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  • Best GPS app for iPhone

    Just joined the 21st century and got my fist smartphone, an iPhone. Which GPS app is best for backcountry travel? Saw one recommendation for MotionX- waddyathink?
    Reluctant enthusiast, part-time crusader, half-hearted fanatic

  • #2
    first warning--whatever you use, it's a huge power suck. consider a backup battery
    i like motion x, but it drained my battery from 100% to nil in four hours flat.
    andrew

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    • #3
      SkiTracks https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/ski-...365724094?mt=8

      Like Caffrey says this stuff eats batteries but it sure is fun.

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      • #4
        I also recently joined the iphone cult. Hopefully I'm correct in understanding what you're after, what I'm referring to here is more of a mapping application rather than a 'gps app'. I have been quite impressed with the ease of use and functionality of the free Avenza PDF Maps app. The pdf maps are sourced online and downloaded to Dropbox via my computer (happily, the province of British Columbia has made its entire collection of 1:20,000 maps available for free online, and I think there is a lot available for the rest of the country). Purchased maps are available from Avenza but I haven't needed to look into this. Then I just upload the maps from Dropbox to Avenza while I have connectivity and I'm good to go. I haven't noticed it using much battery power, although maybe that's because I haven't done any continuous tracking with it yet, and instead have so far limited use to just checking in a few times during a tour. I now leave my stand alone gps at home on day tours, with the only drawback being that I have to take my gloves off to operate the iphone. I'm finding that between Avenza and a pre-cached Google Earth flyover of the area I'm skiing, the phone is a powerful tool for backcountry navigation, with the caveat that I still carry paper maps, compass and altimeter in case (or when) it lets me down.

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        • #5
          Right. The reason that a cellular gps sucks power is that it is downloading maps on demand whereas a normal gps has them preloaded. I didn't know about Avenza but it seems to address that.

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          • #6
            Gia GPS is the best I've ever used. Works better than my buddies Garmin. Preloaded maps are free and they have all kinds of different layers. I paid 20 bucks and don't regret it a bit. The iPhone still uses a ton of battery even with preloaded maps and data turned off so I bought a backup power cell. Keep your iPhone warm too, they will go completely dead in seconds in sub zero temps.

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            • #7
              I switched to Ski Tracks this year, see zonca's link... was using My Tracks. Really cool app for sure!
              Was using My Tracks for a couple of years, still have it and have gone back to it a couple times for comparison to Ski Tracks. It seems to use less batteries but I didn't honestly quantify that, could have been that My Tracks worked into lower battery range where as Ski Tracks stopped and gave me a warning and a change settings message if i wanted it to keep tracking when battery was extremely low. That could be helpful in not using up the last of the battery in a bc situation where you really didn't want to leave yourself with no phone.

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              • #8
                ^^^ Bike Tracks is same same (summer app). Of all the apps I have used this one is the least greedy on the battery for sure (in fact very good).

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                • #9
                  So the best app for backcountry travel is still a map and compass?

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                  • #10
                    so re ski tracks- is that more for ski resort stuff, or why would you need/want a ski-specific one for backcountry travel?
                    Reluctant enthusiast, part-time crusader, half-hearted fanatic

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                    • #11
                      I've used MotionX on my iPhone for a couple of years and I'm happy with. I also find that 4-5 hours seems to be the limit for the battery if route tracking is turned on. However, if it's only used to obtain your position occasionally, it'll last all day and then some. If you need all-day route tracking, get a power pack for your iPhone. They're cheap and add a lot of power/time.

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                      • #12
                        I definitely don't use the apps like a map or compass, especially true if I'm in unfamiliar country. I am amazed at how spot on google maps / earth is on a phone at times. I compared phone GPS to Trimble unit I was using for work this spring and was quite impressed with google satellite imagery/map phone performance. No phone doesn't replace map compass but I rarely grab my garmin GPS unit anymore when heading out.
                        Ski tracks not just for resort action. Very cool to see breakdown of ascent / descent, speeds etc... I've actually mainly used ski tracks for nordic tours this year. I like tracking mileage, time, elevation on all tours as sort of a journal. These apps are great for that. Export them to kmz file for google earth viewing is also a plus. For years I tracked everything with pencil paper, maps etc... I love this new technology that simplifies that process yet adds so much for the modern computer age. I love looking at the year end tours in total on google maps. Cool stuff that retro grouches should embrace, of course that would mean less to grumble about or having to learn new terms to use in grouch rants.
                        Last edited by j_w; 5 January 2014, 10:33 AM.

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                        • #13
                          I use ski tracks all year long, it works well for hiking and biking too. You can set the low battery point at which it will stop. Default is 20%, IIRC, but I set mine to 10%. I also use Motion-X GPS and like it too. Not sure which one sucks more juice.

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