There's fresh powder begging to be explored. But if you choose to take your snowmobile off the beaten path, will you be able to find your way home? Thank goodness for GPS, or global positioning systems. They're not just for cars.
Before we go on, make sure you're covered with an affordable snowmobile insurance policy.
Why is a GPS ideal for snowmobilers?
Let's face it: If you love snow sports, you're adventuresome. Sometimes trail signs are worn or missing, and paper maps are simply too clumsy to view on a windy winter day. If you plan to spend most weekends on your sled, a GPS will save time and keep you safe.
These navigation systems work in all weather conditions and can pinpoint your exact location. Relaying your location coordinates during an emergency is critical when rescue workers are being dispatched.
As a bonus, a GPS can tell you when to expect the sunset, the distance to your destination, weather conditions and how far you've traveled.
How do I buy a GPS for my snowmobile?
There are three basic ways to use a GPS system while venturing out on your snowmobile. Choose from a GPS cellphone app, a portable GPS or a built-in sled component. Each system has pros and cons. Let's take a closer look.
For $10 or so, you can download a GPS app to your cellphone for simple navigation. As a bonus, these apps link into your existing Internet connection and sync with Google Maps.
You can review your trek at a later time or bring up a favorite route to explore once again. The drawbacks? These only work in areas with a cellphone signal and Internet connectivity. If you're venturing far into the wilderness, this option is not for you.
Do you love all winter sports? If you plan to hike, ice fish, cross country ski and snowmobile during the snowy months, a portable GPS might just be your best buddy. This can go with you anywhere to keep you safe and locatable. However, if you leave it behind at the fishing hole or the batteries drain too quickly, you might be stuck in the wilderness without any guidance.
When you're traveling a long distance or using your snowmobile for rural transportation in rugged terrain, it's best to have your GPS system simply be part of the sled. It's always with you, powered by the sled's electronics system, and dependable. The only downfall is the inability to take it with you if you combine sledding and hiking adventures.
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What features should I look for?
Before grabbing the first GPS system that fits into your budget, consider some of the key bells and whistles of these intelligent systems.
- Communication range: Each system covers a set radius, which generates a few questions. Will you be sledding with a group? Do you want to be able to communicate with a home base? Do you need to buy the optional auxiliary antenna to get reception in a rural area?
- Displays: These can be colorful and filled with graphics or simple black-and-white text-based systems.
- USB Interface: Do you want to be able to download maps and courses into your GPS?
- Sending and receiving capabilities: Some systems will communicate with other snowmobile GPS systems. For example, a friend could view your location on his GPS, and vice versa.
- Extras: There are even more features to explore, including average speed calculators, elevation readings, distance logs and Google Maps compatibility. Be sure the GPS you choose has at a bare minimum an easy-to-read compass and weather feed. You don't want to get caught in a pop-up storm!
Having a GPS with you whenever you spend time on your snowmobile brings you one step closer to having a safe travel experience. In addition to sporting a safety helmet, putting reflective tape on the sled and operating the vehicle while alert and sober, be sure your current insurance coverage includes any accidents involving the snowmobile.
Do you have insurance coverage for your snowmobile and its riders? Do you need to in your state? Contact an independent agent for guidance and policy information for your specific situation.