RV’ers hit the road, they generally head away from home
on unfamiliar routes. While the long stretches on major highways
are easy enough to navigate, travelling through cities can
be a challenge - the local drivers understand the road signs,
and know where to change lanes to prepare for an exit because
they travel that road on a regular basis, but these interchanges
are often confusing to a visitor who doesn’t know whether
to go straight through or turn off at an intersection, and
an RV requires extra space for lane changes in heavy traffic,
and that often requires significant advance preparation. A
bad decision can mean that you miss your exit, resulting in
an unplanned detour that can take you many miles out of the
With the availability of affordable Global Positioning Systems,
RV travel has become much easier. The system relies on some
pretty impressive astrophysics, but in practice, you can take
advantage of the GPS network without any mathematical effort.
Some years ago, the American government invested in a system
of 24 satellites orbiting 11,000 miles above the earth to
make it easier for their armed forces to find their way in
foreign lands. Each of these satellites is equipped with an
atomic clock that keeps extremely accurate time and broadcasts
this information to receivers on the ground.
The receivers on the ground calculate the amount of time taken
for the signal to arrive from four or more satellites to develop
a triangulation indicating the exact location on earth of
the receiver mounted in a vehicle or carried by a person on
foot. Originally, the information transmitted included a fudge-factor
so that the enemy could not use the system with any accuracy.
Since the relaxation of world tensions, this misinformation
has been removed from the system so that now we ordinary individuals
can use the system with a low cost receiver to find our location
within 3 metres (ten feet).
This has been a godsend to RV’ers who need to know exactly
where they are when travelling in unfamiliar areas. Locations
like campgrounds, service stations, banks, restaurants, shopping
centres and many others are easily located, often with voice
instructions telling you what turns to make to arrive at your
Today, recreational sailors, farmers, soldiers, airline pilots,
hikers, off road bikers, and many others besides RV’ers
can use in-dash GPS systems, stand-alone portable systems,
Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), or laptop based mapping
programs to know exactly were they are. If you were lost in
a blizzard, it is important for the rescuers to know how to
find you. If you have travelled off-road on your mountain
bike, it is important to know how to get back to your start
position instead of having to retracing your path.
Manufacturers of new cars, SUVs, trucks and RVs report that
the most often requested option is a GPS mapping system. Considering
the price of a new vehicle, the GPS is a drop in the bucket,
but to achieve the optimum performance from your unit, it
is a good idea to investigate the specs of the receiver to
find out whether it has the map content that you need in the
areas where you plan to travel. Many RV’ers find it
frustrating to learn that some of the stand-alone GPS receivers
that can be dash-mounted have more detail of local streets
and roads in the USA than in Canada.
For years, Canadian mapping information was closely held by
the government who charged extremely high fees to license
its use by private companies. As a result, mapping systems
only would show the major roads and streets in Canada. That
is past history now, as low cost computer programs are available
with the smallest detail required by RV’ers. Today,
units that have built-in map data from a company called NAVTEQ
have better Canadian detail. NAVTEQ believes that the only
way to build a highly accurate map database is to drive the
roads. They have 575 field analysts who continually collect,
verify, validate, and update all of the pertinent road network,
attribute, and points of interest information to create the
most accurate navigable maps in the world.
Before we leave on a trip, it is possible to do some advanced
planning on a home computer of what roads to take that will
allow us to see attractions that are close to the area, and
also allow us to calculate approximate costs depending on
the inputs we use for fuel prices, travel times, and speeds.
If we don’t want to travel in a certain area or on a
specific road, we can avoid these by simply logging out the
route with the cursor on our computer.
If you are planning to purchase a new tow vehicle or motorhome,
your GPS options are usually dictated by the vehicle manufacturer,
but for those who already own their vehicle, there are several
companies offering stand-alone units that can be installed
by the RV’ers as an aftermarket addition.
