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Using a Smartphone as GPS on the Trail ?
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Larry Swearingen
(Larry_Swearingen) - M

Locale: NE Indiana
Using a Smartphone as GPS on the Trail ? on 05/06/2014 10:28:10 MDT Print View

OK, so I thought I might be able to consolidate some standalone items
by going to a Smart Phone (Android Razr M, gps, mp3 player and cellphone.
I bought the Gaia gps app and was figuring out how to use it with imported
waypoints for the CDT.
Big Problem !
I can't see a damn thing on the screen while outside in the Sun making it virtually
unusable, except at night maybe.
Does anyone actually use a smartphone like this, with the exception of Wired ?
Any suggestions ? I tried cupping my hand over the screen to shade it but no go.
Still doesn't work. I've got the Screen brightness turned all the way up too.
Sucks more battery power that way too.


Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Using a Smartphone as GPS on the Trail ? on 05/06/2014 10:56:20 MDT Print View

I don't have this problem. What smartphone are you using?

Dave Grey
(dapperdave) - F
Re: Using a Smartphone as GPS on the Trail ? on 05/06/2014 10:58:23 MDT Print View

I Have used Gaia and Orux maps on a Motorola Atrix and Samsung GS4, sunlight legibility could be a lot better, but it is still usable.
Note that screens have a polarizing layer, so using polarizing sunglasses will reduce legibility as will having a dirty screen.
Standing with your back to the sun helps somewhat.


Terry G
(delvxe) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
smartphone gps on 05/06/2014 11:27:20 MDT Print View

Absolutely. I use the heck out of my phone for GPS. Iphone using gaia gps.

Larry Swearingen
(Larry_Swearingen) - M

Locale: NE Indiana
smartphone as a gps on 05/06/2014 11:45:29 MDT Print View

So how do you see anything on the screen ?
BTW I don't use Polarized lenses in my glasses. I got new glasses
with Transition (photogrey) lenses before my trip.


Larry Swearingen
(Larry_Swearingen) - M

Locale: NE Indiana
what phone ? on 05/06/2014 11:49:35 MDT Print View

Droid Razor M

bayden cline
(pyro_) - F

Locale: Ontario Canada
iphone on 05/06/2014 11:53:16 MDT Print View

I use my Iphone 4 in combination with my garmin Fenix. It can be difficult to read the screen unless i turn up the brightness quite a bit. Once i do this though there are no issues with seeing it

Jim H
(jraiderguy) - M

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: on 05/06/2014 12:55:16 MDT Print View

I use my Galaxy S4. A matte screen protector combined with using my hat so the phone is in shade when viewing seems to do the job. Even though it uses more battery, I keep the brightness all the way up, since I'm only turning it on for a few seconds every now and then.

Going from memory, the latest iphone has the maximum brightness overall, but the Nokia Lumia fared best in outdoor viewing tests (not sure the Nokia has the same app availability as iphone/android though). The latest Galaxy S5 also does fairly well in sunlight, and was the best at night (allows for lowest brightness setting). Some fairly detailed testing and specs can be found on the web. The nice thing about the Samsung line is the availability of 3rd party oversize batteries. I have a battery that is 3x the stock size, so I can get through 4 days of use with only the GPS turned on and cached maps in the Backcountry Navigator app, as well as continuous track logging in the Google MyTracks app. I don't use it as a camera/mp3/etc though.

Edited by jraiderguy on 05/06/2014 12:58:23 MDT.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: smartphone as a gps on 05/06/2014 12:57:50 MDT Print View

Tru-Fit antiglare filter. Works extremely well, even in direct sunlight.

Dave Grey
(dapperdave) - F
Re: Using a Smartphone as GPS on the Trail ? on 05/06/2014 13:52:17 MDT Print View


You mentioned you had downloaded waypoints, did you download maps for offline use?
Might be useful to take a screenshot while outside and post it here.


Joe Lynch
(rushfan) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: smartphone as a gps on 05/06/2014 22:37:49 MDT Print View

I use a nexus 7 outdoors every day for work. A good anti glare screen protector makes a huge difference. I've had good results with Bodyguardz.

