Reviews

LAST UPDATED: November 21, 2019

Best Off Roading GPS: Go Off the Beaten Path Without Getting Lost

These off-road GPS units can help you navigate the wilderness

Entering our 7th season of /DRIVE on NBC Sports, and with millions of YouTube and Facebook followers, The Drive is a leading authority of all things automotive.

The Drive on NBCThe Drive on YouTubeThe Drive on Facebook

The Review Team

  • Product Network

    17 Products

  • Clock

    10 Hours

  • Reviews

    8 Reviews

How We Decided

The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.Read more.

PUBLISHED ON November 21, 2019

While a GPS unit can be great for navigating large cities or sidestepping traffic, they really earn their keep when used for off-roading. After all, anyone can get around with street signs and Google maps, but what are you supposed to do when the only identifiable landmarks are trees and rocks? The GPS units on this list are ideal for venturing off paved roads as they can help you travel outside your comfort zone without fear of getting lost.

  • Best Overall
    Garmin inReach Explorer+
    Summary
    Summary

    With access to global Iridium satellite coverage, this handheld communicator allows two-way texting from anywhere on the planet. It also allows you to send out an SOS to the company’s 24/7 search-and-rescue team if necessary.

    Pros
    Pros

    With a built-in digital compass, altimeter, and accelerometer, you can navigate comfortably even without relying on the downloadable maps. It also provides weather reports, allowing you to avoid dangerous conditions.

    Cons
    Cons

    The small screen may be hard for some users to read. Some of its features require additional paid subscriptions.

  • Best Overall
    Garmin inReach Explorer+
  • Best Value
    Garmin GPSMAP 64st
    Summary
    Summary

    This unit allows you to upload your progress, so friends and family can monitor your activity in real time. It connects to compatible Garmin devices and accessory sensors, such as heart rate monitors.

    Pros
    Pros

    This model boasts a long battery life, thanks in part to its dual-battery system. The 2.6-inch color display is easy to read, even in direct sunlight.

    Cons
    Cons

    Using it requires a bit of a learning curve. The included manual isn’t much help, so expect a fair bit of trial and error at first.

  • Best Value
    Garmin GPSMAP 64st
  • Honorable Mention
    Garmin Rino 755t
    Summary
    Summary

    The Rino 755t has a built-in radio with a 20-mile range, and its position-reporting feature helps you quickly find any other Rino users on your channel.

    Pros
    Pros

    It’s useful for hunting parties, as you can track everyone’s location and avoid any potential mishaps. The rugged housing is able to withstand rough treatment, so there’s no need to handle it with kid gloves.

    Cons
    Cons

    Uses a proprietary charger, and replacing it can be an expensive hassle. The interface is clunky, with lots of poorly-designed, pre-loaded apps filling up the menus.

  • Honorable Mention
    Garmin Rino 755t

    While a GPS unit can be great for navigating large cities or sidestepping traffic, they really earn their keep when used for off-roading. After all, anyone can get around with street signs and Google maps, but what are you supposed to do when the only identifiable landmarks are trees and rocks? The GPS units on this list are ideal for venturing off paved roads as they can help you travel outside your comfort zone without fear of getting lost.

    Best Off-Roading GPS Reviews & Recommendations 2020

    Best Overall

    The Garmin inReach Explorer+ is really two devices in one. It’s a top-notch navigation device combined with a satellite phone. It is great for people who know they are going into the deep wilderness and need some peace of mind.

    It has global Iridium satellite coverage and a dedicated SOS button, which can make it a life-saving device. If the SOS beacon is activated, it sends a message to a search and rescue monitoring center with your location. This can be invaluable in the event of an emergency. It has the usual navigation capabilities as well as the ability to share a location with friends and family. It also has a weather forecast feature, as well as compass and preloaded maps.

    Unfortunately, a subscription is required for satellite services, but it’s a small price to pay for safety. There have been complaints about poor customer support and the fact that it can be complicated to activate.

    Best Value

    The Garmin GPSMAP 64st is a rugged and reliable device designed to work in any location, including thick bush or narrow canyons. It has normal GPS tracking in addition to the Live Track feature, which lets others know where you are. It comes with a sunlight readable 2.6-inch color display and a 16-hour battery lifespan.

