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There has been a long time debate on which is better for navigation, a dedicated GPS device such as Garmin, TomTom, Zumo and the like or the increasingly powerful smartphones prevalent everywhere these days.
Below I attempt to point out strengths and weaknesses of both for others to decide which they prefer.  Primarily this comes from a ‘off the beaten path’, 2 track/single track multi day dirt bike navigation perspective as that’s my background for drawing these conclusions and this website seemed a good platform for such a discussion.  This doesn’t necessarily apply to travel in/around populated areas with primary roads abound; not talking grocery errands but getting lost out in the sticks (on a moto).

My experience has been with Garmin, as they seem to offer the most advanced platforms for off road navigation and rugged units are available.

GPS pros

•   Ruggedness and reliability.  Most of the units can handle the abuses of off-road use in all types of weather. (See Garmin Montana or Monterra) https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/p/113522.  Typically the GPS accuracy is much better than those found in most cell phones.
•   Battery life.  Again, much better than the standard cell phones of today.  Most can be charged by a DC source wired from your bike or AA/AAA batteries.
•   Market proliferation.  For a long time GPS units were the only show in town for trip planning and navigation thus many people are accustomed to their operation and functions.
•   Advanced trip planning with the ability to set waypoints, routes and record tracks using Garmin specific applications.  Many phone apps don’t have such functionality, which is a great part of setting out on a journey reliant on a GPS unit to tell you where to turn.

GPS cons

•   Cost.  These units are exceedingly expensive often times much higher than a standard smartphone.
•   Singular functionality.  These units are good at just one thing, compared to all powerful smartphones of today.
•   Complexity of trip/route planning.  Although they do this well once you’re dialed in on how to do it, the confusing process seems very antiquated.  With Garmin the route planning must me done on a computer then transferred to your device.  This process involves multiple applications (Mapsource and Basecamp) and the software is proprietary meaning its clumsy use is not intuitive such as say Windows or Mac products.
•   Map availability.  Up to date maps must be purchased (often times at a 1 time for lifetime cost) from Garmin.  Alternatives are out there through private parties however if you scour the Internet. 

Smartphone pros

•   High functionality.  Smartphones can do it all it seems these days.  In addition to acting as a navigational tool, assuming you have coverage can pull you out of bind when needed.  You’ll likely be carrying a phone on your trip anyway so it’s not just an extra piece of gear added
•   Ease of use.  Most all of us know how to use a phone already it’s just getting accustomed to the software of choice (often incredibly intuitive) that requires time.  This stands in stark contrast with GPS devices from my experience.
•   Alternative software options.  As opposed to the proprietary nature of Garmin, the open source nature of applications available to the smartphone offers numerous choices (often free) for the end consumer.  These sources are constantly growing in numbers and improving along the way as the use of smartphones as GPS navigational aids becomes more prolific. 
•   Cost.  Yes smartphones aren’t cheap these days but if you simply require it for GPS navigational uses units can easily be found used.  You don’t need the latest/greatest smartphone to do the job and older models tend to retail fairly cheap even when new.  If buying used you won’t need a SIM as the GPS functionalities operate in offline or airplane mode as well.

Smartphone cons

•   Route/Trip planning/Turn-by-Turn directions.  The Garmin et al shine above smartphones in this category I feel.  Most all of the navigational software available for phones does not have the intelligence for turn by turn directions off road nor can it prepare a route once leaving these primary roads.  Often times the stock map software will simply deposit one at the terminus of a known road and instruct the user to ‘walk’. 
•   Battery life.  Although much less while in airplane mode, a modern smartphone cannot hold a candle to the battery life of a dedicated GPS unit.  Unit specific charging must be wired in from your bike for ones phone to last a multi day moto journey.
•   Delicate construction.  Most smartphones are made to stay in your pocket when not in use.  The rigors of a moto trip can tax a phone to point of failure.  More robust alternatives are out there but at a minimum a rigid case is needed firmly mounted to your bars to house them.

More relevant info and how I came to these conclusions.  I have used (and own) a Garmin Monterra.   If I were to do it again, I’d buy a Samsung Galaxy and use Backcountry Navigator  ($9.99).  I decided on the Garmin because of its ability to use maps that single track and/or trails that otherwise do not appear on map show up as tracks. Often these are user created then overlaid on a specific mapset then uploaded to your Garmin device.  It will then simply show up as lines on your map for you to reference or follow.  However, many other smartphone applications have been since created for ‘off-piste’ travel that will do this and then some.  Many moto travellers I’ve encountered on long trips have mothballed their GPS devices in favor of an Android (often a Galaxy 4 or newer) and use Backcountry navigator solely for their navigational aid.  I’m not familiar with this software other than what I’ve heard (all being good) so I can’t get into specifics.  (Currently 2 of my good friends are 3 months into a Central America to South America moto trip using just an Android and BC Navigator)

