Garmin Camper Tested

Tested: Garmin Camper SatNav on 2500 miles across Europe

Tested: Garmin Camper SatNav on 2500 miles across Europe

We tested the Garmin Camper SatNav while driving over 2500 miles across Europe while towing a caravan. Did it help or did it hinder? Read on to find out.

Review Score

A great driving assistant when you are towing a caravan. But like all SatNavs, you can't believe it all the time.

Our Score: 8.7/10

Value for MoneyQualityFeatures

The good

  • It works - most of the time ;-)

The not so good

  • Like any SatNav, it's only an aid. It won't get it perfectly right everytime.

This was a hands-on product review. The product was loaned to us to conduct the review.

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Tested: Garmin Camper SatNav on 2500 miles across Europe Photos

Garmin Camper Tested

Garmin Camper Tested

Unboxing the Garmin Camper

Unboxing the Garmin Camper

Adding Caravan Dimensions

Adding Caravan Dimensions

Garmin Camper box contents

Garmin Camper box contents

Selecting vehicle type

Selecting vehicle type

Garmin Camper Boxed

Garmin Camper Boxed

Country specific speed limits

Country specific speed limits

Camper adjusting to dark

Camper adjusting to dark

Our Review

You may have seen and read that we borrowed a Garmin Camper SatNav for our summer trip towing the caravan across Europe.

While I mentioned the pros and cons of the Garmin Camper in those articles, I thought it was about time that I pull the information together here, in case you are thinking of getting a SatNav for towing a caravan or driving a motorhome.

Garmin Camper SatNav in its box

Over the years I have used a variety of SatNavs: Garmin, TomTom, Via Michelin, etc.

More recently, I bought a second-hand car that had a SatNav built-in. It works OK, but there are times when I have to supplement it with a maps app on my phone, and then I can end up with two devices recommended two different directions when I'm driving.

While we've had the caravan over this last 18 months, we've had to take extra care with the advice given by the SatNav. Those little short-cuts these devices like to take you down are not the most friendly when you are towing a caravan!

For our caravan trip across Europe, it was the perfect opportunity to test a SatNav designed for towing caravans: The Garmin Camper.

First impressions of the Garmin Camper

It's only been a year or so since we stopped using our old Garmin SatNav in favour of the one built into the car, just because using the built-in one is much more straightforward: you just start the car and go and don't need to bother with attaching anything to the car window.

However, after opening up the Garmin Camper box, we immediately saw how the technology has moved on since our last Garmin SatNav.

Setting up the Garmin Camper

It was quick and easy to get set up.

The Garmin Camper looks smart. It's much more like a smartphone or small tablet.

The Garmin Camper looks smart. It's much more like a smartphone or small tablet. It's sleek and displays the map right to the edge of the device; there's no chunky border that we had on our old device.

The screen resolution is so much better too, with bright, crisp colours, and very easy to read.

The whole screen is touch sensitive too, just as you would expect on a tablet or phone.

Garmin Camper box contents

Here's what you get in the box....excluding the pen, which I just included for size.

One thing to note that with the Garmin Camper SatNav we borrowed, it didn't have the Traffic Update radio receiver, even though the Camper can use it.

Fortunately, our old Garmin SatNav had this, which was fully compatible with the Garmin Camper, and so we used the receiver when testing the Garmin Camper across Europe.

Setting up your Towing Unit

The Garmin Camper guides you through configuring it for your unit. It's not just for caravans; it works for motorhomes too.

Just put in the dimensions and weight of your unit, and it will apply that information when calculating the best routes, taking into account weight, height, and width restrictions published on the maps.

Entering the Caravan's Height into the SatNav

Setting up the Garmin Camper for your unit's dimensions is straight forward.

It will also use that information to show you country-specific speed restrictions that will apply to your unit.

Country specific speed limits displayed in the Garmin Camper

Here the Garmin Camper is showing road and country specific speed restrictions (on the bottom left of the Garmin screen) that applied to our caravan when driving on a road in Italy.

