Saturday, October 13, 2018

Maps & GPS

Maps, oh how I love thee!

I'm a confirmed map junkie. I love setting up my maps before the trip and enjoy archiving the final trip routes. And I take advantage of the data that others have posted online. For example, I imported the kml/kmz file containing drinking water and bathroom stops along the Katy Trail before our ride. 

Over the years, I've used various GPS devices and iPhones. Currently, I am using a Pixel 2, which I mainly use in airplane mode when bike/backpacking so that I don't have to worry about charging my phone during the day.

Apps: My Maps, Gaia GPS & Google Maps

Because I like Gaia GPS and My Maps for slightly different reasons, I export/import data as needed between the two apps and generally go back and forth between them during my adventures.

My Maps (
For my initial trip planning, I create a custom map, populate it with a potential list of places we might visit, add notes regarding costs and hours, and customize the icons by type (e.g, water, campsite, museum). I like that I can have multiple layers, share with friends and family,  open a location in Google Maps for routing purposes during my trip, and most importantly, use it offline. Note that there is a limited number of layers.

Gaia GPS
My primary uses of this app are for knowing what's coming up (e.g, water, campsite) and tracking my whereabouts. I like having a log of where I have been, start and stop times, average moving speed, etc. to look back upon at the end of each day. So, when it's time to hit the trail, I start a new track, which is color coded and overlaid on the map.

Features I like:
  • Ability to select and download the map data (maps and coordinates) for your trip;
  • Multiple map options (e.g, topo, street) and sources;
  • Ability to easily import/export data;
  • You can add photos along the way that show up in your route as you take them;
  • Maps can easily be shared through social media; and
  • Print your own maps (this requires a subscription, which I generally turn on when planning for backpacking trips).
Features I don't like:
  • The online interface is not intuitive and frustrating to use. 
  • If you take photos within Gaia, they are trapped there. If you want copies, you have to download them one at a time. Hopefully this will change, but for now, I've stopped using the in-app camera feature, which is kind of a bummer because it is cool to view your pics where they were taken along the course of your trip.
Note that Gaia doesn't like to be in battery saving mode; but by having your phone in airplane mode, you will be able to conserve power.

Google Maps
Before leaving home, I use the offline maps feature of Google Maps to select rectangular regions and download the desired maps and associated data. It is great for navigating offline, because it is fast. However, at this time, bicycle routing is not available offline. Note that the maps will take up space on your device, but eventually expire and are removed unless you intervene.

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