Monday, December 11, 2017

For SUV adventures, your smart phone or tablet can replace a dedicated GPS unit

For easy backcountry navigation using our plug-and-play GPS data, many of our wildland-travel clients are switching from dedicated GPS units to smartphones and tablets, both Android and iOS.

Detailed GPX tracks make backcountry navigation easy.
These devices are equipped with GPS sensors, which is why Google Maps can provide directions and routing. This does not require an internet connection or cell service; it relies on GPS satellites. That makes is easy to follow the plug-and-play "tracks" we provide.

But sunlight screen readability can be a problem. (See our post on that issue.)

Using your smart phone or tablet can require one of the many inexpensive GPX/GPS map apps available from the Apple or Google Play stores. (We use Android devices, and prefer the app GPX Viewer Pro, by Vectura Games.)

For optimal use, before heading into the outback, you will need to download offline maps (a Google Maps option, and usually an option within your chosen app) to your device. That will provide maps for offline use (no internet or cell service).

Note: Downloaded offline maps are not necessary to follow a pre-loaded GPX track like those we provide. (GPX is a universal, non-proprietary format). Simply keep the little pointer on the track as you drive or ride.

During a trip to revisit wildland routing in our backcountry-travel guidebook California Desert Byways (Tony Huegel; Wilderness Press), we loaded GPX tracks and waypoints for the locations we needed to visit. Among them: tracks we provide to guide adventure-motorcycle and SUV travelers from Southern California to Heart of the West Adventure Route.

Our devices were:

-- a Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone; and
-- a Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 tablet.

Both were mounted on ourToyota 4Runner's windshield using versatile RAM suction mounts.

And yes, we did bring along a dedicated GPS unit (Garmin Montana 600), and our trusted Benchmark Road & Recreation Atlas for California and a selection of relevant maps by AAA affiliate Automobile Club of Southern California (ACSC).

As always, simply following the GPX tracks and keeping an eye on the waypoints (point-of-interest markers) we wanted to reach was far more efficient than stopping frequently to double-check our progress on paper maps.

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