Oh, and this doesn't restrict you from using it with just your car as you can quickly switch between car, caravan, and motorhome mode when using the SatNav, and the Garmin Camper will recalculate accordingly.

Choosing your vehicle: Motorhome, Caravan, or just the Car.

Selecting your vehicle in the Garmin Camper SatNav

Planning Caravan-Friendly Routes

With the Garmin Camper, you can plan your trips in advance and save them as pre-planned routes, along with multiple waypoints if you wish.

This was a great feature when planning our European Road Trip, and saved the hassle of entering the SatNav route details when we were there.

Before we got hold of the Garmin Camper, I had used the Via Michelin website, which allows you to plan caravan friendly routes.

Using that website, and lots of other research, I had planned a scenic but caravan friendly route from the Austrian Alps through the Italian Alps and down to southern Italy.

the Garmin Camper said "No"

When entering that planned route into the SatNav, the Garmin Camper said "No", and instead, recommended us on a long journey on the Autobahns and Autostrada.

Although other caravanners had done my original intended route, I decided to play it safe, and follow the Camper's recommendation, just in case there was something I missed or had been a recent change to the roads.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

There's a saying that if you put rubbish data into the computer, you get rubbish data back out of it. I think the same is true of the Garmin Camper in that it is only as good as the information it holds about the roads.

I was extremely impressed with the amount of information the Garmin Camper held on routes that were caravan friendly.

It will warn you as you drive about potential hazards, steep hills, etc.

It will warn you as you drive about potential hazards, steep hills, etc., and will indicate any routes that are not caravan-friendly as you are driving along - which is a handy driving aid.

However, it wasn't perfect, and I believe that it will always default to motorway routes when route planning since those will be safe for Caravans and Motorhomes, and the Garmin Camper may not hold enough data for non-motorway routes across long distances.

This proved true a few times.

A Tour Around a German Industrial Estate

In Germany the exit the SatNav recommended was closed, so when we missed the exit, the Garmin Camper re-routed us around an industrial estate with lots of mini-islands.

Not a massive problem with the Caravan, but as we exited the labyrinth, we found that there was a diversion in place on more usable roads. Why didn't the SatNav recommend that rather than the industrial estate?

A Tour Around a Hilly German Housing Estate

We missed the junction in the Rhine valley as we were too busy taking in the view!

We missed the junction in the Rhine valley as we were too busy taking in the view!

However, the SatNav then directed us up steep and narrow roads on a housing estate. OK, not the SatNav's fault, and maybe it was the only way to detour, but it didn't feel very caravan-friendly, and no warnings about the steep roads from the Sat Nav.

Camper adjusting to dark

The Garmin Camper automatically changes the display when you enter a tunnel

Anyone remember Heidi?

For some reason, as we got close to the Austrian Campsite, Seeblic Toni, it instructed us to leave the Autobahn much earlier than the recommended route. We thought this strange, but given that it had been diverting us to avoid traffic jams, we followed it's advice.

Fortunately, this route was beautiful, as we drove through a big valley surrounded by the Austrian Mountains, past rustic looking Alpine farms and small villages.

a single track lane with very narrow winding village roads

Perhaps I'm showing my age, but anyone remember the children's TV programme, Heidi? It looked very similar to that!

Unfortunately, this was not a caravan friendly route as it was a single track lane with very narrow winding village roads, and no passing places, making it awkward if one the tractors that were coming the other way had also been towing something.

Verdict on the Garmin Camper SatNav?

we got to every single campsite across the 2500 miles without incident

Despite the few SatNav'isms, it did help make such a long journey across Europe less stressful when towing the caravan, as the Garmin Camper was a useful assistant, warning of potential towing hazards most of the time.

And most importantly, we got to every single campsite across the 2500 miles without incident.

Once we returned to the UK, we had to return our borrowed Garmin Camper. And although we've towed many thousands of miles across the UK without one, I am thinking of buying one now, just for that extra peace of mind when towing the caravan.


AttributeTested: Garmin Camper SatNav on 2500 miles across Europe
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