One of the key elements in our way of travelling, “Overlanding”, is the ability to discover remote locations, find adventurous small roads, camp on isolated places and be far away from everybody else. In theory the only thing you need is a good detailed map like a topographic map. This will tell you everything you need to know about a the terrain you are roaming. What kind of surface height, is it a dead end road, … I’m a big fan of using plain old maps, we use them on all our hikes. I’m quite skilled reading and interpreting topographic maps.
Even if you are using digital apps or specialised GPS devices, knowing how to read and interpret a map is key. Most advanced GPS devices also use topographic maps so that’s a skill you won’t waste your time on. If you want to know more on reading and understanding maps head over to the Navigation reading list.
The downside of paper maps is that they become outdated at a certain moment. In Belgium for example some regions haven’t been updated since 1995, a lot has changed since then. Another issue is bringing a whole library if you are travelling wide areas.
And last but not least, if you are wandering around the continent and just go where the wind blows, it’s kind of heard to prepare a set of maps if you have no destination set out.
Luckily we moved over to the digital era and tons of apps with updated digital topographic maps are available. I have some of them on my phone: GAIA GPS, Topo GPS, etc…
But i’m not a big fan of using those apps as main source of navigation. I like to use my phone for music, calling, looking up information of the area we are in, messaging in the car, … and you need constant cellular connection to navigate. Now I know you can download pieces of maps to your device but as mentioned before, if you don’t know where you are heading, that’s no use.
One of my most anticipated buys from the last few years was definitely the Garmin Overlander. I’ve seen similar devices on youtube channels in Australia and the United states but could get anything near that functionality here in Europe.
Up till then I used the Garmin 276 cx, this is a robust navigator with basic but trusty features. I had no complaints about this old trusty. The only down side was the fact that this thing had zero connectivity. Once you plug it out of your PC you lost all connectivity except for GPS and the possibility to connect it to your phone’s hotspot to tell you the weather.
In terms of connectivity that’s where the Garmin Overlander comes in to play.
What I love about the Garmin Overlander is the fact that it has a preinstalled detailed topographic maps and they get updates on a regular base.
The fact that you can update routes, waypoints, POI’s, … to the device from your smartphone so no need to plug in into the computer, just update it on the go with cloud syncing. Losing your device doesn’t mean you loose all your data.
It has two kinds of navigation: a normal street navigator like you use in your daily driver and the detailed Off Road navigator.
You can switch between both by just the tap of a button.
The off road navigator shows you a Topographic map that you can navigate, zoom out, scroll, … I use that last feature continuously when we are out traveling. Looking for shortcuts trough though terrain, see if the road ends into a lake side camping spot, …
This is really my detailled view of the area we are travelling in. I also keep track of our whole travels to have an entire GPX of our journey.
The Garmin overlander is actually a rugged Android tabled with a Garmin Overlander layer over it. It looks modern and firm and since they use the Android platform usability is as it should be.
Swipe, touch, pinch… everything you are used of doing on your smartphone can be done on the Overlander’s touchscreen as well.
One of the most important features of the Overlander is the fact that it has very detailed topographic maps available, they are free downloadable from their online servers. Just open the device select the region you want te travel or select a whole continent and press download. FOR FREE!
What a relief in comparison to their GPSMAP maps you have to buy download and install.
When it comes to integration there are a some apps hat you can rely on for finding places to see, camp spots, restaurants, … I hope in the future more apps will be integrated that have an even stronger local footprint like Park4Night. But iOverlander, TripAdvisor, ASCI camping, Foursquare, .. and other already provide a firm base to rely on.
Now I’m used on using Garmin Basecamp for creating and managing my Tracks, waypoints etc. From there I dragged the selected items to my connected GPS device.
But Garmin has released its Explore cloud service that enables syncing items between different devices from one central point, the Garmin explore website. You can make collections and each of these collection has a filter for tracks, POI’s, Routes, … works very well. Getting your stuff into your Garmin device never has been easier. That’s the good part.
Now for the bad news. The online interface to create, modify or personalise tracks is a pain in the ass. I understand what they wanted to do with the Garmin Explore website but they are miles away from getting there. So I use the Garmin Explore interface just as a send and receive channel and keep my Basecamp as primary source, archive and tool for editing. I hope there will be some major improvements in the future, because it has huge potential.
The cloud service also allows you to manage, add and edit with an IOS or Android device. That is pretty handy when on the road.
Back to the good stuff about the Overlander.
I’ve come to find they put a lot of thought in this product.
It is so packed with features, as mentioned before: the databases of heaps of camping spots but next to that it has built in pitch and roll for your rig, tracking tools, …
And one of the things that I found only useful after a while was the ability to add a rear camera to it. Initially I thought that as a “I’m never going to use that”- feature, until i bought my trailer. I mounted the camera to the back of my it and now when I back up, the camera of my car shows the space between the car and the trailer and the Garmin Overlander shows the space behind the trailer. That saved my ass more the a few times!
The installation is super easy over wifi so no cabling to be done and multiple camera’s can be attached.
Oh and the magnetic mount is so nice, no more screwing clicking, trying to insert USB cables. Just pull or push and you’re off!
I use the Garmin Overlander in Multiple ways:
Daily driver GPS from point A to B, with speedcamera notifications, traffic information, etc.
As a Tracker of my whereabouts on long or short trips
Navigator on GPX files for trips, off road trips, etc…
For me this is essential gear when we go overlanding.