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Updated Sep 6, 2022 12:34 PM

You rely on your car’s built-in GPS or your smartphone’s mapping app to get you where you need to go in your hometown and unfamiliar cities. When you’re off-roading, however, the lack of connectivity and cell signal mean you can’t use a basic GPS. That’s why specialized off-roading GPS units are such a handy tool on your off-the-beaten-path adventures. 

When you’re driving over unfamiliar and even unpredictable terrain, you need a GPS that can pinpoint your location, allow you to see what’s around you, and find your way back home. With one of these GPS devices, you’ll be better prepared to leave the streets behind for the thrills of off-roading. We’ve rounded up our favorite GPS devices to help you choose the best one for you.

Our Methodology

In order to choose the best off-roading GPS devices available, we took a look at those that offered maps for off-roading. We looked for products that featured downloadable maps, topographic mapping, points of interest, and the ability to plan trips with waypoints. Features such as global-positioning sensors and compatibility with a wide range of systems, updated maps, and color displays separated the best products from the rest. And we also took users’ real-life experiences using these GPS units to assess how they performed outdoors and in true off-roading conditions.

Best Off-Roading GPS Reviews & Recommendations

Convenient, easily rechargeable, and perfectly portable, this communicator is what you need if you’re hoping for versatility and compactness. This off-roading GPS has it all, from preloaded topographic maps to color satellite images and a display that can easily be read in sunlight and darkness. You can set waypoints, access weather forecasts, and even review your trip data. It is a handheld device, which makes it smaller than those meant for dashboard mounting. If you like to get out of your off-road vehicle and explore, hike, or camp, this is the device you need.

This off-roading GPS does have features that require a cell signal, such as active weather forecasts and live geocaching. Its display isn’t a touchscreen, which can be a slight disadvantage. You also may find its handheld design and small screen a challenge to use behind the wheel.

Specs
  • Model number 010-02088-01
  • Display size 3 inches
  • Mounting None
PROS

Easy-to-read display

Two-way messaging

Preloaded with maps

35 hours per charge

CONS

Not touchscreen

Small display

This device is designed to handle it all, with rugged construction and a durable yet easy-to-see display. If you’re all about off-roading, right down to your rugged vehicle, then the Garmin Tread Base Edition Powersport Off-Road GPS Navigator is a great product. It’s designed for off-roading vehicles, and it features a powered mount and wiring harness with a tube mount so you can attach it to everything from your Jeep to your ATV or UTV to a snowmobile. It’s IPX7 weather-resistant, with a glove-friendly touchscreen. This off-roading GPS comes loaded with topographical maps and street maps, and you can add or customize the maps as needed. You’ll even get public and private land information, plus forest service roads and trails nearby. And if you want more insight, you can use Garmin’s Tread app to sync data across your GPS and other tech gadgets.

The only drawback is the mounting setup included. It isn’t as simple to install as others, so you might want to swap it out for a more streamlined, grab-and-go option.

Specs
  • Model number 010-02406-01
  • Display size 4.8 in W x 2.7 in H
  • Mounting Power mount and wired harness
PROS

Includes topographic mapping and trails

Offers private and public land data

Weather- and water-resistant

Glove-friendly, easy-to-read touchscreen display

CONS

Included wiring harness and mount isn’t very versatile

The Magellan TR7 Trail and Street GPS Navigator offers a whole lot of value for your money, especially if you’re shopping on a budget. With a lower price than most competing off-roading GPS devices, this product combines traditional turn-by-turn navigation on city streets with off-road maps and trails. It comes pre-programmed with more than 160,000 trails across the U.S. with a high-definition display that works as a touchscreen. One of the best features, though, is the built-in camera that allows you to take photos and video as you travel. You can even use the camera to share your snaps on social media. This off-roading GPS also delivers value in the form of smart features, such as alerts when you veer off your chosen trail, the ability to search points of interest, and create waypoints.

The downside is that you may not be able to access all of the cool features when you aren’t connected to Wi-Fi. For example, you can’t share video or photos from the device unless you’re in range of a wireless signal.

Specs
  • Model number TN7881SGLUC
  • Display size 7.48 in W x 4.31 in H
  • Mounting Suction cup
PROS

HD touchscreen

Built-in camera

More than 160,000 trails

High resolution

CONS

Needs Wi-Fi connection

When it’s durability you’re looking for, the Magellan TRX7 CS Pro Trail and Street GPS Navigator is a great choice. This extra-tough off-roading GPS unit is built to handle all kinds of challenges (and accidents). Its exterior housing is rugged, and it’s waterproof, dustproof, and resistant to both drops and shocks. No matter how you’re using it or mounting it via the dual mount included, this device can handle bumps, bouncing, and more. It comes loaded with more than 160,000 maps and trials, including topographic maps and 3D basemaps. And unlike other off-roading GPS options, this device can give you turn-by-turn directions for streets and trails.

The only drawback to this feature-filled and highly durable unit is that some features do require an internet connection. When you’re far from Wi-Fi, you won’t be able to download new maps, share your location, or use the built-in camera to send photos and videos to friends.

Specs
  • Model number MDCTN1840SGLUC
  • Display size 7 inches
  • Mounting Dual mount with suction cup and adapter compatibility
PROS

Mounts to windshield, dashboard, or tubing

Rugged exterior casing

2D 3D map options

Accurate within 9-15 feet

CONS

Features require Wi-Fi

Best for Communication

The best feature of this off-roading device is Buddy Tracking. Forget about your smartphone and a lack of cell service. With the Trail Tech Voyager Pro GPS Kit, you’ll be able to find your way off city streets and stay in touch with your friends. This off-roading GPS device comes with preloaded base maps, topography lines, hill shading, and a selection of trails. You can update its data by recording or loading new trails or areas, and you can even download maps from areas beyond North America.Using localized radio signals, you can stay connected to up to 20 others, tracking them on your map in real time, noting distances, and even chatting thanks to Bluetooth functionality. There’s even an emergency beacon if you wind up stranded.

