GPS Systems and Maps

We’ve included GPS location data for campgrounds in all of our books for many years. We expected GPS systems to take off much more quickly than they have and it’s been a long wait. Finally, however, people are beginning to use GPS receivers in large numbers.

The following information may prove useful to you if you are thinking of joining the crowd, or even if you already have.

GPS Devices

We see the available systems as falling into six categories: aviation (not discussed here), marine (not discussed here), handheld or hiking systems, PC-based systems, automotive systems, and telephone systems.

Handheld or Hiking Systems – Simple handheld GPS’s are quite useful. We use one extensively in our RV to record our distance traveled, speed, altitude, and even for finding campgrounds (in a limited way). The good ones make decent pedometers when hiking and will point toward the RV park location we give in our books if you enter it as a waypoint. However, these handheld units usually have small displays and the maps are of limited usefulness. The unit we use (and love) is a Garmin 60 CSx. For more information or to buy one, follow this link:

Garmin GPS 60CSx Handheld GPS Navigator 

PC Based Systems – You can run GPS based map programs on laptops. Programs like Microsoft’s Streets and Trips show amazing street detail and will display your actual position and give driving directions if you add a small puck-type GPS receiver to your system. These days the external GPS receiver almost always uses a simple and easy to install USB connector. A great feature is that the display is easy to see since it’s the size of your PC screen. The downside is that running the PC in the cockpit is not always convenient. PC based map programs will let you enter a GPS location so it’s easy to use them to find campgrounds from the data in our campground listings. As you might guesee, the PC based program we use is Streets and Trips, for information or to buy it follow this link:

Microsoft Streets & Trips (2010)

 For the the program and a GPS puck:

Microsoft Streets & Trips with GPS Locator (2010)  

Automotive Systems – These GPS systems are appearing in the dashes of many new cars. They also are available as add-ons from GPS manufacturers like Garmin. The screens are large enough to show a decent map and will give you driving directions. However, the systems may not cover the area you are heading for so check this out. Most will allow the entry of destinations as GPS coordinates, make sure they will before buying one. The add-on system we used is a Garmin Nuvi and it mounts with a great suction-cup mount that easily sticks to the windshield - and stays there. There are many Nuvi models, ours is one of the less expensive ones, for information or to buy it follow this link:

Garmin nüvi 255 3.5-Inch Portable GPS Navigator  

Telephone Systems – Many telephones, including the Apple iPhone, have a GPS receiver and displays that allow them to be used as GPS systems. This category is rapidly maturing. To be really useful you’ll have to use software that offers decent maps of the area where you are traveling and that allows entry of GPS waypoint data. Unfortunately, we have not used one of these and can offer no educated suggestions at this time.


Mexico Maps

Until just a year or two ago there have not been good Mexico maps available for GPS units but that has now changed.

Streets and Trips – Beginning in 2009 Streets and Trips included detailed Mexico information. 2010 Streets and Trips has just about the same maps with very few changes. We’re using 2010 Streets and Trips for extensive travel in Mexico right now and are finding it to be very useful with some problems. More about our Mexico Streets and Trips experience will appear on this site soon.

Garmin – This year a Garmin database has become available. It's called City Navigator Mexico NT. We’re using this map database this year and notes about this experience will appear on this site soon.

Continental US, Canada, and Alaska Maps

Most receivers sold in the U.S. or Canada that have map databases do cover the highways of the contiguous US, Canada and Alaska.

Europe Maps

Europe GPS map databases are readily available and can be downloaded from the websites of GPS manufacturers. If you want to use Streets and Trips in Europe it’s available and very good, but is called AutoRoute instead of Streets and Trips but is otherwise the same. Here is a place to buy it:

Autoroute Euro WIN32  


Several location formats are used by GPS receivers. We originally used the degree-minutes-seconds format in our books but have moved to the decimal degree format because we think it is superior. Here's more about GPS coordinate fomats.










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