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Traveler's Gear Box: Get In The Mood For Fun With Magellan RoadMate RV9490T-LMB

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The Magellan RoadMate RV9490T-LMB has some great features, and a crystal-clear display, but it also good use a few improvements./© 2014 Magellan. All rights reserved

When hauling a 40-foot-long RV through traffic, you can easily lose sight of the traveler's mantra: 'œIt's the journey not the destination.' During those stressful drives when adventure takes a back seat to practicality, that's when a GPS like the new Magellan RoadMate RV9490T-LMB really shines.

Making friends with GPS units hasn't come easy to me; as a full-time RVer since 2007, I've kept a safe distance from the devices after seeing too many Darwin Awards given to drivers who plowed their cars into lakes because they never looked up from their dashboard gadgets. Instead, I've chosen to preserve my navigational instincts by opting for paper maps and a smart phone.

But recently I had the opportunity for a free test drive of Magellan's newest RV-centric GPS, the RoadMate RV9490T-LMB. This offer perfectly coincided with my annual winter migration from Colorado to California, which would lead my husband and I through a variety of rural and urban driving conditions. Now was my chance to find out if a GPS really lives up to the hype and two weeks after hitting the road, I found out.

Getting to Know the RoadMate

Within the first 50 miles, I was smitten with many of the device's RV-friendly features. The RoadMate RV9490T-LMB provides valuable guidance when mapping and following a route, whether it's for normal car driving or more challenging RV driving conditions. Toggle from 'œCar' to 'œRV' mode and the device can decide the best route for your RV, based on factors you program into it, such as your rig's type, size, weight, length, etc. This feature can help you avoid hazardous, stressful encounters with such obstacles as dead-end streets, low bridges, and steep grades.

The unit has a 7-inch crystal-clear touch display that makes trip navigation easy. But what's even better is the main map screen's sidebar of 'œcontent squares' populated with handy travel tips to enhance your driving experience, including:

* Local fuel station options

* Road features and precautions

* Speed limit and red light camera alerts

* Weather reports

The RoadMate RV9490T-LMB is an atlas, campground directory, and trip guide all rolled into one, with free lifetime map updates as one of many bonuses. From its built-in web browser and hands-free phone integration, to the directory of campgrounds, dump stations, and more than 30,000 RV-specific points of interest spots, it quickly offers on-the-fly trip planning guidance. Pairing the device with a Wi-Fi network is required to take advantage of certain functions.

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The RoadMate can help you stay on schedule/© 2014 Magellan. All rights reserved

During our migration, as we navigated from rural areas into larger cities such as Lubbock, Tucson, and finally Los Angeles, I found the unit was exceptionally valuable on freeways because it indicates the best travel lane for RVs. Later while driving on side streets, the 'œLandmark Guidance' features provided exceptional help by incorporating spoken street names and obvious landmarks into driving instructions (i.e. 'œin 300 feet, make a left turn at Shell station'). The hard part was getting used to listening for the verbal cues, but I suspect that habit will develop over time.

A Few Compromises

Two weeks and six states later, my friendship with the RoadMate RV9490T-LMB blossomed. But like any new relationship, there was some give and take involved and I discovered some things I didn't like, including:

* The unit must be plugged into a power source to work. As a fifth-wheel owner, the lack of self-power is a major inconvenience since I only have two 12-volt outlets in the cab of my pickup. This means losing one outlet that's normally dedicated to our other electronic devices, such as our portable satellite radio or inverter.

* Forget seamless Google Maps integration; there's no way to perform 'œbreadcrumb tracking,' which is the process of tracking your route as you go and then exporting a file to Google Maps. This is unfortunate, since many RVers like to keep track of our routes and publish them in our blogs.

By the time we arrived in California, I had just scratched the surface of this handy device. Our journey was exceptionally short this time and as a result there were a few moments when my GPS learning curve left me frustrated. However I know that eventually I'll acquire a comfort level while using it that will enhance, not necessarily detract from our travels like I always assumed a GPS would. With so many RV-centric tools packed into the RoadMate RV9490T-LMB, there's no reason not to have it on board to help you arrive at your destination, relaxed and ready to have fun.

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Handy information, such as providing information on nearby stores and campgrounds, is one of the nice aspects of the RoadMate/© 2014 Magellan. All rights reserved


You can easily increase the number of 6 volt outlets with a two way splitter.  Plug it into an outlet and it provides you with two outlets.  I got mine at Radio Shack for about six dollars, but they are available elsewhere, too.

What Lee said.

Automotive GPS units don't have the most robust batteries, as they are designed to be used where a power source is readily available. It looks like your unit also has bluetooth, so if the GPS receiver and bluetooth are running, your battery probably won't last very long anyways, much less on the extended drive times involved with RV'ing.

Another option is to get an AC power adapter and plug that into your inverter.

If you have the time/$/knowhow you can customize like the ambulance I used to drive. There were two different batteries with an A/B switch. On odd/even days we would switch it to one or the other. One setting used battery A for normal automotive needs and battery B for lights, sirens, accessories, and the other was the other way around.

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