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Droid on the Trail
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Chris Roane
(chrisroane) - MLife

Locale: North Rockies
Droid on the Trail on 01/27/2011 11:37:02 MST Print View

I have a Droid X that I want to start bringing on my backpacking trips. Below lists out what I want to do with it. If you have any software suggestions for any of these purposes, let me know.

- I don't need a tracking or a map application. But I would like to figure out the gps coordinates of where I am at (if I need to), so I can reference that point on a map. Is there software that does this (only using the GPS function)? I would only do this if I thought I might be lost or on the wrong trail.

- I want to take some video/photos using the camera.

- I want to use Google Sky Map to look at the stars. I've done research on this, but I can't seem to find a definitive answer: Can I use this application when I only have GPS on (no cell tower reception)?

- Listen to music on occasion.

- I might use it to read books.

The other big question I have is what do you suggest I use for more battery power? After doing some research on it, I have it down to two options that are fairly reasonable (but let me know if you have other opinions on this). For what I am using this for, it is not a huge deal if I run out of power for the phone.

1. Battery Supply:

2. Solar Charger: Freeloader Pico Solar Rechargeable iPhone Charger

Your opinions would be appreciated!

Jeffrey McConnell
GPS and skymap on 01/27/2011 20:13:42 MST Print View

Hey Chris,

I found an article here: that describes how to use your phone as a standalone GPS. I'm not sure how well it works. As for the google skymap app, I haven't found a definitive answer either, but I think google maps requries cellular service, so the skymap app may be similar. Let me know if you ever find the answer.

* I just put my phone in airplane mode with GPS enabled to test it and the skymap app appeared to be working, but google maps did not.

Edited by Catalyst on 01/27/2011 20:20:14 MST.

Corey Downing
(hardcorey) - MLife

Locale: Denver
Maps and Skymap on 01/27/2011 20:27:05 MST Print View

The new google maps is a little better about offline usage, but would be unreliable as an only map.

I am pretty sure the Skymap works just with GPS and magnetometer, doesn't need to be connected. I know I've used it on trips before, can't recall if I had signal or not, but it seems to work fine at home in airplane mode.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Droid X thoughts on 01/27/2011 20:55:12 MST Print View

I have a Droid X I plan to use in the same way, but unfortunately have little experience with it thus far to share. One app you might consider is a voice recorder; I forget the name but I found a nice freeware one on the app market and have already found this useful while hiking.

Just getting UTM coordinates isn't hard, I think a lot of freeware apps will do that; I don't recall which ones as I haven't been working with this aspect much (I'm carrying a standalone GPS on my upcoming trip).

Photos: the built-in software seems fine to me, I particularly like their panorama assist.

Google Sky Map: I'm not sure either, but it's pretty easy to test --- there's a tool out there called "Advanced Settings" that allows you to turn off the cell phone "radio" (while nominally still not putting you into "airplane mode"). Likley a useful tool in general.

You might also consider getting the "flashlight app". Obviously a hideous thing to use for battery life, but if it's dark and your normal flashlight is dead or lost ..

Books: I like the Aldiko book reader, you might have a look at that.

Battery power: two other options to consider are (a) carry one or more spare batteries, and (b) search the web for ideas on how to reduce power drain. There's a lot of stuff that a smartphone likes to do automagically that can suck power; with some study you can likely reduce that factor to get more out of your phone.

Serge Giachetti
(sgiachetti) - M

Locale: Boulder, CO
cyborg backpacking on 01/28/2011 00:16:23 MST Print View

+ one on extra batteries. i tried a large external but the capacity was about half of spec it weighed more andwas larger than bringing extras. I'm planning to use a chargers lightweight external chargers for towns on an AT thru this spring. Obviously this only works if you route takes you thru town or power source, although id say for trips less than a week you should b able to stretch 3 to 4 batteries to last you.

Aldiko is great. Lots of free classics and such.

gaia-good detailed downloadable maps w gps.

get in the habit of geotagging photos. i can't seem to remember to do this myself but embedding photos/video into google earth is a great way to share your trips with others.

Chris Roane
(chrisroane) - MLife

Locale: North Rockies
Response on 01/28/2011 08:03:53 MST Print View

Jeff: That's a great article on making your cellphone a complete GPS unit. Honestly the life on my Droid X is just not good enough IMO for me to consider this as an option (to have it on 100% of the time on the trail tracking everywhere I go. But it might be useful if I want to know exactly where I am at, at certain times.

Brian: I'll take a look at the Advanced Settings app. I have used several flashlight apps....but I really doubt my photon light is going to go out soon. :)

Thanks everyone for the tip on just using extra batteries. Doing a quick search on it, I can get a new battery for $10 on Amazon: . For how I am using the phone, I don't think I would need more than 3 batteries for a week long trip (which includes the one in the phone). Also, this is way more convenient than having to use a solar charger or batter pack to charge my phone when it is drained...AND this is a cheap option.

Also, just as an FYI for anyone interested. I did some research on getting a waterproof case. They are definitely out there, but they are expensive. I think what I am going to do is just use a freezer zip lock bag to store the phone and just be careful in how I handled it.

Chris Benson
(roguenode) - F

Locale: Boulder
simple gps app on 01/28/2011 08:38:01 MST Print View

I haven't tried all of the free ones, but I've been happy with GPSTest for gps position.

Jake Palmer
(jakep_82) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Backcountry Navigator on 01/28/2011 10:31:29 MST Print View

You may also want to look at an app called Backcountry Navigator. It allows you to download topo maps and use your phone as a regular GPS without cell service.