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Navigation using GPS

Whether you’re a full time caravanner or travelling around your own City/Town, chances are you’ve used a GPS navigator. There will come a time if not already that you will possibly need to update your GPS navigation system. I’ve tried a few over the years and like anything they all improve as time goes by. So i wont dive into a novel on versions that I’ve had 10 years ago and will focus on the more recent.

Our First Units

At the start of our journey we had just been driving around local areas not venturing to far abroad so our previous in car units have sufficed. A couple of years ago we had a in car entertainment unit with a built in navigation system. It did the basics and also drove me insane with constant beeping if ever we were near a rail way track. We used to live in the Whitsundays amongst a gazillion cane fields. Cane train tracks are everywhere. You could imagine how annoying that got after a while, Beep beep beep from the GPS unit.​
 
Next i bought a in car entertainment unit that was a android based platform. The principles of an android unit + two android phones made sense. They could talk to each other with little effort. Not forgetting the compatibility of being connected when in the car should improve. Well that was fairly true as the phones connected well to the unit but the GPS app that came with it was a bit average so i downloaded and installed……

Sygic app

Now usually I don’t get super persistent with apps. If it’s rubbish I normally ditch it pretty quick cause of the vast amount of options out there. For some reason though I really wanted SYGIC to work. Sygic it self had potential and when you read on the net about it a huge amount of people use and love it. For us though it was painful to enter destinations into. The sound kept dropping out along with other minor annoyances.
 
As i mentioned i was persistent on this one much to Suzies dislike. Her frustrations with the unit would show every time she went to go add or look up a point of interest (POI).
 When we started on our big adventure of full time caravanning and started to use the vehicle more than once a month it became apparent that SYGIC was about to get a hammer through its *cough * point of interest if we had to put up with it for the big lap so finally i gave in and uninstalled it and went onto testing other options.

CoPilot

CoPilot from google play

CoPilot showed a little bit of promise when compared to SYGIC. Entering destinations was a lot easier and it did live traffic updates. Also, like SYGIC, it did offline maps ( which is the reason I didn’t just go with google maps). Unfortunately the first test drive with it didn’t show speed limits and many POI’s for a common holiday area. Places like South West Rocks in NSW showed very little POI’s and speed limits. So after only three days  of testing it that made the redundant also.

navigation Garmin

Choosing a Garmin

With Full-time driving to new locations, we decided a factory built navigation unit is a better choice. I did a couple of nights researching and reading reviews. It turns out the top players in the market are still Garmin, Navman and Tom Tom. The top seller and most positive reviews seemed to be for Garmin. So off we went for a drive to Coffs Harbour to locate a Garmin GPS unit.
 
As we currently living off our savings we didn’t want to buy the super duper model. Although bells and whistles are always nice we decided on a 6 inch Garmin 67LMT model. The LMT means it has lifetime maps and traffic. It was on special from $237 to $167 at Harvey Normans and $220 across the road at JBHIFI so we picked one up at Harvey’s.
Navigation 67LMT

My opinion of the Garmin 67LMT

After installing this unit and giving it a test drive to Kempsey, we went searching for “Slim dusty centre” thinking even though he’s not something we are interested in he was a Aussie icon in the country music world surely that’s listed as a POI… but no it wasn’t and had to revert to google maps to locate it.
 
Then we thought OK the building was only erected December last year i’ll give Garmin the benefit of the doubt and say it’s too new. So we continued cruising in Kempsey, (the home of Akubra another Aussie icon). We went searching for the location of the iconic Akubra. Garmin didn’t even know the street for Akubra existed let alone the company. Strike 2 of 2 and we had to google map that one as well.
 
Overall it’s a dedicated GPS unit, comes with Updates and a Australian voice. It has features that work and a hell of a lot more POI’s than sygic or co pilot so i can’t go condemning it this early on. I think we happened to pick two places we thought should of got listed that weren’t.

It’s a pity Wikicamps is not a GPS unit as well, as that would be awesome for travellers like ourselves. Who knows one day they might and that would give the expensive Hema some competition.

 

Update - 2017

We’ve been using this Garmin 67LMT for a while now and to be honest i’m not that impressed with it. If however they brought out a model that took into consideration the size of the caravan that would help alot and be a different story perhaps.

Here are some of the key things that we’ve found to be frustrating with this model.

  • As above the maps seem to be out of date. IE : Some long time existing main roads still have no speed indicator on them despite being able to update over the net to the latest maps.
  • Often being sent around the block instead of the direct route and in some cases can be a 1 hour drive so we found out in NSW.
  • Small things like asking us to do u turn in the middle of a motorway for at least 30 minutes gets annoying
  • POI’s seem to be out of date

I could add more to the list but overall in our experience, We would rate the Garmin 67LMT as 5 stars out of 10 , the functionality and potential is there but the maps they use let it down dramatically and after all a GPS regardless of the brand name is just a chunk of plastic if it has no maps.

Update 2022

So with the previous Garmin out the window we then tried a specific RV780 model.

This particular model (The RV780) we have used for a couple of years now and although it’s not brilliant, i can say it’s better than previous models. This model has a setting for telling the unit the size of your caravan or trailer. With that knowledge the unit will not direct you down roads you can’t turn around in and also won’t direct you down roads with bridges lower than your caravan.

That concept is good but, that feature only works if actually navigating, not if you are just driving somewhere. Also she (the GPS voice) has tried to take us on a shortcut across the Mooloolaba river and has taken us on some un necessary journeys.

Conclusion

Navigation units are only as good as their maps. In my experience it’s usually the maps that let the units down. It’s also my experience with various models and brands that they all suffer from Map issues. This could be as simple as taking you the long way to thinking your a submarine and trying to take you across water.

Google maps and Waze (also owned by google) are always a good fall back for accuracy. However i still like to have a dedicated unit on my windscreen. And as such our current Garmin with its HEMA maps and loads of POI’s will suffice despite it being limited by the accuracy of the maps.

Who ever is responsible for constantly updating maps used by all navigation units, has a big job confirming and updating roads, speeds and the likes. However i suspect its like Australia post tracking system… the technology is there to track your parcel but it often doesn’t work because the person who is surposed to scan the delivery never does.

Suspect it’s the same principle Garmin, Tom tom etc all get a hard time for not working properly but the buisness dedicated to updating map data probably just has a underpaid student who is too busy on their phone to care 🙂

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