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We have all come to rely on our in-vehicle GPS navigation systems, but what happens when you head off the road? This is the time when you need to pinpoint your location the most, yet this is when most in-vehicle GPS navigation systems do not work. For true off-road adventures, you need an off-road GPS system.
These systems track your route and point out special places of interest on the way. They work even when a cell phone signal does not, and most connect via WiFi or Bluetooth to other devices. They have hundreds of thousands of preloaded maps that cover all of the United States. You can plan your route, and then the GPS system will make sure that you stick to it. They come with rechargeable batteries, and many are water resistant and impact resistant. To help you to choose which product to buy, here is our guide to the best off roading GPS devices.
The Best Off Road GPS
Your next off-road trip could be your best ever with this high sensitivity, slim and lightweight GPS. It has a 2.6 inch color screen that is easy to see even in bright sunlight and 16 hours of battery life. It features a GLONASS receiver and has a quad helix antenna which will quickly locate your position even in deep canyons or in woods with heavy cover.
The GPS comes preloaded with 100,000 maps (covering all of the US) and you get a full one-year subscription to BirdsEye Satellite Imagery. All of the maps have details of the national parks, state parks and local parks as well as forests, terrain contours, elevation, trails and geographical features such as rivers and lakes. There are topographic maps as well as marine maps and road maps. The maps are in 2-D or 3-D and include elevation profiles and contour lines.
2.6-inch color screen
16 hours of battery life
Quad helix antenna
Preloaded with 100,000 maps
- Weight9.3 ounces
You can read and interact with maps with this GPS and GLONASS satellite tracking system. It gives you a three-inch impact-resistant screen that is clear in sunlight and has a touchscreen display as well as multi-touch capability so you can use it with gloves. The unit is powered by AA batteries or by a NiMH battery pack. It also features a 8MP camera with autofocus which geotags each picture and an LED flash light as well as a digital zoom.
Sharing your information is easy as it has ANT or Bluetooth connections as well as a USB connection and a microSD™ card slot. The dual-band GPS/GLONASS gives you accurate satellite positioning even in deep canyons and it comes with thousands of preloaded maps covering all of the US. You can zoom in and out of the maps and they give you topographic data, national parks and terrain contours. You can add further maps if you are in a city or on water. It has an in-built 3-axis compass which compensates for tilt and a barometric altimeter to give you altitude information and elevation profiles.
Three-inch impact-resistant screen
Touch screen can be used with gloves
Thousands of preloaded maps
Accurate satellite positioning
- Weight7.4 ounces
A must-have for 4D enthusiasts, this GPS Navigator for trials and streets is slim and affordable. The unit has a seven-inch hi-definition touchscreen. Coupled with ground-breaking off-road navigation technology, this gives you precise directions whether you are on or off-road.
Pre-loaded on the device, there are over 115,000 routes covering all forests and public lands. Thanks to the included street navigation, you can get from your home to the start of the trail with no issues. Discover new user-generated trials by joining in the crowdsourced online database of tracks created by your fellow off-roading enthusiasts. This GPS makes it easy to follow trails, to record your own tracks and to access saved trails. It clearly identifies land features in a high-resolution (10M) 3D map of the terrain which keeps you informed of what is ahead and maintains safety. The maps include contour lines and cover all of the USA and Canada.
Compact and affordable
Ground-breaking off-road navigation technology
Over 115,000 routes
High resolution 3D map
- Weight3.54 pounds
This off roading GPS is specifically designed for cycling and is suitable for competitions as well as recreational navigation. It comes with a preloaded cycle map that gives turn by turn directions whether you are on or off road.
Thanks to the Strava Live Segments (60-day trial included), you can compete with previous best times of your own or with other riders and you get real-time results on the screen. It connects with your smartphone so that you can receive notifications and message riders. There is also an incident detection function for safety. This is not just a GPS, it will also monitor your Vo2 Max and your recovery time if you use it with external monitors. The battery life is around 15 hours. It can be used with the Trailforks app which has trails from more over 80 countries featuring topographic information and trail conditions.
Off road GPS for cyclists
Preloaded cycle maps
Connects with smartphones
15 hours battery life
- Weight2.08 ounces
This slim and compact GPS navigator features a 800 x 400 resolution screen that displays in color and has touchscreen capability. It will pinpoint where you are on the base map and automatically records your route whilst you can manually save your own observations.
