I am starting to do adventure motorcycle riding here in the Pacific Northwest, and I am a fanatic about my personal safety. I do not want to be lost; my wife wants to know where I am if I am riding alone, and if something happens and help is required, I want to get assistance, ASAP. The new Garmin Montana 700i GPS covers my motorcycle adventure safety essentials, and should I want to hike, bike, fish, hunt, fly, climb, geocache, or find my dog, it does all those too!
The Montana 700i is a hulking piece of handholdable smart GPS and satellite communications device. It is seven inches tall to the tip of the Garmin inReach satellite antenna and 3.5 inches wide to the edge of the SOS button. It has a bright, five-inch screen and weighs just 1.5 ounces short of a pound, with some of the weight coming from the replaceable, high-capacity battery.
Mounted on your handlebars, the six ounces more than the Zumo XT doesn’t register as an issue. I tested the battery from 13 hours to empty in GPS mode with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on. In low power Expedition mode, the 700i can last a week or more between charges.
The Garmin Montana 700i is designed to handle heat, cold, shock, water, and vibration to MIL-STD-810. The first time you hold the 700i in your hand, you can tell it is built for rugged exposure. Garmin actually says “built like a tank” in the product description.
The Garmin Montana 700i is a Garmin Zumo Rider XT GPS on steroids, with more off-road and off-the-grid features. It has worldwide satellite SOS, text, and email communication built-in—for an annual subscription fee. The lowest yearly subscription is $143.40 for basic service. You don’t have to use the Garmin inReach satellite communication or SOS capability, but why wouldn’t you want it available? For the same reason I carry tools, tire repair kits, and matches, I want the ability to immediately connect with a live communication center if immediate help is needed.
The $700 Montana 700i comes with a micro-USB cable, a quickstart guide, a one-year warranty, and a robust drawstring carry bag—the kind of bag you would put it in if it was knocking around a backpack or stashed in a glovebox. The unit-specific handlebar-mount kit is a $100 option from Garmin. That seems like a lot at first glance, but I did research universal large device mount kits. None come with the 700i proprietary hardwire battery cable kit, and they are still pretty close in price without it. The 700i can run for nearly 13 hours on its own snap-in battery, or off its micro-USB port connected to a 12-volt power outlet or hardwired from the mounting kit to your battery.
The built-in Wi-Fi gives you access to free firmware and lifetime city navigator, topo, public land, and satellite view map updates, without connecting to a computer. The built-in Bluetooth connects the 700i to your smartphone, other Garmin products, and your Bluetooth helmet.
When connected to your smartphone, the Garmin Montana 700i will duplicate some of your phone functions on the large, glove-friendly screen. If you are so inclined, you will see mirrored pop-up notifications from your smartphone, such as your Ring Doorbell notifications, but you can’t respond from the 700i. You can email or text using the inReach satellite functionality, but there is no glove-friendly way to make calls with your smartphone from the 700i.
This is an adventure GPS, so it doesn’t control your music or make phone calls. If that is the functionality you need while riding a forest road at 8752 feet while cresting a ridge, then the Garmin Zumo XT with a separate Garmin inReach handheld will be a better option. But, if you crest a ridge with the Montana 700i and come across a hiker that broke a leg, you are already connected (inReach subscription required) and ready to communicate in real-time with rescue at the GEOS communication center and other support services on a smartphone-style keyboard.
It took me longer than the usual GPS learning curve to get to know the new Garmin Montana 700i. Users of the previous Montana models will find its interface familiar. This unit is feature-rich with troves of information and menu pages to sort it all out. Creating a quick route on the 700i was straightforward, once I got the hang of it.
Touching a spot on the fast-rendering map will drop a pin; confirm the point with a touch and click GO. You are optioned to minimize time, distance, or ascent (if you are hiking, you might prefer the less steep route). You hear a beep, and you are ready to navigate.
If the 700i is connected to an audio output device such as a Bluetooth helmet system and navigating on the city maps, you will hear turn by turn instructions. If not, you will only hear alert beeps when coming up on a turn or waypoint.
This is a device where reading the manual is very helpful. Garmin has created apps for planning and sharing routes with friends via the web and via satellite communication to other inReach subscribers while off the grid. You can create rides on your phone and send them to your 700i, or plan them on the web and sync them to your unit.
Planning a trip the old fashioned way, by making a route on the 700i directly, you create it in the Route Planner. This is where my learning curve flattened out. Although using apps and syncing electronic devices is second nature to me, creating a trip on the 700i took me some time to master.