Here is a selection of units currently available on the Canadian
new StreetPilot C-series
features an intuitive touch screen interface – designed
to make GPS navigation easy for everyone. Selecting a destination
is straightforward and requires only a limited amount of input
from the user. The C-series provides premium in-car navigation
capability with automatic route calculation to any destination
and turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions along the way.
The C-series offers all of the functions of a premium in-dash
system at a fraction of the cost.
StreetPilot C-series also allows users to choose between a
three-dimensional navigation view, or the more traditional
“bird’s eye” overhead view. The new 3D navigation
perspective lets drivers see an uncluttered view of what’s
down the road, and gives visual and voice-prompted turn-by-turn
information directly on the unit’s map page.
For the ultimate out-of-the-box convenience, for about $350
the StreetPilot C330 comes pre-loaded with
highly detailed MapSource® City Select® street data
of the entire United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. The
database features industry-leading five million-plus points
of interest — including hotels, restaurants, gas stations,
ATMs, and attractions. Map data is provided by NAVTEQ™
– a world leader in premium-quality mapping. This is
a unit that you can easily move from your RV to your car for
trips after you reach the campground. Garmin products are
available in many Canadian Tire Stores.
The new StreetPilot c330 joins Garmin’s comprehensive
line of automotive GPS navigators – from the full-featured
StreetPilot 2600 series to the compact and versatile Quest™.
With its intuitive operating system, the new StreetPilot c-series
is designed to attract new customers to the Garmin line –
those who haven’t yet experienced the ease, convenience,
and peace-of-mind that comes with automotive GPS navigation.
the high-end GPS shopper, the $1,250 Garmin
StreetPilot 7500 features a seven-inch screen
that is more readable when mounted on top of the dash of your
motorhome or truck. It includes dead reckoning sensors to
track your progress when the GPS signal is blocked when you
are in tunnels or crowded urban areas. The optional traffic
services and weather information provided by XM Radio will
be available in Canada in the future. The StreetPilot 7500
includes an internal MP3 player, XM Radio, and audio books
compatible with www.audible.com. (Page Top)
Magellan RoadMate 300 North America offers
affordable GPS for any car. Turn-by-turn voice and visual
guidance and simple menus on the latest touch screen technology
make navigation easy. You can load the maps you need to the
110 MB free memory or with your own Secure Digital plug-in
card. It is an affordable unit that is easy to use with a
3.5-inch color touch-screen.
navigation has never been easier than with a Magellan RoadMate.Use
the simple touch-screen menu to enter any address or select
from hundreds of thousands of points of interest and easily
navigate to virtually any destination. Get turn-by-turn voice
and visual directions as you drive. When travelling in the
USA, traffic reports are available. Bluetooth® wireless
technology and built-in microphone let you make hands-free
calls with your Bluetooth-enabled phone. Advanced turn-by-turn
GPS guidance directs you around traffic. Approximately $350.
Blackbird The newest Portable Navigation Device
(PND) available, the Alpine Blackbird (PMD-B100) is small,
portable, and offers more than just standard navigation. Easily
move your Blackbird from your RV to a car! Its sleek black
aluminium design is small enough to fit in your jacket pocket!
Plus you can connect Blackbird to a docking station, PMD-DOK1,
allowing it to be fully controlled through an Alpine 2006
touch screen AV head unit, such as the IVA-D310. Use the Blackbird
alone, or use it through your AV dash mounted unit –
it’s up to you!
map coverage across United States and Canada, you can go where
you want, and Blackbird will guide your way. View 6 million
points of interest locations on an anti-glare 3.6” LCD
touch screen. Alpine’s exclusive Graphical User Interface
(GUI for Drivers™) screen graphics deliver easy-to-understand,
at a glance on-screen driving directions, as well as simple
and easy to use menus and controls. Blackbird is the only
PND with built-in radio data system (RDS) traffic tuner, so
it will alert you to road incidents and road congestion levels.
