GPS Apps

Discussion in 'Backpacking' started by BradGad, Oct 16, 2018.

  1. BradGad

    BradGad Supporter Supporter

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    So, I didn’t know this: you don’t need cell service to use your phone as a GPS device — a very good one, in fact — provided you download the maps you need ahead of time.

    http://www.adventurealan.com/iphone-gps-map-backpacking/

    Good article, lots of info.

    Maybe too much info? Turns out there are a ton of apps for backcountry navigation.

    Just about all are subscription-based, and I don’t want to sign up for all of them to choose a go-to.

    Does anyone have recommendations for a backpacking GPS app?

    EDIT - Well, I went ahead and subscribed to GAIA GPS Premium with the discount link in the article. Will share thoughts on the app when I’ve been able to give it some real world use.

    I’d still like to hear others’ reviews and thoughts though.

    And I still love my compasses... very much doubt I’ll ever hit the trail without one.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2018
  2. Keithturkjr

    Keithturkjr Scout

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    Ive heard caltopo is good, but its california based so I dont know if their eastern usa coverage is as good as there western coverage.

    Luke from youtbes "outdoor gear review posted that his favorite app is alltrails. I don't remember where but its not the first time I've heard positive things about them.

    Both of those apps are targeted at hiking.

    I personally use a combination of Map and compass and google maps in satellite mode. I'm an old boy scout that learned how to use map and compass before civilians had access to GPS LOL. Google maps totally spoils me.
    I can say that google maps usually doesn't denote trails though. I find the trails on the paper map then spot the trails on the satellite imagery like aerial reconnaissance. then I scutinize back and forth between the two until I know exactly where I'm going, its slower than how some of the kids do it but it works.
    *Side note* You can look at pastures and fields on google satellite and spot trails that animals use in the field so if you can spot that you should be able to catch fairly frequent glimpses of where you are on a trail map.
     
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  3. rocketbomb

    rocketbomb Guide

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    I've been using Gaia GPS for a couple years now and really like it. I tend to do trip/hike planning on CalTopo on my desktop though.
     
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  4. Luchtaine

    Luchtaine MOA #22 Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I Bushclass Instructor

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    For iPhone there is an app simply called topo maps. Has all the USGS quads available for free download and works with your phones GPS. I got it for free at the time. I think the app is like $7 now. But it’s a one time cost and free from there on out.
     
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  5. plue

    plue Tracker

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    I use maps.me app for both hiking/backpacking and traveling abroad. Free to use and you can download the maps you need over wifi to use without data.
     
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  6. reppans

    reppans Scout

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    I've been using Gaia for a couple years.... works fine. For battery conservation purposes, I just use it to spot check location against a paper map, or even PDF/photo maps on the phone. Running GPS constantly can eat battery. I also use a Inreach, which has its own Bluetooth link to a smartphone map app (Earthmate) - at least this is way more battery efficient than running the GPS off the iPhone.

    The App I really want to use, but will have to wait til I upgrade my phone (I'm still on an old iPhone5 with 10.? iOS) is Avenza Maps. Apparently, this app can use any downloaded PDF map that has proper coordinates printed on the borders - the app will then use the smartphone GPS to transpose your postion onto that map. I was on a dual-sport (motorcycle) ride in VT and the guy leading had this app with local town PDF maps (the only maps that identified all the class IV unimproved public roads) - I couldn't believe how he was finding all these great trails to legally ride on - we kept bushwhacking though tall weeds to find great trails on the other side. Should be great for hiking and boating where might be able to get much more detailed maps/info from the local park/forest/etc.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2018
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  7. justinspicher

    justinspicher Scout

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    I’ve been using this same app for the last few years. Works good.
     
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  8. grey mouse

    grey mouse Scout

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    I also use Gaia. You can also save a map of the area in offline mode from google maps to your phone and use that.
     
  9. vdeal

    vdeal Guide

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    Gaia user here also with the pro package. Love it. You can layer any number of types of maps. The best out there in my opinion and I've used several. I do keep Maprika for specialized maps and a few others. BTW, to the post about Caltopo. It isn't an app but an online mapping service and coverage is the same for all parts of the country as long as the base maps exist. I use it a lot and even download tracks from it that I create to Gaia.
     
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  10. Birdman

    Birdman Guide

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    I just save Google maps, and also use On-X when I'm hunting.
     
