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Old 5 Sep 2009
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Join Date: May 2009
Location: Poland
Posts: 38
Motorbike or handheld device for South America?


I would like to buy a simple navigation device, that will help me to explore South America - on the Panamericana and off the road. I know handheld devices are popular as they are waterproof, shockproof and can store a lot of data that you can transfer to your computer, but can they navigate you, or they are just GPS showing your position and recording your data? What functionalities I will really miss buyin simple Garmin etrex? Or, the other way round.
What are pros and cons of motorbike and handheld unit? As I said: I will go from Colombia to Argentina. Important: it is my real start to travelling on the motorbike.

Thanks for explaining basic things.


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Old 5 Sep 2009
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Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Tallinn, Estonia
Posts: 973

I had considered the same options when we went to South America.

First point to make is that a GPS unit is nice to have, but by no means essential. Perhaps in more desolate areas like the Bolivian high plateaus etc, it is moire useful as a security device, but it should still only be considered as a back-up: they are not fail-proof! I still do most ofmy route planning and navigating using a map.

Having said that I like to have one for navigating in cities, finding my bike again if I park and go walking in the forst/mountain etc.

So I bought a Garmin Quest. It was handheld and motorbike, waterproof, internal battery/memory etc. However, I recetnly lost this and they do not make them anymore so I bought a Garmin eTrex HCX Legend.

The Nuvi 550 possibly has more options and if more sophisticated, but the Legend is waterproof, a micro SD slot for more memory, has auto-routing software, is small, tough, can run on AA batteries or you can wire in a USB to your battery so that it runs off the bike, when you are riding.

The only issues I have is that it the back light only stays on for 10 seconds at a time if it is not connected to the bike (I don't have the USB connector), so navigating around a foreign city at night can be a bit of a pain.

Other than that it's perfect for my needs.

Adventure: it's an experience, not a style!
(so ride what you like, but ride it somewhere new!)
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Old 10 Mar 2010
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Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Devon, U.K.
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Originally Posted by Warthog View Post
The only issues I have is that it the back light only stays on for 10 seconds at a time if it is not connected to the bike (I don't have the USB connector), so navigating around a foreign city at night can be a bit of a pain.
I have the eTrex Cx and have used in cars, on bicycles and on my bike through Europe. It has been very good with routing and finding fuel etc and you can change the settings to have the back light on permanently although this will affect your battery life quite considerably! I use the Energizer Lithium batteries, expensive but light and very good life if walking etc. I have a Touratech mount as it is damped and lockable and use a cigarette socket to mini USB to power it and it has been fine. As it uses 5volts it does need the adapter but you can use any cig/USB plug and standard lead, even the one it comes with.

Hope this late response helps!
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