3 best off-road GPS apps for Android and iPhone

GPS, Hors-réseaux, Hors-route, Montagne -

3 best off-road GPS apps for Android and iPhone

Are you wondering what are the best apps to download for your cell phone before going on a hike?

 

Here are my top 3 applications tested for at least 2 years in the mountains:

 

The important points that I analyzed:

  • The precision and real-time traceability;
  • The ease to build routes;
  • the visual and types of map layers;
  • Access to additions and modifications such as points of interest (viewpoints, water points, refuges, etc.);
  • Access to data such (time, duration, distance, altitude ...);
  • The impact of the application onautonomy from the battery;
  • Advantages and points that would be to improve in my opinion.

 

FATMAP

the FATMAP application is a very complete tool for human-powered adventures of all kinds (Cycling, hiking, Running, Ski touring, Snowboarding, Mountaineering etc ...). You have the free version which allows you to have your point coordinates and maps when you are connected to the internet. There has been a good progression in the functions in recent years.

Precision

The last big outing I did, I used this application during an 80km Ultra-Marathon in September in the ZEC des sables region in Charlevoix, Quebec. So no reception the majority of the time and a noteworthy precision. There is a feature that allows you to follow yourself as if you have a compass in your hands and no latency and delays as long as the app is open in the background. It is, in my opinion, the most precise of the three applications after two years of experience.

Itineraries

The way to build a route is to do it from a computer with FATMAP. As this is the youngest of the 3 apps, there aren't necessarily any trips pre-made by other users available. So, in many cases, you have to create on your own. Which is a great idea in order to be better prepared! Once done, all you have to do is download your map to access the region offline.

Visual and cartography

The visual can be in 3D or 2D depending on our needs. It is as if you are almost on site in most of the places visited. For the map layers, you have 2 themes (winter and summer) as well as 9 choices of layers according to your current priority (avalanche zone, gradient, elevation) and a growing number of topo per country with more customization and a version overall for the rest. I can't wait to have the Canadian topo!

Access to points of interest

If you are on the global topo and with a new route, you will have to add your points of interest but at least it's easy. You identify the place to add details and you press 1 second with your finger and add your details! You will be able to consult them and modify them then and if you wish to put your public map, the other users of FATMAP will be able to see your points of interest.

Access to telemetry data

They have their own plotter now since 2020 but I have to say the functions are limited. We can see the time traveled, the distance and the height difference. Once done, it is not yet possible to save the trip and send to synchronize with another application like Strava because the files (.gpx) cannot be exported. Except that they have planned the coup and you can connect the traceability with their connection partner and as soon as the trip is recorded, it is automatically recorded in your routes for a next outing off the network (Garmin, Suunto, Life Pass and Strava ). 

Battery life

If you put your device in "airplane mode" and you are economical on the photos and videos taken in your outing, it is possible to think that any cell phone with an average battery of 4000 mAh can do a 3pm outing. In any case, having a wireless charger remains a prerequisite as soon as you move away into the hinterland. FATMAP is the least economical of the 3 applications.

Benefits and points and to improve (+/-)

  • + Their visual is clear and their choice of cartographic layers;
  • + The precision of the journey in real time with top 3D;
  • + Integration with partners like Strava and Garmin; 
  • - Their tracer and the available data;
  • - The ability to download maps over the cellular network;

Price

  • Annual subscription of $ 39.99 CAD for the Premium version.

Gaia GPS

The Gaia GPS application is intended for more experienced users, but anyone can still use it. The free version is limited to certain cards and you must be connected to the network. It has advanced functions which are interesting and it can be useful to people in the world of 4x4 off-road, hunting and fishing also in addition to other sports mentioned for FATMAP.

Precision

Tested on Android and iOS, the app seems to behave better with Apple. I like the arrow icon that points to a cardinal point instead of a round point like in FATMAP. Tracing can cause some latency on Android and you should make sure your device is not in "battery saver" mode to increase accuracy. It remains very acceptable and preferable to use it on Apple.