    One of the main reasons to choose this off-road GPS is because it has a quad-helix antenna that connects to both the GPS and GLONASS networks. Other interesting features included in this device are an electronic compass, an altimeter, and wireless connectivity. 


    However, there have been complaints that the interface is outdated and complicated to use. The updates can also take a long time to download.

    Honorable Mention

    This is another GPS device that connects to both the GPS and GLONASS networks to make navigation easy in even the remotest places. It comes with a dual battery system with a 14-hour power reserve using the lithium-ion pack or up to 18 hours using AA batteries.


    One of its best features is a built-in two-way radio with a range of up to 20 miles. It allows both voice and messaging to similar devices, and can show the location of other Rino users on the same channel. This device is perfect for teams out in the field.


    This device has no SOS function and the interface is very slow. It has no wireless capability, so updates have to be downloaded using a cable to a computer or laptop.

    Why Trust Us


    All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

    Learn more

    Benefits of an Off-Roading GPS

    • Never get lost. With a good quality off-road GPS, you will never get lost no matter how far you go into the outdoors. This allows you to explore unknown terrain with certainty and confidence.
    • Plan ahead. Thanks to the ability to check the roads, contours of the land, and altitude, it’s possible to plan your trip in advance. You can avoid bad roads or places that are to steep for your vehicle to climb.
    • Always have communication. The best off-road GPS devices now have built-in satellite communication. Even if you are far from conventional signals, you can always find your way.

    Types of Off-Roading GPS

    Smart Devices

    Most phones and tablets support navigation apps, which can be quite cheap. It is also possible to download from multiple map sources and geo-tag photos. The disadvantage is that they often require cell coverage and are also heavy on battery life. 

    In-Dash

    Many modern vehicles come with built-in GPS devices. The disadvantage of these is that they are normally locked to a provider and don’t have the option of downloading new maps or software. Aftermarket units are also available and they often incorporate a Bluetooth phone and music player. Another disadvantage of an in-dash unit is that they are fixed to the vehicle and can’t go with you on a hiking trip.

    Portable

    Portable units normally have smaller displays, but they can fit in a pocket and go anywhere. The best portable GPS devices are tough and have a decent battery life for extended journeys. Some models have extensive features like a compass, altimeter, and built-in satellite phones.

    Top Brands

    Garmin

    The Garmin name is synonymous with the best off-road GPS devices out there. They were founded in 1989 in Kansas and their first customer was the U.S. military. Since then, they’ve grown exponentially and now manufacture a large range of tracking equipment including GPS devices, fitness trackers, fish finders, and even dog trackers. A best-selling product is the Garmin in Reach Explorer+.

    Magellan

    Magellan is an American company headquartered in California, but with offices around the world. They are known as the creators of the first commercial handheld GPS receiver in 1989. They currently make a wide range of products including offroad GPS devices and vehicle tracking devices, including the Magellan TR5 Street and GPS Navigator.

    TomTom

    TomTom is a Dutch company founded in 1991. Their first navigation device was released in 2004 and they now have a presence in 29 countries around the globe. TomTom makes handheld devices and also many of the in-dash factory units that come in new cars like Subaru, Mazda, and Toyota. One popular device is the TomTom VIA 1625TM 6-Inch GPS Navigation Device.

    Off-Roading GPS Pricing

    • $50 to $100: In this range, you can get a basic GPS with common features like lifetime maps, driver alerts, turn-by-turn directions, and USB storage. They will get the job done, but won’t have any advanced features.
    • $100 to $200: At this price point you can get some advanced features like waterproofing, hands-free calling, a compass, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. 
    • $200 and upwards: These GPS devices are available with satellite communication and advanced GLONASS navigation.

    Key Features

    Topographic Mapping

    For off-roading, it’s critical to get a feel of the terrain. Topographic mapping shows the geological features and contour lines. It can also show off-road tracks and national park tracks. This is important because there might be places where your particular vehicle can’t go, and in this case, the GPS can double as a safety device.

    Points of Interest

    Having the points of interest feature on the off-road GPS it allows you to plan journeys around places you might want to visit. It also users to easily find national parks, fuel stations, and campsites easily. Having this feature means that you can also make unplanned stops should the need arise.

    Offline Mapping

    In very remote areas, there might be no signal or cell coverage. It pays to have an off-road GPS that can download maps in advance so that you won’t need connectivity to find your way around. Offline maps should be updated regularly to keep up to date with any road or terrain changes.

