Having to ask your copilot for directions is quickly becoming a lost art. The proliferation of low-cost GPS devices has made travel to unfamiliar areas much more pleasant — and relatively argument free. Most devices are loaded with mapping and points of nterest, which are great for general travelers. But RVers have special needs, such as finding suitable roads for big rigs and, of course, campgrounds. Magellan, a big player in the portable GPS arena, has teamed up with the Trailer Life Campground Directory and is marketing a Good Sam version of the RoadMate Pro 9165T that comes pre-loaded with more than 11,000 parks featured in the printed version of the directory. And it locates, with icons and listings, the 1,767 Good Sam Parks and discount locations that offer special pricing to members, while routing you in directions that will keep you from wandering onto roads that can create tenuous moments for motorhome owners.
Special routing is provided based on your vehicle’s profile, which you can program into the device. If, for example, you ignore the suggested routing and are approaching an unsafe situation — such as a difficult road to negotiate — the device will continually announce a warning until you take corrective action.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the screen is huge. The 7-inch navigable touch screen is easy to view and the “buttons” are large enough for stubby fingers. Add the extension arm that comes packaged with the Good Sam version and the device can be mounted on the windshield, although we found the side windows a more suitable spot in Class A’s, since the distance from the driver/copilot is still out of arm’s reach on many models. Expect some shaking while on the road if the arm is used at full extension.
Setup is pretty standard: The articulating extension arm is easily assembled for connection to the screen and a very strong suction cup sticks securely to glass or other smooth surfaces. If need be, a disc with adhesive underneath can be purchased ($10) and placed virtually anywhere in the cockpit, providing mounting versatility for the screen. Power comes from the plug that goes into the vehicle’s 12-volt DC auxiliary port and the other end slides into the rotating bracket so it automatically becomes connected to the screen when it’s attached to the arm. If disconnected, the device can operate on internal batteries for 30 minutes. And it can also be charged by hooking up the provided USB cable to a computer. The same cable is used to gain password access to the company’s website for support and downloading mapping and information updates.
Campground and ancillary services information provided by this device is powerful. For example, nearby campgrounds or those at your destination will be listed by simply tapping the screen. From this list, users will get the campground rating and other details such as site suitability for big rigs and pet-friendly policies. Once a campground or facility is selected, it’s just a matter of tapping an icon on the screen and the guidance begins.
It took only minutes to become familiar with the functions after perusing the short instruction book and watching a couple of quick videos on the company’s website. Loading a new destination is very intuitive and finding places to eat, fuel up and shop, etc., is also touch-button simple.
Good Sam’s RoadMate Pro 9165T also provides free lifetime instant traffic alerts in areas where this information is transmitted and as long as the device is powered by the supplied proprietary vehicle adapter.
Not only will this device route RVers on the safest roads, it also provides Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free cellphone use, which is one of only a few legal ways drivers can use a phone in many states. Depending on the phone, up to 1,000 contacts can be loaded into the GPS unit for easy recall and dialing. Calls can also be made manually from the keypad that pops up on the screen when requested. Voice clarity and volume are decent but limited by the small speaker.
Magellan’s Good Sam-branded RoadMate Pro 9165T comes pre-loaded with maps of the U.S. and Canada and 6 million points of interest. The unit retails for $399.99, but Good Sam
members receive a 10 percent discount and the exchange warranty is extended for a second year. Not having to yell at your copilot is priceless.