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GPS app
July 19, 2017
3:20 pm
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Gilbert & Betty
El Dorado Hills
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Hey Kris what was the gps app you use? And how well does it work ?

July 19, 2017
4:29 pm
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kris_olof
El Dorado

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I have used a bunch and they all have there issues.  None are perfect as of today.  In summary, Free: Avenza, Paid: GAIA Gps   Also my app of choice will be different next year as new apps come to market and older apps quit pushing updates.  Also some apps that work well on a tablet do not work well on a phone.

 

Avenza isnt very easy to use and tries to direct you to paid maps.  That said, all should have Avenza on their devices since it has the Motor Vehicle Use Maps and topo maps on them for free.  Also avenza is the only free app which lets you upload kml and kmz files you draw on your computer or google maps. 

For Tablets, GAIA Gps is about the only one currently stable.  HEMA maps is the next big thing because of the company behind it but the North American version is still in it's early stages and can crash easily.  Both GAIA and HEMA aren't very useful on a small screen like a phone and both cost $19.99.  Magellan TRX is free but was unstable last I tried it as was the $0.99 OFFROAD ATLAS.  All of these apps share a similar platfrom or seem to be built off of GAIA.

All Trails is a paid app that was intended for hikers but has expanded its service to the offroad market and is getting better.  It is pretty stable and getting better to use.  I have yet to try is on a tablet.

Topo Maps+ is a free app (with paid subscription for higher resolution topo maps) that was basic in design for hikers and worked for offroaders but has since removed some of the features that were beneficial and is more focused for hikers.  It is very stable and easy to use however.  This will probably be deleted when I find another stable topo service.

July 21, 2017
2:46 am
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Tyler - K6TLR
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I use an app called MyTrails for android. Not sure if it is available on iphone. 

For free, you can have access to google maps, world wide topo maps, record your GPS tracks, mark waypoints and special locations, built in altimeter. For I think 4.99, you can download unlimited offline maps, and upload your own offline maps into the program. I have yet to buy the paid one (I keep meaning to...) so that I can upload all of the forest service maps that I already have digital copies of. As of now, I have just been loading up the area I will be in before I lose cell service, and then using that while I record my GPS tracks. You can then upload your GPS tracks into dropbox, and a couple of other platforms straight from the app. 

It is apparently, mainly used by Europeans and developed by them... so not sure just how rich in goodies it really is for North America.. .but it was done everything I have asked it to and more. 

I haven't used it on a tablet yet...

My uncle uses Avenza, which is what I was going to use... but last time I tried it, you could only upload like 1 or 2 maps at a time of your own copies. And it didn't support offline maps in the free version... and the paid version was somewhere around 40$... they may have fixed that since I looked at it though, as that was almost 2 years ago now.

July 21, 2017
11:18 am
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kris_olof
El Dorado

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Tyler - K6TLR said
I use an app called MyTrails for android. Not sure if it is available on iphone. 

My uncle uses Avenza, which is what I was going to use... but last time I tried it, you could only upload like 1 or 2 maps at a time of your own copies. And it didn't support offline maps in the free version... and the paid version was somewhere around 40$... they may have fixed that since I looked at it though, as that was almost 2 years ago now.  

You are correct, MyTrails is android only.  Looking at it in the play store it looks very similar to how topo maps+ used to be.  There are many more apps for android which i havent tried.  I have been sticking to apple products simply because that is what my grandparents have and I am the family tech support.

Avenza has changed their funding structure so now the app is free as well as basic usgs topos and all forest service MVUMs but high resolution maps are a pay per tile type thing.  I dont like the app but i recommend it simply because it has the MVUMs and is the app the forest service decided to partner with.

Basically there is no single app that is perfect today, only a few that are good at different things.

Tyler, since you have android, can you download a few of the free android versions of the apps I mentioned and see how stable they are?  Specifically the magellan TRX app.  Last I tried it it crashed every few minutes but it seemed to be promising with crowd sourced trail ratings.

July 22, 2017
1:09 am
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Tyler - K6TLR
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Ya! I will check them out once I get back state side.

August 1, 2017
5:27 pm
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Tyler - K6TLR
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Tried a few...

 

Magellan TRX: Not a big fan of the UI. A few of the trails I looked up seemed incomplete. For instance, it says Rubicon is only like 3 miles long, and I couldn't figure out how to get it to navigate me to the start of the trail. The map isn't crisp and clear. There were a few reviews saying the app wouldn't close on their phones. It closes just fine on my Galaxy S7

 

AllTrails: I have been starting to become a bigger and bigger fan of this app. There were a bunch of trails on it, including Rubicon, Fordyce, Slick Rock, Deer Valley, Hellhole. Almost all of them have awesome waypoints along the trail with a tidbit about the waypoint... such as description of little sleuce, big sleuce, where nice campsites are on the rubicon, etc. I really liked the descriptive waypoints... This is one feature I haven't found on any other map/gps programs yet. And, for $30, you can download all of the trails you want so that you can access them offline. Another feature I have liked about this app... is when I go somewhere out of state and want to find an activity to do, it is very easy to search for trails near you based on your gps location and what criteria you are looking for (jeeping, hiking, horseback, dog friendly, camp sites, etc). I have used it while staying in Colorado before for hiking outside of Estes Park. Great functionality, great UI... just not sure if it is worth $30 yet compared to other apps out there. But so far, this is the most inclusive app. If I did more travelling to places I was unfamiliar with, I think it would be well worth the 30$. It does not use MVUM or USFS or USTOPO maps... It uses some sort of Topo map that only really has main roads and highways. So, if you get lost without cell reception... you will be in trouble. You have to plan out your trip before hand and stick to the route. Not very much exploring ability.

