RV Navigation Basics

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One of the primary pleasures of recreational vehicle travel is finding new places. That, of course, requires traveling new-to-you roads. How can you safely navigate your RV? How can you know what’s beyond the next bend in the road? How can you get from here to there? Let’s take a closer look at RV Navigation Basics.

RV Navigation Maps

Maps are graphic representations of the location and relationship of places and their connectors. Road maps emphasize the connectors, the roads. (A collection of road maps is called a road atlas.) The size and scale of road maps helps drivers select the best (shortest, fastest) path between locations. In addition to typical map features (city and town names, road numbers and relative size), RV drivers often require more information for safe travel. Is there a steep grade, low bridge, weight-restricted routes, or sufficient fuel stations? Large motorhomes and travel trailers often use a Motor Carrier Road Atlas designed for commercial truck drivers. Smaller RVs can use an automotive Road Atlas or RV Road Atlas. In choosing one, consider the areas you plan to travel, who will be reading the maps and when (driver before the trip or navigator during the trip), and what scale you need (standard, large). Many RV road atlases combine directories such as campgrounds and travel services. Other directories tell you what services (fuel, food, camping, etc.) are located at major road intersections.

RV GPS Units

Technology has dramatically improved RV navigation. The Global Positioning System (GPS) offers pin-point accuracy to any location in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the world within a few feet. GPS uses a constellation of 24 satelites in medium orbit about 12,550 miles (20,200 kilometers) above the earth. For example, the east-west latitude of US Capital Building, Washington, DC, USA is 38.889931, and the north-south longitude is -77.009003. If you know the exact coordinates of a location, GPS mapping equipment can show you how to get there. This can be especially helpful for finding know boondock camping sites. The GPS-coordinates of Death Valley are: 36° 31′ 56.154″ and 116° 55′ 57.147″.

Popular GPS mapping equipment for travelers include products by Garmin, TomTom, Magellan, and Rand McNally. Models change annually, but GPS equipment manufacturers offer free or low-cost updates, some in real time to provide the latest traffic conditions. Most models offer turn-by-turn instructions, often provided by a computer voice. Vehicle GPS equipment runs off the rig’s 12V battery.

Smartphones and tablet computers also can be equipped with GPS travel software to guide you to RV destinations. Applications (apps) include MapQuest, Google Maps, Apple Maps, Back Country Navigator, Polaris, and others. Many have free versions with upgrade subscriptions. Travel guides are available that offer GPS coordinates for free and low-cost boondock campsites.

Getting lost is more difficult than it used to be, but still possible. Make sure you can know how to use the tools of RV navigation for a safe trip.

>>Dan Ramsey, FrugalRV.com
Travel more – spend less!

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