We bought ourselves a Garmin RV 770-LMT-S GPS for a late Christmas present. We wanted it for both route planning and navigation on the RV. We decided on this unit for a number of reasons.
At first we used Google Maps on the RV. We use Google Maps all the time when driving our car, but for RVing it has some shortcomings. It doesn’t work without internet, it underestimates driving time and it routes us in ways that are not ideal for a 31′, class A motorhome. Then we started using Good Sam’s Trip Planner for route planning. This was an improvement over Google Maps. It gave us more accurate driving time estimates, but it still required internet and didn’t provide any navigation capability.
We read some articles to see what other RVer’s used. We found several options out there. There is a Good Sam’s GPS and a Rand McNally GPS that work with the Good Sam’s Trip Planner. There is also a Garmin GPS for RVs. It works with a trip planner called Base Camp, that does not need internet to work. We use Garmin products on our sailboat, Questeria, so Garmin seemed like it might be less of a learning curve.
All the products we looked at seemed to be missing features that RVer’s think are important. Then we saw that Garmin would soon release a new product, called RV LMT-770-S, that includes some of these features. We decided that that was the one we wanted.
On February 20, 2017, the RV 770-LMT-S GPS was not available, but they were taking pre-orders. We ordered ours from The GPS Store for $399.99. We received it on March 24. In the meantime, we downloaded Garmin BaseCamp, but it is not useful unless attached to a GPS.
The GPS arrived on March 24. We updated the software and maps by attaching it to the computer USB port. After that, we created a vehicle profile for the RV. It was pretty straight forward.
We were already deep into planning our summer RV trip when we got our new GPS. (See our page Summer 2017). We wanted to transfer the information to the GPS. We looked to see if we could export the data from Good Sam’s Trip Planner directly, but it wouldn’t work with Garmin. We ended up redoing it from scratch on the Garmin. Much to my surprise, I found it easier to do our planning right on the GPS than on the BaseCamp, PC software.
Features of Garmin RV 770-LMT-S
The GPS has all the features you expect. You can find places by name, address, type or coordinates. It will route you based on your preferences and vehicle profile. For example, it won’t route you under bridges lower than your RV height.
The GPS has a database of locations such as restaurants, gas stations, attractions, shopping, rest areas, etc. It also has RV parks and RV services. You can find your destination in many ways. Most of the time we search for things by category and name. In the rare case where it doesn’t know the name, we specify an address. You can also look up Saved and Recent places.
The GPS includes free map and software updates. You can update by connecting to a WiFi network or a computer USB port. When connected to the computer, you use an app called Garmin Express to update. It’s all automated. If connected to WiFi, you go to Settings, and Updates.
You can connect your phone to the GPS through Bluetooth. Once connected, you can make phone calls and get notifications on your GPS. You can even get live traffic updates using the Garmin Smart Link app on your phone. On a recent trip to Delray Beach, the GPS rerouted us because of lane closures on the FL turnpike. That worked out great.
Driver Assistance Alerts
The GPS has customizable Driver Assistance. You can be alerted to things like speed limit changes, schools, curves, steep hills, etc. You can also set a Fatigue Warning, which will suggest stops after driving for over two hours without stopping.
We use the Trip Planner feature a lot. You start by adding a start location and destination. It calculates a route, which includes fairly accurate distances and driving times. You can then add locations in between and it will keep calculating distances and driving times.
When driving, and following a route on the GPS, it will alert you to a number of things, like speed limit changes, school zone, sharp curves and steep grades. It also shows your speed, the speed limit and highlights it in red when you are exceeding it. It shows you arrival time, distance to your next turn and which way to turn. When you get to an area where lanes split, it will tell you which lane to be in and highlights it on the side of the display. It also shows notifications from your phone, like text messages and phone calls.
A voice tells you about turns and which lanes to be in as well. It’s simple, specific and easy to follow. For example, it might say “Be in the second to the right lane.” or “Turn right at the end of the road.”.
I’ve gotten so I use it even when I know where I’m going.
