Developer: Trimble Navigation Limited
Price: $4.99 Download on the App Store
There is nothing like the great outdoors, and it becomes all the more enjoyable when we bring along our favorite apps. Backpacker GPS Trails by the folks at Trimble is one such must-pack app designed improve the back-to-nature experience for hikers.
The app has two main uses. Hikers can find a destination, plan trips and follow trails using detailed topographical maps downloaded to their device. Alternately, they can blaze their own path using their device's GPS to track, record and share it with the world. It's not reliant on cell towers either, so Backpacker GPS Trails will work at your favorite hiking and riding trails no matter how remote they are.
iPhone owners have been taking their device off-road for years — long before built-in GPS arrived on the scene. Unfortunately, many of the first apps were little better than PDF maps.
Trimble outshines similar apps by going beyond the old mega-download of offline maps. Backpacker GPS Trails Pro offers top-level tools for hikers. Use the app as a GPS to navigate via satellite signals and capture waypoints along the trail. Mark important places such as camp sites and landmarks, or use it to geotag photos and videos with their exact coordinates.
Backpacker GPS Trails also connects to your Backpacker Account online, offering access to social features and personalization. Use your Backpacker account to share, trade, download, and add details to your trails long after you've hiked them. Or, use the app to find your 15 minutes of fame by submitting your adventures for publication in Backpacker magazine.
The option to buy professional trails adds to the application's overall versatility by turning your iPhone into a knowledgeable field guide.
Backpacker GPS Trails Pro vs Lite
While its features are impressive, it should also be noted that they come at a hefty price. At a staunch $4.99, Backpacker GPS Trails Pro is on the expensive side when compared to other trail maps in the App Store (usually $0.99 to $2.99). While the professional trail maps are nice, it's a little unsettling to shell out $5 and then be stuck with an in-app purchase to use all the features. It's uncommon — EveryTrail does the same thing – but it is frustrating.
You could try the the lite version in exchange for ads and fewer features. Unfortunately, I consider the ability to store maps for offline viewing and geotagging media essential features so, for me at least, going 'lite' is a non-starter.
What to Know Before You Go
To add to the confusion, Trimble doesn't explicitly state that some iOS devices, like some models of the iPad and iPod Touch, are not 100% compatible as they lack a GPS — a rather big backbone to the software. While Trimble makes up for this in the iPad edition with a special layout option for mapping, the iPod Touch can leave you high and dry if you forget to bring along a GPS, and really make you miss out on all the features it has to offer. While these problems far from break the bank with this app, be warned that this is really the kind of app you want to use with your iPhone, or do a test run with the lite version before making a commitment.
The app runs on all iOS devices running 4.0 or later. Trail maps are available via in-app purchase starting at $1.99