View Full Version : Question about cell phone hiking apps

12-17-2014, 21:58
I'm not as young as I used to be so my wife "encouraged" me to get a cell phone to take on any hike that involved being out overnight. Since I'm carrying the weight of the thing I'm trying to find ways to make it useful. I've always had trouble navigating on long, rocky sections of the AT. If I were to load an AT app on my phone could I accurately follow the "track" displayed on the screen to help me navigate the trail route through rocky sections?

12-17-2014, 22:51
> If I were to load an AT app on my phone could I accurately follow the "track"
> displayed on the screen to help me navigate the trail route through rocky sections?

Probably not EXACTLY what you'd be hoping for.

However, I've used GoogleMaps{R} and Guthooks's Guides
to get an idea of where I am in relation to The Trail, and to landmarks I hope to reach.

Either would tell me if I got significantly far from the trail, but their usefulness in following the trail is probably not as great as you might want.

I do recommend Guthook, even though it's not free (so far that is the ONLY app for which I've put out money), because it's nice to get an idea how far to the next water, overlook, campsite, road, etc.

12-17-2014, 22:57
Also figure in having to carry an extra cell phone battery (if not two), or if you have an iPhone, a USB charger (think the lightest one I found was 2.8 ounces + whatever your cable weighs, and that recharged my iPhone 5 1.5x times). An app that downloads the maps is also a must for when you don't have a data connection/signal on your cell phone (the GPS will always work even without a cell signal).

12-18-2014, 01:18
I get free offline topographic maps, with the TOPO Maps app, + is a different app involving paid offline topographic maps. TOPO Maps has free offline topographic maps for the entire USA and Canada, if you have the Gigabytes storage to hold the topographic maps for the entire USA and Canada. I have all the offline topographic maps near the trail, so I can see "the big picture".

I have the CDT Hiker: Guthook's Guide app, with Demo section and with paid offline Montana Map, Photos and Data.

I got an email, there will be an update. Hopefully, it will have the "spot on" accuracy of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail: Map Book Montana PDF http://www.bearcreeksurvey.com/pdf_maps.htm

Since the GPS survey service is the same one, I would expect the AT will have that kind of accuracy.

I do not know the AT, so I cannot comment definitively on the AT Hiker: Guthook's Guide.

However, the AT Hiker: Guthook's Guide has a Demo section Map, Photo and Data section.

It is a free app.

The offline maps, photos and data are priced, in my CDT Hiker: Guthook's Guide app, by state.

All the Guthook apps use active GPS incorporated in the app.

Johnny Thunder
12-18-2014, 01:40
step 1: download "maps with me"

step 2: download each state map by navigating to an address in each state (there's probably an easier way to do this but this is what i've done).

step 3: use the app with the gps on your phone turned on. it uses zero data once the maps are stored locally and has the trail and shelter on there. also some major side trails and every road with a name. great if you want to walk logging roads in maine.

12-18-2014, 11:02
I really like Alltrails, which is linked up with NatGeo topo. I track my hikes and all the stats. It's not perfect, there can be some glitches, and I took advantage of a big sale at REI to get a real GPS for Christmas so I don't have to rely on a phone and charger. But for shorter trips with a charger (or a partner with a phone for actual emergencies or to reach your shuttle) its a nice app, and you can upload all the tracks to your account and have a nice record of all your hikes. In the future my phone will be for contact only and the GPX files will get uploaded later to alltrails. Check it out.
If you're on there already, lets 'friend' each other so I can live vicariously through your hikes when I'm not on the trail and vice versa. PM me if interested.

12-18-2014, 12:34
I don't know about trail or topo GPS apps for the iphone, but my TomTom road app really uses up the battery fast if not plugged in. Note that the TomTom app has all of the maps on the phone, so battery usage is not related to downloading data.

Tennessee Viking
12-18-2014, 16:25
I mostly use EveryTrail. Works pretty well for documenting trail issues. Its not real detailed in giving exact GPS data. But it will track your route pretty well when you have signal. And you can publish and locate photos along your route. You can invite your family and friends to visit your profile to track your progress.

It is a bit of a battery or data hog for long walks. You have to set your pings and intervals just right. Once every minute or two.