Get turn-by-turn navigation with maps of USA and Canada. Over
6 million POI (Points of Interest) locations and 7 POI map
icons help you find whatever you’re looking for, whether
it’s the nearest gas station, restaurant or bank; even
if you’re in an area you’re unfamiliar with.
MIO C520 is
a 4.3-inch widescreen GPS with multimedia player and a 2 gigabyte
on-board flash memory, for about
$375. The screen allows you to see the full map and a selection
of route information beside it. This means that you can easily
identify route information without quitting the navigation
function. You can choose the information that you want to
display such as your next four manoeuvres, local points of
interest, speed camera locations, route and timing data. Hands-free
calling with your Bluetooth enabled phone allows you to keep
your hands on the wheel when making calls. The system automatically
switches from navigation to phone mode every time you receive
GO510 has an easy to use 4-inch wide LCD touch-screen
that gives you smart design and easy to use navigation at
your fingertips. For about $450 it doubles as a hands-free
car kit using Bluetooth® technology, so you can make &
receive calls as you drive with just a touch of the screen.
It also speaks some 36 languages in over 50 different voices
with detailed maps of the United States and Canada on an SD
ONE combines ease of use, portability, touch
screen technology and an elegant, unmistakable new design.
Drivers can enjoy the benefits of a TomTom ONE immediately,
thanks to TomTom’s award-winning navigation software
pre-installed. This means there is no need to download complicated
software, just start it up. TomTom ONE comes with the complete
maps of US and Canada, for about $375.
Lowrance iWay600C has a 5-inch color TFT touch-screen
display that is super-bright with a backlit screen and keypad
that enables superb readability even in bright sunlight. The
built-in GPS + WAAS receiver/antenna tracks both 12-parallel
channel and WAAS signals for greater accuracy down to 3 metres
(10 feet). It updates your position every second. Frequent
position updates are important as you drive in unfamiliar
country, since you don’t want to be past the turn before
your GPS updates your position. About $750, at retailers and
V7 Navigation 1000
from RV Gadgets is an attractive navigation solution that
offers a very good ratio of price to performance, especially
with the new and very reliable navigation software facilitating
cross-border travels through Canada and the United States.
It has a 4x3-inch touch screen with maps loaded on an SD card.
The navigation software is easily understandable, and the
user interface is not only attractive but also fast and simple.
For safety and convenience, the V7 has a voice prompt that
lets you know when to prepare for a course change, and if
you decide to take a different road, the unit automatically
recalculates the best route in a matter of seconds…
it also tracks your location to within a metre in the areas
where we tested the unit.
addition to using the V7 for navigation, you can listen to
MP3 and MP4 files, or store and view your JPG image files.
The unit comes with a 1 Gig SD card, pre-loaded with maps
and four games, so that you can get on the road immediately
– or you can copy the maps from the CD provided with
the unit, add them to your own SD card which you can load
with your own music or photo files, and use the 4 Gig card
in the GPS unit – capacity of the SD expansion is 4
The V7 Navigation 1000 is available on-line for $199 from
www.rvgadgets.ca. (Page Top)
Some of the laptop-based GPS systems offer lower cost to the
RV'er who already owns a personal computer, since you are
only buying the program and the GPS receiver, and not the
display. It is important to note that the laptop must be secured
to the vehicle in some way, so that it is not damaged, and
does not become a projectile in the event of a sudden stop
or change of direction. There are a number of laptop mounts
available, which may be suitable for your vehicle, or you
can improvise, but don’t use the laptop unless it is
securely attached to the vehicle.
For motorhome travel, where you can strap the laptop to your
dashboard or engine console, this provides the largest of
the GPS screens available – limited only by the size
of your laptop. Several of the systems offer voice prompt
navigation when installed on a laptop running Microsoft Windows
XP or newer operating systems, but older laptops running Windows
2000 usually work fine except for the lack of the voice component.
