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FWIW the OEM navigation that came on our 2019 is absolutely (and very unexpectedly) fantastic. For reason I cant even begin to guess, it has all of the NFS, BLM and county and other dirt roads loaded. We have done lots of trips out in the middle of nowhere on dirt roads miles from cell service and the OEM satnav has never let us down. We always download back up maps and routes to Google maps and a couple of off-road apps - but the OEM satnav has always been more accurate and more up to date.
 

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The GPS on an iPad is on the cellular chip, so even if you don’t intend to have a carrier plan, you must get a cellular-capable iPad to have GPS.

I use my iPhone for hiking GPS. I use MotionX, but will investigate these others. My husband uses a Garmin InReach. My tracks are consistently as good as and often better than his, never worse.
 

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Thanks for the tip on MAP.ME, I tried it on my new tablet and it works great (no SIM card, just wifi and GPS).

I bought a new $50 dtech 8" tablet because my very old Samsung could not have the OS updated. I am now running Android 9.1 on a quadcore chip, and it surfs the web nearly as fast as my desktop.

GPS satellite reception hardware has REALLY improved since my eTrex came out. My Polar M430 running watch picks up satellites very fast, and maintains good accuracy under trees, in buildings, and only had a few drop-outs crossing the Grand Canyon from South to North and back (in the section called "the box" just to the North of Phantom Ranch). My previous Polar watch went a lot crazier in that section, insisting that I had run from part of the box back to Phantom and then back at a 2 second mile pace. Look out, Usian Bolt! My eTrex probably wouldn't even work just a mile or so down from the rim.

That anecdote said, I think the GPS hardware in most newer phones and tablets is probably very good, or at least as good as dedicated car GPS devices.
 

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If I wake up in an area with no internet and need to navigate to my next destination, a standalone GPS is my go to. A smart phone isn't going to cut it. The GPS is like having a Rand McNally road atlas in the vehicle from days gone past.
My smart phone cuts it great with no internet. I download the maps I need for where I'm going for offline use and get the same navigation features as online. Nice thing is when I am online the maps get automatically updated.

When hiking I would never rely on my phone and its battery but when driving and my phone is always topped off I would never bother with anything other than my phone with Google maps.
 

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One consideration, if you're really after the best coverage even with overhanging trees, in canyons, etc. is to get a receiver that is both a GPS and GLONASS receiver. There are a bunch of options out there that connect to a tablet or phone via bluetooth, and can mount to the outside of the vehicle for best chance of a satellite fix. One definition of "ultimate" might be the best coverage, with an external GPS/GLONASS receiver connected to a big 10" tablet in the van. Another might be the built-in GPS receiver in your mobile phone--obviously the very easiest solution with none of the bluetooth fiddling or research on what the external antenna will receive. I've only tested "offline maps" on my Android phone, and never lusted for better antenna coverage, so I can't share any specific experience with different external GPS/GLONASS antennas for vans. But, I can report that the "ultimate" hiking handheld GPS I've used receives both GPS and GLONASS, and it seems to find satellites magically even in deep canyons while hiking/biking.
 

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One consideration, if you're really after the best coverage even with overhanging trees, in canyons, etc. is to get a receiver that is both a GPS and GLONASS receiver. There are a bunch of options out there that connect to a tablet or phone via bluetooth, and can mount to the outside of the vehicle for best chance of a satellite fix. One definition of "ultimate" might be the best coverage, with an external GPS/GLONASS receiver connected to a big 10" tablet in the van. Another might be the built-in GPS receiver in your mobile phone--obviously the very easiest solution with none of the bluetooth fiddling or research on what the external antenna will receive. I've only tested "offline maps" on my Android phone, and never lusted for better antenna coverage, so I can't share any specific experience with different external GPS/GLONASS antennas for vans. But, I can report that the "ultimate" hiking handheld GPS I've used receives both GPS and GLONASS, and it seems to find satellites magically even in deep canyons while hiking/biking.
That's why Ford's OEM satnav is so good. Its pre-loaded with all the base maps and just downloads updates as needed. We have had zero problems with dead spots, trees overhangs etc., and its out performed everything we have tested it against over 12,000 miles and probably 3,000 miles of dirt roads and trails out in the desert, forests and canyons. I have to emphasize that nobody was more surprised than me to discover this.
 

