Blank Slate - Designing the Best Overlanding Navigation "system".

Bad Frog

New member
I have been lurking for a while and soaking up all of the great info on this site. Many thanks to this phenomenal community!

Here is my opportunity/challenge: I am preparing my overland vehicle for a 6-9 month rebuild/upgrade. It is a Hummer H1 with a comprehensive battery/power management system for both 12V and 24V. In addition to powertrain and suspension upgrades, I am taking the interior down to bare metal and reconfiguring the whole thing. As most are aware, while the seats themselves can be somewhat cramped when not modified, there is vast real estate between the driver and passenger seats.

Now this is where I could use some assistance. I want to build a new navigation "system" from the ground up - no constraints based on previously owned equipment and I have a planned budget for the nav system of $10K to include hardware. The truck also has a BGAN and plenty of room for exterior antennas, but this is *NOT* part of the $10K budget. Monthly subscription fees, software, etc are also *NOT* part of the budget.

The vehicle will largely be used for overloading in the US/Canada/Mexico for not more than 2-3 months at a time, but my better half would like to do an 4 month expedition through Northern Africa in 2022.

So my ask is, based on my situation and needs:

1. Is my navigation budget realistic or do I need to adjust?
2. If you could design the "perfect" nav system with moderate redundancy - I know, very subjective - based on the intended use, vehicle, duration of use, and budget, what would you build?

I do prefer laptops over tablets, but I am not wedded to that direction. I am routinely a OS X user but am willing to go PC or Android if it were to yield substantially better results.

I very much appreciate your thoughts and insight. I have this opportunity to do it correctly and have it tucked away nicely in the new interior design.
 

alanymarce

Active member
1. Is my navigation budget realistic or do I need to adjust?

- yes - cut it by about USD9K

2. If you could design the "perfect" nav system with moderate redundancy - I know, very subjective - based on the intended use, vehicle, duration of use, and budget, what would you build?

- an iPad will give you offline pdf maps, and if you add a GPS to it it'll give you maps.me, google maps, waze, etc.
- a GPS unit (we have a Garmin Colorado 300 for South America and a GPSMap 64 for everywhere else) will show you where you are - load it with the right local maps (t4A or whatever) to get high resolution maps
- an iPhone will give you maps.me, google maps, waze, etc., as a plan B
- ask the way - works everywhere except Brazil.
 

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Bad Frog

New member
1. Is my navigation budget realistic or do I need to adjust?

- yes - cut it by about USD9K

2. If you could design the "perfect" nav system with moderate redundancy - I know, very subjective - based on the intended use, vehicle, duration of use, and budget, what would you build?

- an iPad will give you offline pdf maps, and if you add a GPS to it it'll give you maps.me, google maps, waze, etc.
- a GPS unit (we have a Garmin Colorado 300 for South America and a GPSMap 64 for everywhere else) will show you where you are - load it with the right local maps (t4A or whatever) to get high resolution maps
- an iPhone will give you maps.me, google maps, waze, etc., as a plan B
- ask the way - works everywhere except Brazil.
Very helpful. Thank you. Since I have a BGAN with laptop in the truck already, I take it I should be able to use the same software with the laptop and forego the iPad provided I get a GPS mouse receiver. Correct?
1. Is my navigation budget realistic or do I need to adjust?

- yes - cut it by about USD9K

2. If you could design the "perfect" nav system with moderate redundancy - I know, very subjective - based on the intended use, vehicle, duration of use, and budget, what would you build?

- an iPad will give you offline pdf maps, and if you add a GPS to it it'll give you maps.me, google maps, waze, etc.
- a GPS unit (we have a Garmin Colorado 300 for South America and a GPSMap 64 for everywhere else) will show you where you are - load it with the right local maps (t4A or whatever) to get high resolution maps
- an iPhone will give you maps.me, google maps, waze, etc., as a plan B
- ask the way - works everywhere except Brazil.
Very helpful. Thank you. I am pretty new to the vehicle GPS thing outside of those that come already installed by the manufacturer so every little bit helps. Since the truck already has a BGAN with an associated laptop for emails and such, can I use the software you mention on that provided I just add a USB mouse satellite receiver?
 

Howard70

Adventurer
Hello Bad Frog:

You mention using a laptop rather than a tablet for your vehicle based navigation. While that is certainly possible and many of us may do that currently, or did in the past, I'd suggest thinking about both rather than one or the other.

Currently I'm most familiar with iPads - the daylight visibility, resolution, and battery life of the top models is stunning. Our navigation systems are now based on a recent (but not newest) iPad 12.9 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro and a laptop (in the midst of shifting from a 15" Dell XPS to a MacBook Pro). The laptop pretty much serves only a coordinating role every couple of evenings - if we weren't using it for photo and video editing we'd probably leave it home. Thus it's role in navigation is completely ancillary.

