RV where you have never RV'd before. Your Copilot gps will lead the way!



The Copilot gps software on my laptop is fast becoming a valued friend for Heidi and me. If you had told me 10 years ago, back on the ranch, that I would be driving a diesel pickup, hauling a nice 5th wheel down the road, to go boondocking, guided by Copilot gps on our computer, I would have asked "what kind of drugs you were havin' a bad reaction to!?"

I've never been one to worry much about directions. Never needed to. There just wasn't any problem in swinging a pickup around if you made a wrong turn. A 30' 5th wheel is another deal altogether! Get down into the center of a lot of American cities with a big RV or even some narrow, back country roads and you'll be glad you sprang for a good laptop gps navigation system.

Heck, I've had to go five miles before I could find a place wide enough to turn this thing around!

The system we ended up with is the Copilot gps system by ALK Technologies. Took a bit to make the choice though.

I had gotten awful confused trying to sort through all the reviews and reports on the available laptop gps navigation software. It sure seems like most of them are quality products. All in all pretty confusing.

So how does a worn out old cowboy choose the right laptop gps navigation software? Especially considering it ain't livestock!

There aren't any teeth to look at or legs to check. Kind of hard to strap a saddle on a computer and give it a ride! Few folks I know personally were using portable vehicle gps navigation. All I could do was read the brags of the different companies and trust my gut to make my best guess.

The one thing I kept coming back to, the thing that seemed to set them apart, is how Copilot gps was written with a heavy focus on RV's. The inspiration for it was, to the best of my understanding, a program written for big rig truckers. That's one thing that separates it from all the other programs I have seen. It was deliberately designed to help you avoid routes that might cause difficulty if you are pushing a 40' motor home down the road.

You really might not want to go where a CJ5 has to scramble to squeeze by! Copilot gps will help you do that for sure!

Loading the copilot gps program caused me a little temporary distress when the warning that it "was not approved and may not be compatible" by Microsoft popped up. Seems that ALK didn't pay the mordida to Microsoft to receive their seal of approval. Bummer. I ignored all the warnings of impending doom, as advised by ALK to do, and had zero problems. The warnings proved to be a lot of hoopla over nothing. Little bit of corporate baloney going on there I expect.

After getting it loaded we took a run to shake her out. Pretty awesome! It only took the laptop gps navigation system a minute or so to lock on. Far short of the several minutes ALK warned it might take for "first fix".

While they advise you to get locked on before you start out, and that is a good idea, I have had no problem getting first fixes while rolling along at 70 mph either.

We plugged in a destination address, stuck that ol' diesel in gear and took off! A couple miles west I came to a pretty twisty entrance to the interstate, with 3 quick turns to get on the highway. I was real curious to see how the portable vehicle gps navigation system would handle that.

The Copilot gps started giving audio, voice directions 2 miles before the turns. Updating every little bit. With large text directions across the top of the screen, a large graphics display, backed up by the spoken directions, there is no shortage of guidance in unfamiliar territory!

My ears don't work as good as they used to, and that '98 Cummins is not known for sneaking up on anything. Quiet it ain't! With all that going on I have little trouble hearing the directions. If I am unsure about what is said, a quick glance at the screen clears up any confusion.

I prefer, myself, to use the 3D screen option. A nice big arrow shows you where you are. The display scrolls as you roll and is oriented to give you the same perspective that you see on the screen when you look out the windshield. Crystal clear. Even for a dumb ol' hand like me.

That twisty maze, to go through, to get on I-25 was no problem at all for the Copilot gps. Clear, easily readable text at the top of the screen. Quick, timely, clear, voice instructions all supported by a clear, properly oriented pictorial view.

You might be a bit off if there has been real recent road reconstruction / realignment but that is to be expected, and updates are available.

Subsequent trips have shown some other good things as well. The laptop gps navigation software seems to route me, for instance, so that I pull up in front of my daughters’ house on the correct side of the road to park. Not on the other side of the street, in front of someone else's house. A small thing but a nice touch.

We have also noticed that it seems to line out the route, when possible, so that you make left turns and not right. I haven't seen that in the literature anywhere, but it has sure worked out that way for us.

Think about it. You are in the curb lane with a 35' fifth wheel. And, you want to make a right turn. Have to swing real wide to clear the corner right? But what if your copilot gps routed you so you were coming the other way? Now, all you need do is make the turn from the center. No corner to run over, or wide swing to make. Simple little things like that can change your whole day for the better.

That's what I mean by the heavy focus of Copilot gps on the RV user. A route that would be no problem for your toad can get to be a real exciting day in a 40' diesel pusher!

Lots of other bells and whistles too. Every little bit another POI (point of interest) pops up. You can click to add it to your itinerary or just close it out. Kind of handy in unfamiliar country.

I seem to defy authority at every opportunity. Don't even have to think about it! Even with the Copilot gps giving me crystal clear directions using three methods, I can still find ways to miss a turn!

So what now? We're lost!

Nope.

Missin' a turn due to traffic refusing to let me over, or my own unexplainable contrariness is no problem! The copilot gps software almost instantaneously calculates a new route to get me back on the planned itinerary.

I deliberately turned wrong trying to throw it off. Each time I did, within seconds it calculates and posts the new, corrected routing.

I'm sure it would have loved to reach out of the monitor and pop me on the side of the head, "Hey! Bozo! pay attention!" But it just politely and patiently put up the routing I needed.

Pretty cool!

The only problem we have had with the whole thing had nothing to do with the gps system. I got misled a bit by the guys at the computer store where I went to get an inverter to run the laptop. Took me a couple tries to finally get one setup that had sufficient power to keep it running. If you use a big laptop like my Toshiba you may need to go with the bigger inverter in the cab. Mine is a 400 watt and it is hard wired to the batteries with 8ga wire and a 75 amp catastrophic inline fuse. Now she runs without a burp.

I am pretty sure all of the "brand name" systems will do a fine job of guiding you on your adventures. However, the Copilot gps is the only one, to my knowledge, that is written with the RVer, specifically, in mind. That's why I gave it the nod in my own rig.

I have to say, I am really impressed with the way it has worked for me.



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