For many of us, planning our overland adventures is just as exciting as actually sliding behind the wheel and hitting the dirt. For me this starts with maps – paper maps.
A paper map allows you to see scale, context, and detail all at the same time, something Google Maps or GPS data just can’t do. Bring the map close to your face, and you make out the fine-grained details of a particular location; tack it up on the wall and step back, and those details remain in context with all the others. Roads, place names, terrain features, and communities do not disappear as you move up and down in scale.
An expertly drawn map is a thing of beauty, and a tool unlike any other.
So I spread out my maps on the table, or fix them to the wall and let them reveal routes, locations, landforms – all of the possibilities. I spend a lot of time just simply staring at maps. I often leave them folded on the headboard in the bedroom, or in the living room or kitchen, any place I can casually pick them up and reconsider my options.
Only after a I develop a route in my imagination with the help of the cartographers do I dive into the details. This usually involves sketching out possible stopovers, camping options, and adventures between home base, the anchor destination, and back. I do this with pencil, paper, and eraser.
These little scraps of paper lead me to that most modern of tool for the overlander – the Internet.
I harbor no small amount of ambivalence toward the increasing mountain of data collected and shared by overland travelers in remote places. I relishthe detail, the images, the narratives, and the peek behind the curtain. Heck, we are doing it on this very blog. It is part of what keeps us engaged and exploring. It keeps us inspired.
The rub is that all that information obscures some of the discovery. One reason my wife Julie leaves this planning process to me is simply so she can see the new world unfold before her without prejudice and without bias. (She often ignores the links I send her regarding our future trips: “Does this look good?", I say. “I don’t care, if we can get there, it will be good”, she says.) We make a good team.
More information refines the process. A blueprint takes shape – driven by the organic and random study of maps and formed by the focused research into the particulars that make a journey like this logistically possible. The inspiration and the planning go hand-in-glove.
Garmin Overlander GPS
Now, after all that romantic talk about about paper maps, it's important to point out that I am not a luddite. Maps are great for some things, but, like nearly all of us, I also use GPS navigation both to plan and guide my off-road trips. There are plenty of offline GPS navigation apps out there, and for the most part they work pretty well.
However, a standalone GPS navigation unit, like the Garmin Overlander, offers some big advantages over using a phone or tablet. The first is dedication of purpose. You ask many things of your smartphone - it's a true jack of all trades. But its small screen and low-power GPS receiver limit its usefulness as a navigation device. GPS navigation is also a drain on your phone's battery, leaving less juice for making calls or sending messages, and shortening the overall life of your phone's battery. Save your phone for Instagram.
Garmin's Overlander is one of the most sophisticated GPS units on the market today. This essential piece of overlanding gear is purpose-built from the circuit board up and is designed to withstand dust and extreme temperatures. It not only offers highly detailed and comprehensive topographical maps of both North and South America, but also the crowd-sourced travel apps iOverlander and Ultimate Public Campgrounds for an extra layer of information - no need for a cell signal.
64GB of additional internal storage means you can load up even finer-grained maps, like USGS quad sheets, or even satellite imagery. Its 7" full color touch screen is highly responsive and vivid even in direct sunlight, and it mounts securely to your dash with a powered magnetic mount or the included RAM 1" ball mount.
Besides Garmin's legendarily accurate spoken turn-by-turn directions, additional features include a barometer and altimeter, as well as a pitch and roll angle indicator. Plan your adventure ahead of time and record your tracks to share with friends with a laptop or your phone using Garmin's Explore app. It's high-power GPS receiver hunts down and holds fast satellite signals in even the most remote locations.
With all these features, the Overlander actually takes over many of the navigation functions you may regularly use on your phone besides just mapping. And its deeply detailed pre-loaded map data means you can search for the nearest inspiration point while you’re in the middle of nowhere.
For us hopeless romantics still committed to paper maps, pairing the Overlander with Garmin's DeLorme line of atlases and gazeteers means you'll never have to wonder where you are, or where you're headed.
For a limited time, Overlander.com is offering $200 cash back on the Garmin Overlander until May 31. Backed, of course, by Expedition Overland's trail tested guarantee and Overlander's one-year price guarantee.
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