Gear reviews, GPS / Navigation » Gaia Phone App

From to App description: Gaia GPS is the ultimate app for backcountry, off-grid, and off-trail adventures. Painstakingly crafted since 2009, Gaia offers the full functionality of a handheld, backcountry GPS unit, with the best outdoor maps on the App Store.

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1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (8 votes, average: 3.38 out of 5)
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Comments (4)

ScottMNovember 6th, 2014 at 9:08 pm

I used this app during the CDT and found it quite useful for displaying multiple tracks on high quality maps. I wish this level of mapping could be found on a handheld GPS device that I can mount on the bars, but sadly we are not there yet.

Why is a Garmin GPS better? 1 – battery life. 2 – screen visibility. 3 – size and ability to mount to handlebar.

A phone app is great for pulling out for a more in-depth mapping session, but I’ll never trade it for a Garmin on the bars.

Gaia does everything I want to except for one major drawback — the automatic download map function. I found it to be extremely buggy. It would download multiple sets of maps for the same track. It was hard to tell what you got. Hard to delete map sets. I always had holes in the coverage along tracks. I stopped using it, and could not depend on it to actually have maps offline when I needed them. I reverted to actually panning around along the track for the important bits so I knew I had them.

Maybe they will fix this glaring bug (I have always kept the app up to date), but for now I can’t really recommend it.

WalterNovember 13th, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Scott, I don’t know if you have used the Backcounty Navigator app but if so, I am curious how you would compare the two.

Wade PattersonNovember 13th, 2014 at 3:03 pm

I have been using the Gaia GPS app for the last year. The app is frequently updated (and I think there has been another one since Scott’s posting – like just in the last week) which is good because it means they are actively working on it and appears to be a company that is not about to go out of business. But the downside is that they insist on redesigning functionality, interface, etc. frequently, making it feel like you are re-learning it each time. I also find the interface is pretty different on, say, the iPad (where I plot out my rides) and the iPhone (which I use on the rides).

In contrast to Scott’s experience, I find the downloadable maps feature to be the best part of this app and the reason why I use it over others. I am often out of cell range, but so long as you have the maps, you can still locate yourself (GPS is always functional unless you are in airplane mode). However, I agree that it took me a little while to get it right, get the resolution I needed, and download the maps I wanted (USGS forest service maps as opposed to aerials, for example). Now that I have it down, I think its great.

In practice, I use Gaia in conjunction with physical maps and another great app, PDF Maps, which allows you to locate yourself on pdfs from USGS that have geospatial data embedded in them (again, these are downloaded to the phone so doesn’t rely on cell service to locate you). If you get the downloadable maps feature ironed out with Gaia, they can show USGS topo info also, but I like that the PDF Maps correspond to the quad maps you can get in print (or used to be able to…). Makes it easy to move between the phone and a physical map.

I also bought a Topeak iPhone mount so I can have this on my bars and I have a little Trent recharging battery that will give me about 7 full charges on the iPhone before needing to be recharged itself (about $35). I cannot afford a dedicated GPS unit so I have been trying to find apps to allow me to use the phone for that.

And one more caveat: I am mostly doing overnighters and day explorations and nothing like the huge long haul adventure Scott did. So, my experiences are not based on nearly as much time in the field. Scott is the man, so I take seriously what he has to say!!

KevinDecember 4th, 2014 at 12:24 pm

I have used this app for 330 miles over three seperate trips. It works great and have had no problem with the download mapps. I just store everything at max resolution. This means the files a larger, but I have 64 Gb of storage, so I am not worried. I have stored maps for all of the AZT, CT, Vapor Trail, Ring the Peak, this awesome looking trail in Spain, and all my music, and my phone is only have full. You can see on the download map page exactly what you have. I haven’t had a problem with spotty coverage. It used to drain the battery badly when I first got it on my iphone 6+ it would kill the battery, but they have now fixed that bug.

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