It has a pause mode that enables you to save way points, make audio recordings, store coordinates of your current location and even add photos. It is suitable for trail and street navigation and comes loaded with over 100,00 authorized 4WD, motorcycle and snowmobile trails in all US states and Canada. It comes with free lifetime updates to the maps and software updates which are received via Wi-Fi. It will notify you when you veer significantly off course and guide you back to the track or to any other point that you wish such as a camp site.
Slim and compact
800 x 400 resolution screen
Suitable for trail and street navigation
Preloaded with thousands of maps
- Weight1 pounds
You can check out your data at a glance on this GPS device thanks to the clear 2.7-inch display that works equally well in low light and strong glare. You can use your smartphone to pair and customize your settings and workouts. It has a free app which automates pairing and it will integrate with Strava Live Segments so you can match and beat your goals. It connects through both Bluetooth and WiFi. You can use it for off road navigation and build routes and get pop-up notifications. You can even locate friends in real time.
The front buttons are both accessible and easy-to-press and it features a perfect view zoom. In total there are over 170 data fields that you can use to configure your screen. It comes with a companion app which will give you navigation cues to an entered destination.
2.7-inch display which is visible in bright glare
Integrates with Strava Live Segments and other apps
Over 170 data fields
Can be used with an app to get directions
- BrandWahoo Fitness
- Weight1 pounds
You can take complete control of your next adventure with this useful off road GPS. It has a 2.2-inch color display which is high resolution and thanks to the 240 x 320 pixels, is clear even in bright sunlight. It includes 3.7 GB of internal memory but also has a slot for a microSD card.
This Garmin off road GPS is compatible with TOPO 24K, HuntView and BlueChart g2 maps as well as many others but some require a subscription. However, it comes with preloaded base maps. Thanks to the high-sensitivity GPS receiver (which is WAAS-enabled) you can pinpoint where you are. The HotFix satellite prediction and GLONASS support will update your location even in deep canyons and heavy tree cover.
2.2-inch color display
3.7 GB of internal memory
Compatible with TOPO 24K and many others
HotFix satellite prediction
- Weight5 ounces
There’s great resolution with this 240 x 320 pixel color display which measures 2.2 inches and is visible even in bright glare. You also get a sizable internal memory (3.7 GB) as well as a useful microSD card slot. You can load TOPO 24K, maps and BlueChart g2 as well as City Navigator NT and many more but some may require a subscription.
A worldwide base map that has shaded relief is included when this off road GPS navigation is supplied. The device also features a 3-axis electronic compass which is tilt-compensated as well as a barometric altimeter. This enables you to accurately track your altitude. It connects wirelessly so that you can share data and information with compatible devices and with your friends. It will connect to other compatible Garmin devices.
Connects to other compatible Garmin devices
Sizable internal memory (3.7 GB)
Preloaded with worldwide base maps
Ill load TOPO 24K, BlueChart g2 and many more
- Weight5 ounces
For clear and accurate tracks over even the toughest terrain, you can’t go wrong with the Voyager GPS computer. It is compatible with the Suzuki RMZ 250/450 08-12 and DRZ400/KLX400 00-11 radiator screw sensor. This trail GPS has been designed specifically for off-roading and can be used with motorcycles, snowmobiles, ATVs and 4 wheel drive vehicles.
It features 240 x 400 WQVGA LCD screen display which is back-lit and indicates your GPS speed as well as the distance that you have traveled. There is also a compass and an altitude indicator. It will give you the ambient and engine temperatures as well as maps. It will track your journeys so that you can organize and edit the details later in wonderful 3D detail. The device also features a waterproof MicroSD card slot so that you can download details and share your newly discovered trail maps online. It can detect when your engine has stopped so you don’t get random data points in your records.
Designed specifically for off-roading
Back lit 240 x 400 WQVGA LCD screen
Includes compass and altitude indicator
Waterproof MicroSD card slot
- BrandTrail Tech
- Weight1 pounds
In this pack you get the Garmin Edge 1030 GPS Bike Computer with a USB charging cable and a variety of mounts for your cycle and a silicone case.
The device can access the Trendline website where you can use billions of miles of data provided by other riders showing on- and off-road routes. These off road GPS units are ideally suited for competitive riding as well as for casual riders and adventure seekers. It comes preloaded with a cycle map that gives you easy to follow navigation as well as useful alerts about things like sharp turns.
