Anyone who lives in South or North Wales will tell you how hard it is to get from one to the other – so we thought navigating the route would be a good test for the new TomTom Go Camper.
Who is the Go Camper for?
TomTom is one of the best known UK SatNav manufacturers, with a good pedigree and a solid reputation for reliability and accuracy.
Targeting RVers and Caravan owners, this new model is designed to offer customised guidance based on the vehicle size and weight, avoiding unsuitable roads – less of a problem for us tent dwellers, but absolutely critical for large RV owners and caravanners.
It also features camping-related points of interest including campsites, live traffic info, wifi, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity and lifetime map updates.
Interestingly, like many other AIs, the GO Camper has a choice of voice and will also accept voice commands in the car, activated by saying ‘hello TomTom’ – we opted for the female Irish accent (mainly because it made us smile and reminded me of my hilarious former colleague Alice, who always made me laugh with her Belfast lilt and funny one liners!)
Driving from South to North Wales is always a challenge. With no single connecting road, often the choice is to drive to England, then head North up the motorway then back into Wales… indeed this was the fastest route as suggested by our new friend TomTom, but let’s be honest, that’s no test. It’s also a pretty dull drive, whereas the middle route offers spectacular scenery, quaint little towns and plenty of nice places to stop for a breather.
We put our trust in TomTom and asked the AI, which by Brecon, we’d affectionately renamed Alice, to navigate a path though a series of higgledy piggledy roads right up through the middle of Wales.
Alice proceeded to navigate – perfectly. What we really liked about it is that as well as just the route, we could clearly see the quirks and landmarks of the road in a live display to the right of the map. We were only in a normal car, but had we been in a caravan or large RV, this would have been even more helpful, with sharp bends and tight turns given plenty of advance warning.
The road speeds are also marked on maps, however, as we drove through Brecon’s roads, some of the speeds were different to those marked, so our advice is to treat these as advisory – many of the roads marked as 40 were recently reduced to 30. It is possible that councils have failed to notify the map owners of any recent changes.
Helpfully, though, the TomTom GoCamper advises you in plenty of time where common speed cameras are – and on at least one occasion, it’s timely warning definitely helped us avoid a penalty – cheers Alice!
All went fantastically well until we got to Newtown, where a new bypass opened earlier this year. The map had been updated to the latest version, just 3 days old, but it seems work on the new bypass has continued – many of the roundabouts and exits looked brand new and were not mapped – we saw nothing as we approached on the map. This wasn’t a problem to guess on the way up, but on the way back our guesswork was a little less accurate, causing us to arrive in the middle of a residential area. Not at all a problem and all part of the travelling fun, we managed to find our way back as we eventually reached a mapped area.
I’m sure by now this will have already been updated, the rest of our journey was spot on and incredibly smooth.
So how did the TomTom GO Camper perform overall?
TomTom clearly knew North Wales much better than us and enabled us to be a little more adventurous than normal, taking in many of the beauty spots in North East Wales – and we didn’t wind up in the sea. Or stuck in a ditch. (Our new friend Alice would have come in handy last week when we explored Gower, took a wrong turn and got stuck in a ditch just outside Llangennith!)
The travel times were pretty much spot on every time, and as she gently guided us back to South Wales, we didn’t seem to hit any huge traffic jams or major problems. TomTom navigated us through the heart of some of Wales most beautiful scenery, across the Brecon Beacons, with ease.
It is not the easiest of road journeys, but it is one of the most beautiful. With barely a foot wrong, TomTom GO Camper took us safely through more than 450 miles, from door to door and back again.
Of course, you can’t give SatNav credit for the views, but the timing was perfect. we set off just after sunrise, enjoying spectacular views of Pen y Fan and drove through Brecon at sunset on the way back. It was one hell of a trek and we loved it.
Would we buy one?
In recent years, SatNav has become available on just about any device, from phones to tablets, thanks to Google and iMaps.
However a good SatNav like this is superior because it isn’t reliant on a phone signal and has useful information for campers that you wouldn’t have easy access to elsewhere.
Furthermore, travelling through mid-wales, where coverage can be patchy at best, has proved problematic on phones in the past, with frustration building as you wait for a signal. Priced at £379.99, it’s a lot less than repairing a dent because your RV or caravan went wide in a narrow turn.
Our Alice simply got on with the job of navigating and carried on like a trooper, steering our path effortlessly and over the course of the journey, she became an extra family member. Not least because every time she said ’roundabout’ in an irish accent, it made us laugh.
Neither Google or Apple maps has ever done that, and they also don’t sit perfectly on the dashboard with the kind of detail normally only visible to rally drivers.
So yes, we’d buy one and we can happily recommend the TomTom GO Camper to our readers. But we won’t ever call her TomTom again – to us, she will always be Alice!