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  11. wisconsinwalter

    wisconsinwalter Supporter Supporter

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    F29ACECC-21A3-470F-BC15-9385ECAE294F.png 5024CED2-4D4E-4D21-AD5A-9D4CD7AEBE7D.png
    I want on-x but settled for ScoutLook free version. It is a tracking app with abilities to mark locations on a route.

    Also Wisconsin has a DNR app for free that also has track back features.

    So to the OP, I would check your state Dnr or the state you are hiking in
     
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  12. zerk

    zerk Tracker

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    Not saying any better, but been playing with huntstand lite. Since cell signal is so bad, it is not all that useful. But I like the it keeps track of stands and you can look on sattelite image.

    I also have Polaris, but have not used it alot.

    For map guys, you can have more than one tool in your tool box.

    My camp has 10' of maps on the wall. But where I hunt it is heavy bush. So sometimes all the good it will do you, is if you walk for a few miles you will hit something. Maps do not tell you where you are. Maps are good for showing you the big picture. But again, you may have to walk for miles to take advantage of that.
     
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  13. zerk

    zerk Tracker

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    What I would like is good programs for converting putting my trails from GPS on to a map. Probably could go to a GPS forum if I really wanted to. I have ordered most of the maps for my area. But the trails often are not shown, or not as far as they go.

    One thing I enjoy is finding or reclaiming those old trails that do show up on maps, on my sxs. If we don't they will be lost to time. I believe the government wants that.

    Been lots of rain, but I should make a pass before winter. Easier doing it now than on sled.
     
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  14. vdeal

    vdeal Guide

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    To move your GPS trails to a map just export as .gpx preferably (.kml will work but not preferred) and then just import them into Caltopo. Easy peasy.
     
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  15. Mannlicher

    Mannlicher Guide

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    I just don't trust cell phone GPS.
     
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  16. vdeal

    vdeal Guide

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  17. zerk

    zerk Tracker

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    Not like you are doing a moon landing. I don't use it mark where I leave bodies. But to get a basic idea of where I am and a trail, it seems to work.

    I use a regular GPS quite a bit. I have an Oregon 450 with a map for my state.
     
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  18. bkduckworth

    bkduckworth Tracker

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    I’ll second the “Topo Maps” app for IOS users. It’s super simple to use and for the price of one paper quad sheet you can download quads of the whole country. It’s usually accurate to within 30 feet or so. Sometimes I’ll pair it to a Bluetooth GPS receiver. Here is the one I’ve been using: https://bad-elf.com/products/be-gps-2300
    It’s a bit more accurate, and acquires signal more quickly, but the best thing about it is on longer trips it saves my phone battery. I can keep my phone on airplane mode and only have the Bluetooth turned on!

    I’d like to note that I don’t trust any of these devices completely and always carry a topo map of the area I’m in and a compass.

    Brandon
     
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  19. vdeal

    vdeal Guide

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    @bkduckworth, not sure why you're using a Bluetooth GPS receiver. Doesn't your phone have built in GPS? BTW, Bluetooth will suck down a battery faster than you would imagine.
     
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  20. stillman

    stillman Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Same, except I use On-X any time I'm on public land, not just hunting.
     
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  21. bkduckworth

    bkduckworth Tracker

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    @vdeal, not sure why you're using a Bluetooth GPS receiver. Doesn't your phone have built in GPS? BTW, Bluetooth will suck down a battery faster than you would imagine.[/QUOTE]

    Yeah, my phone has built in GPS. I use it regularly for work, and on some backcountry trips. But I have found that using gps seems to run the battery down faster than just about anything, or at least that’s been the case with the past couple of iPhones I’ve had. That little bad elf receiver weighs next to nothing and the battery life is great, even after several years. I typically will still keep my phone in airplane mode most of the time, and just connect it to the receiver to get my location as needed. As always ymmv.

    Brandon
     
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  22. vdeal

    vdeal Guide

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    @bkduckworth, putting an iphone in Airplane mode does not disable the GPS chip. In fact I don't think you can disable the GPS. In airplane mode the phone won't continuously search for a cell phone signal but the GPS will still work fine. You will not get assisted GPS but then again a regular GPS unit won't either. I'm thinking you're using the Bad Elf when you really don't need to.
     
  23. bkduckworth

    bkduckworth Tracker

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    @vdeal, thanks for that information! I've been using my phone in such a manner for the last 7 years or so. I'm not sure why I had it in my head that the GPS wouldn't work in airplane mode, perhaps just an assumption that I never challenged. I'll definitely experiment with some options to see what works the best. Thanks again.
     
