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Android Map App. with 1:24,000 Resolution TOPO?
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Daniel Russell

Locale: Creation
Android Map App. with 1:24,000 Resolution TOPO? on 03/19/2013 23:56:03 MDT Print View

Does this exist? I'm looking for topographic maps with 1:24k resolution if possible.

Should I just buy a different GPS?

Bob Gross, help!

Edited by Superfluous_Grizzly on 03/20/2013 10:50:26 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Android Map App. with 1:24,000 Resolution TOPO? on 03/20/2013 00:09:51 MDT Print View

I don't use Android apps.

If you are looking for a topo mapping app, that is one thing. TOPO! is different and has nothing to do with Android.

I use dedicated GPS receivers.


Dave Grey
(dapperdave) - F
Android on 03/20/2013 04:23:39 MDT Print View


I have used Gaia GPS, seems to work well, you can cache the CalTopo maps, check to assess the quality for yourself.

It's $10 but if you don't like it you can get a refund by contacting the developer, who is very active in working with you if you have any problems with your particular device.

Also, I use GPS Status which enables a manual download of up to date A-GPS data, which give the GPS information on the recent position of the satellites, which helps get a faster fix.


Daniel Russell

Locale: Creation
Good stuff! on 03/20/2013 09:25:15 MDT Print View

>>>TOPO! is different and has nothing to do with Android.

I'm not entirely sure what this means! What is TOPO!? :P

>>>I use dedicated GPS receivers.

Can you recommend a couple effective, and cost efficient receivers?

>>>Gaia GPS

Thanks Dave, I'll check that out.

Charles P
(mediauras) - F

Locale: Terra
Re: Good stuff! on 03/20/2013 10:45:18 MDT Print View

Also check out an app called BackCountry Navigation. Unlike Gaia you get a free 2 week trial. You can download caltopo maps for offline use as well as import others .gpx files. I've tried the app and it works pretty well. I haven't tried Gaia but I would think both have similar functionality and features.

Daniel Russell

Locale: Creation
TOPO! on 03/20/2013 10:49:22 MDT Print View

Nevermind on the first question Bob. I see TOPO! is software from Nat. Geo. after a google search.


Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Good stuff! on 03/20/2013 13:11:00 MDT Print View

"Can you recommend a couple effective, and cost efficient receivers?"

Garmin is the first brand name that comes to mind, since it is the market leader. Garmin has a broad product line, and there are Etrex models that sell for something around $100. I currently own three Garmins of different vintages.

There are many other brands, but few have the user interface worked out as finely as Garmin.

If you wander off into a completely different market other than for hiking, you will find other brand names, but they aren't relevant here.


Daniel Russell

Locale: Creation
Old school or new school on 03/20/2013 13:44:29 MDT Print View

>>>I currently own three Garmins of different vintages.

I have an older garmin for car navigation, model nuvi 205w. I uploaded some topo maps I found on The topo maps are nice but the garmin isnt very smooth. Are there certain garmins that are built around ease of use? Do newer garmins have better mapping capbilities? Sub $100 is my ideal range.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Old school or new school on 03/20/2013 14:29:14 MDT Print View

Garmin has been in that business for a long time, so it has had the time to polish the user interface. Not all Garmins have an identical interface, but once you understand the interface on one, you will easily pick up the interface on another. If you have a relatively recent model, like within five years old, if the user has an interface problem, it is generally because they didn't bother to read the user guide first.

Also, if you buy a GPS receiver that is intended purely for one application, like car navigation, and then if you try to use that for a completely different purpose, you are likely to find lots of interface problems mostly from your own head.

I have one Garmin model that can be set up to do car navigation, or else you can set it up differently to do hiking or geocaching or something else. It takes only a few seconds to switch it over from one to another. However, if the user forgets which way it is set up, then that makes problems as well.

"Do newer garmins have better mapping capbilities?"

Better than what? What kind of mapping capabilities do you seek?

The single biggest weakness of a typical GPS receiver is the small size and resolution of the display. You can see only maybe 1% of what you can see on a large paper topo map. As a result, I don't even try to make my GPS receiver compete with the large paper topo map.

The next biggest weakness is that of the map database. Typically there will be all sorts of minor errors in the database. If the company is giving away that database as a feature of the receiver, then that means one thing. If they are selling it, that means something different. Very few will do major updates of the map database simply because there is no profit in it. If you are a backpacker trying to follow a trail, you should not need very much of a mapping database. If you are trying to go off-trail, then topography gets much more important, but the topography is unlikely to be changing or needing updates.

Once every year, I try to do a head-down exercise where I watch only the GPS screen and try to go where I am going without looking at the surrounding terrain. Most of the time, I backpack purely head-up with the GPS receiver turned off.

To paraphrase Yogi Berra, "You can see a lot just by looking."

There is a lot to be gained by learning to read a topo map and do most of your navigation that way. The GPS receiver makes a good backup system since it will operate with no visibility or in bad weather. During bad weather or bad visibility is when humans need the most help, and that is where the implications of getting lost become the most severe.

My concern is that too many people can do land nav only with their face at a screen, and they can't effectively navigate by traditional methods. Once batteries crap out, they are in trouble.

