As of 17 May, caravan parks with shared facilities are officially allowed to open across England, Scotland and Wales, with Northern Ireland expected to open by late May.
For those lucky enough to have access to a caravan or motorhome, this marks an opportunity to get back to exploring the British countryside.
Bear in mind that the usual coronavirus restrictions apply, depending on where you live (find out more in our latest lockdown advice). In England, for example, the ‘rule of six’ (or two households) is in effect for meeting indoors. For the avoidance of any doubt, yes caravans do count as indoors.
But exciting as the prospect of exploring new campsites may be, you may feel less enthused about getting there. Reaching your destination can be fraught with obstacles, with the UK’s narrow roads, tight junctions and low bridges just waiting to wreak havoc on your vehicle.
If you wince every time you go down a narrow street for fear of losing your wing mirrors (or worse), a specialist camper sat nav or app might be well worth the investment. Read on to find out why.
Already know what you’re looking for? Head over to our full sat nav reviews to find a sat nav or sat nav app to suit you, however big or small your vehicle.
What are caravan and motorhome sat navs?
Caravan and motorhome sat navs generally have all the features regular sat navs do, giving you visual and audio directions to get you from A to B. They also have a few handy extra tricks up their sleeves, such as:
- The ability to enter your vehicle’s dimensions and weight. The sat nav will use this information to avoid low bridges, bridges with weight limits and too-narrow streets. This is the most common, and probably most useful, caravan sat nav feature.
- Parking space locators. These let you find nearby parking spaces large enough for your vehicle – very handy if you need to stop en-route. Not all camper sat navs have this feature, though.
- Campsite directories, with filters that let you, for example, pick spots with electricity and water hook-ups. It’s a common feature, but some directories are more comprehensive than others.
- Crosswind warnings. This can be useful on coastal drives or when crossing bridges without cover. This is a less common feature.
- Steep slope warnings. A few, especially clever models will reroute if a slope is deemed to be too steep for your vehicle to climb – or at least give you a warning when you start your journey.
In the past we’ve even tested models that double as TVs – though none of these reviews are still live on our site. This feature is usually disabled when the vehicle is moving.
Find out more in our detailed guide to caravan and motorhome sat navs.
Caravan sat navs
Below, we’ve picked out a couple of popular models, along with some cheaper potential alternatives:
Garmin 770 Camper LMT-D £348
The most obvious thing that separates the Garmin 770 Camper LMT-D from regular sat navs is the sizeable seven-inch screen. And, like many regular sat navs, it can access live traffic data. This can speed up your journey if, for example, there’s a traffic jam up ahead. You’ll need to connect it to a smartphone with data to access that function though.
There’s more to it than that though, as there are a few handy features that could make it a good choice for caravans and motorhomes.
- If you’re the turn-up-and-see type, there’s a built-in directory of UK campgrounds, which you can filter for amenities like electric hookups, showers and even Wi-Fi.
- It lets you input the exact weight and dimensions of your vehicle, which allows it to rule out certain roads and reroute accordingly.
The main obstacles to watch out for are narrow roads and low bridges, both of which the 770 Camper can avoid. Alerts are also given for other hazards to larger vehicles, such as cross winds, bridges with weight limits and steep inclines.
So how does it fare against other models without these features? Read our full Garmin 770 Camper LMT-D review to find out.
TomTom Go Professional 520, £229
This sat nav was designed for lorry and van drivers, hence the ‘Professional’ moniker. It’s also suitable for caravans and motorhomes though, as the vehicle dimension and weight calculations allow it to avoid narrow roads and routes with weight restrictions.
It’s not cheap by any stretch, but it’s more affordable than some caravan sat navs. At around six inches, the screen is smaller than the previous model, but it’s still plenty detailed, and larger than average.
Like the Garmin above, this sat nav requires a smartphone with data for live traffic data.
How does it perform in our independent tests? Read our full TomTom Go Professional 520 review to find out.
Are any free or cheap sat nav apps suitable for caravans?
If you balk at the idea of shelling out more than £200 for a sat nav, you might be considering an app. While apps typically don’t offer quite the same features or quality of guidance that a physical caravan sat nav can, a handful cater to those with large vehicles, or their low cost could make them worth a try.
Here are a couple to consider.
Alk CoPilot GPS Navigation & Traffic, £13.99
This app for iOS and Android offers by far the most comprehensive toolkit for motorhome and caravan drivers out of any app we’ve tested. Like many standalone camper sat navs, you can input the dimensions of your vehicle – so in theory it can take obstacles like narrow roads and bridges into account and plan your journey accordingly.
It lacks the polish of physical devices, but it is much cheaper.
Google Maps, free
This is the most popular free sat nav app out there – and not without reason. It’s absolutely packed with features, including pedestrian and cycling modes and public transport timetables.
Notably missing is the ability to avoid certain roads based for larger vehicles – so if you’ve not driven the route before, you may find yourself worrying that your next turn will be down a narrow lane throughout your journey.
You may want to keep it handy on your phone for its ability to recommend local restaurants and areas of interest when you reach your destination, though.