I won’t go too deep into it, and the 700i does walk you through the process if you don’t overthink it. You click on Select First Point. You are then jumped to a full screen of icons for Use Map, Recent Finds, Waypoints, All POIs (points of interest that are programmed in from Garmin), Addresses, Intersections, Cities, Shopping, Food and Drink, Fuel Services, Lodging, Entertainment, Recreation, Attractions, Transportation, Auto Services, Community, Hospitals, closest locations with Tides or Geographic Points.
Next, you click on the icon in which manner you want to locate your first waypoint, and select it. You keep expanding your waypoint list until you are satisfied with the route, and then click on the page back arrow at the bottom of the screen. You instantly see “Route 001” has been created. Clicking on Route 001, you can edit the route, view the route’s map (to actually GO on that route), see an elevation plot of the route, change the route’s name, or reverse or delete the route.
The 700i can be used on a motorcycle, as well as a car, boat, bicycle, airplane, or on foot. Each Profile has its own list of icon features to choose from.
One feature in the Driving profile is Sight’ N Go. It is a fantastic off-road feature to point at a spot on the horizon with the 700i—you estimate its distance and then track to it. It is like a compass heading, but because you selected a spot on the map, it directs you to a map location and not in a general direction. If you are crossing a large desert expanse with dunes or you are at a high point before a forested valley and want to make sure you track straight across it, using Sight’ N Go will keep you heading exactly toward your selected distant point.
Having learned as much as I thought I needed to in the comfort of my living room, I mounted the Montana 700i to the bars of a BMW R 1200 GS Adventure and off I went. The bootup and satellite lock on in less than ten seconds. Garmin recommends you test the inReach satellite communication link at the start of every trip.
I planned a 180-mile multipoint route that included freeways, highways, streets, roads, and unpaved forest roads. The 700i brought me to each waypoint with turn-by-turn voice directions in my helmet. All turns were announced well in advance and were clearly visible on the screen, in very bright sun or full shade.
I checked my iPhone when I reached the first forest road, and it was showing No Service. Via the worldwide Iridium satellite network that the Garmin Montana 700i inReach feature is connected to, I sent follow-me texts and emails to a few pre-notified friends. I didn’t follow all the inReach setup instructions and within minutes got inReach satellite messages back from all my friends telling me that they got my coordinates, but the Garmin web site MapShare wasn’t showing up. I was hoping they could follow my adventure on the Garmin site. Unfortunately, I hadn’t clicked “give consent” in the setup to post my data online. It’s a good catch from a privacy perspective.
When I got home, I figured out the corrective action and the MapShare program popped up. With MapShare, your significant other will have peace of mind being able to follow your adventure rides or long-distance tours. Having an active inReach subscription means that anyone you choose can locate you and communicate with you, if they have an emergency.
I haven’t even scratched the surface of the full functionality of the Garmin Montana 700i in this review. For a motorcycle adventurist, it will be a rugged, turn-by-turn, on-/off-road GPS with global Iridium satellite SOS, tracking, and communication by email and text. If you are off your motorcycle, on foot, hunting, fishing, boating, or flying, the 700i has high tech benefits. I just have to add that if you are on a cruise ship and see someone fall overboard, your 700i has a Man Overboard feature that will mark the spot for rescue. The full description of all the new features in the 2020 Garmin Montana 700i is viewable on the Garmin.com website.
If you don’t require the inReach feature, the Garmin 700 is the same unit, but without built-in inReach and can use AA batteries, for $100 less. If you want inReach and a built-in 8-megapixel camera, then the 750i is available for $100 more at $800. All the Montana 700 series have a 16 GB of internal storage and a 32 GB expansion slot. This is a valuable piece of gear with plenty of features, accessories, and options to choose from.
Garmin Montana 700i Fast Facts
- Dimensions: 3.6 x 7.2 x 1.3 inches
- Weight: 14.5 w/ lithium-ion battery pack
- Display size: 5-inch diagonal
- Display resolution: 480 x 800 pixels
- Memory: 16 GB (32 GB MicroSD card external)
- Waypoints/Favorites/Locations: 10,0000
- Map segments: 15,000
- Track Log: 20,000 points, 250 saved GPX tracks
- Tracks: 250
- Routes: 250 w/ 250 points per route
- Interface: Micro-USB
- Wireless connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ANT+
- GPS Mode: up to 18 hours
- GPS Mode w/ 10 minutes Tracking: up to 18 hours
- Expedition Mode: up to 330 hours
- Expeditions Mode w/ 30 minutes Tracking: Up to 300 hours
Garmin Montana 700i Price: $700 MSRP