Other than that, you may want to look at GPS watches.

12-18-2014, 16:34
I've looked at them all, and I believe Guthook's app is the most accurate and useful. It give location on the trail and shelter/water info. For the AT, it's the "ATHiker"

12-18-2014, 16:46
It is important to find apps, that are not battery hogs.

You didn't say what you have:

Is it Apple? Is it Google Play: Android?

If your phone relies on cell phone towers, probably not.

If your phone has an internal GPS, it will function.

How big is the display?

12-18-2014, 22:09
The GPS apps for phones are not intended to run constantly. They are more for occasional reference. I've used ATHiker to check my location, once to see if I inadvertently gotten off the trail, which I did, and to check my distance from a shelter.

The rest of the time it's turned off.

12-18-2014, 22:18
Thanks for all the input so far.
I have an android phone (Samsung Galaxy S4). It has a fairly large display. I would use the phone only in rocky areas where the AT path is not "visible" and not well blazed. It doesn't seem to use much power in airplane mode. Based on what several folks here have recommended I may purchase Guthook's app for the AT and give it a try. I live near Hot Springs not far from the AT. There's a rocky section of trail that's about a mile long on the ridge between Allen gap and Devil's fork gap that I'm very familiar with. I can give it a try up there and see how it goes.

12-19-2014, 00:39

Here are, reputedly, excellent shaded topographic maps of the AT.

12-19-2014, 12:10

Here are, reputedly, excellent shaded topographic maps of the AT.

Reputedly by whom? I only see one review on Amazon by a hiker's wife.

Although the ATC maps cost more overall, they usually have relos in advance of their construction. I'm not sure how Scott handle this.

12-19-2014, 14:45
I have shaded topographic maps in color, in my Topo Maps app. But it is Apple iOS only. I have an iPod Touch 5G. The OP has an Android phone. I do not know of an app, for an Android device, that has shaded topographic apps in color. The link is to a digital edition of shaded topographic maps in color.

[There are also elevation profiles.]

I thought the OP could print out only the parts of the digital maps he could use.

I suggested it, only because a display on a cellphone is relatively small. But, if he has an Android PDF app, he could see it, and, turn from page to page in the PDF.

I would like to know of a digital shaded topographic map in color, in an Android app. I would recommend it, for having all the terrain, in a topographic map with roads and dirtroads, and, alternate trails, nearby the trail. That would be ideal.

I said, reputably, because the "postholer" topographic maps are supposed to be new, not 50-year old topographic maps. I did ask for more information. How are they "new" topographic maps.

Is there new datum? No answer, so far, so I said "reputably".

12-19-2014, 15:59
Reputedly by whom? I only see one review on Amazon by a hiker's wife. Although the ATC maps cost more overall, they usually have relos in advance of their construction. I'm not sure how Scott handle this.

....a bit off topic, but here goes.

The AT maps were completely overhauled in the second edition. They are awesome. Roads, trails, boundaries, shelters, trailheads, etc, tons of additions and improvements. They were released in October, thus the lack of reviews.

I use the ATC trace and it is known to miss some new construction.

The difference between all postholer maps and the old scanned maps, first and foremost is just that. The old maps are 'scanned from old paper maps and printed'. It's a huge difference. The old contours are hand or machine drawn on paper. That paper sat on shelfs for years, then they were scanned. The quality is low. Digitzied contours come from aircraft/satellite radar data and stored as raster and/or vector data used to eletroncally draw super clean contours. The difference is enormous, with any contour interval you choose.

The water data in digitized maps, water bodies, flow lines, glaciers, areas of innundation, etc, etc, are collected in a similar way to contours, to be stored digitally, then drawn clean and crisp, how you choose.

Old landcover was hand drawn to represent the general area of vegetaion, printed once, scanned decades later and printed. Again, the new land cover was collected by satellite showing not just general vegetation. but exact boundaries by type, evergreen, dicidous, mixed, shrub, grasses, etc.

GNIS place names are updated weekly. The old scanned maps NEVER get updated, not since they were printed, sometimes as much as 50 years ago.

Looking at the map below an astute map afficionado will ask themselves, "How did he get the ridge labels to follow the ridge line without drawing by hand?". The new maps are a huge difference over the old ones.