Maps on your phone (cheap or free)

Mike K

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Jul 6, 2012
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I've been wanting to try out just taking my phone (Galaxy S5) only on backpacking trips. I've been lazy and never picked a Map/Navigation app.

Do you guys know which mapping apps have free maps to download to your phone? Or do they all cost money? I'm ok with buying an app for $10-$25 if it includes free maps, but I hate getting nickled and dimed and having to pay a monthly / yearly fee...or having to pay for the app AND the maps.

The ones I was specifically looking at are:

Gaia
Backcountry Navigator Pro
- I just started reading here this about this app.
Trimble Outdoors Navigator - actually installed this last night but LOOKS like it's $2.99/month to be Elite and be able to download maps.
 

Mike K

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Jul 6, 2012
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I sent @Blake Merrell a quick question and he gave me a quick response! He said:

I use Backcountry Navigator and love it. it does use CalTopo maps and they are free to use. The app does suggest to those that use CalTopo often to donate some $$ to the CalTopo owners, which I think is fair.

I am pretty much using my 5S for everything now. It has worked as a pretty good GPS on my latest canyoneering and backpacking trips, I love how it lets me download topo maps, and satellite imagery to my phone. (I have all of the Wind Rivers, Uintahs, and Wasatch Front downloaded to my SD card on my phone!

Did you get the Pro version?
 

Mike K

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Jul 6, 2012
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=) Sounds like everyone has their preference. I just pulled the trigger on BackCountry Navigator TOPO GPS (pro) and chose the CalTop 24K maps as my default. Fumbling through the intro screens now. Wish me luck!
 

Blake Merrell

Life Elevated - Rising Higher
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Feb 25, 2013
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=) Sounds like everyone has their preference. I just pulled the trigger on BackCountry Navigator TOPO GPS (pro) and chose the CalTop 24K maps as my default. Fumbling through the intro screens now. Wish me luck!
Good luck! Let me know if you have any questions. I use that app all the time now.
 

River

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Jan 26, 2012
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BackCountry Navigator on the S5 is all I use these days too. You'll love it once you've used it a bit. Pick up a couple spare batteries on Amazon and a decent case.
 

Blake Merrell

Life Elevated - Rising Higher
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Feb 25, 2013
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X2 about the spare batteries and a good case. I also have a charger for the batteries that I can use with a solar charger for long trips.
 

Mike K

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Jul 6, 2012
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That's a cool gadget to charge!

Well, I got a book downloaded, plenty of tunes, I got the mapping app installed, some maps tiles cached (I hope - still need to figure out if it saved on my SD or my phone), got some waypoints and a track uploaded...I think I'm good to go. I'm curious to see how much life I get out of my battery. A spare or two will be good for longer trips. Luckily, this trip is straight forward and I won't even really need the navigation app. Thanks guys. I'll let you know how it goes.
 

River

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Jan 26, 2012
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Be sure to put your phone in airplane mode to make the battery last longer.
 

Vegan.Hiker

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Jul 5, 2014
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I started using Gaia recently on the iPhone 6 and I think it's great. Works in airplane mode to conserve battery. I map my routes on it beforehand and record my tracks when I'm out there. $20 one time fee for Pro and it does everything I want and has tons of maps to choose from.

I have also tried MotionX but like Gaia better.
 

Nick

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I like being able to cache both sat and topo layers in Gaia. Not sure if the others do that. The sat layer can really help with route finding sometimes, or even finding a beach at the lake.
 

Bob

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Mar 3, 2013
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Backcountry Pro...... ArcGIS.......PDF Maps........ Google Earth .......... Google Maps. used all of these a time or two in Wildland Fire work. Each has it's pluses and minuses. Backpacking I use my dedicated Garmin 62sx
 

steve

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Dec 11, 2013
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I've used gaia and bcn. Now I use trimble and I couldn't be happier. Enjoy your BCN.
 

Nick

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Every Trimble product I have used is total garbage, IMO. Maybe they've gotten better recently? BCN was okay but I could never get the GPS on my android to work reliably when I had it. I've heard from some other users who used Gaia on both Android and iOS say that it's awesome on iOS but sucks on Android and BCN is a better option there.
 

steve

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Dec 11, 2013
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I couldn't be happier with my trimble app. On android, I had issues with gaia and bcn crashing all the time, and they felt a lot clunkier. Maybe they were early version and they're better now. I haven't had any of those issues with trimble.

I also really love being able to make a map online, then having it sync to my phone instantaneously. I also love being able to store all of Utah's maps on my micro sd card, pop it into my phone, and never have to worry about being out of service. At $3/month, I figure after 10 years I'll pay for what a garmin would have cost me, only it'll always be up to date.
 

Nick

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Aug 9, 2007
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Yeah, dedicated GPS units have fallen so far behind what mobile devices can do with apps like those mentioned here. On my iPhone 6+, I can leave Gaia running on it for several days of hiking and barely put a dent in the battery. I usually bring a portable power pack for recharging but I never use it. And unlike a Garmin, it actually has a nice UI, an easy-to-see screen and it doesn't make me want to smash it with a rock.
 

pstm13

Auribus Teneo Lupum
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Dec 27, 2012
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I keep going back to GPS Kit on my iPhone. I've tried several of them over the past few years. The ratings are not super high but I don't really care. I'm not sure if they have it for your OS.
 
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