It was my abject pleasure to be invited on a road trip that would take me from Pittsburgh to the beautiful town of Clarion, Pennsylvania.
The journey would wind its way through beautiful little towns on the famed Route 66, and weave delicately through incredible scenery to my final destination – the Clarion River.
Putting the RV GPS to the test…
The journey would take place in a 2001 Dutch Star 3891 RV, and with a handful of nineties Brit pop albums and a mammoth bag of Cheetos. We set off on a wet, dismal day in January, our heads filled with adventure. My traveling partner was a work colleague who had nothing better to do, other than take me to a beautiful river so I could fly my DJI Mavic Mini drone, and capture some spectacular views.
The first snag we hit was our GPS. While we trusted Google Maps and Waze, we were taking a big old RV around winding roads, and potentially dangerous roads lay ahead when we got close to mountains.
Why a Garmin RV GPS?
We decided on Garmin as our brand of choice for the RV GPS. Garmin have long since been the trusted ally of the traveling man, be it in the wilderness or by road. TomTom, another market leader, missed their chance by a narrow margin after I spent two days trying to update my car’s GPS, and it failed me miserably.
So, Garmin it was. And not by a narrow margin, mind you. Besides Garmin, TomTom and Google Maps, most agree you would be hard pushed to find another GPS you trust?
We bought two to test, and would choose one winner, giving the other one away to Goodwill or a worthy recipient (my Dad, usually).
Garmin RV 770 NA LMT-S
First to the plate was the Garmin RV 770 NA LMT-S. The screen was bright and clear, at just under 7”, with a more stylish look to it than most GPS you see. This was particularly a good feature, because it had special settings (mini-advanced) for those in an RV, such as RV routing and road warnings. A very helpful man called Alex told me (on the Garmin helpline) that I could also use this with a towable trailer.
Good to know. Thanks, Alex.
The Garmin RV 770 NA LMT-S also allows you to use a smartphone link app, which meant I could get access to local weather and live traffic updates for the road ahead. Perfect when the weather is as ever-changing as Pennsylvania’s unique ecosystem.
There were more hands-free features, including Bluetooth calling and a great directory of RV parks courtesy of TripAdvisor (my favorite feature), that could be activated by voice. Good, but not for our use. I’m sure the campers and nomads out there would use this feature a lot, however.
At under $300 direct from Garmin, the RV 770 NA LMT-S has plenty of features that are RV specific, and is excellent value.
Garmin RV 785
Next up was the Garmin RV 785. I really liked this GPS, because it had a built in dash cam. This would be ideal for spotting morons on the road and submitting to Reddit’s r/idiotsincars subreddit. The screen is a perfectly reasonable 7 inches, which you really do need in an RV. The dashboards have a lot of real estate, so size matters.
There is a heck of a lot of RV features to take a swing at with this model, with Ultimate Public Campgrounds, KOA®, iOverlander™, PlanRV™, Foursquare® and probably my favorite again: TripAdvisor ratings for campgrounds etc.
The dashcam was great. Good quality, and clear visuals on the screen, with the added feature of collision/incident detection. If my driver decided to fall asleep at the wheel, there was a handy ‘lane departure’ warning feature, and even forward collision warnings.
The custom routes were available again, but with some added detail. You can enter the dimensions of your vehicle to enable proper routing, and the option of adding profiles for different vehicles you own. If my sleepy partner didn’t see the steep grade sign, the alert would notify him, too. With forward warnings for steep grades and sharp curves, the driver is always aware of the journey ahead.
If one was to be interested in the world’s largest rubber band ball, and wondered where one might find a museum for such things, the Garmin RV 785 has got you, fam. There are sites from the HISTORY database ready to go, out of the box.
Of course, when you are traveling in an RV, one of the most important things you are going to need is the updated maps these GPS provide.
If you get really lost on your trip on Route 66, for example, and find yourself in Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Bahamas– or even on a back road somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, then your journey will be a breeze.
Which RV GPS was best?
When it came to choosing, the dashcam sold me entirely, and it was worth the $500 price tag. The Garmin RV 785 had all of the features and all of the shiny-shiny aspects I wanted. At this point, I wasn’t even considering my driver’s opinion. To me, it was a no-brainer.
Just in case you were wondering, we arrived safe, and the Clarion River was spectacular. Clarion itself was a winter wonderland.
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