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astrov

Cell Phone GPS navigation on volcano?

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What is y'alls' experience with cell phone GPS navigation in the backcountry?

 

I have an android phone (Verizon network, Droid Razr Maxx) and would like to navigate on Rainier with it (as a back-up, of course, to maps, compass, and altimeter).

 

I'm assuming I won't have network access so will need the stand-alone GPS feature to show my position on a map that has already been downloaded onto my phone.

 

Can the built-in Google Map do this?

 

I've also seen an app called "Backcountry Navigator TOPO GPS"; it's $9.99, which is affordable, but does anyone have experience with this product? We are going up early season (Kautz) and I'm not ruling out the possibility of a white-out. Thanks!

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Just my personal opinion. If you are going into the backcountry where you think you might need to navigate by GPS, then go out and buy a good GPS. Prices have come down quite a bit over recent years, and used models are good options as well.

 

However if you do intend to use your phone's GPS for navigation out of cell service on a mountain. I would definitely recommend trying it out on a training hike or two that is outside of cell service, but where the consequences are much less severe.

Edited by mthorman

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if you want to borrow my stand-alone GPS from garmin you can, I am thinking of selling it.

 

Mostly because I use my phone exclusively. Rmaps is a free app I use on my Razr M--with my separate SD card with space I have USGS vector topo, google terrain, google satellite images, and bing/microsoft sat shots all downloaded of any area. I put my phone on airplane mode then turn on GPS. it works great everywhere I've used it (rainier, steens mountain, hood, adams, etc.. GPS is GPS. My phone probably has a more advanced GPS system than the garmin 60csx I have which was designed in 2006 or something. Battery is another story, but for quick reference it works great.

 

paying for any map program is a rip off imo.

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I've been playing with the GPS apps for the Iphone for a few years. I carried a traditional GPS for awhile also as a "backup" but it was just dead weight in the pack. Fully stopped carrying my stand alone gps awhile ago. My observation is that most of my peers in the guiding community have switched to using the phone too. At least the ones I work around here in the PNW.

I've found that the phone is just as reliable an electronic as the stand alone GPS and possibly more so since I use it all the time and can actually catch a glitch before I'm out there, vs the old gps that I only turned on every now and then.

My current favorite is the Gaia GPS app. Way better then any stand alone gps I ever used. I really like that I can download multiple different maps for the same are. Lots of other good ones out there too.

Get a waterproof case such as Lifeproof, and a backup battery that you keep charged. The battery issues could be the biggest downside to the phone, but regardless of what device you use you need to bring extra batteries so maybe its a wash.

Having a pair of gloves with the special touch pads on the finger tips is nice too. Keeps you from having to take your gloves off all the time.

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Ditto on Gaia. Your biggest hazard is running out of juice. There are many threads out there on how to optimize the settings on your phone to preserve battery life. I have an iphone and don't know anything about yours; with the apple device you can leave on the gps and turn off just about everything else and get dramatically longer battery life than you would on a typical day (unless you use the tracking cookie crumb thing).

 

I found Gaia easy to learn how to use, and am pretty low tech.

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have loved gaia on the iphone. certainly eats battery life, even after you optimize all the settings. I do usually let it track me, since I enjoy looking at the route on google earth later. I've resigned to carry a battery along, which gives about 2-3 charges.... just keep it in a plastic bag near your body to keep it warm, and it's all good.

 

http://www.mophie.com/shop/universal-batteries/powerstation-smart-phones-tablets

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topomaps on the iphone has been my favorite, though it does cost $7or8. Lots of good features, though it doesn't do the bread crumbs thing, you can drop periodic waypoints at significant points.

 

I typically turn of all the antennas and then only turn it on when I need to position myself, then I turn off the antennas again to keep battery levels high.

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The price of the app is probably proportional to how useful it is - for instance I have an iPhone with a free topo map (that works with GPS) but you have to know the name of the actual 7. 5min topo (to pick from a list, from an not-mobile-optimized website) in order to download it. It's a little cumbersome, but I'm cheap and it works just fine. (Same goes for aviation maps)

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keeping it on airplane mode except when actually looking up your position will make it last days and days. "Searching" is what kills the battery. My iPhone hasn't died in the back country since I started using it.

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I agree with what is said above, or turn off everything but GPS (most new Androids allow this). I haven't had the best of luck on Volcanoes and mountains in Washington with Sprint or T-Mobile and Android phoens.

