No matter what your outdoor adventures are, there’s a GPS navigational unit out there
designed for you. We took a look at a sampling of portable navigation units that do double
duty: They can be used in your motorhome and then easily swapped out for use in your dinghy
or other vehicle – just plug it in and you’re ready to go. These portable in-vehicle nav
systems offer content-driven services – such as real-time traffic and weather information –
and some of the smaller units can even be used when exploring the great outdoors. Some of
the models mentioned have sister units that vary in features and cost, so if one unit
doesn’t quite make it in your book, visit the companies’ Web sites for a complete overview
of all GPS units. Begin your navigation here.
Alpine PND-K3msn The
recently released PND-K3msn (msrp $300) by Alpine Electronics of America has many of the
features that motorhome owners look for in a portable nav system: preloaded maps of North
America, a 4.3-inch high-resolution touch screen with large select buttons, turn-by-turn
voice directions, more than 6 million unique points of interest (POI) and built-in
Bluetooth for hands-free calls when used with Bluetooth-enabled cell phones. The PND-K3msn
also comes with a free three-month subscription to MSN Direct, which delivers current
traffic information, gas prices, weather, news headlines and alerts, stock quotes and local
events in 134 metropolitan areas.
Cobra NAV ONE 5000 The latest GPS
offering from Cobra Electronics features the company’s exclusive OptiView ultrabright
5-inch touch screen with large on-screen text and enhanced backlighting for better viewing
even in extreme lighting conditions. One of the more unusual features of the NAV ONE 5000
(msrp $510) is its built-in database of speed and red-light cameras; the unit monitors the
driver’s location and provides alerts of cameras up to a mile before reaching them. Other
features include more than 7 million POI, turn-by-turn voice guidance with spoken street
names and an optional real-time traffic feature with a 15-month traffic service
Garmin nüvi 500 This year Garmin includes outdoor
recreation navigation capabilities in its new nüvi 500 (msrp $300), converting this
in-vehicle nav unit into a portable personal navigator when needed. Preloaded with road and
U.S. topographic maps, the nüvi 500 provides driving, bicycling and walking modes via a
usage mode indicator located at the top of the home screen. For the outdoors, the unit
displays shaded digital elevation mapping on the 3.5-inch waterproof touchscreen, and comes
standard with a compass page, track log and a removable, rechargeable battery for extended
outdoor use. Driving navigation features include a preloaded Historic Route 66 map guide,
turn-by-turn directions that speak street names to your destination and millions of POI. If
you get lost, use the Where Am I? emergency locator to view your exact latitude and
longitude coordinates, the nearest address and intersection, and the closest hospitals,
police stations and fuel stations. RVers might also want to check out Garmin’s most recent
offering, the nüvi 465T (msrp $500) – the first portable GPS unit for long-haul navigation.
While the device is designed for use by truckers, RVers will appreciate its road
restriction guidance for height, weight, width and length of vehicle; warning information
for upcoming conditions such as sharp curves, steep grades and road narrows; and a database
of more than 30,000 repair and heavy-duty towing service POI.
Cross-Navigation Not new this year, but still a good contender in the portable nav
category is the XOG Road-Trail-Water Crossover Navigator GPS (msrp $160), which marries
turn-by-turn guidance with rugged, weatherproof outdoor travel functionality. It’s
preloaded with NAVTEQ street map detail with voice and visual guidance and offers more than
3 million POI. In Outdoor mode, the unit offers support for affordable field and on-water
mapping options. Users have plug-and-play options, such as preloaded SD memory cards for
different driving maps and fishing cartography. The XOG features a 3.5-inch touch screen,
MP3 player and JPEG picture viewer.
Magellan Maestro 4350 The new Maestro
4350 (msrp $400) is gaining rave reviews for its OneTouch feature and navigation choices.
With a 4.3-inch touch-screen display, OneTouch makes it quick and easy to create shortcuts
on a dedicated screen to favorite destinations and POI. Before driving, the display shows
an overview of a calculated route along with possible alternate routes. Touch an icon and
the 4350 displays the estimated time of travel and distance for three different possible
routes. For entertainment, OneTouch lets users set a shortcut to the 4350’s music player
for instant launching. Other features include hands-free calling with Bluetooth-compatible
cell phones, FM transmission to hear directions via the car stereo, and sending/receiving
text messages. The unit comes with a traffic receiver and three months of traffic service.
After that time, the service costs $60 for an annual subscription.
8100T Late last year, NAVIGON launched its top-of-the-line 8100T (msrp $600) GPS
navigator with 4.8-inch screen and Panorama View 3D, which uses NASA terrain height data to
display the road ahead with rolling hills and digital elevations. Features of this portable
nav unit include an exit guide that enables users to search upcoming exits for food, gas,
lodging, rest areas, auto service or shopping; DirectHelp, which provides instant driving
directions to and contact information for nearby hospitals, police stations, roadside
assistance and pharmacies; Zagat ratings and reviews of restaurants, attractions and golf
courses; 3-D views of actual road signs and lane guidance for highway interchanges and
exits; voice destination entry; integrated Bluetooth and free real-time traffic updates for
Pioneer AVIC-F500BT The recently introduced AVIC-F500BT (msrp $600)
is Pioneer’s only portable on-dash GPS. One of the perks of this unit is its large,
easy-to-read 5.8-inch touch screen with 800 ¥ 480 pixels and antiglare coating for a
sharper and more defined display. The AVIC-F500BT includes an MSN Direct receiver and three
months of free service from MSN Direct data subscription for traffic reports, gas prices,
movie times and three-day weather forecasts for more than 100 cities in North America.
Other features include approximately 12 million POI, voice recognition for making
hands-free calls via connected Bluetooth-enabled cell phones and playback of video or
compressed audio files stored on external devices such as USB memory or SD cards.
TomTom GO 740 LIVE One of the latest connected portable navigation devices
on the market is the TomTom GO 740 LIVE (msrp $500). This unit features wireless real-time
traffic reports, advanced lane guidance, spoken instruction and street names, voice
recognition and hands-free calling for Bluetooth-enabled cell phones. The GPS also comes
with one free year of TomTom’s LIVE Services, which are delivered over the air via a
built-in SIM card and GPRS modem. By using the unit’s 4.3-inch touch screen, users have
access to countless POI with Local Search powered by Google, Fuel Price Search for 120,000
fuel stations across the country and five-day weather reports.