Avenza PDF Maps (http://www.avenza.com) is a free tool available on Apple an Android platforms which I started using extensively with great results.  Although is won’t give turn by turn directions it does have a constantly growing library of online maps available (not all free) that can be catered to your activities and used when not in cell coverage or in ‘airplane mode’.  Oftentimes these mapsets have to be found elsewhere on the Internet and will appear as any map that is ‘geo-referenced’.  Once geo-referenced, (you can do this yourself with other software) any map can be opened in PDF Maps and your location will appear as a dot (just as in Google Maps).  Maps specific to hiking, biking, skiing etc. are out there to better the users experience.  The US government chooses this application for release of any city, county, state or national park map it releases on their websites.  Also, any 1/25,000 USGS topo map is available for free in the Avenza library.  I’ll often download these of an area I know I’ll be travelling through when still in cell coverage then use them while offline as reference.
Other applications work similarly with the most prolific being Gaia (https://www.gaiagps.com).  I have not used this but hear good things.  I’m interested in the library of mapsets available in Gaia, sometimes it can be difficult to find these using Avenzas app. I went with Avenza because of cost (free vs. $19.99).  Both of these were mentioned in other threads within this forum.

Hopefully someone can find use from this over simplified laymans view of complex system(s) to make the right choice when in the market for navigational aids and not spend their $s unnecessarily.  Also, if someone wants to buy my rarely used, over-priced but very functional Garmin Monterra, let me know. :grin:

Build Threads / 16 Ram 2500 CTD
« on: April 20, 2016, 04:56:46 PM »
I recently traded in my '11 Ram 2500 CTD in for a new 16.  The changes below the surface are minimal between the two but most noticeable was the link/coil set up in the rear vs. the old standard leaf.  I noticed this to make a significant difference in ride quality over my '11 model(which had Carli components and a progressive rear leaf).

Old truck:

...and new one stock:

This new truck is a Outdoorsman package which nixes some chrome bits in favor of black (but the bumpers for some reason) and comes with some standard features I prefer.  I managed to find some stock black wheels which come on black appearance group trucks at the dealer which I traded up for.

The plan was to lift it, but not too much as to allow for easy bike loading.  This was an issue with my '11.  This meant new front/rear coils and some longer travel shocks.  I decided on Thuren Fabrication (https://www.thurenfabrication.com) which isn't too far from me and, from my research makes some quality parts.  I wasn't particuarlly impressed with my experience with Carli.  I also needed to consider the main objective of this truck was to haul around my pop-up camper on extended trips.  This meant I didn't want to go too tall, too rigid or too extreme with my build approach.

Set on the parts I drove down to Bend OR to Thuren but first made a stop in Portland to get this baby slapped on.  Its a Four Wheel Camper Hawk model.  I did a ton of research and it came down to these guys due to weight (it's aluminum), strength, add-ons, service, etc.  I'll not get into the camper here as that's another thread/forum but I can say that I'm over the moon with it thus far.  I've had it since January and have probably spent 20+ nights in it.

At the Four Wheel dealer day of install:

Coming home from Bend somewhere in south central WA (it was about 6 degrees here):

The lift went on fairly well.  By fairly well I mean it was only somewhat of a crap show.  It rained the entire week, my garage doesn't accept trucks this big so I was wet and cold for most of the job.  Rear was surprisingly more difficult than the front in part due to the airbags and cradle modifications I had to do.  A few calls to Chief (you guys know him as Flyin6) netted advice like; 'just plasma torch off that panhard and weld in some adjustable links and you'll be good'.  My toolbox doesn't contain such devices so it ended up being elbow grease and swearing (with a little help from the wife) that got it done.

Post suspension work and pretty much how it sits now:

Love how the truck handles now, tons better than the rear leaf trucks from previous years. 

Future plans include 2.5 Kings and some steel tube or plate bumpers.

Bikes & Motorcycles / Ride Reports!
« on: October 10, 2014, 02:36:19 PM »
How about we start a thread for those of us who get out and get dirty on these things too (heal up Chief and we can put the DR to the test).

Let's see/hear them...past or upcoming...adventure or maybe just some OHV journeys.

Bikes & Motorcycles / BC by Bike
« on: October 02, 2014, 04:18:29 PM »
So living in the Pacific Northwest gives me the ability to see some wonderful areas...about 3 months out of the year because the other 9 it's gray and raining.

