Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition review: beefy navigation for going off-grid

Find your way back from the middle of nowhere with this high-powered satellite navigation system

Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition
(Image credit: Garmin)

Garmin has recently unveiled three new Tread motorsport GPS devices: the Tread XL Overland Edition, Tread Overland Edition and Tread SxS Edition. These chunky bits of kit aren’t going to be for everyone, especially when so many people get perfectly good directional instructions from their smartphones. Nope, the Garmin Tread range is, it has to be said, a little bit niche.

However, if you like to go off-grid and need satellite navigation that gives you precise data even when you’re in the deepest, darkest middle of nowhere, a Tread unit will fit the bill. Chances are you’ll want to be in a vehicle to make best use of the range too as these are sizeable items, with the 10-inch Tread XL edition being the biggest of the bunch. Want something a little smaller? Head for the 5.5-inch or 8-inch models.

Is this one of the best sat navs? And should you buy it? Read on to find out…

Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition

(Image credit: Garmin)

Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition: Price and availability

The Garmin Tread XL Overland edition can be had from Amazon (opens in new tab) in the US for $1,499.99. It has a RRP from Garmin of £1,299.99 in the UK, but is also available from Amazon (opens in new tab). Meanwhile, Amazon doesn’t currently seem to have it listed on its Australian site.

Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition

(Image credit: Garmin)

Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition: Design and build

The Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition arrives in a large box, which opens to reveal an equally sizeable satellite navigation and communications unit. This thing really is chunky, with dimensions of 9.9"W x 7.8"H x 1.2"D (25.2 x 19.9 x 3.1 cm). It’s also reasonably weighty at 32.8 ounces (930 grams). 

Aside from the rectangular unit, the top of one side also sports a cream coloured protrusion, which presumably contains much of the satellite gubbins used by Garmin’s subscription-based InReach technology. There’s a reassuring bright orange anodised SOS button on the side too.

This has been designed as a standalone unit specifically aimed at off-roaders, overlanders and those that need to go to the back of beyond, especially folks who will be so far out of the way that they can’t get a phone signal. 

As a result, the design feels rugged enough to fend off the worst of the elements, although behind the rubberised outer casing it is also predominantly plastic so dropping it, or having it fall off a mount might not be the best thing to preserve its performance characteristics. This is especially so around the back, where the connectors are located.

Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition

(Image credit: Garmin)

Luckily, Garmin includes a range of similarly chunky mounts to keep your Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition in good shape. This means you can use the secure-locking magnetic mount inside the box to secure the screen, which should keep it firmly in place even when you’re going off-piste in the wildest of 4x4’s.

The 10-inch screen is perhaps the biggest visual treat of the Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition. Powered off, it looks glossy though perhaps open to scratching. Powered on and the graphics are super-impressive with a good level of contrast, which is frequently much-needed when you’re in harsh outdoor climes. 

It follows a similar theme to other Garmin products, with a nice attention to delivery with fonts and other detailing. IP67 water-resistance comes as standard, which should keep the unit from falling foul of wet and dusty conditions.

Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition

(Image credit: Garmin)

Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition: Features and battery life

Garmin’s big selling point with the Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition, and indeed the other models in this series is that they have engineered the hardware to work at its best in inhospitable climes. You certainly get a lot more information than you would using a smartphone, even with outdoors or adventure-based apps on board. However, you’ll also need to spend some time with the unit in order to become acquainted with everything it can do.

As anticipated, Garmin’s InReach Technology is well worth having on this unit as it provides the extra navigation muscle you’ll need if you’re truly going out in the sticks. The features and functions require you to take a deep dive into the system to get the best from its potential. Safe to say though, you can set up the unit to provide every navigational detail needed. All this is also customisable so that it works in harmony with the vehicle your driving or riding.

The Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition is certainly a powerhouse. Once past the setup stage you can tweak and fine-tune settings to get the unit to help you go anywhere. The level of detail, even in areas that appear almost uncharted, is pretty excellent with trails and middle-of-nowhere locations all appearing on-screen as you head deeper into the wilds. Being sat-nav in kind though, it is possible to tailor routes to suit requirements, so take the scenic option if you prefer or power on through to your destination as directly as possible. 

Garmin includes a 12V cigarette lighter cable to power the unit, as opposed to USB and used without this you’ll probably get around a couple of hours use from the built in battery based on our experience. Garmin’s official stats state up to 6 hours at 50% backlight capacity or just 1 hour using 100% for the Lithium-ion battery. Best then to keep it plugged in as much as you can, especially as it seems to recharge quite slowly.

Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition

(Image credit: Garmin)

Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition: User experience

Once you’ve manhandled the Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition powerhouse into your preferred position, you might have trouble figuring out how to power it up. There’s a rubberised button on the back, though it’s not immediately obvious. 

Getting set up is easy enough though, with a series of on-screen steps made all the more easier thanks to the size of the touchscreen. You’ll need to connect to Wi-Fi, plus there’s an option to connect to the Garmin Tread mobile app too. This helps to deliver smart notifications, lets you enjoy the benefit of Garmin’s Explore Sync tool and control media where needed.

Bluetooth connectivity is available too, if you’re going to need hands-free calling capability or might need to hear headphone navigation instructions if, for example, you’re driving something a little bit noisy. 

You also get to choose your vehicle type, including motorcycle, ATV, side-by-side or full-size. From there, you can also specify off or on-road options too. Settings can subsequently be tweaked so you can match your vehicle to the terrain you expect to encounter. It’s pretty all-encompassing and straightforward to configure.

Having such a big screen to enjoy is perhaps the best part of the overall user experience. The graphics are crisp and clear while using the touchscreen and integrating with menu options is a doddle, especially when you’re on the go. It’s a real highpoint of using the Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition.

Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition

(Image credit: Garmin)

Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition: Verdict

So then, who exactly would by the Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition? Well, if you’re a casual explorer and don’t go too far off the beaten track you’ll probably remain reasonably content using your smartphone. Compliment that with outdoorsy apps and you’ve got more than enough for a day out in the sticks. 

However, if you need a genuine solution for finding your way to and from the middle of nowhere, especially over longer periods of time, the Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition is well worth considering.

This unit does the lot, and offers up a much more comprehensive array of information than an everyday smartphone. Sure, it’s pretty big, but that’s not really a problem if you’re in a vehicle. This fact is also a big bonus too as the screen delivers a much better and certainly more sizeable overview of the terrain than any little handheld device. Mounted on your dash, the Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition provides a very reassuring level of accurate information, as and when you need it.

In smaller countries, where civilisation is never that far away, the Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition might seem excessive. However, there are plenty of places in the US and elsewhere around the globe where a bit of kit like this could prove to be a lifesaver.

It’s not cheap, but to the right person it’ll soon start to seem like a bit of a bargain.

Garmin Tread XL Overland Edition: Also consider

If you’re already a fan of Garmin products and need something fairly niche like the Tread XL Overland Edition but fear it’ll be a little too big, try the Tread Overland Edition and Tread SxS Edition. These units will offer up the same sort of user experience, but are more suited to anyone with less need for lots of screen real estate and who might be using smaller-sized vehicles.

For navigation on road, you should check out T3's list of the best sat navs.

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital he has run the Innovation channel during a few years at Microsoft as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working he's usually out and about on one of numerous e-bikes in his collection.