Adventure Rider Review: Garmin zūmo XT

For “TheGearDude” Spencer Hill, dirt is his destination. The adventure rider recently added zūmo XT to his off-road experience in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s a snapshot from Spencer’s review on  

Out of the Box: The 5.5’’ responsive, glove friendly, glare-free touchscreen is impressive, and the zūmo XT’s lack of bulk made it easy to mount above the display on my KTM 790. I chose to mount it in the “portrait” orientation instead of “landscape” because of its location on my bike, but I know it will be an appealing option for some.  

Seamless Setup (setup required): I downloaded Garmin’s native Garmin Express™ and BaseCamp™ apps, along with the Garmin Drive™ app on my phone, but it was mostly painless. I paired zūmo XT with my Garmin inReach® Mini*, Sena 50K BLUETOOTH® headset, and Apple® iPhone with no issues and shockingly little hassle. In fact, the XT’s integration with my external devices was probably one of its greatest attributes. After initial setup, they all worked together flawlessly and did not require the pairing/unpairing/device recognition cat-and-mouse games that I am accustomed to with this technology. Wireless updates meant that I virtually had no need to connect the unit to my computer again, and the maps/firmware were never out of date. 

Built-in Maps for Adventure Riders: Another pleasant surprise with the XT was the built-in maps. North America on-road and off-road come preloaded, and you can also use BirdsEye Satellite Imagery as well. These maps proved to be sufficient for my uses; the street maps never let me down. Wireless updates meant that I virtually had no need to connect the unit to my computer again and the maps/firmware were never out of date. 

Usability: … the best way to describe the zūmo XT is SLICK! Getting turn-by-turn directions wile skipping through my Spotify® playlists was something I was not accustomed to with my previous stone-age Montana! In fact, the music “view” was one of my favorites when I wasn’t navigating, displaying the album cover in the background, with the other details in the foreground. This all felt very similar to a modern car stereo, almost too nice for a dressed-up dirt bike. 

Standout Features: Another feature that I grew to love was the “Go Home” button that automatically calculated a route back to my programmed home address. Once navigating, you could choose to display several options including time/distance to destination, which was great for projecting my return. Want to grab a coffee or burger along the way? Just hit the “Where To” button on the home screen and search for what you are craving. With TripAdvisor® built-in, you can select an option along your route and easily add it as a stop while still keeping the same final destination. 

Stay Connected: Going to be later than expected? Use the hands-free calling feature to call home or compose an inReach message (if you are stationary)*. The ability to place/receive calls was great and helped me stay plugged in when I wasn’t trying to be totally off the grid. Seeing incoming texts/calls saved me from having my phone mounted on the bike or even worse, pulling it out of a pocket while riding. I found the reduced speed zones and hazard notifications particularly useful when I was slabbing around. 

More to Love: Honestly, this unit is like a clown car when it comes to features: Live traffic and weather (when you are within cell coverage); built in: HISTORY® database Channel POIs, campgrounds, U.S. national parks directory, and more; Garmin Adventurous Routing™ for more interesting ways to get to/from your destination; wireless sharing of routes, as well as wireless import/export of tracks; direct-to-device downloads of BirdsEye Satellite Imagery with no annual subscription; track recorder for documenting/sharing/re-riding your favorite routes.

Summary: I think that the zūmo XT is one of the best GPS units currently available for adventure riding. With its suite of useful features and seamless integration with other smart devices, it acts more like an entertainment system than a traditional GPS … it did everything that I needed it to (and more), changing my perspective on what roles an onboard GPS unit could actually fill. Also, I came away impressed that Garmin listened to rider feedback and finally gave our segment a worthwhile benchmark. I, for one, am super excited to see where they go next!

Spencer Hill is well-known in the adventure riding industry for providing quality reviews. Read his full zūmo XT in-depth review, “Is it everything you need in an off-road GPS?” Follow Spencer on Instagram @TheGearDude.

*inReach device and active satellite subscription required, sold separately.