 

All in all I would get a Garmin, well worth than 100, 200 you spend on it.

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BackCountry Navigator PRO is an AWESOME app. :rocken:

 

I absolutely love it. The guy who wrote it (lives in S WA I believe) did an absolutely fantastic job. Since I downloaded the app I have no longer taken my piece of shit Garmin GPS anywhere. The phone's screen is a billion times better, the maps available are million times better and I no longer have to carry one device for GPS and another for music/reading, etc. Better yet, you can download a huge variety of maps from various services, generally for free, which are far better than the garbage maps Garmin will sell you for a lot of $$.

 

The app is easy to use and allows you to select ares to mark for download (either in to main cache, or map packages you name) to your device memory or SD card. You can then create seperate trip databases, under which you can store your routes and waypoints. You can change colors of routes, name them, track stats, etc. Essentially everything useful the Garmin did, but better. The only thing I miss from my Garmin is the sun & moon charts, which I'm sure I could find in another app.

 

If you do plan on using the phone for GPS navigation, it's important to recognize the limitations of the device you are using. I have a Samsung Galaxy 5 which I have found to be the perfect BC phone.

 

Why?

1. It's water-sealed

2. It offers swappable batteries (I bought two spares)

3. The battery life, even without using a spare, is farbetter than an iPhone

4. It allows you to insert an SD card (64gb card for half the price Apple rapes you to upgrade from 8 to 16gb)

 

I don't know much about your specific android device, but you should have some of the above benefits and you can get BC Nav Pro.

 

So, in summary, I'd have to disagree completely with the assertions that a Garmin device is a better option to an Android phone. Carrying two devices when one does the same job, and better, makes no sense to me. Then again, if I had an iPhone, I'd probably be stuck with the Garmin as well.

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I've used cell phone + gps exclusively for the past 2+ years. Current setup is Nexus 5 + OruxMaps + ziplock for waterproofing + small 7500mAh usb battery pack for multi-day trips. I'll usually follow a gpx track from peakbagger, and use the built-in OruxMaps map creator to download Google Terrain/usgs topos for offline use. If I want high-quality topos, I've manually screen-shotted the t4 topo layer from gmap4 and used the OruxMaps desktop app to create my own map tiles. This setup even worked all the way up the West Buttress of Denali, with a solar charger.

 

I like that I can take decent pictures with my phone if I'm too lazy to bring a bigger camera.

 

Just remember to put the cell phone in airplane mode and manually turn on the gps.

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I've used Trimble's Terrain Navigator Pro on my Samsumg Galaxy S4 for the past year and love it. I'd be interested to check out the BackCountry Navigator Pro to see how it compares.

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I've been really happy with BackCountry Navigator GPS PRO. I use it on my Galaxy S4 and it's been really useful. Obviously it's not going to pinpoint your location to within a few feet, and the map you choose to use has it's own limitations, but overall I see no need to buy a standalone GPS with the advances in smartphone technology. Especially with a rugged case.

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This is probably a stupid question, but don't phone-based GPS systems work off cell tower signals, thus limiting utility to areas that have cell signals (i.e. not in the backcountry)?

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Depends on the phone. With the Galaxy 4 (Android) you get GPS navigation without cell service.

 

With an iPhone? Not so much. Not yet, at least.

Edited by tvashtarkatena

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Wrong. I have an old iPhone4 and get GPS satellites just fine and use Giaia GPS - which is a great program by the way.

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For those of us in the walled garden of iOS:

 

"Some iOS devices have a GPS chip and some do not.

 

A device with a GPS chip can identify your location (usually within 10 or 20 meters) even when it has no WIFI or Cellular signal. A device without a GPS chip can identify your approximate location only when it has a WIFI signal; these devices are still useful tools for looking at maps but will not show your location on the map while you are hiking.

 

All iPhone models (4, 4S, 5, 5C, 5S) include a GPS chip. The 4S and all 5 models also support GLONASS which in some locations should improve accuracy and time to first fix.

No iPod-Touch model has a GPS chip.

 

All iPad models (iPad with Retina display, iPad2, iPad mini) that have 3G or Cellular also have GPS chip and therefore behave like an iPhone for mapping purposes. (The iPad with Retina display and iPad mini also support GLONASS; the iPad2 does not.) The WIFI-only iPads do not have a GPS chip and therefore behave like an iPod Touch for mapping purposes."

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