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No one should rely on anything electronic while hiking! Almost all trails are marked and obvious, unless on sandstone it is very difficult to not recognize that you're on an established trail. ie: it's very hard to get "lost". Paper topo maps should be used if you are not familiar with a trail system. But I'm not nay-saying GPS.

I missed the turnoff to circumvent the Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands once, and knew I overshot it when I saw the Green River and thus added 4 miles to my run, so it DOES happen even with experienced people who thought they planned ahead. In that case, GPS would have maybe prevented it.
 

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Per current law all cellphones must be able respond with the phone location when you dial 911. So even with no service plan or SIM card you can dial 911 and the operator will get your location. Typically the location will be better than with GPS alone since local cell site information is used to refine the location. The cell phone also uses local cell site info to speed up the normal GPS sync up time.
But....
If you are out of coverage the cell phone is just an OK GPS receiver that may or may not have a map of the local area. Standard GPS receivers (I like Garmin) all have regional maps stored in the device (I use the lifetime North America data set that Garmin offers). So you can search for camp grounds, navigate to your next camp, find a gas station, etc. with no cell coverage.
Stand alone GPS units also tend to me much more rugged. I have had numerous iPhone overheat shutdowns while the Garmin (sitting on the windshield, in the sun) is happily providing navigation information.
It all depends on your needs. If you tend to be urban, a cell phone is probably just fine, if you tend to be in areas with no coverage, I would strongly recommend a stand alone GPS with internal maps (or a good map and compass, skip that, you should always travel with a good map and compass).
Ron
 

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We use a cheap (Costco sourced) 8" Samsung Tab A android tablet that we velcroed to the rear view mirror. Powered by the USB when in Annie. The mirror is otherwise pretty useless, given that Annie's rear windows are blocked by the bed's headboard.
It's fine as a GPS, supports GPS, Glonass, Beidou, Galileo.
We have a 128GB SD card in it, so it holds a lot of map apps and data.

We mostly run GAIA GPS, with a pro subscription, and most of the western US and Canada (Rockies westward) downloaded and fully available off-line.
We have USFS maps, including MVUM and a host of other offline maps as part of the subscription.

If we need to access something like Google maps, we can always tether it to our phone for full LTE web access
 

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I have a 10" double din android head unit that you can connect to free wifi when in town or use your mobile phone hotspot. You can search surf the web and use google map to download the offline maps. When offline it has a GPS antenna that you can put outside your van for even better signal. You can also download offline maps from the google play store. Also you get all the Bluetooth calling and streaming music, sync your phone screen, backup camera input or if you have the ford 4.2" you can connect it to the unit, the list go on. It is basically a tablet. check my signature and you can find some good gadgets for the van.
 

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Discussion Starter #32
Wow. A lot of information here to digest. This whole GPS thing is a deeper rabbit hole than I anticipated. Part of me wants to go DIY and use a tablet or the "double DIN android head" which I didn't even know existed until right this minute. Kenny, what do you have for the android head and GPS receiver?

The other part of me wants to get a works out of the box solution. While I do usually enjoy the homebrew route I am buried in projects at the moment and have very little time to spare. I mean that literally, I am going sunup to sundown. If I was to go with a purpose built solution, any recommendations?

I always carry paper maps and a compass. Sadly the paper atlases are not available for all states but I carry the ones I have as needed. As an old fart in training I have done a lot of back country navigation on foot with a quadrangle map and a compass. Dream Girl is a total map nerd and actually looks at maps for relaxation, like reading a book. We also both enjoy looking for new areas to explore.
 

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Wow. A lot of information here to digest. This whole GPS thing is a deeper rabbit hole than I anticipated. Part of me wants to go DIY and use a tablet or the "double DIN android head" which I didn't even know existed until right this minute. Kenny, what do you have for the android head and GPS receiver?

The other part of me wants to get a works out of the box solution. While I do usually enjoy the homebrew route I am buried in projects at the moment and have very little time to spare. I mean that literally, I am going sunup to sundown. If I was to go with a purpose built solution, any recommendations?

