Navigating off-road means having a good map to look at and optionally a track to indicate a (planned) route. I use a rugged Android smartphone for this and so many other aspects of adventure riding. It is working pretty well for me, so I thought I’d share this with you.

Hardware selection

When looking into suitable hardware, I came across the Garmin Montana units. These are dedicated devices that seem to be very popular by adventure riders for their ruggedness. But, in my mind a more general purpose device would be more useful as I can install different apps that I might want to use on my trips.

A rugged device was a priority for me, as it would be used in lots of different weather and probably end up in mud or be dropped occassionally. Although I have been using an Iphone for years now, I do not think it would hold up very well in the continuous torture of the elements and a rider dropping his bike every now and then. When I did some testing with an old Iphone 6S, the vibey, single cylinder Bigfoot Bike rattled the camera internals of the phone to pieces.

My choice: Kyocera Duraforce Pro

So, onto Android then. A quick search led to two series of devices that looked up to the task: Caterpillar S-series smartphones and Kyocera Duraforce devices. There is a great thread on ADVRider on using the Duraforce devices for motorcycle navigation and after reading it (mostly), I ordered a second hand one on eBay from the US.

As an alternative Cat makes rugged phones as well, but I went with the Kyocera because of the lower price. It allows me to do this “experiment” and see if I can use this device for navigation (and other) purposes.

mountednavdevice
My choice of device: Kyocera Duraforce Pro mounted on Bigfoot

Features

Besides the price, this phone has some awesome features:

  • Dropproof, dustproof, waterproof. Military Standard 810G certification. Not sure what that means, but I guess if it is rugged enough for the military, it is rugged enough for me
  • Waterproof means in this case: 30 minutes at 2m depth. And you can use the camera underwater!
  • Removable battery
  • The touchscreen can be operated with gloves and/or when wet

As a nice bonus it has two front facing camera’s, one of which is a super wide angle. And finger print reader for added security.

Downsides

  • It runs an old version of Android (7) with no way to upgrade as far as I can find out
  • It is an AT&T phone and comes with a lot of junk apps pre installed. I tried removing them, but ran into issues several times after that, where the screen would not work properly anymore. A factory reset solved it then. I have removed some apps now, hopefully it stays stable.
  • Minor detail: it seems to support wireless charging, but not the common Qi standard that is available here.

So, this is the rugged device I am mounting on my motorcycle. And of course it can be used for a lot more then navigation only. More on the software I use, in the next post.

What are your experiences with off-road navigation devices? Do you use a smartphone, tablet or a dedicated GPS? Please share in the comments.