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Good on/off-road GPS??

Sgt_Lobo 0 Points
edited November -1 in GPS Recommendations
Hi all, new to the forum. Been lurking for a bit, but still need some help making a decision.

I'm out here in Colorado and need your "expert" opinions on what GPS I should get. I am having quite the dilemma here. I've searched your forum, but most of the posts I've found were older and talking about yesteryears gps units.

Here is what I'm looking for: I go off-roading a good bit out here in CO and it is pretty easy to get turned around and lost on many of these trails. So, I want a gps that will not only get me from downtown to the trailhead, but also one that'll handle topo maps (24K) preferably and get me around when I'm on the trails. Now here is the kicker...I would also like to be able to plan my routes on the computer and transfer them to the unit.

I really like garmins 3790 unit, but it appears I can't load custom routes on it from my comp.

So, any suggestions? I appreciate any advice you all can provide.



  • gatorguy 224 Points
    Any of the handheld Dakota's or Oregons' will handle what you want with the appropriate maps. Just not TTS like you'd get with a dedicated road use pnd. And the display's are definitely smaller than typical pnd's. Or you could opt for a nuvi, but realize the off-roading topo maps you will need to add will display less than optimally and the specialized feature set of a handheld hiking gps will be missing. Then there's option three, where the Magellan 710 or Garmin nuvi 500 might be worth a look.

    The Garmin comes preloaded with both CityNavigator road maps and 100K topos. You'd need to add an SD card with Garmin's 24K regional map sets or check out for an acceptable free substitute, generally (tho not always) state specific in the 24K's. Worth noting is that the nuvi 500 offers TTS voice navigation, announcing actual street names. Very unusual for a pnd with off-road capabilities.

    The Maggie is the newer of the two and has received pretty darn good reviews so far. Using pre-loaded Summit Series 24K topgraphic maps and City Series (Navteq) routable road maps, the eXplorist 710 also offers a complete world base map with good detail for much of the coverage. Verbal navigation instructions are part of the feature set, tho not TTS like the nuvi 500. The batteries are user-replacable , tho somewhat short-lived. Make sure to carry spares. The interface is reported to be pretty straightforward, and generally the same display qualities as other higher resolution touchscreen models like the Oregon's. A big plus is that it has the full set of navigation and set-up options you'c expect from a top-of-the-line off-roading model. Not cheap of course since it's pretty new and a very capable dual-use navigator, but definitely worth consideration IMHO.
  • Boyd 1853 Points
    Nice write-up Gator!

    I have an Oregon and Nuvi 3790. The Oregon gives you a lot of control over the map appearance that you won't get on the Nuvi. And the display style looks a bit nicer for topo maps. Here are a couple pairs of screenshots from the Garmin 24k Northeast Topo. Naturally, the Oregon is a lot more rugged and has interchangeable batteries. The screen on the Nuvi 3790 is spectacular however and much more visible - at the expense of short battery life and fragility.



    I am not a huge fan of the way Garmin's topo maps are rendered on any GPS though. Notice how the little roads are barely visible in the jumble of elevation contours. They are light grey on the Oregon and white on the 3790. The main problem is that the contours should be thinner and more lightly colored. Unfortunately, this is not configurable on either model, but the Oregon fares just a bit better.

    I make my own topo maps, and have tweaked the style to look better, but these are rather unique:

    Garmin has promised a software update that will allow you to send routes from your computer to the 3790 sometime in the first quarter of this year.
  • You all are awesome. Thanks for the great responses! @Boyd -- You are right, those roads are very hard to see and the elevation contours are way too dark. @Gator -- the Magellan 710 looks amazing...really researching it now! Might turn out to be the one.

    Thanks again!

  • Alright, I think I've narrowed the search down to 2 units. I'm contemplating flipping a coin to choose between the eXplorist 710 and the Oregon 550. Any points I should take into consideration either way?
  • Another question... I was looking at gpsfiledepot and it seems like all the maps there are being created only for Garmins. Will the Magellan recognize these maps?
  • Tim 1466 Points
    No, the Magellan will not recognize Garmin maps.
  • Boyd 1853 Points
    GPSFileDepot is indeed Garmin-only. There are some places where you can get free Magellan maps though, although I can't put my finger on them. Visit for some discussion.