    Other Considerations

    • Communication: When traveling to remote places it pays to have connectivity because anything can happen. If you have an off-road GPS with satellite connectivity, you will always be able to get assistance should the need arise. It can also be used to communicate with family far away.
    • Durability: Tough terrain requires tough devices. Many high-end off-road GPS devices have rubberized or plastic-coated outer shells to offer protection against the elements. Some GPS devices also come with dual battery systems because charging points can be scarce in the wilderness. Always test the main and spare batteries before leaving on your adventure.
    • Type of Satellite: Conventional GPS devices connect to the Global Positioning System and require connection to at least three satellites in order to work. Advanced units can also connect to the GLONASS satellites developed by Russia. These satellites have slightly faster connection time and are a great failsafe in the event of the normal GPS satellites not connecting.

    Best Off-Roading GPS Reviews & Recommendations 2020

    Best Overall

    The Garmin inReach Explorer+ is really two devices in one. It’s a top-notch navigation device combined with a satellite phone. It is great for people who know they are going into the deep wilderness and need some peace of mind.

    It has global Iridium satellite coverage and a dedicated SOS button, which can make it a life-saving device. If the SOS beacon is activated, it sends a message to a search and rescue monitoring center with your location. This can be invaluable in the event of an emergency. It has the usual navigation capabilities as well as the ability to share a location with friends and family. It also has a weather forecast feature, as well as compass and preloaded maps.

    Unfortunately, a subscription is required for satellite services, but it’s a small price to pay for safety. There have been complaints about poor customer support and the fact that it can be complicated to activate.

    Best Value

    The Garmin GPSMAP 64st is a rugged and reliable device designed to work in any location, including thick bush or narrow canyons. It has normal GPS tracking in addition to the Live Track feature, which lets others know where you are. It comes with a sunlight readable 2.6-inch color display and a 16-hour battery lifespan.

    One of the main reasons to choose this off-road GPS is because it has a quad-helix antenna that connects to both the GPS and GLONASS networks. Other interesting features included in this device are an electronic compass, an altimeter, and wireless connectivity. 


    However, there have been complaints that the interface is outdated and complicated to use. The updates can also take a long time to download.

    Honorable Mention

    This is another GPS device that connects to both the GPS and GLONASS networks to make navigation easy in even the remotest places. It comes with a dual battery system with a 14-hour power reserve using the lithium-ion pack or up to 18 hours using AA batteries.


    One of its best features is a built-in two-way radio with a range of up to 20 miles. It allows both voice and messaging to similar devices, and can show the location of other Rino users on the same channel. This device is perfect for teams out in the field.


    This device has no SOS function and the interface is very slow. It has no wireless capability, so updates have to be downloaded using a cable to a computer or laptop.

    Tips

    • If you want to attach your GPS to a vehicle, find one capable of being mounted to a dash or console. If you prefer to carry it on your person, however, be sure that it will be small enough that it won’t weigh you down.
    • Many units have built-in communication features, which is important if you like to push yourself in extreme conditions. A unit that makes it easy for others to find you is as valuable as one that makes it easy for you to find your way home.
    • A few models have multiple positioning sensors inside, which improves their accuracy and allows you to travel to a wider variety of locales. This is especially important if you plan to go off-roading in places other than the United States.

    FAQs

    Q: How reliable are off-roading GPS units?

    A: That will vary depending on the unit and the number of sensors it houses. They should all be able to provide you with your location within a few feet. Some of the higher-end models are likely to be able to give you a more accurate picture of your surroundings, however.

    Q: Are GPS devices updated regularly?

    A: Most manufacturers release regular updates, and many allow you to download specific, up-to-date maps from their servers. To download them, you need to connect your GPS unit to a computer or buy one that has internet capability.

    Q: Are off-road GPS units durable?

    A: If a GPS unit is designed for off-road use, it’s a safe bet that it will be ruggedly constructed. Many have shock-absorbent casings, allowing you to use them freely without constantly having to worry about damaging them.

    Final Thoughts

    The Garmin inReach Explorer+ is our favorite GPS for off-roading because it boasts a wide array of safety features and has a truly global reach.

    While not as versatile as some other units, the Garmin GPSMAP 64st is nevertheless a useful unit that won’t break the bank. We especially like its bright, easy-to-read display.