Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Navigation App Review

I decided to do a review of two navigation apps.  My summits on the air activity takes me into some less traveled places to do my summits.  Planning is really important on some of these trips and I was frustrated with AllTrials because it doesn't have any markers on public/private land so doing advanced planning is difficult.  I've been thwarted a couple of times because my planned route took me into private land and I couldn't figure out how to re-plan or if I could walk around the property.  There is a web site out there that shows some boundary info but it's a pain to use. So here goes...

I downloaded the top two apps that have have had very high ratings by others and recommended by guys that do my activity.  I've  been an AllTrails user for a while and really love it but it's time to look around.  In order to get the level of features I need, I purchased a pro subscription for both, under $60.  I need more experience in the field with GAIA and if anything substantially impacts my experience, I'll update this review.  So lets' get to it.

  • AllTrails Topo Maps
    Excellent mapping and my go too web site and app for IOS because it has more previous trails published.  It makes it easier to find a more likely non-bushwhack plan.  Satellite map is much better than GAIA as well as searching.  The search will find a lot more trails and public posted recordings as well as links to trail info for popular park routes.  The biggest thing this app is missing for me is the public lands overlay.  This would have helped me a couple of times when I drove out to a start only to find there was locked private land in the way.  You can't create a custom map in the app yet but you can create way-points.

    AllTrails Summary:  I started with this tool so it's hard to change but the lack of private land boundaries sucks.  It also won't allow you to create a map from the app.  It has much higher satellite resolution which can come in very handy when looking for trails.  Also, it has a lot more public recording available, without which I would not have been able to find a route through some areas and complete a mission.  Finally, I like the base map "AllTrails" better than the one that comes with GAIA.  They both allow you to overlay USGS (lower res).
  • GAIA web and IOS/Android app
    I'm just testing this now.  The one big thing that it has is a public lands overlay which helps you avoid private land in planning and operations phase.  I'm use to AllTrails so I find the UI not as intuitive but it may be better.  Also, the compass, elevation, and record button on the main map is much better way to integrate.  Map quality is about the same except for satellite.  The AllTrails Satellite is much higher resolution which helps in planning and operations phase of the hike.  You can create a route and way-points on the web or the app.  Creating a route has a cool feature that causes the route to "stick" to the trail or road if you want.  You can also edit routes, AllTrails only allows you to add routes to a map.  Sticky and editing can save a lot of time!

    GAIA Summary:  This may become my primary due to better map UI, creating maps on the app and the public land overlay.  I need to work through the issues of low resolution satellite and fewer public published routes. High resolution satellite has allowed me to find trails in advance (Laguna is a good example) and then find the small forks.  The base map from GAIA isn't as good as the one from AllTrails but it works.
  • Google Maps
    Google has really good terrain and best in class road.  The terrain maps have really good shading and nothing beats their satellite resolution which allows you to see individual rocks, cars, parking lot markers, etc.

Navigation App Summary.  
If you like to hike well established trails, or are looking for park trails etc, I recommend AllTrails.  If you are a little more hard core and or doing peak bagging or an activity like mine, you need both but if you have to save, GAIA has more features, and use free AllTrails for the community.   But here's a small update, I really want to like GAIA but every time I'm looking at going onto a new peak, something I do a lot, GAIA is useless compared to AllTrails.  Just today I brought up two mountains to the east of me on web versions of these services.  On AllTrails, I quickly got a lot of good info and a summary and had the trail loaded up and ready to go vs. GAIA that had nothing at all on both of these traveled spots.  On GAIA, I couldn't even find the trail on the maps so it's hit or miss but for now, the bottom line is AllTrails just works better, GAIA has a cool user interface.

I'm sticking with Alltrails.com and it is my #1 choice.


-- C  --
Chris Claborne

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