  24. vdeal

    vdeal Guide

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  25. ra2bach

    ra2bach Supporter Supporter

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    I have been using MotionX GPS on my iPhone -- https://gps.motionx.com/

    it's free and will store tracks and waypoints, it tracks elevation and speed, etc., it will even interface with a heart rate sensor. it's a big step above Google Maps and the like...
     
  26. mtwarden

    mtwarden roaming the Big Sky Supporter

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    Gaiagps for six years now; it’s the sole reason I purchased a smart phone

    quality camera + gps in a 5 oz package = :dblthumb:
     
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  27. Juany118

    Juany118 Scout

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    I use three actually. For the AT (I am only about an hour from it I PA) I use Guthhooks. It shows not only the trail bit also campsites, shelters and water sources. It also has reviews of the various sites by other users as well as telling you how much it is to the next water source in the description of a location.

    Right now I am testing both Gaia and Alltrails. They are both pretty similar for most practical purposes, and Gaia has a cheaper yearly subscription. The one thing I think Gaia has thats better is a "guide me" function. Basically it creates a straight line course to a location you choose. It basically like using the line on your screen to navigate cross country like you would using a compass and picking a tree or land mark in the distance. It goes so far as to provide eta, distance and heading.

    That said Alltrails has a feature I am really digging. I can link my Garmin Connect account to it so I don't have export/import files like I have to work Gaia, it just automatically populates after my watch has uploaded the data. It also does a more accurate calorie calculation since walking and backpacking are different in that regard, Garmin defaults to walking. As a data geek (and consideringconside and backpacking as a workout) this is useful to me. Alltrails also has, imo, a more friendly user interface and a good search feature in the event you are looking for new hikes.

    As such between those two I would say it depends on your purpose. Go with Gaia if you are headed to the backcountry, Alltrails may be a better choice for you though if you primarily go on blazed trails.
     
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  28. mtwarden

    mtwarden roaming the Big Sky Supporter

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    when I purchased Gaia there was no subscription, just $7.95- I must be granfathered in as it still works like it did when I got it :4:
     
  29. that_guy

    that_guy Tracker

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    Has anyone here used the On X map system designed for hunting? Wondering if it's worth the price over Gaia.
     
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  30. J Stephens

    J Stephens Scout

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    I've tried a few (Gaia, Alltrails, Backcountry Navigator, and View Ranger)

    Among Long distance hikers, Gaia is the app of choice. However, in the UK View Ranger is the choice. That said, View Ranger works extremely well in the US.

    Personally, I use View Ranger, because it is just more aesthetically pleasing than Gaia

    I do a fair amount of hiking in remote areas without cell service, one and two, I use the phone in airplane mode to conserve power. The GPS works flawless and is independent of cell signal. It is satellite based.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2018
  31. mtwarden

    mtwarden roaming the Big Sky Supporter

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    if you are hunting a lot of interspersed public and private lands and want to insure you are where you want to be, it's probably worth it- in the eastern part of Montana, we have a lot of checkerboarded public/private lands- so very useful there

    also you might want to check Gaia as I thought they were coming out with a similar deal with land ownership on their maps
     
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  32. vdeal

    vdeal Guide

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    If you have the Gaia Pro package there are multiple map layers available including private property parcels and you can overlay them.
     
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  33. castle22

    castle22 Scout

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    Ive only use Avenza maps. It’s a free app and
    all USGS topo maps can be downloaded for free. The app shows your location on the topo map, I especially like this because I can print the paper maps (free also) and plot where I think I’m at and double check with gps.
    In addition to the USGS maps there’s a bunch of free maps you can download, like the forest service’s MVUM (motor vehicle use map). There’s a little bit of a learning curve to finding the maps you want but other than that it’s a really solid program.
     
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  34. bp93yj

    bp93yj Tinder Gatherer

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    I've been experimenting with All Trails and it seems to work well. I like the feature that brings up nearby trails with ratings and pictures that people have submitted.
     
  35. Juany118

    Juany118 Scout

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    Found another little feature I like on it. The ability to put in POI's on the track, such as water sources, usable camp sites etc. and written descriptions.
     