The GPS accepts voice commands. You can do just about anything using voice commands. This works well if there is no background noise, but if there is a lot of road noise it doesn’t always work.
We downloaded and installed Garmin BaseCamp on our PC. This app is very much like Garmin HomePort, which we use for nautical routing and navigation. You must attach the Garmin GPS to the computer with a USB cable to use the app. It uses the detailed map from the GPS, but does its own routing, which is slightly different from the GPS. It has a trip planner tool, but We found it harder to use than the trip planner tool on the GPS itself.
One feature I like about this app is the ability to read the tracks from the GPS, store them on my computer and see where we have been on Google Earth.
There is nothing to installing the GPS. It comes with a 12 volt plug that plugs into the RV dash. We tried using it with a splitter, but had problems the splitter falling out and the GPS powering-down while I was driving. The GPS comes with a stick-on mounting bracket, that didn’t work for us on the RV. We bought a Garmin Portable Friction Mount. That works well for us.
We have been using the Garmin RV 770-LMT-S GPS for almost a year now and our overall experience has been great. We usually double-check it with Google Maps and most of the time it routes us the same or better. Google Maps is better at routing us around detours or traffic, but doesn’t consider that we are driving an RV.
One of the features of the RV 770-LMT-S is to add propane tanks to your vehicle profile. Having propane will restrict some of your routes. On some roads you must turn off your propane tank and others don’t allow propane at all.
When we planned our Summer 2017 trip, we planned to cross the Chesapeake bridge/tunnel. There is a restriction that you must turn your propane tank off. At first, we did not add a propane tank to our vehicle profile, and when we put our trip plans on the GPS everything looked good. Later, after we added our propane tank to the profile, the GPS refused to route us over the bridge. We had to remove the propane tank from our vehicle profile to get it route us correctly. Refer to page North Carolina-Maine, Lauren, DE for more details.
We continued on to New Jersey without changing our vehicle profile back to have propane. We added it back before we left the RV park. The route we were following had restrictions that you must turn off your propane. The minute we left the RV park, we got a notification to Shut Off Propane. We stopped in the road, got out and turned the propane tank off. The problem is that there is no way to tell the GPS that the propane tank is turned off. It continued to notify us to Shut Off Propane until we got to CT. Even worse, was that it told us to get off the interstate and take busy city streets around tunnels. Refer to page North Carolina-Maine, New York, NY, Day 5 for more details.
The propane issue is the biggest flaw in the RV LMT-S GPS. There needs to be a setting that says your propane tank is shut off. The only way we found to get around this is to remove the propane from your vehicle profile and/or turn off the Shut Off Propane notification in Audible Driver Alerts. This doesn’t distinguish between restrictions of no propane and propane must be off.
GPS Hangs up on Notifications
This problem may have been related to the multiple propane notifications, since it happened right after that. On our way to Hingham, MA we were notified of a Sharp Curve Ahead. Instead of popping up and going away, it stayed on the screen for the rest of the trip. The GPS continued to route us, but we didn’t get any notifications of upcoming turns or speed limit changes, etc. We haven’t seen the problem after that.
Routing and Navigation Problems
The RV 770 LMT-S GPS is pretty good, but not always perfect. Sometimes it does not route correctly and we have ignore it. It could not route us into Wompatuck State Park, in Hingham MA, but neither could Google Maps. The problem is that some of the park entrances were closed to vehicle traffic. Even Uber and Taxi drivers had problems. We used directions on their website.
Another time, on the way to Ute Lake State Park, in Logan, NM, It told us to turn right when there was nowhere to turn. Then it routed us way out of the way to turn around. That time we used Google Maps and the directions on their website.
We have also seen where the GPS does not know about some back country roads. This happened in Ernul, NC where we are familiar with different roads.
We are happy with our purchase. I wish it had an option to say the propane tank is off. Another feature that would be nice is a notification if you exceed your maximum speed. I have set our to 65 mph because we are not supposed to tow our Honda CR-V any fast than that. But otherwise it does everything we need.