Satellite Navigation.

The first satellite navigation device I owned was a Tom Tom Go 300, bought for me as a present at Christmas 2005. It worked OK in the main but the maps were a disappointment. In the first place, the realignment of the A1 round the Ferrybridge area had been completed months before the device was purchased but the map dataset contained the old road network. Secondly, map updates were expensive and some major road changes (including the A1 realignment which took them several attempts to get right) took years for them to deal with. Indeed, I didn't buy all the map updates whilst I had the device because they were so expensive and inaccurate.

We had a Citroen Berlingo at the time and found that the supplied mount was awkward to use because the windscreen was so far away. To solve that problem I bought an after market set of alternatives, including a "swan neck" mount which brought the sat nav much closer to the driver.

When we bought our Autoquest, in June 2006, we started to use the Tom Tom Go 300 with it as well as with the car. Even with the swan neck mount, though, the depth of the dash made it inconvenient to use a suction mount on the windscreen. Having seen a tip elsewhere I purchased a plastic clipboard (around 1) from Asda onto which the original mount could be fixed, the whole then being held in place by the built in dash clipboard, as in the photo.
Sat Nav Mount


In April 2010 we were staying with my Mother for the weekend when she wanted a day out in the car. Because we hadn't expected that we didn't have the TomTom with us and neither did we have a detailed road atlas. We decided to treat ourselves to a new sat nav and, in view of the mapping problems with the TomTom, decided to buy a Garmin device instead, buying the lifetime maps update to go with it. We also went for a model with the traffic assist option (Nuvi 1300T) hoping that it would help us avoid delays. To be frank, though, it wasn't much help and not worth the extra cost. We found that the reports on BBC Radio 2, combined with local radio reports, were far more useful. The worst occasion was when we were going away in the van in April 2012. Unfortunately there was an accident on the A1 just about the time we set off. Garmin traffic service told us it was only a 7 minute delay so we weren't worried and, instead of continuing down the A19 at Thirsk to take the A64 back onto the A1, we continued along the A168 as usual. We were not amused to be held up on the A168 for four hours when the A1 was closed completely.

One thing we didn't like about the Garmin was that it didn't show PoIs on the route (useful for low bridges for example). In June 2013 we had a look round to see what had become available in the intervening 3 years. We found that TomTom seemed to have improved their mapping (basically they had bought Tele Atlas, their mapping supplier, and improved the performance of the company). They had also introduced a traffic service which had rather better reviews than the Garmin one. We found a Go Live 820 at a very good price (basically end of range sell off) with lifetime map updates. The unit worked well but it was, of course, designed for cars rather than large vehicles so one had to take care to avoid narrow roads. That wasn't too much of a problem, seeing as Jill drives and I navigate, but not ideal.

On the subject of narrow roads, as is often pointed out (usually when a large vehicle becomes stuck in a narrow road) satellite navigation systems are not foolproof. If, on a trip, we think a road looks too narrow we simply drive past and find an alternative.
We always carried a road atlas as well as having a sat nav to enable us to check routes both before setting off and on the road. Initially we used the (appriximately A3 size) atlases available widely but subsequently bought a copy of the very good Philip's Navigator Trucker's Britain. We then bought a copy of the Philip's Navigator Camping and Caravanning Atlas of Britain (similar to the Trucker's Britain but with C&CC sites and CSs mapped as well)) when it was first published in 2014.
On-line tools like Google Earth/Google Maps and Garmin Basecamp (which takes some learning but is worth it) are also useful for pre-journey checks.
It is well worth taking notice of access instructions provided by caravan site owners, especially those for roads close to the site; the instructions are written by people with local knowledge and, whilst they may err on the side of caution, better that than a bent vehicle.
In addition, if going to an unfamiliar site it can pay to look at the location on Google Maps and use the co-ordinates of the site entrance in the sat nav rather than a post code.

From time to time I looked at devices from various manufacturers which claimed to be specially made for large vehicles but did not take the plunge because I found it impossible to get a straight answer from the manufacturers as to how accurate the base mapping data was. It seemed that, whilst the software allows one to enter vehicle dimensions, the resultant routing changes would be inevitably crude because the majority of the data on which the software works (the map database) was lacking in detail, certainly in the UK. For the vast majority of roads, the only width data available is the fact that there is a legal restriction. In the absence of such information there is nothing to indicate how wide a road is. Other details like Low Bridges and Weight Restrictions can be found as PoI sets which third parties have created, sometimes at a cost and sometimes free. A further point regarding PoIs is that some device manufacturers only allow the addition of individual PoIs (rather than full datasets) by end users. Fine if that is all one wants but not if one wants to add new categories (site information provided by the major clubs for instance).

In January 2014, after seeing forum postings, I bought a Noza Tec device (made in China running iGo software under Windows CE) from a seller named Navibuzz on eBay. Two years later, investigations into failure of the lifetime map update guarantee revealed that the iGo software on the device was almost sure to be a pirate copy. Subsequently it was even found that some units were even being shipped without the truck files in the mapping so could not possibly work as advertised for large vehicles. The Noza Tec (and other, similar, products (from both China and the UK)) can obviously, therefore, not be recommended.

