- Rating ★★★☆☆
- Price £159.99
- Buy one at Halfords.com
OPEN any parenting guidebook and there’s likely to be an entire chapter dedicated to travelling with little ones. It’s not easy: toddlers squirm in their car seats, siblings throw boiled sweets at each other and newborns have been known to regurgitate their milk over your upholstery.
As such, children can be a major distraction while driving, with many flustered parents resorting to frequent rear-view mirror checks or worse, spinning around in their seats to fetch the dummy that has wedged itself in the vehicle’s dirty nether regions.
Garmin, the manufacturer of GPS units for cars, trucks, caravans and even bicycles, believes it has the answer to the perennial parenting problem and it comes in the form of little plastic lozenge with an in-built 640 x 480-pixel video camera.
The babyCam has been designed to attach neatly onto headrest stalks via a simple clamping system. It can easily be mounted to the driver, passenger or rear headrests, meaning it can capture footage of both forward and rearward facing child seats.
That’s the easy bit. Once the camera is fitted it must then be connected to an existing Garmin sat nav display, so you’ll either need to buy one or check that your current Garmin sat nav is compatible.
Garmin provided us with a list of 48 of its sat navs that work with the babyCam — view the full list below — but recommends the Nuvi 2519LM as the best one to use.
Garmin sat navs compatible with babyCam
The next step is to swap the original sat nav power cable for a special unit that boasts an on-board wireless receiver. This is included in the babyCam box and doesn’t require any additional set-up processes.
Then either add two AA batteries to the babyCam or use the provided USB cable, fire up the Garmin navigation unit and it will begin downloading a software update so that the two items can connect. Once updated, the user simply hits a little camera-shaped button on the screen to see a live feed from the babyCam.
The navigation unit can be used as normal for directional instructions but should the little ones start bickering or the baby stirs, the driver or front passenger can quickly flip between the map and a live video feed.
Better still, many Garmin products support voice control, so the user can bark “show camera” and the footage will be displayed on the screen so hands can be kept on the wheel.
It’s a neat system that doesn’t require too much setting up. The resolution is a little unclear, especially in direct sunlight, but the night vision mode worked very well during an evening lap around the block to get my visiting niece and nephew to sleep.
Multi-child parents can add up to four babyCams (they cost £159.99 each) to any one sat nav device, meaning all corners of the vehicle can have blanket kiddy CCTV coverage. It might be particularly useful if you have a third row of seats, for example.
A bugbear with aftermarket navigation systems is mounting and powering the units. The suction cups tend to leave grubby marks on the window and the power cord has a tendency to wrap itself around the gear lever.
BabyCam adds a further — albeit much smaller — receiver cable, which is supposed to be attached to the windscreen with the provided fixings but can be neatly coiled up and stashed out of view if you’re slightly OCD like me.
Despite the unruly wiring, the device proved handy and boasts a number of clever features, including a battery save mode, which activates the camera for 10, 20 or 30 second bursts to save juice (Garmin claims two AA batteries can last up to three months). Plus, the system warns you to check on passengers when it powers down, so you don’t accidentally leave your kids in the car (with tragic results in hot countries).
Verdict If you’ve got a compatible Garmin sat nav, it works well. But then, what’s wrong with a mirror?