Why You Shoud Be Using a Tablet Off-road

I have a 10″ Samsung Galaxy Tab A tablet that I use extensively when I’m in my vehicle.  It’s an essential part of my off-road kit.

I use a RAM mounting system to mount the tablet securely on the dash board of my FJ Cruiser.  First, I attached a RAM diamond base ball mount to the dashboard. I attach a RAM Long Double Socket Arm to the ball mount. The arm is fully adjustable and I can position it so the tablet is easy to glance at yet completely out of the way to me and to my passenger.  I used this mount to hold the tablet and I attached this ball adapter to the back of the tablet mount to attach the tablet mount to the RAM Long Double Socket Arm. The mount is rock solid, but I attached it to a plastic trim piece that can move a bit when I’m on bumpy terrain so I need to relocate it to a more solid mount point on the dash itself and not a plastic trim piece.

My Samsung Tab A mounted to the dash of my FJ Cruiser with RAM mounts. The Gaia GPS app is loaded.

My particular tablet doesn’t have cellular data capabilities so when I’m driving I share out a mobile hot spot from my phone that the tablet connects to.  This allows me to use Google Maps for turn-by-turn driving directions when I’m road tripping.  It is much easier to glance at the large tablet screen to get information than it is to look at my smaller cell phone screen when I’m driving.  I also use it for travel apps that show weather and traffic information and that show upcoming rest areas and exits on the highway and what food or service providers are at that exit. The iExit app is good for showing you what food, gas, and lodging is available at the exits around you.

When I turn off of the pavement, I use the Gaia GPS app on the tablet to navigate.  The Gaia website says ” Try the best app for hiking, hunting, offroad, and professional outdoor maps. ” I agree that Gaia is the best GPS app out there. In the past I’ve used Motion X, Backcountry Navigator, and On X, but I have been using Gaia since about 2011 and keep going back to it because it is the best GPS app out there. I pay a small monthly subscription fee to Gaia and that allows me to create an account on the Gaia website and sync my maps, waypoints, tracks, and more between multiple devices. I can plan my trip, create maps with tracks and waypoints on the Gaia website, and then sync that data to my cell phone and tablet before I hit the road. I’ll download GPX track files and their associated map tiles for any trails in the area I anticipate to be in before I leave home.  Downloading the map tiles is an important step because this allows you to have the topo maps, and street maps even when you have no cell signal.

The website www.trailsoffroad.com is a great resource for trail descriptions and GPX files for trails.  I use a Web2PDF app to create a PDF file from the trail description page on Trails Offroad so I can read the description and trail information when I’m on the trail without any cellular service.  The website web2pdfconvert.com is a free website where you can enter a URL and it converts the site to a PDF file you can download. There are also dedicated iPhone and Android apps that will do a web page to PDF file conversion. The combination of Gaia GPS and Web2PDF with Trails Offroad has been an invaluable addition to my offroad navigation.

I also make use of the Amazon Kindle app on the tablet.  I’ve purchased several great offroad trail guide books and I access the books on my tablet while I’m on the trails.  Guide To Moab Backroads & 4-Wheel-Drive Trails by Charles Wells is an outstanding book for Moab. Charles Wells also has really good guide books for Arizona, California, Colorado, and Northern Colorado. For me, it’s easier to switch to the Kindle app on the tablet when I need to read about an upcoming turn than it is to stop the vehicle, pick up a book from the passenger seat or the floor (where they eventually end up), turn to the page I need, read the information from the book, and then insert some kind of bookmark so I can access the correct page when I need the book again in another 2/10 of a mile down trail.

On more than one trip I’ve filled the memory cards in every camera and my phone that I brought with me.  In those situations I transfer photos and video to the 128GB micro SD card that I have in the tablet so I can clear up some memory cards and keep shooting.  An OTG (On The Go) USB connector and USB memory card reader make this task easy.  An OTG plug allows you to connect USB devices to your Android mobile device. You can use a mouse with your cell phone, connect a USB hard drive or memory stick to transfer files, even power a USB fan if you wanted to. I’ll have an upcoming blog post about uses for an OTG connector. Unfortunately this functionality isn’t available on iPhone.

Since the tablet’s display is so much larger than my cell phone, I will also transfer photos to the tablet, do some quick processing in the Adobe Lightroom app on the large tablet screen, then transfer them back to my phone to upload to Instagram or Facebook during my travels (or if I have a mobile hot spot going I can upload the edited photos directly from the tablet).

That large screen on the tablet makes it ideal for flying drones.  I use this adapter for my DJI Phantom 3 Standard drone and this one to hold the tablet on my DJI Spark remote.  An OTG connector like I mentioned above is used to create a wired connection to connect the phone to the remote so I get a much more reliable signal between the tablet, remote, and drone.

As you can see, there are many great uses for a tablet when offroad.  If you have one you should start bringing it with you and if you don’t have one, consider purchasing one. You won’t regret it!