The biggest downside to this off-roading GPS is that it doesn’t come with a mount. You have to purchase one separately, and it’s only compatible with certain mounts. Additionally, its display may be a bit small for some owners.

Specs
  • Model number 922-128
  • Display size 4 inches
  • Mounting None included
PROS

Equipped with base maps

Water-resistant

Bluetooth enabled

Keeps you connected to friends

CONS

Mount not included

A bit small

What to Consider When Buying Off-Roading GPS Devices

You might know exactly what you need from a traditional GPS navigation device that you use around town or on road trips. But when it comes to an off-roading GPS unit, you need a different set of features and even more reliability. Here’s what you need to look for and keep in mind when you’re picking out one of these specialized GPS devices.

Types of Off-Roading GPS

Dashboard-Mount GPS

The most common kind of off-roading GPS device is just like the basic GPS units you know so well. Designed to sit in a mount on the dashboard of your vehicle, this kind of GPS features a compact yet easy to see screen that shows you where you’re located and, typically, offers turn-by-turn navigation along trails or off-road routes. It’s a hands-free way to always know exactly where you are.

Handheld GPS

Handheld off-roading GPS devices are a great option for those who don’t mind handing navigation over to a passenger or those who want to be able to bring their GPS device anywhere. With smaller screens and a more compact, pocket-friendly size, these units are able to be taken out of your vehicle and carried anywhere. They’re especially handy if you plan to go off-roading and then camp out, hike, or just venture beyond your vehicle.

GPS Smartphone Apps

An increasingly popular option, GPS smartphone apps allow you to download off-roading maps right to your phone. This convenient alternative eliminates the need to purchase a separate device and carry it with you. Instead, you can get everything you need for a monthly or annual subscription fee and keep all the info on your phone. Many of these apps do have an offline mode, which ensures you can still use your maps and figure out where you are without any internet or cellular connectivity. 

Off-Roading GPS Key Features

Offline Mapping

If there’s one must-have feature that you need in an off-roading GPS device, it’s offline mapping. We’ve all been there. You head out into new territory, try to rely on your phone to get service or signal, and wind up frustrated. And it’s impossible to follow your GPS if the device can’t connect. However, when you have a GPS that offers offline mapping, then you can always download maps for where you’re headed in advance (while you still have connectivity) and use them when you lose signal. It’s the best way to ensure you always know where you’re going and how to get home.

Topographic Mapping

Terrain is key when you’re off-roading, which makes topographic mapping another crucial feature. Topographic mapping lets you see the geological details and features of where you are. You can see contour lines as well as elevation, and some off-roading GPS units can even show you off-road track and National Parks trails. This gives you extra info that can be helpful if you’re in an unfamiliar area and need to get the lay of the land.

Points of Interest

Planning to hit a specific vista, destination, or waypoint? Then make sure you have an off-roading GPS that includes points of interest. This feature can help you plan your adventures in advance, giving you destinations that you can either use to mark your location and journey or spots to fuel up and take a break. When you have a GPS with points of interest, you’ll be able to find nearby gas stations, campsites, and trails or national parks with ease.

Off-Roading GPS Pricing 

An off-roading GPS typically costs between $500 and $700. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, you can find them for $300 to $400, if you don’t mind giving up a few features and opting for a more streamlined user experience. 

Tips and Tricks

As with anything you do for years, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way. That’s the case with us and off-roading GPS devices. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.

  • Don’t overlook the importance of your off-roading GPS mount. The devices don’t always include mounts, so you’ll need to purchase a secure product separately that’ll fit your GPS device and stay secure, even on rough terrain.
  • Handheld off-roading GPS devices are great for versatility, but make sure yours is lightweight if you’re going this route. You want it to be easy to carry, without extra bulk or weight. 
  • Built-in communication features are a great bonus if you off-road with others or want to be able to reach someone in the event you get stuck. These devices make it much easier for others to find you and for you to work your way home if you need help.
  • The more positioning sensors, the better. These sensors are what the GPS uses to locate your exact position and having more of them gives you better accuracy. 

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. Car Bibles has answers.

Q: How reliable are off-roading GPS devices?

A: Accuracy and reliability are determined by a GPS unit’s sensors. Many mention how many GPS sensors they include. It’s those sensors that allow the device to pin down your location. The more global-positioning systems those sensors work with, the more accurate your device will be.

Q: How do I download off-road maps?

A: To download new off-roading maps or trails to your GPS device, you’ll need to check the specific download instructions on your unit. Every device is different, but typically an off-roading GPS will allow you to search for maps or trails, save them under a specific name, and then download to your device. You may need an internet connection or be plugged into your laptop or desktop, depending on the GPS unit you own.

Q: Can you use Google Maps for off-roading?

A: There’s a reason off-roading GPS devices exist, and the lack of navigation for trails and unknown territories on Google Maps is it. Google Maps is designed for those on traditional roads and streets, and it can’t deliver any navigation once you’ve headed off these paths. 

Q: Does Garmin have off-road maps?

A: If you get a Garmin GPS that’s made for off-roading, then yes. You’ll want to look for a specific off-roading device, as your typical GPS or navigation system will only stick to known roads and streets. However, an off-road version will be equipped with maps for trails and terrain.

Sources:

  1. GPS – Wikipedia

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