I always carry paper maps and a compass. Sadly the paper atlases are not available for all states but I carry the ones I have as needed. As an old fart in training I have done a lot of back country navigation on foot with a quadrangle map and a compass. Dream Girl is a total map nerd and actually looks at maps for relaxation, like reading a book. We also both enjoy looking for new areas to explore.
I have 2 different android units in my van. 1 is the 12" android rearview mirror. Which is a plug and play and you do not need to do much to get it up and running. Only thing you have to install is the reverse camera that is included with the mirror. If you do not care for that then it is pretty much plug and play with Bluetooth, wifi, 4G/3G sim card slot for data, google play store for apps to download offline maps, etc. The 2 one is my universal double din, which is a lot more work. Both are no brand name unit. I made videos of both systems. The link is in my signature.
 

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Discussion Starter #34
Weird, I got an email saying that Kenny had added another reply, when I get here, nothing...
 

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@Boondox Not sure what I wrote got something needed reviewing by a moderator. But you can check my signature for the projects I did for my 2 android units. I think the 12" rearview mirror android unit is better suited for you as it was a plug and play for me and will work straight out of the box for you. Same features as the double din.
 

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There may be a logical reason why a NAV app won’t work in airplane mode . .

My fairly new, high end IPhone came with Google and Apple NAV apps. Verizon is my carrier. I travel across the Northwest a lot but despite my overall satisfaction with Verizon, I do lose data and/or cell service from time to time. My NAV apps never seem to quit. If i’m In satellite mode, it will dull the maps but road mode works normally. I’ve convinced myself that the basic maps reside inside the apps (or on the phone) and the phone switches seamlessly to GPS when data drops.
 

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I used a Galaxy Tab A (older tablet as proof of concept) for navigation in Baja earlier this year. Ran it split screen mode with Sygic on one side and iOverlander on the other it worked out really well.
 

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There may be a logical reason why a NAV app won’t work in airplane mode . .

My fairly new, high end IPhone came with Google and Apple NAV apps. Verizon is my carrier. I travel across the Northwest a lot but despite my overall satisfaction with Verizon, I do lose data and/or cell service from time to time. My NAV apps never seem to quit. If i’m In satellite mode, it will dull the maps but road mode works normally. I’ve convinced myself that the basic maps reside inside the apps (or on the phone) and the phone switches seamlessly to GPS when data drops.
Rough location can be determined by your IP address, though in many cases horribly inaccurate. Rough location can also be determined through triangulation of the cell towers you're connected to - also very inaccurate.

Current GPS receivers are the only current mainstream technology that can pinpoint your location. Most people aren't aware of how the device in their pocket works, nor do they really have to, but having some background on how and when the technologies work is very important when you start heading off the beaten path and beyond.

Interesting to note, I logged a GPS track for most of my last airplane flight where I had a window seat. I could watch our altitude, velocity and position/progress overlaid on a detailed map the entire trip. This was with my app of choice, OSMAnd, but any other OFFLINE mapping application would have worked the same.

Airplane mode turn off all of the phone's radio transmitters (Cellular voice/data, WiFi, Bluetooth, etc.) Some of these can later be re-enabled with airplane mode still turned on. The GPS receiver in your device doesn't transmit anything, it only receives. Thus there's no risk of interfering with sensitive electronics on the jet (though with modern systems, arguably neither would the rest of them).

In the not-too-distant future, I can see our pocket computers including a satellite uplink. Already there are consumer sat-phones priced within the reach of the average person with a distinct need. They're still pretty expensive, but so were cell phones a few decades back.
 

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Discussion Starter #39
I have continued my research. One thing that is making me lean towards a Garmin is that the screens are supposed to be very visible i direct sunlight. Anyone using a tablet have a comment on how easy it is to see in the glare up on the dashboard?
 

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I use an inexpensive Samsung Tab tablet outside (paragliding) in direct sunlight. The glare was quite a problem. I bought this antiglare screen shield and it helps quite a bit.

If you are going to mount it inside the van out of direct sunlight, I think it will be fine.
 
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