 

Avenza: Now free to download. You can get MVUMs free. The maps are nice, clean, and crisp, with all of the roads very clear. You can buy the USFS Visitor maps for 4.99 each. You can record your track, set waypoints. If you get lost, you can easily find your way back to wherever you want to be. My issue with this app is that everything is based on pre-set maps and tiles. If you drive to the edge of a map and need another map brought up because you left the area of the first map, it cant load the next area for you based on your coordinates. You have to manually find the next area... which can be a pain in the ass as the maps are labeled "El Dorado Front District" .... like seriously... what does that mean geographically??? lol If you get used to each map, I can see this being awesome for exploring. MVUMs also do not tell you where towns, cities, campsites, smaller lakes, etc are. A lot of things are not labeled. But every single road is labeled... in USFS road names (29N41Y). So, bigger roads are not labeled the way I already know them (Eagle Lakes Rd, Mormon Emigrant Trail, Forest Hill Rd, etc). Another issue with the MVUMs I have found is that, the 2 trails I looked up, are right on the edge of the MVUM (Fordyce, and Hellhole). This created the problem of trying to manually find the next map because I would end up going off the first map. Also, there is no way to navigate long distances because if you are not on the map that you are looking at, the app doesn't know where you are. The USFS Visitor maps do have everything labeled (campsites, rivers, lakes, little towns, USFS roads, trails, etc) and I would hope they work quite well. I have full sized JPGs of the California Forests (which looks the same as the USFS Visitor maps that Avenza has access to). I just don't know if Avenza loads the ENTIRE map at once, or if it loads in tiles. The old version of Avenza that my uncle has loads in tiles... which creates the problem of having to manually find out which map/tile you are on. In order to test this, I would have to buy one of the maps for 4.99 and test it out... which may be worth it. I will think on it lol

 

MyTrails: The app I currently use. the free version gets you almost every feature of the app except offline maps. So far, I have just loaded the map area of the trail I will be going on before I lose cell reception. Then, just don't close down the app until I get off the trail and dont need it any more. It has google maps and US Topo maps free of charge. It functions much like google maps app does. It will do navigation on any distance. Record GPS tracks, and you can upload and download from different map communities. So you could put MVUMs on it, or USFS visitor maps. It has a built in altimeter and compass. The thing I really like about this map is that it loads based on whatever zoom level you are at. So, if you go off of a loaded tile, the app automatically loads the next tile for you, so that you always know where you are. The US Topo maps don't have stuff on them like campsites and hiking trails... but almost all MVUM roads, lakes, rivers and major roads are all there and labeled. Bonus is moutains and peaks are labeled as well... I took it out and spent about 30min on top of Signal Peak figuring out what all of the lakes and mountain peaks in sight were, and then, how to get to some of them from Signal Peak. For 2 euros (~$2.36) you get the full service pro version, which allows for unlimited map downloading. This includes the MVUMs, USFS Visitor maps, and any other maps you might want to upload into the app. So far, this is still my favorite app after trying the others, and the $2.36 is WELL worth it. Bonus... the developers state that your original $2.36 will get you all future updates free of charge. Another feature that I have found hit or miss, but pleasantly surprised when it works... is the search function. You can search for a campsite name (for example, Cleghorn Bar), and it may not show up on the map, but the app will place a waypoint on the GPS coordinates where that campsite is if it knows where it is. Don't ask me how it knows where the campsite (or lake, or river, or mountain, or pass) is, but every time I have double checked it, the app has been correct.

 

Google Maps: The app has a couple of really nice functions for offroading. You can customize offline areas and download them to your phone free of charge. It uses its maps though... so only more trafficked trails will be on it. I have come across quite a few trails that have not been on google maps. But once you download the offline area, it will automatically update itself once per month. So, if google adds a trail within the area you downloaded, it will automatically show up. You just gotta check on it. The REALLY nice feature of google maps that I use every single time I go out offroading, is the "Share Location" feature. This function works much like waze and iphone maps does... you just have to have data service to use it. Very nice for meeting up with others before hitting the trail... especially if you use it in conjuction with a ham radio. My uncle and I use this method every time we go wheeling. No more wasted time at a meeting spot, we just meet on the highway! I also use it to tell my girlfriend that I am okay and on my way home once I get off the trail. She appreciates it a lot.

 

That's it!

August 1, 2017
7:23 pm
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Mike G
Newcastle, CA
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Man more info then I would ever find out on my own. Thank you for it...

August 1, 2017
9:26 pm
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Jeff_R
Meadow Vista
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I just follow the guy in front of me. If we get lost, it's his fault! confused

August 2, 2017
7:28 pm
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Mike G
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Jeff_R said
I just follow the guy in front of me. If we get lost, it's his fault! confused  

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