. The GPS finds toll costs and compares routes without tolls, and can connect to Wi-Fi for weather and fuel prices. The device also includes Rand McNally’s Best of the Road trips, adventures and getaways. Find a complete list of features at www.campingworld.com/goodsamgps.
Rand McNally | www.randmcnally.com
Via 1605 M RV ($229.95) is TomTom’s RV-friendly GPS. The 1605 M RV includes map data specific to oversize vehicles so users can avoid restricted roadways and low bridges. The unit features an interactive 6-inch high-resolution touch screen for easy operation. A split-screen “junction” view enables users to view the map while catching a glimpse of their upcoming exit, making it easier to recognize the correct lane positioning. Owners also receive a 10 percent discount at KOA locations across the United States and Canada, in addition to free map upgrades for life.
Like all TomTom GPS units, the Via 1605 M RV offers real-time arrival info, a points-of-interest database, an audible speeding alert, fast route planning and safety alerts such as unpaved road notifications and recommendations for taking
a break. TomTom units also can quickly calculate an Eco Route, which steers drivers toward the most fuel-efficient way to a destination.
Although all the devices in this roundup are in fact “portable,” TomTom offers the ultimate in portability with the Runner Cardio watch, a great way to keep an eye on your health and fitness while exploring the countryside or hiking the dunes. The Runner Cardio features a built-in heart monitor and several settings to ensure you get the most from your backcountry travels. Users can adjust the pace, distance and calorie goals, all in a Bluetooth-compatible lightweight wristwatch that’s water-resistant up to 50 meters. You can even share your results with friends on popular running and social media websites and apps. MSRP ranges from $269.99 to $299.99.
TomTom | www.tomtom.com