Scott S
(sschloss1) - F

Locale: New England
Smartphone on 05/07/2014 05:58:05 MDT Print View

We used a smartphone as our GPS on the CDT. But unlike most, we only used it when we were legitimately lost. That averaged out to about once a week. The rest of the time it was off, so battery and screen visibility were not problems for us.

Um, if you can't see your screen in the sun, just find a shady spot or lean over so that the screen is in your shadow. Plus try turning up your screen brightness. We had a pretty old phone with a mediocre screen and never had a problem with it.

Larry Swearingen
(Larry_Swearingen) - M

Locale: NE Indiana
Anti Glare Filter on 05/07/2014 06:12:27 MDT Print View

I've ordered a Tru-Fit antiglare filter.
I'll see if that makes it any better.

Thanks all,


Jon Leibowitz
(jleeb) - F - MLife

Locale: 4Corners
GPS? on 05/07/2014 07:53:21 MDT Print View

Just out of curiosity, are y'all simply using the chip inside your cell phone for GPS? Is it true GPS? Does it work when you are nowhere near cell service?? Or are you buying a GPS Dongle for better accuracy?

Also, how do you recharge? Are you brining solar panels for longer trips?

I'm considering upgrading my iPhone for this exact reason and would love some insight. Thanks!

Dan Dru
(Dandru) - F

Locale: Down Under
Re: GPS? on 05/07/2014 08:46:05 MDT Print View

On my last off track walk, my friend and I were both navigating one day, she had an IPhone 5 and I had a Garmin Etrex 20. The IPhone 5 was as good the Etrex in following the planned route, which I was surprised to see because my iPhone 4S is hopeless in comparison. I'm assuming they upgrade the GPS chip with the newer phone models, so the iPhone 6 GPS chip should be even better.

I forgot to say the Garmin is brought along because of battery life, whereas the iPhone is charged with a Powertraveller, we didn't get much sun during the trip so we struggled to get power into the phone whereas the Etrex had enough Lithium batteries for the nine days of walking,

Edited by Dandru on 05/07/2014 09:02:47 MDT.

Scott Musack

Locale: Oregon
Re: GPS? on 05/07/2014 08:55:39 MDT Print View

A smartphone GPS is every bit as good and effective as a standalone GPS - it's the same technology exactly. No cell towers needed.

Of course, just as with a GPS, you will need to load up maps before heading out (if you are out of cell tower range, if you are).

To answer the original poster, I set my S4 to max brightness and can easily read the screen in sunlight.

I also put my phone into airplane mode to turn off all antenna's and then turn on the GPS only. This improves battery life significantly. I can go probably 10 hours a day actively tracking with GPS over two days before I need to recharge or swap batteries (which is a huge plus of samsung over apple).

Marc Shea
(FlytePacker) - F

Locale: Cascades
Topocharger on 05/07/2014 08:56:25 MDT Print View

This looks interesting as it provides a charge for your phone and provides maps without data connection or taking up phone memory.

Downside...its $149.

Jim H
(jraiderguy) - M

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: on 05/07/2014 09:00:31 MDT Print View


others type faster than i do. :)

Edited by jraiderguy on 05/07/2014 09:01:32 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: GPS? on 05/07/2014 09:01:27 MDT Print View

I've been using an iPhone 4 with the Gaia app and have been quite pleased for the $20 investment.

Battery like is the issue if you want continuous tracking and putting it the day hiking category for me. If used for occasional spot checks it would be fine for longer trips and you get all the other phone features. You can certainly supplement it with external battery packs or solar chargers. The expensive color GPS models aren't big on battery life either.

Don't leave your map and compass behind. We were on a hike last summer and were asked directions by a small group of hikers who had no map or compass. They said that one of the group had a map on their phone, but erased it. Sounded like an SAR classic to me.

My iPhone will give latitude/longitude coordinates in the compass app which can be used in conjunction with a map with no further investment.

Joshua Abel
(Aberrix) - M
Gaia maps on 05/07/2014 12:20:38 MDT Print View

so Gaia maps are the "standard"? and worth the $20? thanks in advance.