GPS Navigation for Truckers, RVers, and Motorcyclists

Since I don't drive a truck or an RV, I haven't paid much attention to the differences between GPS street navigators that are intended for passenger car use, and units designed for drivers of large vehicles. But the differences are important! Both truck and RV GPS units allow you to enter the dimensions of your vehicle so that it can route you to avoid low overpasses and roads that are unsuitable for your vehicle. In addition, the trucker units include truck stops and other truck services in their POI databases, Likewise, RV units include RV parks and services in their POI databases.

New Garmin GPSMAP 66 Series

As my regular readers know, I'm a fan of the button-operated GPSMAP series from Garmin. So I was excited to see the new GPSMAP 66 series released. At first, it didn't seem like this was much of an upgrade from the GPSMAP 64, but a closer look revealed that some long-awaited features have been added. So I decided to order one to check it out. Until it arrives and I can evaluate the unit in the field, here's some thoughts on the new features.

GPS Privacy

As more people, including myself, increasingly rely on my smartphone for street navigation, there's one glaring advantage that dedicated street GPS units still have- they don't report your position constantly. (All smartphones with Google Maps installed report your position to Google, unless you've turned off location services in your phone.) The purpose of this position reporting is to collect data points which Google uses to generate the traffic data on their maps- see Supposedly, Google strips all identifying information from the data points, and also deletes the starting and ending points of a trip, for privacy.

Dedicated street GPS units haven't had Internet connectivity and so couldn't report anything (except possibly during map updates.) But this is starting to erode. Most of the newer Garmin street GPS units to your SmartPhone via Bluetooth. The higher-end receivers also include Wi-Fi to make map updates easier, but that does mean your GPS receiver is connected to the Internet, with all that implies. Of course, you can disable these features, just like you can disable location services on your phone. But will you?

Another Reason to Keep Using Map and Compass

More evidence that too much reliance on GPS navigation erodes your brain's navigational skills:


Does GPS Make the Backcountry More Dangerous?

Here's an interesting article from a recent issue of Outside magazine:


Street GPS vs. Smartphone

Smartphone and Tablet GPS- NOT!

Smartphones and tablet computers are useful and fun gadgets. But are they a good way to navigate in wilderness when your life depends on finding your way? No.

Want the Latest and Greatest?

Handheld GPS hardware is very reliable- the same mass-produced chipsets are used in most civilian receivers. But the firmware that drives the user interface is often buggy in the first release of a new GPS receiver. So it pays to wait a month or two before buying the latest thing, especially for serious backcountry use. While it's true that the GPS manufacturers release firmware updates to fix any problems, do you really want to be a beta tester in the wilderness? When you do buy a new GPS receiver, immediately check the manufacturer's website for firmware updates.

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