I really like having my navigational system mobile within our truck rather than dependent on a fixed location. I also like having the same system on a tablet and phone - the phone is for hiking, biking, packrafting - anything away from the truck while the iPad is for planning, archiving, logging within the truck. I have my iPhone mounted on the A pillar within the cab and find that incredibly convenient navigating cities and suburban environments via Google Maps - it's right at eye level and I can see it out of the corner of my eye without taking my eyes off traffic. Honestly - we've found that backcountry navigating is a breeze compared to rolling through an unknown city (Guadalajara comes immediately to mind) trying to get to the next stretch of backcountry. I can be driving through complex traffic with Google Maps on the "heads up" iPhone routing me in the immediate surroundings while my wife is working on the tablet for the larger picture (where are we going to camp tonight if we ever get out of this city...).

In terms of software I've never found a single "go to" package. While we use Gaia for 70% of our mapping, nothing we've found beats Google Maps for cities/suburbs and where to find a tire shop, etc. We also use ExpertGPS (windows only) for gpx file editing, etc. Often we find a map that simply isn't available electronically - sometimes on paper from a land management agency other times posted on an information kiosk. The iPhone is perfect for snapping a good image of those maps which can sometimes be imported into your mapping software as a layer that you crudely geo reference by pulling it about to match common features with another map.

The point to all this - adaptability and mobility are what can help you find those wonderful remote sites rarely visited by the iOverlander hordes. Don't get me wrong, I use iOverlander when I need a place to sleep along our highway route but when we're trying to find a new place to send several days we gravitate towards blank spots on the iOverlander maps!

Howard
 

Bad Frog

New member
Howard -

Quite helpful. You put it in the context of a "system" and how things interoperate together. That is what I have been failing to effectively grasp while reading the posts in this forum. Most of them reference a specific piece of the nav puzzle but fail to address how they all work together. While I appreciate Rando's comment of letting the software drive the hardware needs, I am designing the interior of the truck and the hardware locations are the challenge I am up against now. My sense is that I should plan on keeping my laptop (MacBook Pro) in the docking station which I need for work (VPN and encryption needs) on the BGAN and also incorporate an iPad with my iPhone. I have an inReach Explorer+ working in conjunction with my iPhone for when I leave the truck.

Does that sound about right?

Best, Michael
 

alanymarce

Active member
Short answer - yes.
Very helpful. Thank you. Since I have a BGAN with laptop in the truck already, I take it I should be able to use the same software with the laptop and forego the iPad provided I get a GPS mouse receiver. Correct?

Very helpful. Thank you. I am pretty new to the vehicle GPS thing outside of those that come already installed by the manufacturer so every little bit helps. Since the truck already has a BGAN with an associated laptop for emails and such, can I use the software you mention on that provided I just add a USB mouse satellite receiver?
Short answer - yes. As noted in other posts, it's not a single answer really. We use an iPad for checking maps because it's handy (handier than a laptop). However we always have a laptop, for photo management, and upload our GPX files whenever we have a connection (the BGAN would allow you to do this, if you want). We know people who navigate with a laptop, however we wouldn't bother with the inconvenience.

In terms of a "system" we think in terms of:

1) "pre-trip" planning - we use google maps, national website websites, pdf guide books, pdf maps on laptops
2) planning during a trip - as above if we have comms, pdf maps on the iPad
3) knowing where we are - the GPS unit (and maps.me on the iPhone / google maps if we have a signal)
4) navigating - eyes and asking locals the way, supplemented with the GPS unit, maps.me, and google maps if we have a signal.
 

Bad Frog

New member
I appreciate the phased approach and use of nav tools. This will me approach things, especially on the longer ventures.
 

Amazigh

New member
Can't help much with the tech or US side of things, but I can with North Africa ;), over 20 years exploring the area now and I run tours in Morocco and the Western Sahara and I am a contributor to the Overland Morocco guidebook

For the navigation, you really need to find something that will run OSM base mapping for North Africa. Currently there isn't a mapset that is as good as the OSM offerings. OSM North Africa Topo is my preferred option for proper overland navigation. Free download link below, it will run on most Garmin devices.

Africa North OSM Topo Routable | GMapTool

A number of the many apps run OSM basemaps if you go down that route. With the majority the only difference is their routing algorithms and user interface. Most of them will navigate fine on the asphalt but its a different story once you leave it. (maps.me, for example, is useless of the tar). Gaia GPS uses OSM basemaps and will give the accuracy and information you need off road.

Feel free to pm me if you need any help with planning your 2022 trip
 

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Jnich77

Director of Adventure Management Operations
I'd definitely use a tablet over a lap top. If you want to be overly paranoid/prepared you can load everything on a second identical tablet and use it for watching movies or what ever. If the tablet that's running your navigation dies...just slide in the other one and keep moving.

Having the ability to run Waze while on the highway is pretty handy.


I'd also have paper maps as a back up and the tools/knowledge to use them. Even the fanciest navigation devices have their vulnerabilities. A tablet or computer with a hole in it makes a great paperweight....a map with a hole in it is still a map ;-)
 

alanymarce

Active member
Why only if you have signal?
Good question - I guess because we have the GPS unit, maps.me on the phones, and our eyes/brains to tell us where we are when we're out of range of cellular coverage, so don't need google maps . We do use google maps (or Waze) when we're in cellular coverage because this is normally just to get from A to B on a journey, so it's an easy (lazy?) means of finding our way.
 
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