  36. Roamer

    Roamer Supporter Supporter

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    I just used Gaia for the first time on an off-trail excursion and was very happy with it. I'm using the free version and it was more than adequate. Good topo maps, and I was able to save waypoints that will really help me explore the area more in the future. Like others, I wouldn't rely solely on something like this. And I'm mostly a Luddite when it comes to this stuff. But it was a useful tool.
     
  37. CaliforniaCanuck

    CaliforniaCanuck Guide

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    Same. I've been using it for several years and couldn't ask for more.

    It works on airplane mode and without cell reception.
     
  38. Blackhillz

    Blackhillz Supporter Supporter

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    I've started using Avenza maps as my Delorme GPS has died. So far I like it and it's pretty dang accurate, I like that I can just make a PDF off of my Caltopo maps and go. I'll have to look into the USGS maps for it.
     
  39. BradGad

    BradGad Supporter Supporter

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    I went with Gaia and it’s been fine so far.
     
  40. GunGoBoom

    GunGoBoom I'm not lost, I've just misplaced myself. Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I

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    I just found On X this year and it's great. I'm in the Missouri Ozarks and the Mark Twain National Forest is mixed in with private land all over the place. I find that Google maps is a surprisingly reliable option when I don't need to see property lines.
     
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  41. Ryder

    Ryder Tracker

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    Gaia works perfectly and is super accurate on my iPhone 7+. With both topo and sat images downloaded it is a very nice nav tool. Used it today in the wilderness for that fine bird’s eye view.
     
  42. mtwarden

    mtwarden roaming the Big Sky Supporter

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    I've been toying with the idea of upgrading to the Pro so I can get sat overlays- would be really handy with tricky navigation off trail in the mountains
     
  43. Lead Dog

    Lead Dog Guide

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    For backpacking, canoeing, or hiking, I like to use a compass. But I have Gaia and use it when off-road with the Jeep. I am really happy with how it works. I like that it layers different map sources. It is also nice that it can work on different devices, so a map created on my laptop can be viewed on my iPad or iPhone. Good luck with it!
     
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  44. vdeal

    vdeal Guide

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    I have the Pro version and to me it's worth it. Overlays are handy and you get access to many more map layers also - I think that may be just as big of a plus.
     
  45. mtwarden

    mtwarden roaming the Big Sky Supporter

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    the only nice thing for now is I got the Gaia app before their was any subscription for $9.99 and haven't had to pay a penny since (talk about getting your money's worth :eek:), BUT yeah the additional layers would be super handy!
     
  46. vdeal

    vdeal Guide

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    I pay once a year - would have to look up what the cost is but it is minimal for what you get. I've also been toying with getting the Pro version of Caltopo - first level up from free is just $20/year and will let you print bigger maps and do some other overlays.
     
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  47. BradGad

    BradGad Supporter Supporter

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    Gaia has been good to me. It was a lifesaver — possibly literally — when I was on a rough trip in the Georgia Cohutta Wilderness in November, but it doesn’t replace a compass.

    The main problem I have right now is finding good honest to goodness USGS topo maps to make full use of a compass. It used to be you could go to outfitters and get topo maps of the area around there, but not now. I guess I need to bring in some cordwood and fire up the old Google machine and figure out how to order paper maps... get them for all around here while I can.
     
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  48. mtwarden

    mtwarden roaming the Big Sky Supporter

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    ^ just print your own- caltopo is your friend, lots of additional layers you can add as well and the cost is $0- print them on water proof paper (or go to a print shop that does it)

    a lot of times you need three top maps and just a small percentage of two of the three- caltopo lets you decide exactly what you want- seamlessly
     
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  49. Mudface Rob

    Mudface Rob Tracker

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    You can download any of the USGS topo maps, from historic to current iteration, available for your area at this website:
    https://ngmdb.usgs.gov/topoview/viewer/
    or
    https://ngmdb.usgs.gov/topoview/ and click on Get Maps. Bit of a learning curve, but a treasure trove, methinks!
    I use Photoshop to open, edit, and print only what I need. Usually results in a map much more legible to middle aged eyes as well!

    For the iPhone I use an app called Topo Maps. Perfectly adequate for my needs... so far.
     
    mtwarden likes this.
  50. Oni

    Oni Scout

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    I’ve been using this for maybe 10 years. You can download maps ahead of time and it has many useful features.

    Besides mountains and deserts, I also downloaded maps between work and home. I keep paper maps in the vehicle too, as well as a compass.
     
    Mudface Rob likes this.

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