It began with a search for the ultimate offroad navigation setup. I had tried the Magellan Crossover and then a netbook and USB GPS combo, but neither seemed to cut it for me. The windshield mount for the Magellan was sub-par for higher speed trail runs and liked to make it's way to my feet. The interface was clunky and awkward, and the topo maps just were not detailed enough for my liking.
Next was the netbook. I assembled a pretty nice setup consisting of an Asus EeePC, USB GPS dongle, and National Geographic's TOPO software. Paired with a homemade cupholder-mounted laptop stand, this made for a better option than the Magellan, but still had it's flaws.
Mainly, it was just inconvenient. The GPS took time to connect to satellites, the netbook screen did not have support, and it had a standard hard disk drive which was not made to tolerate the abuse I was about to put it through. On the brighter side, the NatGeo software is easy to use, intuitive and feature-rich.
After a couple weeks of research I was ready to move forward to my next endeavor; integrating an Apple iPad into the FJ.
First I needed a solid mounting solution. After reading numerous reviews on various mounts, I decided to move forward with a mount from RAM Mounts. The iPad is mounted in the FJ with the RAM FJ Cruiser seat base mount, single swing arm and Tough Tray II.
Installation of this combo was a breeze using the existing passenger seat-mount holes and longer bolts provided by RAM.
Alongside the RAM mount, I use the iPhone 4 mount (not installed in pictures) which attaches directly to the Tough Tray. The tray itself is completely versatile and accepts many of RAM's other mounts. I took advantage of the additional mounting holes and adapted the handset hanger for my Cobra 75WXST CB Radio.
The RAM setup provides an extremely sturdy mounting system for the iPad with minimal movement on and off road. It's non-obtrusive to passengers and easily adjustable. Not to mention, RAM's customer service is top-notch and they were quick to answer all of my questions regarding options and installation.
Next was protection for the shiny new iPad. The Otterbox Defender seemed to be the only case up for the challenge. With three layers of protection, it only seemed fit to use for our outdoor adventures. The case consists of a silicone skin underneath a high-density polycarbonate shell and a clip-on shield that doubles as a stand when the iPad is not mounted in the FJ. To top it off, it fits perfectly into the RAM mount and RAM Tough Tray II.
The iPad (WiFi only), is tethered to my Jailbroken iPhone 4 using the MyWi app from the Cydia store for mobile internet, Netflix and Google Maps while on the road.
Because the WiFi only model of the iPad does not have GPS, I was left with another problem to solve. Browsing the forums, I came across a post about a company called Bad Elf and their new-to-the-market accessory that was made to solve this exact issue. So I gave it a try. The Bad Elf GPS accessory plugs into the iPad's 30-pin dock connector and is used for gathering GPS data while on the trails, and also for street navigation using the native Google Maps app. The drivers for the accessory are downloaded as an app directly from the App Store and only needs to be run once. The GPS lock times are fast, beating those of the Magellan and the USB GPS receiver that I had previously used. The Bad Elf GPS can be used with any location-based app.
The final piece to the puzzle is Gaia GPS, a feature-filled topographic iPad app. I tested a few different apps before deciding to stick with this one. The most important feature, which so far has worked flawlessly is the ability to pre-load maps before trips. I am able to load a map of the location we will be travelling to, select the area I would like to download along with the detail level I need, and save it straight to the iPad. This completely eliminates the need to have cellular data while out in the middle of the desert. The Gaia app also gives you the ability to record tracks and waypoints, and to export/email them.
I'm extremely pleased with the setup as a whole. Everything works exactly how it's supposed to, it's easy to set up, and easy to store when I'm not using it.
I mean awesome, really. The bad elf thing is pretty sweet.
Kick arse iPad mount!! I love the gaia app!
Blaa Blaa Blaa
Not gonna be much use when your iPad is almost dead.
That's pretty cool. I like how the CB is attached to it also. Mine is on a suction cup... I also have the Gaia GPS app on my android, but don't know how to use it. Still trying to figure it out. Does it shake while driving?
Nice. Just read your write up in FJC mag. Strongly thinking about doing the same thing but with a different mounting setup. Do you think that RAM mount is capable of being mounted on the flat spot of the dash above the glove box? Can you charge the iPad through the micro-USB on the Elf?
The iPad does charge through the micro USB port.