Maps Versus Apps for Backcountry Navigation – The Trek

There have been fundamental changes in the the international of backcountry navigation over the past two decades—heck, in the world of navigation in general. Back whilst I turned into a child, we may print out the directions from MapQuest (remember MapQuest?) and one of us may act as my mom’s co-pilot as we made our manner to our destination. Fast ahead ten years (OK, perchance 15) and we are no longer slaves to revealed directions or even outside GPS trackers. Simply tell your telephone in which you desire to move and a variety of instructions pop up—with reside traffic updates and where to stop for any and all traditional needs.
As technology becomes more advanced, desolate tract navigation has also shifted. It started out as effectively having the ability to access online forums, where hikers could proportion trail prerequisites or journals, and has greater to the aspect wherein you can simply about walk down the trail sans map and compass and follow the song on your phone to your destination. Especially among the thru-hiking and long-distance hiking communities, employing an app for navigation has become the norm.
Ascending Mount Garfield.
There are still hikers who choose no longer to use an app for navigation. Additionally, there are many trails that require map and compass competencies to follow.

However, for the maximum part, navigation has change into as fundamental as paying for and downloading a GPS music of a trail onto your telephone to correctly navigate in the backcountry.
I not most effective prefer, nonetheless totally use maps to navigate in the backcountry. I tried Guthook a few times, have taken a appearance at AllTrails and Gaia, notwithstanding I began off employing maps, and it feels unnatural to use anything else.  I’ve turn into so accustomed to reading a map and comparing it to the land that I’d hate to lose that skill by way of switching to an app. That said, I can surely see how apps like Guthook can be extremely helpful, specially on long-distance hikes. The number of elements this app has is mind-boggling, and it takes nearly all of the guesswork out of navigation.
Using Maps for Wilderness Navigation
Ascending Owl’s Head.
The OG strategy of barren region navigation, a map and compass (and the ability to use either) is a bit of a death art. When I began hiking solo four years ago I determined to take a wasteland navigation category and turned into taught how to use a map and compass. Since taking that direction I have used that ability precisely zero times. I haven’t switched to a GPS for navigating—I don’t use a compass because I don’t need to. Ninety-nine percent of the trails I hike on are marked and maintained (although the point of repairs varies).

Most trails can be followed with a traditional understanding of how to read a map and via following the blazes on the trees. However, there is  some skill needed to navigate without an app or GPS.
Pros and Cons to Using Maps for Wilderness Navigation
One of the biggest advantages is gaining self assurance in backcountry navigation. You be informed to read the land, develop into more in tune with your surroundings, and will turn into more confident with locating your way through the woods. However, employing a map for navigation is a multifaceted process. It’s not simply a remember of clicking on an app and having get entry to to all the guidance at once. You will need to do a few sleuthing to discover out the whole lot you should recognize earlier to going on your hike.
Additionally, maps don’t lose battery or fail to deliver desirable suggestions.

You don’t have to be concerned approximately battery life when using a map, and if you’re employing the latest version of the map you shouldn’t have a challenging time locating the correct trail. Most maps have a guidebook that goes along with them, and the ones are also extremely really helpful because they provide a more detailed image of the trail. This leads to one of the cons of map use in the backcountry.
Using a map for barren region navigation calls for more analysis beforehand going on a hike to benefit sufficient counsel to make safe selections on the trail. For example, you can’t quite simply click on an app and read fresh trail reports on water sources, find contact recommendation for rides, or stopover at trail stipulations.

You must cross to the guidebook for the area, or get in touch with other hikers who have recently hiked the trail, and it is more paintings to discover out the entirety you need to recognise approximately the route.
Using Apps for Wilderness Navigation
Ethan Pond Trail (part of the AT).

The evolution of electronic paperwork of navigation in the backcountry has been rapid. You no longer desire an external GPS device to navigate—just download the app onto your smartphone, purchase the track, and go.

Gone are the days of worrying about whether or no longer you’re on the right trail. All you desire to do to verify that there will be a water source coming up is to click on the app. No more fumbling with paper maps, or digging via your pack to find the guidebook. The international has gone digital, and that has spilled into the wasteland. 
Pros and Cons to Using Apps for Wilderness Navigation
Using an app (like Guthook) for navigation is the simplest, lightest, and I’d reckon the most average way, to navigate in the woods these days. You have the whole thing you want right at your fingertips. The ease of use and accessibility has made hiking less daunting for many people and even a person who doesn’t recognize how to read a map can practice a line on their phones. The trail is laid out in front of you, and all you desire to do to ascertain that you’re going the correct way is appearance down at your telephone.

You don’t even want to worry (as a lot) approximately killing your battery because the apps paintings in airplane mode.
Apps have up-to-date and precise assistance on pretty an awful lot the whole thing else you need to know while hiking. Hikers can comment on water sources, trail stipulations, or if a look after is closed, all from their phones. Other hikers can see that suggestions instantly. You don’t have to wonder how loads farther to the nearest look after; just click on the app and see how lots more you have to go.

Finding out what facilities are reachable in the nearest town, phone numbers for hostels?

It’s all right at your fingertips. But what occurs whilst your telephone fails?

The biggest—and most likely the most effective—con to employing an app for navigation is that era can fail. Your telephone also can die, the GPS may be wrong, and without an alternative way of navigating, you’re in a in all likelihood hazardous situation. While it’s now not common, specifically these days, there are times when an app will glitch out. For example, the creators may put out a fundamental update that causes navigational snafus on trails across the country. Or, perchance you get erroneous suggestions on a water source and find yourself without water for an additional 10+ miles. That’s why it’s important to use more than one tool for navigation in the backcountry.
The Best of Both Worlds
A-Z Trail.
Instead of deciding on sides, or employing strictly one tool for navigation, integrate both maps and apps for navigation in the backcountry. Just because we have it all at our fingertips doesn’t mean we need to cross without a map as a backup. On the other hand, employing an app to ascertain that you’re on the correct track, or to get up-to-date guidance on trail prerequisites, can be the difference between getting lost or staying found whilst hiking. We live in an ever-changing and technologically driven global.

Even in the barren region, generation is making its presence known. But it doesn’t have to be the historical as opposed to the new. By employing all the gear we have been given, spending time in the exterior can be fun, educational, safe, and an option for everyone.
Affiliate DisclosureThis website comprises affiliate links, which capability The Trek can also get hold of a percentage of any product or carrier you acquire using the links in the articles or advertisements. The client can pay the similar price as they can also otherwise, and your acquire helps to support The Trek’s ongoing purpose to serve you first-rate backpacking advice and counsel.

Thanks for your help!
To be told more, please stopover at the About This Site page.