Itineraries

The fact that we can save our route and export it adds an additional possibility for the creation of a route instead of going only on the computer beforehand. As for example, you go in discovery mode in known terrain and you build an itinerary to then return with your adventure partners. Otherwise, same principle as FATMAP, you have to create your route from your computer and make sure to download the offline maps afterwards. The advantage of it is that you can download your maps over Wi-Fi and cellular network.

Visual and cartography

You will have access to the largest number of 2D maps and map layers available in Canada and the United States. They have several maps from National Geographic, USGS, Backroads Mapbooks and various Government agencies from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and several countries in Europe. You can adjust the opacity of the layers and overlay them to create a mix of your favorite maps (this is where it can get tricky for insiders). In addition, you have an integrated compass that remains displayed at the top of the map at all times.

Access to points of interest

As there is already a lot of information in these maps, you already have access to a host of points of interest but you can also add more by pressing for 1 second on a specific location on the map. Additionally, you can take a photo and you will see the location where you took it for future reference. This subject is part of their strong point in terms of planning.

Access to telemetry data

In traceability, we have several options. You have the duration, the speed, the distance, the elevation and the particularity is that we can pause and restart the route if we want for example to export a single trip over a few days. The latter function is quite economical on the battery when it is paused.

Battery life

A bit the same principle as FATMAP and AllTrails, it is preferable to put the device in airplane mode and have a wireless charger but it is possible to do a whole day of course without having to charge as long as you dedicate your cellular to GPS only and limit photos / videos.

Benefits and points and to improve (+/-)

  • + The number of cards
  • + Advanced functions for displaying maps and points of interest
  • + Photo function with location and pause the trip with low battery consumption
  • + The ease of creating a route from a real-time trip
  • - No 3D maps
  • - Lack of precision with Android
  • - The most expensive of the 3 applications

Price

CAD $ 44.25 per year

 

AllTrails

This app is a bit like a mapping software with a built-in social network. It is the most intuitive of the 3. You can see several trip notices and get an idea before embarking on a trip. It is very easy to find pre-made routes (over 100,000) but it also comes with drawbacks. This app is very suitable for beginners but the more experienced will want to go to the 2 other avenues proposed in this article. The free version is the most interesting of the three applications, but you must know that you have to pay the Premium version to have offline maps in all cases.

Precision

In terms of accuracy, it is comparable to Gaia and it works well with Android as well as with Apple.

Itineraries

Same principle as Gaia to create new Routes except that if you take routes already created, you will have more details to prepare for them with the opinions, the description of the route, the type of route (loop or linear) and the route. 'estimated duration. In addition, you have a new feature with the Premium version called Lifeline which allows you to share your location with your safety contacts.

Visual and cartography

You have 8 different types of 2D maps and 3 types of map layers in free version or 8 in Premium version. It's more basic than Gaia and FATMAP because you won't have additional details like avalanche zones for example.

Access to points of interest

Here, it is a bit like the principle of sharing point of interest like the application Waze which will average the reported information with algorithms and add it to existing maps in order to help others. For the additions of points or even photo with localization, it is a little different from the 2 other applications, we have to go to a menu and select the additions options.

 

Access to telemetry data

Here it is the same principle as Gaia and you even have your calorie expenditure! Easy to export but it must be done manually.

Battery life

You can also do a whole day with your application as long as you apply the same principles as with Gaia and FATMAP.

Benefits and points and to improve (+/-)

  • + The easiest to use
  • + Lots of reviews and information from other Alltrail members
  • + The Lifeline function included with the Premium version
  • + Most Affordable Premium Membership
  • - The choice of cards
  • - Double-check the accuracy of existing routes and points of interest 

Price

 

Hope you liked this article. I do not take any compensation from these developers and it is to the best of my experiences of the last 2 years to test their differences. Do not hesitate to comment to give your point of view.

 

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