I once hiked with a guy who had some Garmin model with a barometric altimeter feature. The question is: does the barometer adjust the GPS altitude, or does the GPS altitude adjust the barometer? The answer is that it could go either way, but if the user doesn't know how it is set up to function, then you don't know what you will get. This particular guy got into that situation, and he was cursing the receiver until he finally got frustrated and turned it off. Well, that was because he didn't read the book and try to understand.

I taught specialized GPS classes for almost 15 years, so I learned (1) how to get the best results out of my own receiver, (2) how to troubleshoot the other guy's receiver, and (3) how to teach the other guy so that he understood [and so he didn't bother us anymore].

Some of the worst cases of GPS understanding happened in some people with the highest educational level, so don't feel pregnant.


Daniel Russell

Locale: Creation
Re: Re: Old school or new school on 03/20/2013 17:25:04 MDT Print View

Wow thanks Bob, that was a lot to take in! I think I have had an epiphany as a result, and that is to not rely on a technological device when my life may be on the line. In my case, my life should not be on the line because I will be following trails. Nonetheless, I see it's importance as a back-up tool (as long as I know how to use it properly).
I learned how to read a topo map in a College Geography course a few years back, which has been very helpful since then. I think I'll just stick with physical topo maps and maybe find my user guide for the Garmin that I already own (and read it).

Andrew Johnson
(trailbehind) - F - MLife

Locale: San Pablo Park
Garmin UI on 03/20/2013 17:44:54 MDT Print View

"Garmin has been in that business for a long time, so it has had the time to polish the user interface."

I think that one of the most striking differences between most good iPhone/Android GPS apps and a Garmin is the UI. Regardless of how long Garmin has been in business, "User Interface" is not their strong suit, which is a legacy of having to iterate hardware. It's not just the nice screen that makes iPhones easier to use than Garmins - the UIs are much better because of the medium used to create them.

Garmins are rugged, have good batteries, proprietary maps, and high GPS precision. On the other hand, Garmin UI was still in the dark ages last time I used one (5 years ago). Which was a fundamental reason why I made an iPhone app.

When the user has issues with a device because they didn't read the user manual, I regard that as primarily a flaw in the design of the device. I've never read a user manual in my life, not for a toaster, video game, Garmin, or anything else. If it's not IKEA furniture or a software API, I'm not reading the directions.

Edited by trailbehind on 03/20/2013 17:53:51 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Garmin UI on 03/20/2013 19:33:44 MDT Print View

Andrew, spoken like a true software nerd.


joseph peterson
(sparky) - F

Locale: Southern California
Android Map App. with 1:24,000 Resolution TOPO? on 03/21/2013 22:14:53 MDT Print View

What I do is download USGS topos onto my phone. It works great and has actually helped me out of a jam a couple times.

Jim H
(jraiderguy) - M

Locale: Puget Sound
Google My Tracks? on 03/22/2013 09:34:45 MDT Print View

The app from Google called "My Tracks" just updated today, and finally allows import of KML files (google earth files). I haven't tested it for backcountry use, but if KML import works well, it would be possible in theory to have your route on the map and then just follow it. Here's the site for the app (

Also, Overland Navigator is regarded as one of the better "cottage" GPS softwares, but it is developed by an enthusiast of overlanding (off-road backcountry vehicle travel/expedition). It sounds like he is developing version 3.0 for iOS only.

There's also Backcountry Navigator (, which does have an android version. I haven't tried it yet, but it is generally well reviewed on forums. People often say it is full features, but maybe not the cleanest possible UI. It looks like its been updated since I last looked into it though.

There's probably a learning curve with whatever system you choose. Personally, I'm going to see if I can use Google My Tracks to follow a path imported via KML. If that works, it might be enough for me. If not, I'll try Backcountry Navigator. I'm not sure what maps are built into each, but it shouldn't take long to mess with each and see.

Edited by jraiderguy on 03/22/2013 09:35:43 MDT.

Benjamin Brillat

Locale: Northeast USA
Backcountry Navigator and Paper on 03/28/2013 13:56:09 MDT Print View

I use Backcountry Navigator Pro on my Android phone and tablet. It's awesome. You can pull many different map database sources, so strictly speaking for the OP question, the map resolution isn't a function of the app but what maps you want to use.

The thing that makes Backcountry Navigator superior for me is that I travel somewhere every week for work. I can reach in my pocket and have a topo map to anywhere in the world after a quick download, and get in some fun hikes wherever I am. I've been able to use it not just in the USA but in India and Europe as well. Works great both on my phone and on my Nexus 7 tablet, which is nice to have a larger map format.

However, when I'm actually going out someplace serious... I buy a local map. It might be super convenient to have my Android phone, but a paper map and my Suunto MC-2G Compass are always going to get me back out of the woods.

Jim H
(jraiderguy) - M

Locale: Puget Sound
Backcountry Navigator on 03/28/2013 14:09:13 MDT Print View

Thanks for the thoughts on Backcountry Navigator. I think I'll check it out. I tend to spend lots of time exploring various maps before hikes, just for the fun of it, so it would be nice to have a GPS app to plot POIs and stuff. I don't currently carry a stand-alone GPS, but I do always carry my cell phone because I'm afraid to leave much in my car after a couple break-ins over the years.

Nelson Sherry

Locale: Mid-Willamette Valley
Re: Backcountry Navigator and Paper on 03/28/2013 22:38:12 MDT Print View

+1 for BackCountry Navigator