If, like me, your idea of navigation while off-roading somewhere means a window rolled down, giant paper map flapping unhelpfully in the wind, while parked in a two-track trying to match what I think this sidewinding trail is that I’m sitting in to a dotted line on the map that I hope it is, cursing loudly but also secretly loving the analog connection to navigation of the past, then a turn-by-turn 4×4 GPS guidance system may seem a little like cheating.
But if you like actually getting to the middle-of-nowhere campsite or vista you’ve carefully planned, without having to pray a fellow adventurer ambles past so you can flag them down and sheepishly ask for help, then you’re probably gonna be really interested in Garmin’s new GPS device, the Overlander.
We haven’t been able to get our hands on one yet, but the specs and capabilities are pretty interesting.
It’s a seven-inch touchscreen unit that looks plenty robust. It can mount to your vehicle’s dash or, if you prefer, you can connect it via bluetooth to your smartphone and toss the Overlander in the glove compartment and operate the tech with your phone. The unit comes loaded with topo maps, 4×4 trails, and public lands boundaries across North and South America. It will also display public lands campgrounds and points of interest pretty much anywhere you go.
It has 64 GB of onboard storage and a micro SD card slot so you can build your own routes and load them into the system.
While plotting those routes, the Overlander will, according to Garmin, allow you to plug in your vehicle’s dimensions (length, width, height, weight) to create custom routes that your rig can handle. It includes pitch and roll gauges too, hoping to help keep your wheels down and your roof up.
While a few initial reports out there have said the Overlander will also send and receive text messages via satellite, this is not accurate. You’d need something like the inReach Mini for that. Paired with a messaging device. the Overlander would make a cool blend of a powerful GPS unit with the ability to call for help if needed.
The unit retails for $700. That’s a lot.
Is it better than a tablet running an off-road navigation app? Hard to say without being able to use it. I’ve used an iPad running custom off-road routing software and had no issues, but the detail and dedicated features like pitch and roll gauges and public lands and 4×4 roads already baked-in to one single device are compelling. The unit is tougher and far more dust proof than most tablets, also a win. Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to get way, way out there with one of these things soon and can report back.