The Great GPS Debate: Handheld vs. Integrated RV Systems

Which is best for the wandering wayfarer? Grab a tinnie and let’s dive in!

The Beloved Handheld GPS

Now I don’t know about you, but there’s something nostalgic about a good handheld GPS. Those hardy little devices have guided many a grey nomad down the open road over the years. They’re tried, true, and trusted companions on any outdoor adventure.

Here’s a few things people love about dedicated handheld GPS units:

Reliability and Durability

Handheld GPS devices are built tough as old boots. Drop them, get them wet, freeze them – they just keep on trucking. The garmin etrex line is known to withstand damn near anything. They’re the Hilux of the GPS world!

And with long battery life, they won’t leave you stranded even if you do forget to charge them overnight. Plus replaceable batteries mean you’re never left powerless.

Detailed Topographical Maps

The top-end handheld GPS units come preloaded with detailed topographical maps. This makes navigating remote bush tracks and winding backroads a breeze. Contour lines, roads, trails, landmarks – it’s all there at your fingertips.

I’ll never forget the time Dougie relied on his trusty handheld GPS to navigate the back route to Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater. Not a sealed road for miles, but his eTrex got him there no worries. Beautiful bit of outback that is!


The great thing about handheld devices is you can customise them to suit your specific needs. Want to preload marine charts for coastal adventures? No worries. Need Timbuktu translated into Swahili? Easy mate, they’ve got you covered.

Whether it’s niche maps, language packs, or custom POIs, you can tweak those handhelds to be perfect explorin’ companions. Too easy!

Budget Friendly

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m tighter than a bull’s arse in fly season. So for this penny-pinching nomad, the affordability of handheld GPS is a massive plus.

They’re perfect for folks want straightforward navigation without breaking the bank. And with models starting around 150 clams, they won’t drain your holiday fund either.

Even the top-end handhelds with all the bells and whistles are only 4 or 500 bucks. Bargain compared to some of those integrated RV systems!

Integrated RV Navigation Systems

Now I know some of you fancy lads and ladies prefer a flash integrated system built right into your caravan or motorhome. No shame in wanting a bit of sophistication on the road!

Integrated RV systems definitely have some advantages over a humble handheld device:

Voice Prompted Turn-by-Turn Directions

One of the best features of built-in RV GPS is having turn-by-turn directions read aloud. No more glancing down at a screen or trying to memorise directions. Just sit back and let the friendly robot voice guide you!

I must admit, having Siri’s cousin telling me when to turn left does take some of the pressure off. Especially in hectic city traffic.

Visibility and Mounting

Having the GPS front and centre on a big dash-mounted screen is handy. No more squinting at a 5cm display like on a handheld unit.

Plus with custom mounting you can put it exactly where you want. Although I do laugh when I see RVers with their GPS stuck right against the windscreen. Looks like one of them Uber drivers!

Advanced Features and Updates

Top-shelf integrated systems have extra bells and whistles built right in. I’m talking lane guidance, traffic info, wi-fi updates, even weather forecasts and local points of interest.

Makes me feel like I’m driving a spaceship! And with automatic map updates over the air, you’ve always got the latest routes and spots programmed in. Flash gear.

Seamless Control

Having everything integrated into your RV dashboard just feels smooth. No faffing about with different devices, it’s all at your fingertips.

I especially love the ones with voice control. Just press a button and say “GPS, take me to the nearest vineyard!” Makes me feel like Captain Kirk!

Key Considerations for Each Option

Now we’ve covered some pros, let’s unpack a few things to think about with each option. Gotta look at the whole picture!

Handheld Considerations

  • Screen size – can be small and tougher to read
  • Require manual updates – new maps cost money
  • Can feel outdated or clunky tech-wise
  • Battery life – remember to charge it!
  • Durability comes at the cost of bulk/weight

Integrated System Considerations

  • Purchase and installation cost – can get very pricey!
  • Built-in tech can get outdated and need replacing
  • Reliant on vehicle power and hardware
  • Multi-function screens can be distracting while driving
  • Repairs often need professional service

So there’s a few things to weigh up! At the end of the day, it comes down to your budget and personal needs.

For me, I can’t go past a simple handheld unit. Does everything I need without the hefty price tag. But I get the appeal of those flashy builtin systems, even if they are a bit dear.

Helpful Tips to Get the Most from Your GPS

Whichever way you go, here’s some tips to take your navigation game to the next level:

  • Pre-load key maps like national parks and popular routes
  • Favorites and recent finds features are super handy
  • Geotag photos for easy navigating back to top photo spots
  • Use the tracking function for retracing steps on complex hikes
  • Store emergency contacts and meeting points
  • Carry external battery packs for longer trips off-grid
  • Waterproof and shockproof cases give extra peace of mind
  • Always have a backup paper map! Phones die but paper keeps kicking

And if all else fails, just ask a local! Some of my best adventures have come from chatting with kind strangers. That’s the beauty of life on the road – you meet the most colorful characters.

So don’t be afraid to wind down the window and say g’day!

The Final Verdict

Well folks, after all that waffling, what’s the final verdict on GPS? Honestly, for most folks, either option will get you from A to B just fine. Sure, integrated systems are flash, but handhelds still get the job done on a budget.

The key is choosing something tailored to your lifestyle. Will you be mostly on sealed roads? Go integrated. Love remote 4WDing? Grab a rugged handheld.

And remember, GPS is just one tool in yourkit. Use your navigator’s noggin too!

At the end of the day, the best GPS is the one that brings you joy and memories. That helping hand on life’s meandering journeys.

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