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Garmin RV1090 product review

Greetings RV enthusiasts.

Nearly every RVer has noticed the sheer number of  gadgets and gizmos in the market — many of which offer a small to “questionable” contribution to the RV experience.  From time to time, however, a product comes along that substantially contributes, making the RV experience more enjoyable — I found that the Garmin RV1090 GPS is just such a product.

I have been using an in-vehicle GPS-powered navigation device since the days before they became commonplace in new cars and truck — so I’m acquainted with their strengths and their shortcomings as well as various attempts to distinguish themselves from competitors.  I’ve used exclusively Garmin devices over the years simply because I like their user interface — to me, its not over complicated and allows me to quickly use its features without getting bogged down in a sea of settings.

With that, you can imagine that driving or pulling an RV presents a particular set of needs that are natural for the GPS to manage.  My own tow-vehicle, a 2018 Ram 3500 Turbo Diesel,  has its own navigation system on board, but I found that it just didn’t provide that “usefulness” factor I was looking for.   For example, as I describe below, my truck didn’t even know about a particular campground that we like to frequent!  Also,  I feel that a GPS navigation system should  be available to a vehicle passenger to use and update, while the vehicle is in motion.  Unfortunately, the lawyers who are designing today’s in-vehicle systems just don’t give us that flexibility.

Today’s technology is able to provide good value in the RV space, beyond that of a generalized in-vehicle navigation system, and that is what I like about my Garmin RV1090.  I will continue to evaluate this unit as I gain more experience with it, but I wanted to provide this post to describe my impressions thus far. I’ve been able to compare the RV1090 with two other navigational devices —  my truck’s own in-dash system and my phone, which happens to be an Android device utilizing google maps.  The discussion below represents what I’ve been able to verify thus far, in my own testing.

Size is important

The first thing I noticed about the RV1090 was its size!  It’s a very substantial screen — overpowering at first, if you are used to the smaller units, until you see that the screen is substantially more than an arm’s length away, and attached to the windshield.  This one will not work with those little sandbag mounts, supplied for the smaller screens!  The supplied windshield mount is very good:  Previous GPS units of mine have been much smaller and mounted “standalone style” on the dashboard, using a sandbag type of mount.  This works well for the small units but trust me for these wonderfully readable big screens you want the windshield mount!

The large screen is readable from all points in the vehicle, and the windshield mount makes it surprisingly easy for a passenger to detach it, while the vehicle is in motion, and update the route, find a rest area, or what have you.  It’s a well-thought-out system — power is applied to the mount itself, so that there is no cord attached to the display itself, and the strong magnet built into the mount itself makes it very easy to attach and detach the unit.    This makes it easy for a front-seat passenger, for example,  to make route adjustments without having to stop the vehicle just to satisfy the lawyers.

Advantage:  Navigation

So far, I have discovered three very useful advantages to the RV1090 over my existing tools, which (incidentally include a small Garmin Nuvi, which is not RV specific).  The first is Navigation.  The second is Navigation.  The third is, you guessed it:  Navigation

Navigation:  Camping locations.   With the RV1090 I can quickly search by “campgrounds” or enter a generalized search, and find target campgrounds easily.  State Parks are an area of interest for my wife and I, so when our Truck failed to locate one of our favorite locations, we were disappointed to say the least.  Below is a photo of my truck’s in-dash navigation system when I plugged in the GPS coordinates for one of our favorite campgrounds, operated by the State of Idaho:

The RV1090’s even has a section devoted to KOA campgrounds, but that aside it does very well at identifying State Parks especially, where other GPS devices struggle.  In fairness to those “other” GPS devices, the campground of interest (above) does present a challenge to lesser units:  the campground of interest lies within a National Reserve, but it is operated/maintained by the Idaho State Parks and Recreation.

Bottom line:  The RV1090 nails it.


Navigation:  routing specific for your vehicle

Here is another example of how the RV1090 will advantage navigation.  Certainly there are areas in which nearly any GPS  unit will falter, but the example below hits rather “close” so the nod goes to the RV1090 in a heartbeat.  The underlying reason (at least in my opinion) comes from the very-useful capability allowing you to tell the RV1090 that you are operating a large RV, which causes the RV1090 to calculate routes based on information specific to the roads and bridges along your path.  Essentially it uses weight and height restriction data (entered by you)  to influence your route.  To be sure, there will be “misses” even with this technology but in my favorite example the RV1090 shines with flying colors.  Check out the below example — where I have compared the “google maps” navigation with the Garmin RV1090.  Notice on the right-hand side of the photograph, Google Maps wants to route me from Montpelier, Idaho, through Dingle, Idaho on the way to Bear Lake (notice the checkered flag — that is the campground of interest, which  lies on the east side of Bear Lake itself).

Unfortunately for those using Google Maps, this route is an un-maintained gravel/dirt road!  definitely not suitable for 24,000 pounds of combination weight, and a 101″ wide trailer.  However, with my rig length, width and height loaded, the RV1090 correctly routed me through Paris, Bloomington and St. Charles, taking the “longer” route to the checkered flag.

Bottom line:  the RV1090 nails it

Navigation:  Elevation and percent grades

Another great advantage when pulling 24,000 pounds of combination weight is the knowledge of route elevation and grades.  Below is a screen shot of the RV1090’s user interface informing me that I am about to travel about 220 more miles and drive over some 6% and 8% grades!  definitely useful information, as I get about 4 miles per gallon over such roadways, compared to 11 miles per gallon over the open freeway.



There are other user interface advantages that I find in the RV1090 and I will update this post with new information as I am able.  For example I am still evaluating the “Garmin Drive” connection and its ability to keep me informed re:  traffic.  There are other features as well that I haven’t yet fully explored but will add to this post as I go.


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