    Garmin offers BirdsEye aerial imagery, I don't think Magellan has anything like that (at least not at this time): The Custom Maps feature is also a way to get other maps of your own into the Oregon, although their size is limited:

    Magellan has a "customer loyalty" program for trading in and old GPS in exchange for one of the new Explorists. I've actually thought about getting one myself, since I could trade in my Triton 1500 and get an Explorist 510 for something like $200. OTOH, I really have too many GPS'es already. :?

    Personally, I'd wait just a bit before getting on the the Magellans, until we see more end-user feedback. Magellan has not inspired a lot of loyalty with the customer service in the past.
  • gatorguy 224 Points
    There's a fairly complete explanation of the steps required to use those 3rd party GPSFileDepot maps on a Magellan HERE and HERE

    Much of it is over my head, the English is poor, and not positive the steps still work, altho it appears they should from the little bit I did understand. Boyd may know a little more about the referenced software. But in any case certainly not as straightforward as using a Garmin to begin with and not a task I'd undertake. Consider too that, with the full 24K topo set preinstalled on the Magellan 710, you may not really have a need for additional mapsets.

    In case you haven't seen it, there's an excellent review over at GPSTracklog.
  • Boyd 1853 Points
    There's a fairly complete explanation of the steps required to use those 3rd party GPSFileDepot maps on a Magellan HERE
    Just because maps are free does not mean they are not the intellectual property of their authors. I can tell you that the map authors over at GPSFileDepot really frown on this kind of thing. The maps were created for Garmin units and the authors have crafted them such that they look a certain way.

    While it may not actually violate a copyright or break any laws, hacking them using those techniques is a real slap in the face to the authors who have uploaded them. The maps at GPSFileDepot are intended to be used as-is on Garmin GPS'es or with Garmin's computer software. Please respect the people who create them and don't hack or reverse engineer them. You will not find a warm reception in the GPSFileDepot forums if you do. You might want to consider whether it's appropriate to encourage such behavior...
  • gatorguy 224 Points
    Wow. Guess I didn't realize that most authors would frown on the maps being used on Magellan devices. I always thought of them as simply helping out the off-road community in general and didn't consider your points Boyd.

    To be clear, I wasn't encouraging it in any case. I did say it wasn't something I wouldn't undertake. :)
  • Boyd 1853 Points
    All I can say is, try posting a thread over at GPSFileDepot on this topic.... then duck! :lol:

    The author of "MyTrails" has been especially outspoken on this. For one thing, this mapset contains some copyrighted data for which he only has permission to use in the format he provides.

    I think there's general agreement that you should ask an author's permission before attempting to extract and convert anything from their work. There's a recent thread over on Groundspeak about converting Garmin maps to Delorme's format where a number of people point out the same issues. In that thread, the people who bring up the ethical issues are all map authors with a number of maps posted at GPSFileDepot.

    Sometimes a user will post a question about how to modify the GPSFileDepot maps in their forums. The answer is always "don't".
  • Boyd 1853 Points
    GPSFileDepot is indeed Garmin-only. There are some places where you can get free Magellan maps though, although I can't put my finger on them.
    For free Magellan vector-based maps, see this site:

    These will work on all the older models, but not 100% sure about the new series. I'd guess that they will work but won't support new features like shaded terrain.
  • My question is bascally the same as the threads original one, but I need something that is fixed or vehicle mounted. Currently I have an IWay 600.

    I upload race maps on it where a Lorance Baja version would be better suited, but because I travel so much I also need basic city stuff too (hospital, hotel, starbucks ect). What unit do you guys recommend?

    > turn by turn nav for city driving ect
    > be able to down load waypoints/trails race course maps ect.
    > fix mountable to dash
    > largeish screen for my bad eyes 5"+ but perfer 7" +
  • Boyd 1853 Points
    Garmin doesn't make anything with a large screen, other than the Nuvi series (not very rugged) or marine units (expensive and rather specialized). But any Garmin unit can use city as well as topo maps. You can purchase separately on a card that just plugs into the unit, or on DVD where you send the maps from your computer to the unit.

    I think we've already covered most of these options here. The Magellan Explorist 710 has both city and topo maps, but it's a small screen.

    Not really familiar with the Lowrance units. Maybe you should look at laptop software running on a netbook? Garmin recently discontinued MobilePC and you can find it for cheap now. It includes city maps and can also use Garmin topo's.

    There may also be some options worth looking at for the iPad or the new Android tablets that are starting to appear. But again, with all these options you'll have a somewhat fragile unit that may not hold up well to shock, moisture and other forms of outdoor abuse.
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