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GPS & Communication Devices For Your Off-Roading Adventures

There’s something addictive about taking your rig out on the trail, battling obstacles and discovering sites where few people go. We at Dixie 4 Wheel Drive love it so much that we started organizing trail riding events in Southern Utah. To ensure everyone has fun and gets to safely enjoy themselves on the trails, we took things further and decided to offer off-road training classes.

One of the things we emphasize in our classes is the importance of having the right equipment as you tear down the trail. This not only refers to your rig but also to equipment that helps you communicate and find your way.

GPS for Off-Road Navigation

Ask any avid off-roader and they’ll tell you how difficult it can be to find your way out on the trail. Add some inclement weather (snow, rain or fog) and some tough terrain devoid of markers and you have the perfect recipe for disaster. That’s why you need navigation equipment like GPS to find your way around.

We never leave home without a reliable Global Positioning System and neither should you. With a GPS, you can easily keep track of where you are, where you’ve come from and where you are going. The latest ones have mapping software that even show you an area’s topographical characteristics e.g. streams, lakes and contours, and your position in relation to them. These are constantly updated as you go so you don’t have to worry about getting lost.

Additionally, your GPS can help you plan an exciting off-roading excursion. By connecting it to map software, you can use the GPS to generate map coordinates of an area, complete with freeway and trail exits. Then you simply save it to your GPS. This way, you’ll have planned your adventure without even leaving your house.

Some GPS features to look for include mapping software, battery life, display, trip tracking features, size, reception and of course, the price.

Off-Roading Communication Devices

Other than navigation devices, you also need communication equipment when off-roading. These devices help facilitate communication between rigs. You can discuss routes, communicate the need for a spotter, notify others in your party when something is wrong or when you need a break.

Furthermore, some communication devices are used to communicate to Search and Rescue agencies or other rigs, friends/family during an emergency. Should an accident occur, the right communication device can lead rescue personnel to your location, saving valuable time.

Some of the most commonly used off-road communication devices include:

  • Two-way Radios.

Two-way radios aka “walkie talkies” are a staple of off-road driving. These are great for person to person, rig to rig or group communication. They are available as either handheld devices or a mobile system that you mount to your dash. These two-way radios transmit either VHF or UHF, enabling you to communicate with others within a 2-3 mile range if they’re on the same frequency. The dash mount systems have a much wider range of transmission than handheld ones.

  • Citizen Band Radios (CBs).

Also popular with off-roaders, CBs are relatively inexpensive, reliable and easily installed communication devices with more range than two-way radios. They receive signals via land-based towers allowing you to communicate with other CB users. There are two types available: vehicular mounts and handheld ones.

  • Amateur or Ham radios.

Ham radios are durable and sturdy. They provide clear communication, great range and have substantial battery life. When all other means of communication fail, Ham radios will probably still work. However, you need a license to operate one in the US. Communication is done over numerous bands and there are several license classes available.

  • Intercoms.

Off-roading can be noisy so instead of yelling over the sound of your rig, you can install an intercom system to facilitate communication with those riding in the vehicle with you. Each person in the vehicle wears a helmet or headset wired for communication and directly connected to the intercom so you can still have normal conversations no matter how noisy it gets.

  • Push-to-talk buttons (PTT).

Two-way dash mount radios often come with handheld mikes that have to be picked up and activated by hand. As you can imagine, this can be inconvenient and even dangerous for drivers especially when they’re negotiating obstacles on rough terrain. The solution is to get PTT buttons connected to the intercom, allowing you to transmit out of the radio. You can mount PTT buttons on the dash, on the steering wheel or somewhere else convenient for you.

  • Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs).

Having a PLB can be handy in an emergency. This is a high-powered device that’s designed to mainly send out personalized emergency distress signals. When activated, it transmits homing and distress signals then a satellite determines its location and transmits this info to Search and Rescue authorities. In order to use one, you must be registered with the NOAA. Once activated, the unique code in your PLB is then linked to a registration database which will be used to identify your distress signal.

  • Satellite Phones.

While cell phones receive signals from land-based towers, satellite phones get theirs via satellites. These sturdy mobile devices can also offer safety and security features that you can’t get on an average cell phone. Since they use satellites, these phones can potentially allow you to communicate globally. On the downside, they are rather expensive to purchase and additional monthly charges of owning the phones put them out of reach of many.

So there you have a range of communication devices that make life a lot easier when off-roading. We remind you to never drive off alone and to always have navigation and communication devices handy. They can make all the difference between making it back home and being stranded in the middle of nowhere for hours, waiting to be rescued.

As always - travel prepared for the worst, and hope for the best.

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