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I've used EveryTrail and was satisfied but am looking for something better... What are the features I should focus on for selecting an app? What bells and whistles are really useful on the trail?

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Questions asking for mobile/computer programs to do software recommendations & such are off-topic, as per the current policy. Perhaps someone can raise this on Meta Great Outdoors if you/they feel this should be on topic. –  studiohack Mar 7 '12 at 19:16
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Presuming we make this on topic for software, the question needs a bit of work. Perhaps it would be better as a compare/contrast. As it stands it's instant wiki material and does not appear to have a objectively determinable "correct" answer. –  Russell Steen Mar 7 '12 at 20:14
    
@RussellSteen i see your point, i would rework it. –  David Lozzi Mar 8 '12 at 13:43
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Follow the meta chat about this topic meta.outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/191/… –  David Lozzi Mar 8 '12 at 13:43
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These rei.com/category/40006518 and rei.com/category/4500525 are really useful on the trail. –  LBell Mar 21 '12 at 11:32

3 Answers 3

Battery consumption is determined by the software, too. Some stuff polls for new data, some takes GPS readings more often then others, etc.

Honestly, I do not consider using a smartphone app for hiking or getting out into the backcountry. For too many of them you need network connectivity, battery life is a real issue (compared to dedicated GPS devices), and they're fragile. I do carry a GPS but I keep it switched off unless I need it (or to mark significant spots, after which it's turned off again). Sometimes I carry a Spot, depending on what I'm doing and where I'm going.

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As Rory says, low power consumption is vital, but that's likely not determined by the software, but rather by the hardware and - more importantly - how you use it.

The three key things for me in Smartphone GPS map systems are these.

  • Can download maps to the device, rather than stream. (And I wouldn't trust anything claiming to just 'cache' streamed maps, because there's no guarantee that it won't randomly decide to un-cache them again)
  • Can work with 'real' maps. In the UK this means Ordnance Survey or Harveys.
  • Display current coordinates in grid system of your choice. e.g. OS Grid, not Lat and Long.

(This may just a long-winded way of saying 'Anything except google maps!')

But really, it depends on how you plan to use it. I travel with map, compass and brain as my primary nav. tools, and keep phone as a backup. On longer hikes it's usually switched off in an Aloksak bag, but on day hikes I may keep it running and recording my track.

FWIW, I use ViewRanger on a Motorola Defy, and I'm very pleased with both. Viewranger on iPad3 looks stunning, but you wouldn't normally want to take one with you on a hike...

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Thanks, i'll check it out! –  David Lozzi May 7 '12 at 12:25

In my opinion, the single best feature would be low battery consumption. You only really need a gps and map, so having a low consumption version of these would win for me, possibly with local maps rather than trying to download each section.

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I agree. Power is the scarcest resource once away from developed areas. –  Russell Steen Apr 30 '12 at 20:40

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