An off road GPS system can be a game changer if you spend any amount of time venturing off the pavement. The average consumer GPS system is of extremely limited use when the paved roads end, with maps that focus entirely on widely accessible, established routes and waypoints. What use is that when you’re following a trail deep within a national park, or mud bogging somewhere well off-the-grid in Alabama?
That’s where off road GPS systems come in. Aimed squarely at overlanding enthusiasts, these units come preloaded with thousands of maps covering much of the country’s surface area, complete with topographical data and popular trails. They also tend to deliver far greater accuracy when it comes to pinpointing the user’s exact location; have a penchant for picking up a signal where a more mainstream GPS units might fail; and commonly feature waterproof and shockproof housings to protect against common off road hazards.
Another benefit of a GPS system designed specifically for off-road trails is that you can save your own trails and routes, so you can find them again and even share the data with friends who you think might enjoy that particular drive.
So, which off road GPS system is the right one for you? Here, we’ve rounded up five of the best units currently available, covering a range of different price points.
Table of contents
Editors Choice - Magellan TRX7 CS PRO
A similarly versatile unit for a bit less than the Garmin Overlander, the Magellan TRX7 CS is housed in a drop- and shock-resistant, waterproof, dustproof case, with a high-resolution 7-inch touchscreen display. It ships preloaded with more than 115,000 4×4, ATV, motorcycle, and snowmobile trails from across the US, and high-resolution topographical map data covering the US and Canada. This device also offers Magellan’s street navigation, so you an use it in your daily driver as well.
The unit has a built-in rear-facing 8MP camera (a less-expensive camera-less version is available here), that automatically starts recording as you approach trails, and allows you to “bread-crumb” your path as you go, creating track data that can be published for viewing and use by other Magellan off-road GPS users.
Most Versatile - Garmin Oregon 750t
If you’re looking for something in a more portable form factor, suited for use both in-car and on-foot, check out the Garmin Oregon 750t – a 3-inch handheld off road GPS unit with a built-in 8MP digital camera. The screen is easily readable in bright sunlight and is viewable in either landscape or portrait orientations.
The Garmin Oregon 750t comes preloaded with TOPO U.S. 100k topographic maps in 1: 100,000 scale and you can share data with the Garmin Connect online community. Other features include a 3-axis compass with accelerometer and barometric altimeter sensors, expanded wireless connectivity, Bluetooth-enabled smart notifications, flashlight, and IPX7 water rating. Finally, the Oregon 750t offers Active Weather support with animated radar overlays and a 1-year BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription.
Best No Budget - Lowrance HDS-7 Live Chart Plotter
If budget is no object, the Lowrance HDS-7 Live Chart Plotter earns its place on our list as one of the best off road GPS units available. The HDS-7 features a 7-inch touch screen that is easy to navigate and has a processor that can process data faster than you can likely make your way down the trail. This is why it’s used by some of the best and fastest desert racers in the country. The screen is extremely bright and easy to see in the brightest conditions. Added features of this unit are that it can display smartphone notifications and you can also hook up a video input.
As the best known name in street GPS units, it should come as no surprise that Garmin also produces a number of great off road GPS systems. Among the best is the Garmin Overlander – a rugged, suction cup-mountable navigator with 64 GB of internal storage and loads of topographical maps covering North and South America. One particularly nifty feature allows the user to enter their vehicle’s weight, height, and length so that the GPS can make vehicle-appropriate route recommendations, and the 7-inch color touchscreen display can be connected to up to four BC 35 backup cameras.
The Garmin Overlander also allows you to sync all of your data between devices when you have a WiFi connection. It also comes preloaded with points of interest and public campgrounds, which means you don’t require a cell signal to chart your route to a campsite. Another bonus is that public land boundaries are marked, so you won’t accidentally venture on to private land.
Trail Tech Voyager Pro
Designed primarily with powersports users in mind, the Trail Tech Voyager Pro is a compelling off road GPS offering primarily for its nifty Buddy Tracking feature. Buddy Tracking uses radio signals to communicate the locations of up to 20 off-roaders in a group, allowing each group member to keep track of where their friends are. The unit is housed in a handlebar-friendly waterproof, dustproof case with a 4-inch touchscreen display.
Other features include a 4-inch color touchscreen, IP67 water rating, topographic maps with hill shading, and support of tracks, routes and waypoints. The Trail Tech Voyager Pro also tracks speed in mph using the GPS wheel sensor and will display temperature, distance traveled, elevation and voltage.
How Does Off Road GPS Work?
GPS, or the Global Positioning System, is a network of roughly 30 satellites orbiting the Earth. Originally a US Military tool, regular folks like us have been able to use the signals generated by these satellites to triangulate our positions for some time now. The best part is that today’s GPS units are extremely user friendly and not complicated to use.
Wherever you are on the planet, at least four GPS satellites are within range of your GPS device. Each satellite sends out its position and the current time at regular intervals. These signals are picked up by your GPS, which then calculates how far away each satellite is based on how long it took for the messages to arrive. As long as your GPS has received signals from a minimum of three satellites, it can pinpoint your location using a process called trilateration. Trilateration is pretty cool. Basically each of the three satellites’ signals will say you’re within a given area, calculated as an oval. Your GPS then pinpoints your exact location by finding where the three ovals interconnect. As software and signal strength has improved over the years, accuracy of best off road GPS units that we use has greatly improved.
Do You Need GPS?
The newest crop of off road GPS systems are outstanding. They help you stay on the trail and even help you find your way to new trails. These units make it easier to find new trails through GPS by having online data you can download. These websites provide you with complete trail maps right on your GPS, and have waypoints and trail info from other users inputted right into the data stream.
The best off road GPS systems also work when you’re trying to ride as a group, by keeping everyone on the same trail. Some systems even communicate with each other for you, letting you know where everyone is at all times.
Some of these GPS units seem a bit over-the-top. Do I need all of those functions?
We agree. You might be surprised to see one of the units on our best off road GPS options actually has the capability of being a fish finder. Do you really need that in an off road GPS? No, but you might like the option of the other features like quick speed, touch screen, enhanced mapping and the like. Ultimately you need to consider the must-have options you want versus the price you want to pay. You might even find that some of the least expensive off road GPS options will have more features than you even considered.
What are the mounting options for these off road GPS options?
They’re endless. Most of the units on this list of best off road GPS options feature mounting systems that can quickly and easily be removed and put into another vehicle if wanted, or you can purchase extra mounts and just swap the GPS unit from vehicle to vehicle.
We are committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using the retail links in our product reviews. Learn more about how this works.
Updated 3/12/21: Updated product list, added new product options and added FAQ list.