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Unloaded: Build Your Own GPS

Posted in How To on April 1, 2012
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Editor’s Note: Declan is a reader who wrote in with a great idea after not finding exactly what he wanted in the aftermarket. He put a cool story together to show anyone how to accomplish what he was able to in his JK. If you have a good idea that you want to share with others, email

I wanted a GPS that I could run trails on and then print out maps of the ride and share them with other members of our Jeep club, the Emerald Coast Jeepers ( After looking at many GPS Units available, I didn’t find one to do exactly what I wanted (at least not for the reasonable price I wanted to pay).

Therefore, I did a little research and figured out my own GPS solution using a laptop, some GPS software with a locator, and a mount for the PC.

What follows is my, fairly inexpensive, solution to the problem.

The first thing I mounted was the laptop quick release base mount from Ram Mounts. If you don’t want to carry the entire laptop GPS setup then you can simply remove almost all of it, with only this base being fixed inside the vehicle.
PhotosView Slideshow

GPS Parts List

1 Toshiba C655 laptop computer $350
1 Microsoft Streets & Trips with GPS receiver $70
1 Ram Mount laptop mounting system $170
1 12-volt DC power supply adapter $20

Note: I would advise purchasing a Laptop Screen Support, Secure-in-Motion and Remove-a-Pole base from Ram Mounts, but they are not required.

Video Cam Mount

I also wanted to install a full-size video camera in my JK Wrangler so I figured out how to do that too. Using a Sony Hi-Def HDRXR150 video camera mounted on a Ram Mount camera mount, I was able to fix the camera directly on the dash using a Daystar upper dash panel and a Ram Mount diamond-shaped mounting base. If you do this, make sure to install it at a 45-degree angle so the screws don’t interfere with the compass unit.

Quick Notes

  • Make sure that you install the laptop retaining arms so that they will clear the USB port on the laptop as this will be used for the Microsoft GPS receiver. Set your laptop to power-save mode so that when using and external power supply the screen saver and hibernate modes are turned off.

  • In Microsoft streets and trips, maximize the “GPS Pane”, check the “Create GPS Trail” and in “Map View” check “Keep Position Centered.”


Phoenix, AZ 85043
Sony Electronics
Ram Mounts

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