One of the more popular programs comes from Delorme,
a company that has been publishing maps for years, and published
its first CD Rom version in 1991. Street Atlas 2006 USA contains
more than 4 million places of interest, 268,000 additional
streets and roads, highways, and exit ramps, and address-to-address
routing on a CD-Rom. It has a split screen system showing
detailed GPS position and overview maps. You can use your
cursor to minimize either screen if desired. One advantage
of this program is the high contrast screen option for night
driving and the voice prompts telling you about the next turns
on your planned route. When tracking with “GPS Auto
Zoom” brings up in-close detail on upcoming turns. Delorme
cartographers are constantly updating their base of map information
in both USA and Canada. They make their own GPS-accurate data
instead of licensing map information from a third party. This
allows them to include customer revisions in future releases
of the program. At this time, road detail in the USA is excellent,
but only major roads in Canada are shown. By investing in
map making that is now underway, Delorme will have better
Canadian content in the future.
has been a trusted source of maps for many years and originally
had their own computer based map program. Today, they are
distributing CD-ROM Map programs by Delorme and National Geographic.
National Geographic has a reputation for excellent travel
articles and detailed maps in their magazine. Not only does
it have thousands of points of interest, but also many photos,
video clips, and driving tours. We were disappointed with
the detail in the National Geographic maps of Canada since
we had come to expect the same excellent detail as in the
maps they publish in their magazine.
CoPilot Laptop 10
by ALK software allows you to plan a trip, especially when
you have the small GPS receiver plugged into your USB port.
It automatically sets your starting point, and you can tell
the program which roads that you prefer or ones that you wish
to avoid. CoPilot is a program that has a 3D map display and
turn arrows that highlight the way ahead. The program offers
very detailed maps for travel in the USA, and a code unlocks
the Canadian information. The voice prompts help as you drive
along so that you don’t always have to watch the screen
as turns come up. The program offers customized trip routing,
with a feature that allows you to avoid certain roads, and
choose roads that you prefer.
Microsoft’s Streets &
Trips program uses mapping information from
Navteq, so it has excellent detail on Canadian and USA roads
and streets. It allows you to easily plan your trip and track
your location in real-time. During planning, if you don’t
like a section of road that the program chooses, simply click
on the selected route and drag it to where you would prefer
to travel. The program will automatically recalculate your
trip. The program has new voice prompted directions to provide
hands-free guidance. For Canadians who travel in the USA and
have kilometre per hour speedometers, when you set the system
to miles per hour, a window shows on the screen on the left
side with the exact speed in miles per hour. This should help
prevent a speeding ticket. The program has enhanced maps of
both US and Canada with the ability to show gas stations,
ATMs, campgrounds, shopping centres, and other places of interest.
It’s up to you what type of information you want shown.
You can download construction zones with free online updates,
and you can easily see upcoming turns with an automatic magnified
view. If you miss a turn, you can click and drag the route
so that it automatically updates to get you back on track.
To prevent you from looking into a bright light on your dashboard
at night, you can choose a lower brilliance and higher contrast
on the screen to combat eye fatigue. You can also create a
breadcrumb trail to see where you have travelled. Microsoft
has included Pocket Streets on the CD-Rom so that the program
will operate on your personal digital assistant or cell phone.
When you combine Microsoft Streets and Trips 2007 with a GPS
receiver, like the Deluo GPS model from www.rvgadgets.ca,
your laptop becomes a large-screen GPS unit that is ideal
for use in a motorhome, or on your navigator’s lap in
a smaller vehicle. Activate the GPS information pane and your
laptop’s voice program, and you’ll always know
the answer to the question “are we there yet?”
For more details visit the websites at:
Alpine Electronics – www.alpine.com
Garmin Int’l – www.garmin.com
GPS Central – www.GPSCentral.ca
Lowrance – www.lowrance.com/iway
Navteq – www.navteq.com
RV Gadgets – www.rvgadgets.ca
TomTom – www.tomtom.com (Page Top)