One area I haven't spent much time exploring is British Columbia, just about 2 hours north of me.  My buddy Brent spends quite a bit of time here (living in Bellingham just this side of the border), had been egging me on for some BC adventure time so off we went.
BC has wonderful map books, (5) I think in total detailing all of their backcountry.  Things such as hikes, kayak routes, bike trails, horseback loops, even portages.  This was our tool to get into some trouble.  We simply wanted to get up into backwoods...into the mountains where the living is good.  We had no particular destination in mind, just a loose timeframe thanks to my work and 2 cool bikes to do the job.

I have a 2014 KTM 690 R and Brent, a turd DR650 (no offense Chief).  Here we are about to cross the border in a town called Sumas at their creamery...Brent likes the ice cream.

Our route took us east of Vancouver into Abottsford.  Wanting to leave the cities quickly behind we turned north to Harrison Lake and up the west side towards our first nights stop; a cool indian ran hot springs with about 4 soaker pools right on a river. 

Here are the bikes 1/2 way up Harrison Lake

The next morning we were up and on the road by 5am...ok...maybe 10 and blitz our way into Lillooet then Pemberton 2 small towns with gas north of Whistler.  We slept along the river outside of Pemberton with 3 million mosquitoes and maybe a few bears.  Here's Brent scaring off the bears...and me

Pemberton presented the last known opportunity for gas.  My bike has a 3.2 gallon tank and is thirsty (70hp singles drink gas), Brent has an obese tank which made my bike the weak link.  I can get about 120-150 miles per tank and also carry 2 32oz. MSR fuel cans which provide about another 25 miles.  With where we were headed in consideration this meant we had to rifle through the trash at the Pemberton Subway for juice bottles (aka redneck fuel tanks) as not to get hung out high and dry.  We also (and I know this will get all the survivalist/planner types all twisted up) got some Canadian cash so we could buy fuel from folks should we encounter any.  This later proved necessary.

BC has an excellent network of gravel roads going in every direction and unlike WA state don't dead end.  They are kept open and maintained either because of old mining/logging operations and/or link indian villages.  With map books in hand we pointed to a point north and took off.  Few examples of the gravel roads:

Our map book pointed to an offshoot from the Yalakoom River we had been following that appeared to dead end at a lake, we decided to check it out.  The lake had a primitive campground but we weren't ready to turn in.  More importantly it had a single track heading off into the mountains, we went to explore.  After about 5 miles we ended up at this old hunters camp along a lake.  Weird because the only way in we saw was this pack trail.  Good views and fishing consumed the rest of our afternoon.

Night 3 we camped next to some friendly Canooks who shared some food, gas (we reimbursed them) and some secret areas with us.  They had been coming up here for 20+ years and stoked our flames about an nearby area that had awesome single track, mountainous terrain and good fishing lakes.  They also told us about being stalked by cougars here.  Our spot:

Fully gassed and a few Canadian dollars lighter we tromped up 30+ miles of gravel past old hunters cabins, mines and plenty of streams I wished I had time to drop a fly into.  Our first stop was this peak one could jeep up to (can't remember the name and we actually saw 3 rock-crawler type jeeps heading down).  I do remember that most of Canada's loose rocks were on this mountain.  Elevation somewhere around 7K' here:

Down the jumbles and towards the area we were recommended we went.  This involved a water crossing better suited for a Typhoon class sub...which I did my best not to mimic, and some pretty cool 4WD roads.  We met up with some ATV folks that helped us ford this 'puddle':

We then all met at a lake a mile up the road where I got a chance to fish for a spell.  Of course the kids in the group wanted to eat fish for lunch...so dad got the fire started and the pressure was on me once my fly hit the water.

I managed to catch about 6 rainbows, all adding up to about 1 lb. Gladly the dad brought hotdogs which took the heat off me.

I prefer single track riding primarily.  The idea of hooking up cool single tracks in the middle of nowhere with scenic gravel roads are what this bike was made for.  This day was perfect.  Let the pics do the splainin:

At this point I had to at least head south towards cell coverage, work concerns, so off we went leaving 2000+ miles of country north of us for another time.  Our route took us through Gold Bridge, Seton Portage and D'Arcy.  All points on the map not really resembling towns in person.  Gas could be had in Seton Portage by appointment only.  To break up the monotony of long segments on dirt roads we found some more interesting off-shoots to explore.  This one took us up to the alpine via logging roads and ATV tracks.  We found a hunters cabin completely stocked (everything is shared) with salmon jerky, soup, freeze driers, etc.

Up into the alpine we went:

End of the trail put us at the base of some lakes.  Still snow in August:

Stream between the two lakes.  This is about 7K':

..and our first bath for the week...yes, cold:

South towards home with one more stop for food and sleep.  This one in Squamish (best rock climbing NA if you ask me).  Thanks buddy for the adventure:

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