The Garmin Overlander: A Serious Contender in Next-Level Off-Road Navigation

December 24, 2019 by Amanda Ellis, @WanderRedFox

Gone are the days of scrutinizing over contour lines on wrinkled topographic maps to determine if a route will “go” — technology has propelled off-road navigation into a new era. Garmin has long been a crucial player in GPS advancement. The company released the Overlander in May, and it has since created quite the buzz — particularly among overlanders.

After testing it for ourselves, we believe that the Overlander may be the most sophisticated multipurpose navigator on the market to date. Its biggest draw? Despite the integration of some legitimately elaborate technology, it’s pretty much a plug-and-play device.

EXTERIOR DESIGN

The unit measures 7.8-by-0.9-by-4.8 inches, most of it being the 7-inch color touch screen display. It’s quite hefty to hold — like a small tablet with a grippy, rubberized casing. It weighs less than 1 pound at 15.4 ounces. The backside features buttons that allow you to zoom, a storage port for SD cards and a fixed surface mount. The side of the unit includes a charge port and 1/8-inch audio jack.

The Garmin Overlander is protected by an easy-to-grip rubberized casing.

Garmin includes a magnetic mount with a suction cup for placing the Overlander pretty much anywhere inside your vehicle and a 1-inch RAM ball–compatible adapter. We found the ideal mounting location to be the windshield a few inches above the dashboard. Despite its size, it didn’t impair our vision. Although we questioned the strength of the mount, it effectively held the device in place over the course of three days navigating off-road.

The Overlander features an IP5X-rated dust-proof outer casing. This means it’s completely protected from solid particles but not waterproof. We used the device on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where routes often took us splashing through salt water puddles. We found the lack of waterproofing to be a downside, but not a deal-breaker.

NAVIGATION FEATURES

The Overlander is a multi-satellite navigator featuring GPS, Galileo and Glonass. It’s preloaded with comprehensive USGS Quad map topographical data for North and South America, in addition to the Ultimate Campgrounds database and iOverlander points of interest (POIs). What sets it apart from the pack is access to this expansive mapping system without the need for cell service.

The Garmin Overlander’s Explore Mode. (Photo: Garmin)

To fully utilize its comprehensive features, you’ll need to download the Garmin Explore app. This allows you to input additional maps, which you can store in its 64GB database.

Like most GPS units, the Overlander features a Track Recorder that logs your track, speed and altitude. Its ability to pinpoint your vehicle’s position is impressively precise, with a claimed accuracy of within 3 meters — and it outperformed many other GPS devices we’ve tested. Accurate altimeter, barometer and compass data are available at the touch of a button.

What really sets the Overlander apart? Pitch and roll gauges help you navigate spicy terrain. Also, you have the ability to tell the device what kind of vehicle you’re driving — whether it’s an RV or truck or if you’re towing a camper. The Overlander then utilizes vehicle information like clearance, weight and length when calculating routes to ensure you can get where you’re going. We tested the Overlander in a Toyota 4Runner and found the feature reliable.

Upon powering on the device, a 1024-by-600 pixel color home screen presents two navigation options: Drive and Explore. The Drive mode is a 3D landscape that allows you to see the road and terrain ahead and offers standard turn-by-turn navigation. It includes Open Street Maps in addition to public land boundaries. The Explore mode provides a top-down view of the map and includes a comprehensive library of 4×4 and forest service roads.

The Garmin Overlander’s Pitch and Roll features. (Photo: Garmin)

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Overlander pairs with Garmin InReach devices to access functions like text messaging, weather reports and emergency-assistance capabilities, including SOS notifications. Also, the Overlander can Bluetooth sync with your smartphone as well as Garmin’s BC-35 backup camera.

We are impressed with how effectively the Overlander performs and how easy it is to operate. We feel it’s one of the most capable off-road navigation devices on the market. As with all new technology, a couple of areas could use further development:

  • The Drive mode lacks the same comprehensive database of forest service roads as the Explore mode, which we discovered after missing a turn while exploring in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest.
  • The voice-recognition system needs improvement.
  • We’d like the device to be waterproof.

As far as tech support goes, Garmin is top of the line. Although we expect the Overlander to last much longer than a year, it includes a one-year warranty. The device’s batteries are lithium ion and boast an average life of about three hours. The Garmin Overlander costs $700.

Amanda Ellis November 27, 2019
The holidays are near, so be sure to check out this list of gear and accessories guaranteed to please even the most adventurous overlander in your life.

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