Garmin South Africa recently announced a new satellite navigation device known as the OVERLANDER. As the name indicates, it is a multipurpose satellite navigation device aimed at the 4×4 market. It is a rugged street navigation unit that can take the knocks. I believe that its large 7 inch screen makes it ideally suited to the recreational market – large enough to see the content, but not big enough to obscure your view of the road. The Overlander was launched on Monday the 16th September 2019 in South Africa.

Initially we started with the well-known Garmin GPS V and then moved onto the Garmin Quest but both these device’s limitations were their small screens. In 2009 Garmin launched the Quest the Nuvi 500 which was a favourite in the 4×4 community in its day. Times have changed and technology has advanced. Garmin have brought out other products but none could compete with the Quest and Nuvi 500. Now we have the Overlander and even the name is synonymous with its applications.

Before going any further with this review I must state that I do not consider any cellphone or tablet navigation program /app ideally suited for 4x4ing. They are not designed for the off-road lifestyle as they have limitations. For example, when you travel beyond existing infrastructure they become problematic. Some are also limited in terms of inserting waypoints – which is essential in the off-road environment. They are made for street navigation and only street navigation.

So, what makes the Overlander more appealing than any other current off-road satellite navigation device (other than the Garmin GPS MAP 276 Cx which can be rather costly when all the extras are added)

  • For me, the Overlander’s 7 inch touch screen is a winner for a start. Whilst a touch screen has not always been my preference, this one is nice and convenient. (The 276Cx is not touch screen).
  • The device is built to IPX 5 standards (dust proof) and MIL-STD-810 (a USA Department of Defence test standard).
  • It is a street navigator that is made for the outdoors (4x4ing) that will not break if it falls.
  • Unlike other makes, this device will navigate you to your destination even if there is no mapping information between you and your destination (by using a bearing).
  • This device is able to get GPS, Glonass and Galileo signal – which means that if one system goes down (as recently happened), the device will continue navigating with the satellites from the other two systems.
  • The battery life is quoted as “up to 3 hours” – depending on the backlight usage etc. This is an improvement on most street navigation devices, but limited when comparing to a Montana or GPSMAP 276Cx (which have removal batteries).
  • The standard maps loaded are Europe, Middle East & Africa including Tracks4Africa data. I am not certain if this is a full version of Tracks for Africa, but as I have often said before, travelling into Africa without Tracks4Africa is equivalent to getting lost. The Tracks4Africa mapping is not upgradeable (quote the Garmin helpline).
  • This device is loaded with Topographic maps but I am not sure that these are contours. They are more likely representation lines to indicate relief.
  • There is 64GB of internal memory available for additional mapping but it also has place for a micro SD card for additional memory. This is a massive improvement when comparing it to devices of 15 years ago which only had 243Mb of memory and no place for memory cards.
  • It has the new magnetic tight-fitting Garmin Bracket AND the box includes a compatible RAM ball adapter.
  • Something I have not seen before…. it has Pitch and Roll gauges which add value.
  • The Overlander can pair with the Garmin inReach communicators (sold separately) for two way messaging.
  • A feature that I have never seen before in a Street Navigator is a digital compass (unlike the previous street navigators where direction was calculated from your positioning therefore you would have to move to be able to get a bearing).
  • It also has a barometer to give a better height accuracy and is not reliant on satellite positioning to give height (which could be out at times).
  • The device includes Traffic reporting capability – which is very useful in congested cities. This feature has drastically improved over the years.
  • The device is also compatible with the Garmin BC 35 Backup camera but I believe this is a “nice to have” – not a necessity.
  • I believe that this device has a very uncomplicated and understandable menu logic, which makes it extremely easy to use.
  • Never seen before, the Overlander has 65 408 track log points. The 276Cx is limited to 20 000.

One point that did disappoint was that the device could not take an external antenna but that is not necessary for most people.

Currently there is nothing in this device’s price range that can match its capabilities and features for which it is designed, especially when considering the included mapping.

The Overlander is not the Alpha and Omega of off-road navigation but does come close to it.

As I have written many times before, when travelling in remote areas please make sure that you have a backup navigation system as things can go wrong. A second navigation device (in another vehicle) or even a paper map will assist if things go wrong and you become lost for some reason. As the rules for navigation say :

  • Know where you are,
  • Know where you are going,
  • Know where you have come from,
  • Keep orientated,
  • And always have an alternative route.

A point that should be remembered when purchasing this device is be sure that the sales person upgrades the device’s firmware as well as updates the maps to enable you to get your free map update before leaving the store.

If buying from NavWorld it comes with well-known unmatchable backup support.

Additional Comment : Recently Galileo (the European Satellite Navigation System equivalent to GPS and Glonass systems) did crash due to problems experienced at a Base Station in Italy, but in Galileo’s defence it is still under development and has not been declared operational yet.

By Kevin and Christopher Bolton

Edited by Jacqui Ikin