You also get elevation data and points of interest and it will generate several optional routes. It allows you to contact fellow riders if you need assistance and if you are not able to communicate the GroupTrack function will let them know where you are.
Can access the Trendline data
Preloaded with a cycle map
Elevation data and points of interest
Rider to rider communication
- Weight4.3 ounces
Best Off Roading GPS Buying Guide & FAQ
What to Look for When Buying an Off Roading GPS
As an off-roading enthusiast, there are a few key features that you should look out for in an off-road GPS device. Here are the main ones.
- Accurate mapping.
You will need a device that will alert you to key geographical features and unsealed roads as well as recognized 4WD trails. Following vetted 4WD tracks is the best way to keep safe. It must be able to map all sorts of terrain accurately in case you want to leave the track. Contour lines and geographical features are a must – you need to know when you are approaching rocky terrain, rivers, cliffs and swamps.
- Show landmarks and points of interest.
It is very useful if the GPS is able to show landmarks that you may want to check out and points of interests. Parks and recreational centers should show up so that you can find your way to them. You also need to know where camp sites, fuel stations and viewing points are located. This enables you to plan your route off-road effectively and ensures you won’t be stranded without fuel or miles from a camp site. You will be able to do this without having to stop and consult a paper map which is time-consuming and inconvenient.
- Smartphone connectivity.
With smartphones being so widely used these days, it is very useful to be able to connect your GPS system to your phone. It will allow you to access apps and many other functions associated with your off-road GPS device. Many apps allow you to do some great things with your off-road GPS. Some allow you to record your off-road trail and others allow geo-tags in photos. You will be able to share your exploring experiences with all of your family and friends. It is worth noting that off-road GPS have maps that are downloaded and will work where signal coverage is bad and where your cell phone may not be able to get a signal.
If you are not close to a location where you can charge your GPS system, you need one with a long battery life.
- Where are you going to put it?
You have the choice of portable units or in-dash units. This is down to personal preference and will also be dictated by the type of vehicle you want to use it with. Most off-road enthusiasts like portable units because they can use them in multiple vehicles.
If you are going to use the GPS system off-road, it will need to be durable and may need to be waterproof as well.
- Display screen.
Ideally, the screen should be designed for use outside so that you can view it in bright sunlight. Color screens are always popular.
Why You Should Use an Off Road GPS
An off-road GPS offers many benefits to the dedicated off-roader whether you prefer 4WD vehicles, motorcycles, ATVs, snowmobiles or boats. Here are the main ones.
- They give more information than paper maps. The whole point of off-roading is that you get to explore and it can be hard to do this with a paper map that has limited information about terrain data. Not all off-road tracks are indicated – even the popular ones. An off-road GPS system will give you accurate terrain mapping so that you can go on a true adventure. You can even create an alternative route if you wish.
- Safety and security. One limitation of paper maps is that they only provide “line data” and this does not help much with off-road navigation. It may be sufficient for some gentle adventuring but is not enough for a true free spirit. A good off-road GPS system will provide you with detailed topological information even if you are in the middle of a jungle. This makes you more confident and more likely to explore.
- A reliable signal. You may have been told about free apps that you can download onto a smartphone that will stop you from getting lost when off-roading. Whilst it is true that you can download off-road maps to your smartphone, a dedicated GPS device will give you a much more reliable signal. They don’t require a cell phone signal to work. The added bonus is that they don’t take up valuable memory on your smartphone. They also have better battery life so even if your smartphone has run out of battery, your GPS will keep going.
- Easy to use. GPS devices have been designed so that they are very convenient and easy to use. They are a lot less fiddly than paper maps. You don’t have to stop to look at them as they have spoken directions. All you have to do is set up the device before you leave and then glance at it now and again. Voice guidance makes your journey safer as you don’t have to take your eyes off the road. They will also alert you when you are approaching a major landmark so you won’t miss a thing.
- Additional devices. Often the off-road GPS system does a lot more than tell you where you are and give you directions. Many are also electronic compasses and barometers. Others can be linked with external devices such as heart monitors and give you fitness and health information.
Different Types of Off Road GPS Navigations
You have a lot of choices to make when you are looking for an off-road GPS device because there are several different types. Here are the main categories that you can choose from.
