You Should Be Downloading Your Trail Maps

On most trips and in most locations, to navigate hikers rely primarily on my paper topographic maps, ABC (altimeter, barometer, compass) or GPS watch, and magnetic compass. As both a backup and supplement to these tools, smartphones have GPS apps like CalTopo (good) or Gaia GPS (better), or AllTrails that you can use to access downloaded map data for offline use.

A GPS smartphone app has two purposes:

It acts as a map library, in case your printed documents are damaged or lost or if you unexpectedly hike off course.

It has the same functionality you’d expect of a traditional handheld GPS—like pinpointing its location and navigating to waypoints—but is lighter, less expensive, and more user-friendly.

Collectively, these four instruments constitute a hiking navigation system. Some hikers may consider some preferences old-fashioned, since it’s increasingly common to navigate exclusively or primarily with GPS. But it’s safe to value the reliability and efficiency of these more analog methods. To hone that art, consider downloading maps in your smartphone for offline use. This will preserve the app’s functionality, even in the backcountry without reliable cell service.

Learn more here…


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