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Navigation Aids for Your Overlanding Vehicle

Now I have to admit that I am a fan of old fashioned paper maps. I’m probably more happy sitting looking at a map than I am reading a book. I find with maps, that I can look at them and visualise the terrain. There’s just something magical about looking at a map and imagining yourself there.

When I moved back to New Zealand in 2014 and was based in Auckland, I headed straight to a bookshop in the central city to start my South Island map collection in preparation for my first big trip South. To my horror and surprise, I found it impossible to buy a paper map anywhere! Everywhere I went, I was told that “people don’t buy maps anymore, they use online maps”…….

Well sadly that’s the case, however, we now have many other resources available to us which negate the need for paper maps.

In this next article in the Building an Overlanding Vehicle series, we will cover the navigational aids that we use here at 4x4explorer to both log Routes and to navigate generally.

Photo 1 of Navigation Aids for Your Overlanding Vehicle

When we are setting out to log a new Route, we use a Garmin GPSMAP 66 Series. This is an extremely accurate GPS device, with a large screen,  which allows us to log our Route using regular waypoints which are then saved and added to 4x4Explorer. It is crucial for us that the waypoints are regular and map any change in direction, particularly at junctions.

We also use this GPS for river work. As many of you may know, South Island braided rivers can be a navigational challenge as they are changing all the time. The route that you took last time maybe washed out, or the course of the river may have changed completely.

Whenever we head up a river valley, we use the GPS to log our route in so that finding the route out is easy. This is based on experience. The river always looks different on the way back and a wide river bed is often devoid of landmarks. Being able to accurately return to the safe crossing point that you used on the way in, is invaluable.

Photo 2 of Navigation Aids for Your Overlanding Vehicle

We also carry a smaller backup, Garmin GPS, which is kept in our “grab bag” in case we need to leave the vehicle in a hurry, or in the event that the main unit fails.

The excellent and unique feature of 4x4Explorer is the ability to download GPX files for the tracks that you want to drive. Most of the time when we’re driving or guiding a route, we use our smart phone to navigate.

We have TopoGPS on the phone and download the routes from 4x4Explorer. TopoGPS is an excellent resource and either free or very inexpensive. To download the routes is very simple. When we’re heading into an area, we download all the routes that we think we are going to drive and then select them from the routes saved on TopoGPS.

Also contained in our grab bag is a compass. We normally print out the Topo map of the area that we are visiting and this goes into a zip lock bag and into the grab bag as well.

So that’s how we navigate when we’re away on trips. I also love have a good old fashioned road atlas which allows me to have an overview of a larger area, which I find very useful.

Once again, thank you for reading and hope that you found this article interesting and informative.

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