Do you want to find your way outdoors using topographical maps, trail guides and offline GPS navigation in the palm of your hand? Of course you do. And so do I.
My old GPS navigator, X-Motion GPS, is no longer supported. After trying several new apps, I found ViewRanger.
ViewRanger is a GPS navigation app which runs on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Android smartphones and watches. I found their interface easy to use and appealing.
Then, too, was the price. It works with offline maps for free. You can upgrade to Premium for $19.99 a year, which gives you access to a bewildering array of maps and other features.
How to download offline maps
To get started, hit the Search function. Find a place, and then if you wish, download the map for offline use. Your phone has a built-in GPS, so even if you do not have cellular data or a signal of any kind, you will still be able to navigate.
As always, I recommend bringing a paper map. That said, in the entire time I’ve been using ViewRanger or X-Motion GPS, I never had to use the paper map.
Using offline maps
I downloaded a couple of maps of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, where signals are not always available. I recorded a hike. It performed flawlessly, even recording me doubling back numerous times with great accuracy.
I also discovered a place in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest that had some spectacular trees. I wanted to remember this place, so I marked it on the offline map. I was able to return to it later with ease while driving on a dirt road with no cell signal.
Points of interest
For me, the biggest allure is to be able to put in specific points of interest (POI) and navigate to them.
I could find most places on the map easily via the Search function. However, for obscure places, if you already have the GPS coordinates, it may be easier to get the approximate location of a POI. If you have that, enter the precise GPS coordinates and re-save the waypoint. From there you can plot a route or navigate there.
Doing this on your phone will sync this with their website. If you do this on the website, then you may press “Sync Content” on the app.
Finding and sharing trails
ViewRanger has over 4.6 million users and organizations. Some make their trails public, so there are quite a few available for you to check out in the Feed section. You may add trail routes you like to your own Routes section. And of course, you can share your own!
In May 2020, Outdooractive, “Europe’s largest outdoor portal for hiking, cycling, mountain biking and skiing,” acquired ViewRanger. Since ViewRanger works with various public national parks and search and rescue teams, the two have been consolidating their technology, locations and features. Outdooractive stated that they intend to keep ViewRanger going.