Over a year ago AlanD and I wrote Instructions for using iPhone as Backpacking GPS/Mapping device.
The article now shows up in the first few hits if you google the words iphone and backpacking. We invested time in this article for the sole purpose of providing useful information to backpackers, we have no ads or revenue. Hopefully cuts through the clutter in most app reviews which are simple rehashing of each app's marketing material and don't drill down on the unique needs of backpackers.
We also published a list of all the iPhone mapping/gps apps I've evaluated. When I learn about an app I've missed I put it on my list to evaluate, and try to get to it when I have a chunk of time (it's not a fast process).
I have made some effort over the past year to keep the article and the list current, which is a fairly time consuming task, since there are so many new apps and new versions of old apps. In the next month I hope to update the article and list of apps. A few things I plan to update in the article:
- The info applies to iPhone models 4 and 4S and 5
- iPad (iPad, iPad2, iPad Mini) with WIFI only has no GPS chip. All iPad models that have 3G or Cellular ALSO have GPS chip and behave like an iPhone.
- ViewRanger recently fixed the battery drain problems in their app, so it's now a viable candidate (and quite possibly the best candidate for National Agency maps for many European countries). My original comments about ViewRanger are now completely inaccurate.
- Gaia GPS has made numerous improvements and is now clearly superior to GPS Kit or MotionX, which IMO are no longer worthwhile for a newcomer to spend time evaluating.
- The UK Map app provides OS maps, but they aren't the gold-standard Explorer/ViewRanger series maps (I didn't realize that at the time)
Things I need help with:
- As far as I know, the battery drain problem with a Verizon device is still true: you can't disengage the Verizon cellular service without concurrently disengaging the GPS. This is a absolutely critical issue for backpackers, and I want to be 100% confident that I'm still correct about this. If you have a Verizon iPhone and you have found a solution, then PLEASE send me a link to the instructions for how to do this! You'll know you have a solution if you have the GPS enabled (you can open a mapping app and display your current location) and still maintain a background battery drain (phone asleep, but not shut off, and all battery conservation measures described in the article are in place) on the order of 1% per 24 hour period.
- Is anything in the list of all the iPhone mapping/gps apps inaccurate? I worry that new versions of some of the apps I evaluated make my comments obsolete. I'd like corrections to data in that table, and also will consider adding apps if you give me the necessary info. (List of evaluation criteria is in the yellow section at the bottom of the table.)
- I'd like to provide more information about the best apps for National Agency maps for different countries. I've got good info on apps for US (USGS), Canada (NRCan), and New Zealand (LINZ). I've got info about ViewRanger and the countries it covers. I know about Mud Map for Australia. I could use help identifying other viable apps that provide National Agency maps. Also, for the European countries for which ViewRanger provides access to National Agency maps, is ViewRanger the only viable app, or are there others that are as good or better?
Thanks much for any help, Amy
P.S. please don't side-track this post with discussions about why one ought or ought not use electronics, or why Android or Garmin or whatever are better solutions. My goal is to assemble the best info possible about how to use iPhone as a gps tool while backpacking for those folks who choose that path :)