- In-vehicle GPS system
In-vehicle GPS systems are nothing new. They are fitted as standard to most vehicles and many people wonder how they managed without them. We have all got used to their bright screens and clear spoken instructions. They improve the accuracy of map directions and have improved year on year since they were introduced. They are a lot more than a map and come with voice assistance, traffic monitoring systems and superb connectivity. Off-road GPS systems are just like the standard in-vehicle systems but they have tracks and trails on them as well as roads. Many will cover roads and off-road routes so that you can get from your house to the start of the trail.
- Hand-held GPS system
These are also sometimes called portable GPS systems and they are becoming increasingly popular with off-roaders. They act as digital maps and show your altitude as well as your location and all topographical features in the terrain around you. They can be used in any vehicle that you are in and you can lend them to family members.
They are very useful when you are out in the wild and will let you know where features such as campsites and fishing spots are located. They are able to triangulate your exact location and can even send that to emergency services so they could save your life.
- Sport and fitness GPS systems
These devices are a lot more than just location devices. They also give information on time, distance traveled, cadence and even heart rate if they are connected to external devices. Athletes use them to monitor their performances and to plan their training regime. Cyclists find them very useful but they are also widely used by long-distance runners.
- Water-based GPS systems
It’s not just on land that you can get lost. Those on water can also lose their way and many fishing boats, deep sea divers and jet skiers use marine GPS systems to find their way across vast oceans and seas that have little in the way of topographical features to help you navigate.
These devices use radar technology which can allow them to detect fish and also to avoid obstacles such as deep-sea coral reefs. They can also help you to keep out of commercial shipping lanes where you could collide with larger vessels. If you get into trouble, they will triangulate your position so that the emergency services can find you.
- Air travel GPS Systems
All types of aircraft need an aviation GPS unit. They also use radar technology to set out your route. It will let you know where you are even if the weather is cloudy and visibility is poor.
They play a vital role in preventing aircraft from colliding with each other. They also provide airport data and route coordination as well as terrain and positional mapping. Most will act as compasses, altitude calculators and speedometers.
Best Off Roading GPS FAQ:
Q: What is an off-road navigation?
You can think of an off-road navigation device as satellite navigation device for the off road enthusiast. The problem with regular navigation devices, including those on a smartphone, is that they only cover regular streets and highways. As soon as you leave the road, you are on your own and have to rely on paper maps. It is a nuisance to have to stop and refer to these so off-road navigation is very useful to those who like to head off on an adventure in 4WD vehicles, motorbikes, ATVs and even snowmobiles.
Q: What maps and trails do the off-road GPS devices cover?
A: Most off-road GPS devices come preloaded with maps that cover the whole of the US and Canada but this is just the start. Many allow you to subscribe to websites where crowd-sourced data is provided by off-road enthusiasts. They will leave detailed information about exciting routes including hints and tips and even some pictures. You may need to pay a subscription to access these from your device.
Q: How accurate is the GPS system?
A: GPS off-road systems are highly accurate. They will be able to pinpoint your location accurately even if you are in a deep canyon or there is heavy tree cover. Many devices will also give you details about what altitude you are at.
Q: Can I use it for street navigation and trail navigation?
A: These devices are designed specifically for trail navigation. However, most of them also have a street map facility and will guide you along city streets too. This means that you can find your way from your apartment in the middle of town and around a country trail using just the one device which saves you time and money.
Q: Are these off-road GPS waterproof?
A: The specifications of your particular device will indicate how waterproof it is. Most are at least water-resistant and some come with silicone covers which are waterproof. Many are also shatter-proof which is useful when you are out on a trail.
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Our Top Pick
Our top pick of the best off roading GPS systems is highly sensitive and lightweight GPS. The 2.6 inch color screen can be seen in bright sunlight and it has 16 hours of battery life. It features a GLONASS receiver and quad helix antenna to locate your position. The system is preloaded with 100,000 maps and it provides a year’s subscription to BirdsEye Satellite Imagery.
You get details of parks, forests, terrain contours and much more. The maps are in 2-D or 3-D and include elevation profiles and contour lines. As part of the device there is a 3-axis electronic compass as well as a barometric altimeter to track changes in pressure so it will give you an accurate altitude reading and alert you to changing weather conditions.
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