When it came to mounting the Noza Tec I tried a couple of options as shown by these photos (bearing in mind that the device was for navigator rather than driver use) but both proved unsatisfactory. Sat Nav Mount Sat Nav Mount I then realised that the cup holder was the correct diameter to hold a length of plastic drainpipe. I had a plastic sat nav mounting disc which I wasn't using so fixed that to the piece of drainpipe using gaffer tape in order to give a surface to take the suction mount. That worked OK at first (especially as the device can be viewed by both driver and passenger) but warm weather softened the glue on the tape making the mount unstable. Sat Nav Mount


Sat Nav Mount Sat Nav Mount At the end of March 2015, Aldi had the Garmin Camper 760 LMT-D as one of their specials at a very good price. Garmin had also started to show POIs on the route and had revised their traffic warnings which, though still not perfect, are much better than in 2010. The Noza Tec had crashed a couple of times so we decided to treat ourselves to an Easter present. Having established use of the cup holder gave an appropriate position, the question was how to actually mount the device. Happily we had a plastic tub (which had originally held facial cleaning pads) which was the correct size to fit in the cup holder. It has a screw on lid, to which the suction mount adheres, and that overcomes the problem of warm sunshine melting glue. The photos show the Garmin sat nav in position with three views of the tub based mounting arrangement. Sat Nav Mount Sat Nav Mount

As we possessed both the Garmin and Noza Tec devices at the time I decided to use a 2015 three week trip to Lincolnshire & East Anglia (knowing that we would be using a mixture of roads) to compare their performance. Not a fully scientific test, more a hands-on user experience.
The Garmin tended to use smaller roads more readily than the Noza Tec, a factor which is probably due to the fact that the Noza Tec software had overriding defaults rather than using the vehicle dimensions input. I had noticed on a previous trip that it ignored a perfectly usable road with a 7.5 tonne weight limit even though the vehicle profile weight was 3.5 tonnes. It appeared that the Garmin, being a Camper edition, is more accurately oriented to leisure vehicles and the actual dimensions input (something which might be overcome by experimenting with larger dimensions than actual).
Having said that, both devices routed via roads which might be uncomfortable for some drivers. They will use bus routes (which are obviously wide enough for a motorhome) but some bus routes in more rural areas run along narrow roads which can be a challenge especially when vehicles are parked at the roadside and/or large oncoming vehicles are met. It is always a good idea, in an unfamiliar area, to do a bit of preparation and checking in advance if possible (using the Philip's Navigator Camping and Caravanning Atlas or Google Maps for instance). The Garmin also has accompanying Basecamp software available for planning purposes on PC.
The Garmin has a screen which is more readable in bright sunlight, presumably the result of specific design rather than use of a general purpose tablet as with the Noza Tec, and was much faster in picking up satellites.
Overall (even though we didn't know of the piracy problem at the time) we decided on using the Garmin as first choice. The Noza Tec later displayed an increasing tendency to crash which made the Garmin even more the first choice.

We were actually so impressed by the Garmin that I bought a Nuvi 2569 which has similar facilities and features (other than the large vehicle ones) for use in the car and gave the TomTom Go Live 820 to a friend.

One useful factor about having both the Garmin and the Noza Tec was that their different programming meant that they sometimes suggested different routes and one could make a choice as to which was more appropriate. The identification of the piracy problem meant that we no longer had a backup to the Garmin Camper which might provide such alternative routes. As it happened a small windfall came along so I started looking round at what else was available. I started off by buying a Mio Spirit 6970 LM Truck but sent it back after encountering problems. I subsequently bought a Trucker 5000 but that was swapped, by TomTom, for a Pro Truck 5150 when I found that I had been misled by TomTom's marketing. I then saw a Mio Combo 5207 LM Truck at a good price so decided to give Mio a second chance and commenced a six month comparison of the three devices. The comparison ended when TomTom agreed to purchase the Pro Truck 5150 back from me. As a sat nav it had worked reasonably well but I suffered so many problems with TomTom's support and software that I became heartily sick of the company in the end. A fuller description of the comparison can be found Here.

Sat Nav Mount Sat Nav Mount The fact that the Mio also has a camera means that finding a suitable position for both camera recording and sat nav use isn't as easy as for stand alone units. It was made easier in that, for us, the driver is served by the Garmin and the other devices in the trial were tools for the navigator to use, coupled with the fact that we already had a stand-alone dash cam. The Mio was initially mounted on the windscreen to facilitate sat nav use by the navigator but it was above the TomTom and that was less than ideal for the camera. As a result I had a look at creating a platform for the Mio mount on the motorhome dash tray but it was made difficult by the rounded shape of the dash. However, after a think I came up with a solution as to how to attach an old dash disk that I had which had had its self-adhesive pad removed. I attached three pieces of Sugru (two and one) to the disk to make a shape which would cope with the different levels of the dash and simply pressed it into place. Within 24 hours the Sugru was cured and the Mio sat nav sat securely as shown by the photos to the left.

Dispensing with the TomTom, together with the fact that the camera in the Mio Combo 5207 LM Truck was working well, I decided to transfer the Mio camera into our car and mount the 5207 in its place (right) where it will do both jobs.
Sat Nav Mount


In summary, the Garmin Camper 760 LMT-D is still our favourite but the Mio Combo 5207 LM Truck is a useful backup, especially as it has the camera incorporated..

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Last updated: 15 November 2016