GPS is an essential tool for overland travel because if you don’t know where you’re going, how can you enjoy the journey? To save you from unnecessary frustrations, use paper maps, SOS devices, some common sense, and of course, a reliable GPS — because you can’t always rely on a cellular signal. Overlanding is all about the journey itself, so you don’t want to get lost.
The best GPS for Overlanding is Gaia GPS. It is an app that allows travelers to access off-road trail maps for their 4×4 or overland adventure. Whether you’re traveling on four wheels or two wheels, Gaia GPS will guide you and help you find the best camping spots, even while offline.
Read on to learn more about Overlanding navigation and why Gaia GPS is our top pick for the best GPS for Overlanding. We will also explore some other navigation options for your next overland adventure.
Why You Need a GPS Navigation App for Overlanding
Ask any traveler about their navigation experience, and they will likely tell you that they use a navigation device to assist them when traveling. You’ll need a reliable GPS that’s easy to use and gives you the best direction possible. When Overlanding, travelers often search for information like the best GPS to use, how to find public land, how to find gorgeous places or campsites, etc.
With the right methods and resources, overlanders can conveniently find places where they can travel or camp. Apart from doing thorough internet research, carrying travel books, and seeking advice from fellow Outlanding enthusiasts, using a navigation app like Gaia GPS will come in handy. The Gaia app offers travelers a free or a premium subscription.
Preparation is key to having a fun and rewarding Overlanding adventure. You don’t want to get caught in bad weather or face road closures. A navigation app like Gaia GPS will help you avoid situations like those.
Gaia Offroad App with 4×4 and Overland Maps
Gaia GPS is a navigation software available on the app and web that travelers can use on their smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. Gaia GPS is available on both the App Store and Google Play. Travelers can sync all their information to their Gaia account and access multiple devices and under one subscription.
The Gaia GPS has USFS Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM) that help travelers check if their vehicles are suitable for the road or any seasonal closures and restrictions for 4×4 and offroad trails. The app also finds campsites for travelers to legally park their cars, trucks, or trailers by viewing public land designations. The app also updates every 12 hours for any weather changes or wildfire activity.
We recommend the premium membership as it offers a catalog of 251 map layers, including the NatGeo trail illustrated maps, which are the most trusted maps for America’s top outdoor destinations.
The premium version also lets travelers download maps to their devices for offline use. What’s even cooler is the app’s track recording that allows travelers to bring home their data and share their adventures with their friends.
With Gaia GPS, travelers can quickly drop waypoints directly from their devices and assign each one of them a custom icon. Travelers can add descriptions, pictures, and informative notes to these waypoints and have them grouped into folders. This feature is handy for identifying a camp area, its size, and so on.
The download speed is fast, and the map file sizes are smaller, too, so you can save space on your device. The GPS also has a great battery life — some people claimed that they could go through 7 days of average GPS use without charging. Interface-wise, Gaia GPS has an intuitive interface.
Overall, Gaia GPS is an excellent GPS for Overlanding. It would be better if the GPS does not try to download all of your maps automatically. While automatic map downloading isn’t a big problem to many, some users may want to have more control over what they can download.
Besides Gaia GPS, there are a few other navigation sources worth mentioning here. The Garmin Overlander®, onXMaps, Trails Offroad, and Fun Treks are also excellent sources for your Overlanding trips. Let’s take a look at every one of them.
Garmin Overlander GPS Device
One of the best guides that will help you pick the best routes into the wilderness to find the best, fantastic spot is the Garmin Overlander®. The device’s price is steep, but considering how the tool can help you use the best roads to reach your next 5-star sleeping spot, it is worth every dime. The Overlander® is an all-terrain navigator with on-and-off-road navigation that will enhance your overland journey.
The Overlander® is a tough, 7-inch Android-powered tablet, with a rubberized casing. Using U.S. military standard 810, the Overlander® is thermal and shock-resistant. This GPS can Bluetooth sync with your phone, so you can listen to music or answer your calls, and you can mount it anywhere, thanks to its magnetic mount.
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On X Offroad — iPhone App for Overlanding
onXMaps is another great navigation source for Overlanding. onXMap helps travelers discover over 425K miles of off-road trails and lets them keep all of their routes, Tracks, campsites, and markups in a single app. Just like Gaia GPS, onXMaps can also work offline.
Many travelers, even hunters, use onXMaps for its excellent 3D and satellite maps. The app allows you to switch over to topo (the use of elevation contour lines to show Earth’s surface shape) maps or a hybrid of satellite and topo for the best navigation tool. The app will sync all of your trail info across devices, too.
With the app, you will get access to 500K recreation points like dispersed campsites, campgrounds, parking areas, and more. The yearly membership subscription is very affordable, especially if you frequently go Overlanding. For a deeper catalog of maps, Gaia GPS is still a better option, though.
Trails Offroad — 4×4 Route Maps
Trails Offroad is an excellent source for travelers who love beaches, backcountry roads, high mountain passes, and Overlanding. Unlike Gaia GPS, Trails Offroad is not an app but a web-based platform where travelers can sign up as members, under the free account or a paid account for a yearly all-access. The membership provides overlanders with the best information for a low price.
The all-access account provides travelers with access to printable trail guides, directions to trailheads, and camping regulations. The site also lets you ask questions to the guide author. While Trails Offroad might not be as mobile as the GPS apps mentioned above, it is a reliable and trustworthy Outlanding source that’s worth your time.
Fun Treks — Digital GPS Maps
At FunTreks, you can purchase guides for some of the best trails in the U.S. Their guides come in different forms: guidebooks, GPS data cards (compatible with most Garmin GPS devices), GPS devices, iOS app, and physical maps. If you’re looking for something for Overlanding across continents, then you’ll want to opt for the navigations like Gaia GPS or onXMaps instead.
For the best GPS for Overlanding, we recommend Gaia GPS which has a deep catalog of maps. The Gaia GPS’ yearly premium plan is affordable if you frequently go Overlanding. If you prefer a one-time off payment for your GPS, then you may want to consider the Garmin Overlander®.
All of the navigation sources suggested in this article are excellent. However, it would help if you always did all your research when selecting which navigation source is the best for you. Gaia GPS is the best for Overlanding because it offers high-quality navigation resources on the go and offline.
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Erick is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast. Growing up in Nairobi Kenya and now calling Glasgow, United Kingdom home. Sipping on homemade spiced swahili tea and enjoying a good book is his idea of bliss.
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