Radios, Navigation and Stereos for your UTV

An area that seems to be lacking in the UTV world is sound, communication, and navigation electronics. Everyone who has been in a side by side knows how loud they can be, and at times it seems like you can’t even hear yourself think, let alone talk to your friend sitting right next to you. 

Does it ever feel like talking to people in another car is out of the question? Or maybe you have always wanted to be able to blast your favorite tunes while you are carving up some trails? 

Have you ever completely lost your bearings while out in the woods, and therefore you’d be interested in adding a navigation system to your ride to make sure you never get lost in the countryside, no matter how far you venture? 

If any of these electronic additions pique your interest, be sure to read below to find out how to add a little flare to your ride.

Communication Systems

A great communication system can undoubtedly up the fun factor of a day spent out on the trails.  A good system will give you the ability to talk to both the people in your car and the people in other cars around you.  This can help groups stay together more efficiently, or even allow some friendly trash talking if you and your friends are racing. 

There are two different communication system styles to consider.  First, there is a helmet mounted style that was originally developed for the street bike market.  Pricing can vary, so keep in mind how many people you want to be connected, and the distance between cars.  Obviously, as you add more people and extend the range, the price can climb significantly.

A budget friendly option is the Chatter Box Bit 3. This system only allows two people to communicate at a range of up to 400 meters.  If you are looking for an entry level system and you are always going to be close together, this is a great option.  At the other end of the spectrum, you have something like the SENA 50R which is capable of connecting up to 24 people out to a distance 5 miles.  This system also packs in features like FM radio, rapid charging, and digital voice assistants such as Google and Siri. 

What can make these communication systems troublesome is that every person in your group must purchase one.  Unfortunately, that might be unrealistic if you are frequently bringing different passengers out onto the trail with you. 

If you typically have a UTV full of people, then an in-car system might be a better route for you.  These systems are powered off of the battery in your machine and act as an in-car intercom for everyone.  A popular communication system, COM, has a few different ways to attach to your specific model.  Depending on your car, it may have a vehicle specific mount which could require cutting the dash to install, or there is a universal option that mounts to any overhead cross bar.  If the whole family likes to hit the trail and you have a high capacity UTV, this is definitely the way to go.  The COM lets up to 8 people in the same car be connected by a wired headset, allowing you to communicate with each other or listen to music.  The system can also connect to most 2-way radios out to a range of 10 miles.  This allows everyone in your UTV to stay connected with the entire group on the trails.

The COM also features a cool stereo function that lets you connect your phone and play music over the headset, so if you are also looking for a stereo upgrade for your ride, this might be a “two birds one stone” situation for you. 

Stereos & Music

There are also a lot of other good options out there for adding some tunes to you ride.  A side by side stereo will allow you to not only listen to music while driving, but will also let you listen to music while stopped at your campsite. One thing to keep in mind with adding a stereo to your UTV is that you must overcome the ambient noise of being in an open cabin.  The sounds from the air rushing by, branches slapping the frame, and the engine will all be a challenge for the sound system to overcome. You have two options for the type of set up you can go with for adding music to your drive. 

The less expensive and easier route, is to go with a universal sound bar style system, like this one from Boss Audio.  It will attach to any cross bar in any style of vehicle.  If you are looking for something more substantial but still simple to install, you can get a ride specific sound bar like this one from SSV Works.  On the SSV Works website they claim to have 75 different applications, some of which fill your entire roof with speakers. If you are handy with running wires and want a more traditional feeling sound system, Kicker & SSV Works have partnered to make some truly powerful sound systems.  With 800 watts of power, four marine grade speakers, and an in dash ten-inch subwoofer, this system is sure to pump out the jams.  These systems are ride specific, so be sure you select the correct model for yourself.

GPS Navigation

Having a GPS is a must for anyone who wants to get out and explore the deep wilderness, because getting lost can take a great day and turn it into your worst nightmare.  When deciding what type of GPS to purchase, there are a couple of important things to keep in mind.  First, do you want a portable or permanent unit, because if you plan to always stay in the vehicle, then a dash mounted unit would be great. 

If you plan to do some hiking while you are out and about, then a portable unit is probably the way to go.  It is also a good idea to get a unit that has trip tracking, because if you have found that you’ve strayed from the original path while exploring, this device will help you return home.  

One of the best portable options is the Garmin 64st.  It has a small screen but also keeps the weight down to just 8.1 ounces, so carrying it around will not be cumbersome at all.  It comes preloaded with 100,000 US topographical maps and has a quad-helix antenna which is great for keeping an eye on you even in deep canyons and deep cover.  Lastly, it has 16 hours of battery life off of two AA batteries which is great because it gives you the ability to carry spare batteries to extend that time instead of having to be able to plug it in to recharge. 

A great mounted GPS option is the Garmin zūmo XT.  It has a much bigger and easier to read five and a half inch screen which will come in handy while traveling at high speeds down a trail.  It can also do on road navigation as well as providing off road topographical maps and public land boundaries.  You will probably want to hard wire the unit for power as it only provides 3.5 hours of battery at 100% brightness and up to six hours on low setting. 

Lastly, there are a slew of off-road GPS apps out there like onX, Maps 3D Pro, and Gaia GPS which provide great GPS alternatives for a fraction of the price.  If you are always going to be in your ride on marked trails, then the Garmin or an app-based GPS would be a great option. 

With adding some of the tech we talked about today you are sure to have a blast out on the trails.  Being able to talk to each other and listen to music while tearing up the trails is sure to make everyone have an even better time.  And, the peace of mind you will get from a great GPS will let you focus more on the adventure and people you are with.