Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Our Garmin Zumo satnav

On our travels we use a Garmin Zumo 550 satellite navigator. This is a motorcycle friendly unit which I already had for my bike before we got the motorhome. Because it's a motorcycle unit it's waterproof and has nice big glove-friendly on screen buttons. In the box when you buy it are mounts for your bike and also a second one for in the car/motorhome. I think the 550 is still available but there's now a 660 model in a different case, but it essentially has similar features.

Here it is on its mount in the van. It comes with a self adhesive, shiny plastic disc which you can stick on the dash. Then, the suction mount can go on here, instead of the windscreen, making it, potentially, closer to hand. We've positioned it in the centre of the dash so either of use can reach the controls.

Of course it has many features, most I guess common to most satnavs. I particularly like the bluetooth facility whereby, once turned on, the unit automatically connects to my phone and then acts as a fully functioning hands free phone unit. It does this on the bike too and there I have a sophisticated comms system through an Autocom hub and helmet speakers and mic.

Useful on our trip to France was the ability to locate any campsites in its database wherever you are. You simply select lodgings, then campgrounds from the "Go to" page and you get a list like this, showing campsites and how close they are.

Then, if you select a site you get more details including the phone number and a "Go" button to instantly direct you there.

I've paid for lifetime updates from Garmin which give several updates each year for the life of the unit; about £100 if I remember correctly. We've also taken it to the 'States several times,having bought US road maps on a memory card for it. It comes loaded with the whole of Europe.

Garmin give superb customer service. Amongst the help I've had, they actually replaced the unit when it was out of its 2 year warranty. Fantastic! I'd recommend Garmin without reservation and can assure you that if this unit ever dies completely I wouldn't hesitate in buying another.

I think satnavs are an indispensible tool for travelling but we do use it in combination with paper maps to plan routes and check on progress. You soon learn how to use them and know when they make a mistake. Just don't follow them foolishly eg the wrong way down a one way street. Use your eyes and regard satnav as your servant not your master.

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