Maps and Apps!  

What do you like to use to find your path while you’re hiking or backpacking? Are you a tried and true hard maps user? Do you use a mobile app? If so, which one? Or, do you use a combination of both?

Our Good Trip guides have strong opinions on the matter, and we’re shared some of their feedback here! 

Gaia GPS
What we love: Once you download a map section, you’re ready to go! You have access to all downloaded maps and the app will work without wifi or cellular data. In addition to a base map, you can add overlays such as native lands, forest fires, snow depth, and slope angle, making it super helpful for different activities. Memberships start at $20/year, although we think it’s worth it to splurge for the pro version at $40/year. Once you’ve paid for the membership, you have access to every map you can imagine! You can create routes, add waypoints, and track your pace right from the app. 
Downsides: The free version does not work offline, making it almost useless for hikes in the National Parks. If you forget to download your map section before you go offline, you’re out of luck. Their search function could improve and we don’t use Gaia to discover new hikes. 
Takeaway: If you’re a serious hiker or backpacker and you know the hike that you want to do, this is the app for you! 

What we love: AllTrails is another great app that makes it super easy to search and sort for trails. You can filter hikes by milage, difficulty, accessibility, popularity, elevation gain, trail traffic, and route type. You can even create routes to save and share with friends! AllTrails provides driving directions to the trailhead, which can be very helpful if you’re in a new area. Real-time reviews by other hikers can alert you to current trail conditions. 
Downsides: In order to download maps for offline use, you have to join the Pro program for $29.99 a year. We find that the GPS isn’t as accurate as Gaia, and sometimes the user-submitted content can be incorrect. 
Takeaway: We use the free version of this app to discover new hikes when we’re in an unfamiliar area, but switch to Gaia for the navigation. 

Hiking Project
What we love: The Hiking Project provides some supplementary info different to the other two above – such as some great pre-hike features like trail and driving conditions.  They describe key waypoints along the trail, which make is super easy to know that you’re headed in the right direction. 
Downsides: Their database isn’t as large as Gaia or AllTrails, but they are adding to it all the time. 
Takeaway: For those familiar with other Project apps – Mountain Project, Powder Project, Trail Running Project, etc., you might find this especially easy to use. 

What we love: Although not to be used for navigation, we just had to mention another of our favorite trail apps. Have you ever gotten to the top of a peak and looked around to the nearby mountains and wondered what they were all called? With PeakFinder, just hold up your phone and you’ll instantly have a panoramic view of mountains with their names listed. You can even click on the names of the peals nearby and learn more about them!
Downsides: Sometimes the app need to recalibrate and will show the wrong range, but if you pay attention to the mountain size and shape, this is easy to notice and correct. 
Takeaway: It’s a great way to impress your friends and to  choose new mountain objectives. If you’ve got space on your phone, why not?!

We always recommend bringing a paper map and compass and knowing how to use them in case of emergency. Navigation apps are becoming better than ever and most professionals rely on them, but phones can break or die, so we recommend always having a backup on hand! 

a person holding a phone with map app up
a open map on a table with someone looking at it.

What’s your favorite app to use while in the wilderness?  Let us know and let’s get these apps to use on the trails!