BoatingLAB: Backup Cams

Tow vehicle backup cameras for boaters.

New truck and SUV prices march higher, and boaters often choose used vehicles to economize. Or, determined to keep new-vehicle reliability, they choose base-trim models and upgrade them. Either way, we’ve tracked down some aftermarket technology to cover your…rear…with backup cameras and even a top-shelf media center.

Pioneer AVH-1330NEX

BoatingLAB: Backup Cams
The AVH-1330NEX offers cutting-edge communications, mapping and entertainment options for a more enjoyable cruise.Courtesy Pioneer Electronics

If you're driving a vehicle that missed out on an OEM touchscreen audio display and hands-free Bluetooth phone capabilities, here's an elegant, easy and economical way to bring your vehicle into the smartphone world and add a backup camera. It's only one of Pioneer's dozen or so Apple CarPlay options too, so there is apt to be one to integrate into your ride. It links to iOS devices and allows mapping and tunes to be played and controlled on the NEX from services like Pandora and Spotify. It can offer some hands-free capabilities with Android too. Tune it to find the radio stations you want, or play a CD or DVD on board. There are plenty of entertainment options available and standard. It integrates with Pioneer's ND-BC8 backup camera to give a 129-degree-wide and 105-degree-high image.

Also Cool: In addition to all its integrated music apps and iPhone CarPlay, it plays DVDs too.

Installation: This is likely not a DIY project for most and requires expertise to determine which mounting brackets and automotive system interfaces are required to maximize vehicle integration. It includes a microphone for hands-free calls and offers the capability to send and receive text messages hands-free. Mounting brackets and frames run from $100 for a basic mount to replace a standard pre-smartphone audio system to $300-plus for a mounting panel with a heating and air-conditioning control interface.

BoatingLAB: Backup Cams
Pioneer brings full-featured media and navigation suites for aftermarket use.Courtesy Pioneer Electronics

Pros: This can give any solid but older vehicle cutting-edge communications, mapping and entertainment options for a more enjoyable cruise. Apple CarPlay lets your system display iOS mapping on the display. An optional GPS module is available, but with Apple CarPlay, we think it's redundant.

Cons: The AVH-1330NEX is not an inexpensive shortcut to integrated factory audio, communications and mapping systems in newer vehicles, but it does successfully bring those things to older vehicles in its stand-alone format via Apple CarPlay or ­Android Bluetooth connection. There are lots of technical questions to resolve when choosing this system, and it will require professional installation.

Garmin DriveSmart 61 LMT-S and BC 30 Wireless Backup Camera

BoatingLAB: Backup Cams
Garmin's system is easy to read and update.Courtesy Garmin

This two-part system rocks. In addition to giving turn-by-turn guidance on a nearly 7-inch diagonal screen and free and easy lifetime Wi-Fi map updates, DriveSmart offers on-map traffic warnings to help you reroute to better roads. In our tests, it responded flawlessly to voice commands such as a request for an address or to make a call hands-free with Bluetooth-connected mobile phones. The screen is so large and bright, our view of surroundings in reverse was clear and crisp to make backing up on a trailer hitch frustration-free. TripAdvisor on board helps you plan for stops, meals and entertainment along the way. The 640 x 480 resolution color Wi-Fi camera transmits to the Garmin device up to 45 feet away and presents a proximity grid for perspective. Hard-wire the display and cam to power and you can toggle at will between navigation or the rearview cam.

Also Cool: Connect the BC 30 to the white backup lights' power leads and it will power up to automatically transmit its video image to the display when backing up.

Installation: Garmin recommends professional installation when wiring the camera to the backup lights, but we've done this type of installation and it's not difficult. The camera has an adjustable bracket that clips to a license plate.

BoatingLAB: Backup Cams
Garmin makes GPS navigation for land, sea and air, and offers reverse-view safety as well.Courtesy Garmin

Pros: We loved the big, bright screen and high-resolution imaging on the camera. The backup cam comes on upon shifting into reverse and gives a clear view. Garmin is probably more experienced than anyone in mapping and turn-by-turn traffic support. Voice recognition worked extremely well in our tests, and we could speak directions to the GPS. Mapping firmware updates are thankfully free forever.

Cons: Your vehicle may require dashboard adhesive mounting to avoid obstructing windshield visibility. The Bluetooth connection for transferring road conditions to the GPS is a battery hog for your phone, so you'll need to keep it plugged in. The wireless camera connection is convenient but gives a shaky image that, though slightly delayed, doesn't interfere with safe backing-up observation.

Papago GoSafe 760 Dash Cam

BoatingLAB: Backup Cams
The GoSafe 760 can identify and notify the driver of upcoming stop signs, pedestrians or obstacles.Courtesy Papago Inc.

Dash cams are all the rage overseas and are used to support legal proceedings in the case of mishaps and litigation. This GoSafe 760 Dash Cam is designed with a 140-degree forward-facing camera built into the display. The rear-facing 120-degree camera has an adhesive tilting mount. The display can offer a constant split-screen image of the front and back camera, or switch at the punch of a button. Video is captured on a microSD card up to 128 MB. A G-force sensor tells it when to print to the card or, if the car is parked, will tell it to begin recording.

Also Cool: The GoSafe 760 optical sensor can identify and notify the driver of upcoming stop signs, pedestrians or obstacles. As stoplight traffic pulls away, it will signal you to hang up and drive.

Installation: Mount the monitor on an adjustable suction cup or adhesive base in the vicinity of the rearview mirror. A button on the front adjusts the forward-facing camera lens up or down for the optimum view. It can be powered by a 12-volt receptacle or hard-wired to a power point such as the ignition-switch accessory circuit. The rear-facing camera is powered by a mini USB cable threaded through the chassis.

BoatingLAB: Backup Cams
Small but mighty, it records traffic and watches your back.Courtesy Papago Inc.

Pros: We love the traffic tools that warn about stop signs or pedestrians in our path. Dash cams that record events leading up to an accident are popular in many countries, and this is an effective one. When aligning a hitch, the narrower 120-degree camera angle seemingly enlarges the hitch point, easing ball and hitch alignment.

Cons: The compact screen doesn't interfere with forward visibility and is comparable in size to backup displays built into the rearview mirrors as factory equipment. But it requires careful observation when being used as a backup camera or when hitching up. The rear-facing camera connections aren't waterproof, so the camera must be mounted inside the vehicle cabin - that works fine on SUVs but not pickup trucks.