Some snowmobilers are not rich, but they do still like to enjoy some of the finer aspects of the sport. While most of us are carrying a smart phone that has some form of GPS app on it, and while these phones work sometimes while out in the woods, an increasing number of snowmobilers would like to have a GPS running on the dash of their snowmobile. Or, at least have the option of doing so.
Solutions exist at the factory level, in the form of the Garmin Montana GPS offered by Ski-Doo that fits neatly into an (accessory) dash console that mounts up above the gauge cluster. Problem is, this system will cost you over $700 for the GPS unit and Glove Box extension (ouch!). Yes, it works very well, as we have been running one for several years in a Backcountry X 800R E-TEC for well over 5,000 miles. You can see it in all light conditions and it is a true plug and play unit. Now for 2017 and the new G4 REV models we have the awesome Garmin Zumo 590 ($899.99) and a new Glovebox Extension ($99.99), featuring a 5” sunlight-readable, glove-friendly screen. Very nice, and very expensive.
Polaris rocked the world when they came out with their integrated GPS system for 2015 as part of their PIDD (Polaris Interactive Digital Display) on select 60th Anniversary models, and then on even more Limited models for 2016. Once again we have a super functional system, integrated into the dash as stock, but you have to pay dearly for this feature.
What does the poor man do? Many of us have experience with a simple Garmin GPS, you might even have one laying around. We had several, the wider 4.5” display units of the Nuvi series, with model numbers like Nuvi 205W and Nuvi 255W. We have been using them on Can-Am Spyders, dual-sport bikes, side by sides, just about anything.
Forget the suction-cup mounts, we use a sticky-mount post that sticks to the dash and does not come off while riding – we get them at Amazon for pennies. To the back of the Nuvi we mount the Garmin bracket, which snaps right onto the post “ball” on the dash of the sled. Power? This is where you want to have a 12v DC outlet available, or you will have to buy a wiring harness to get some power to your unit. Instead of using the bulky 12V adapters Garmin ships with their GPS for use in cars, we buy a cheap USB adapter that plugs into the 12v plug and gives you a flat USB-style plug in, to which we plug in a short USB-style power cord (again, from Amazon for pennies).
Now for the crazy part. Even if you don’t own a Garmin 205 or 255W GPS, you can buy a working unit off of Ebay for about $20. The battery might not be any good, but if you are powering it from a 12v plug on your sled, who cares? It will turn on and off with the sled.
What about trail maps? We get ours from Red Pine Mapping. Download the map set, save it to a memory card, plug it into your Garmin, and select the new map set in the Garmin menu. Anyone who can run a smart phone should be able to figure it out, very easy to do. That way your GPS will show all of the normal road data, but also show you the snowmobile trails on top.
We’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, and while nowhere as neat as the $700 factory options, when we have 10+ sleds that we are riding in a winter we can outfit most every one of them with their own GPS unit for often under $100 each (GPS, power cord, USB plug, map set, mount), but you get the idea. Yes, it is tougher to see the displays in bright sunlight, but for this kind of money, again, who cares? Not waterproof, true, but we seal the memory card slot opening with Scotch Super 33 or Super 88 black electrical tape. We also cover the openings for the speaker on the back with this same tape. The ambient light sensor opening needs to be able to see if it is day or night, so a little piece of Scotch transparent tape is used here. Over the course of thousands of miles, this has proven to be very water-resistant and has never really been an issue in the cold snow. About the only issue we have has been with the little 5V USB adapters, sometimes they get some snow in them, but they are so cheap we buy extras and replace them as needed.
Anyone with a little ambition should be able to see what we are doing here. Not everyone needs or wants a $700 factory solution, especially if they are riding an older sled. You can easily add a working GPS for little $$$.