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Wilderness Navigation #15 - Smartphone Tools for Wilderness Navigation

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Published on Jan 26, 2016

Here's the most comprehensive video you find on YouTube covering both web and a smart phone tips for wilderness navigation.
Learn how to find GPS tracks, the best source create and print free topo maps, the best backcountry GPS phone app, how to see your exact travel route in Google Earth, how to get map and driving directions to a trailhead with no street address, and and how to turn your phone into an altimeter, barometer, compass, inclinometer, show your UTM coordinates and display maps.

This video is part of a complete series on wilderness navigation, produced by the Columbia River Club.
See them all at www.croc.org

Here's what you're going to learn today.
The best source to find backcountry GPS tracks
The best website to make and print free topographic maps
The best backcountry GPS phone app
How to see your exact travel route in Google Earth
How to get map and driving directions to a trailhead with no street address
How to turn your phone into an altimeter, barometer, compass, inclinometer, show your UTM coordinates and display maps.
Let’s get started.

There are two main problems with using your smart phone in the backcountry.
One is battery life, and the second is damage from dirt, impact, or water.
Here's two solutions: some kind of extra power source, and a sturdy case for your phone.

The best online source I’ve found for GPS tracks is GPSies.com.
GPSies is a worldwide track sharing website, for just about every activity you can think of.

The map is the fundamental tool for navigation, and Caltopo is simply the best mapping software available, either free or for purchase.
It's completely free, browser-based software, with nothing to download.

You can use over a dozen different base layers, add shaded relief, make marker points and freeform lines,export marker points and lines as a GPX file, import GPX files and show them on your map as I have done here, show a UTM grid, and print maps at just about any size and scale you can imagine.

Currently, the best available phone app for backcountry GPS is Gaia GPS.

Gaia is at the top for several reasons.
One, it’s focused on backcountry use
Two, it has lots of different map layers to choose from, like satellite and open source maps.
This lets you select exactly the type of map coverage you need for your trip.
And three, it’s easy to manage a large collection of tracks and waypoints.

You do not need to have cell phone coverage to use your phone as a GPS receiver.
However, you do need to download map layers over Wi-Fi or cell coverage for use when you do not have coverage.

When researching an off trail hiking or climbing route at home, it can be extremely helpful to view the route in Google Earth.
Here's how to do it.
Use a free web converter to change the GPX file into a KML file.
The web converter I use is appropriately called kml2gpx.com
Double-click it, and it should open in Google Earth.

If you enter latitude longitude coordinates in a decimal degree format into a Google map search, you’ll get a map and driving directions to exactly that point.

Now, let's get into a few useful smartphone apps.
Many newer smart phones have a barometer, which turns your phone into an altimeter!

Here are two free altimeter apps I've been using with good results.

Did you know that the iPhone compass also shows your latitude longitude coordinates right on the bottom of the screen?
This means that anyone lost in the woods with an iPhone has a means to know their exact location, even if they have never downloaded any special apps like what we're talking about here.

Note to iPhone users: the second page of your compass app has an inclinometer.
You can use this to show the angle of a slope.

Here are two free apps that show your current UTM coordinates, and let you email or text your position.
If you had this app, and a map with a printed UTM grid, you could always plot your exact position on the map and never get lost again!

Another cool use for your phone is to display actual maps. 
First you need a .pdf file of your map.
Email the .pdf to yourself as a file attachment, and open it on the Mail app that comes with your phone.
Do what Apple calls a “long touch” on the file attachment, by pressing it for 2-3 seconds.
Choose “Copy to iBooks.”

You can do this for different maps, and build up a map library on your phone.
This is what the saved .pdf file looks like in iBooks.

Well, let's summarize what we’ve covered today.
You now know how to get GPS tracks from the web, learned the best source for free topographic maps, know the best backcountry GPS app for your phone, how to see your route in Google Earth, learned how to get trailhead coordinates and directions, and learned about free apps to make your phone an altimeter, barometer, compass, inclinometer, show your UTM coordinates, and display maps.
Thanks a lot for watching, and please give us a like and comment on YouTube if you’ve found this video helpful.

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