I have owned too many sat-navs since they first became available, some loved, most not. Each of the three in-car systems that I have experienced were rapidly supplemented by a stand-alone unit as the in-car unit quickly became out of date, and that is currently the case.
Being a caravaner I thought it of even great importance to have accurate route guidance, because being diverted onto unsuitable roads is unacceptable; it’s one thing making a three point turn in a car in a narrow lane, quiet another with a caravan on tow.
I read that there are sat-navs available for caravaners and that appealed to me, so I researched what was available. They all seem very expensive to me.
Whilst researching I came across the CoPilot satnav app for iPhone or tablet and decided to take advantage of their free trial offer by downloading it to my iPhone to trial and thought it very good, except that the iPhone screen is too small for me, so I loaded it onto my iPad to try. It should be noted that the chosen hosting device must have a GPS function for it to work, not all do. It’s also worth pointing out that you don’t need a sim card fitted to pick up the GPS signal. The active screen dimension of my iPad shown here is about 8 inches diagonally, that’s 20cm in old English, so plenty big enough for a clear display, and that’s exactly what it provides.
I understand that the software is also available as an Android or Windows App. You may download either the whole of Europe or just the UK and Ireland. The maps are stored within your device and the files are quite large, so a good internet link is useful for the initial download procedure. It doesn’t need a connection when in use.
One benefit of using an iPad is the greater battery capacity over the iPhone but with either you can plug them into the cars power supply, with the aid of a suitable adaptor to keep them charged whilst in use just as you would with a stand-alone SatNav.
I have also tried several holders for iPads and have found the most secure type is the one I illustrated here, an eBay acquisition.
As you can see it has a sucker that attaches to the windscreen and an adjustable pole that rests on the dashboard. In my case it places the iPad below my sight-line without obstructing any of the car’s instruments. It is also positioned so that my back-up navigator can see it as well. The picture below is taken from my eye position.
In addition to the basic car App they also do a caravan/motorhome version, which is the version I have. It allows one to input your rig’s dimensions, your average speeds for various types of road and road preferences and is said to calculate the most efficient route using that stored information.
One very useful feature is the ability to program the unit for various modes of travel and save each type for future recall. I have one set-up for towing and another for when using the car solo.
It’s well to remember that SatNavs are not programed with road widths, think about that for a moment! I know that the manufacturers would like you to think that they are, but they are not, so sorry to disappoint on that point. After all it would be a bit much to have someone wandering around measuring every inch of our highways and byways. All that a caravan app is programed with is the statutory restrictions published such as bridge heights, weight limits and width restrictions. None of which are normally impediments to towed caravans although there are a few exceptions to that statement that can make one sweat a little.
So how can we avoid being led into unfriendly places? Well, I use the average speed settings for various road types, for example setting a very low speed for minor roads whilst setting 55 mph for motorways and dual-carriageways, and pro-rata for intermediate types encourages the app to favour those roads over country lanes.
I also tell it that my rig weighs 8 tonnes to allow it to pick up on the common 7.5 tonne weight restrictions, feeling that if a delivery van is not welcome then I should keep out as well. I suppose what I’m trying to spell out is that you still have to check your route beforehand to ensure its suitable. Stating the obvious perhaps but if a narrow winding road is the only way to your destination then do not be surprised if that is the way your satnav wants to send you, so double check before towing!
I use Google Earth for this checking process, particularly it’s Street View feature together with the information published by the destination site owner for the final arrival section of the route.
Destinations can be entered and saved, a very useful feature.
Overall, I find the CoPilot app provides a clear display with easy to follow verbal instructions. It is reasonably easy to set-up and program and that task is even easier to do on the larger screen of an iPad. It generally provides a choice of routes, and, if it’s installed on a touch screen device, has a drag feature to change part of a route if required.
Incidentally there is vertical green bar on the right-hand side of the screen that represents the whole journey and shows both delays and their duration as well as your position relative to the whole route, so you can see approximatly when, where and for how long you may be delayed on your journey.
Active Traffic is provided for the first year that will provide a detour around hold-ups, thereafter it costs about £10 a year if you want it. This is one feature that I prefer not to use when towing, having researched and selected a suitable route I am always reluctant to deviate from it.
So, when you are next in the market for a new satnav, check this option out. It could be just what you need.
The following YouTube video is included here, not because it is very thrilling, far from it, but because my dash cam has picked up the Copilot audio instructions that are typical of those received while driving. The rather nice musical accompaniment comes to you from Classic fm that happened to be playing on the car radio at the time.
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