What are the best apps dealing with maps?
New to the site and am excited to be here. I need some help. Can you all chime in and let me know which apps are the best when it comes to maps. I need an app that will allow me to download maps. I figured many if not all, of you, know more than me and have been through the said apps and already know the good ones. I thank you all in advance!!!!
AT - May 1, 2021
I won’t claim these are the best but they are what I use with the pros and cons as I see them. Of note, I’m an Android user. Most Android phones have a built-in microSD slot, and most mapping apps (including those below) will allow you to store offline maps on an SD. A $10 SD can store a LOT of maps.
- Maps.me, probably my all around winner. It’s free if I remember correctly and you can download their maps by region. It’s not the most powerful but it’s really easy to use. Their basemap (OpenStreetMap) has roads, waterways, railroads and a few other things but no topography. I’ve used it in the US and several other countries and found it to be good enough. I have the western US downloaded and would download maps of wherever I was traveling back when that was a thing.
- Gaia GPS: Far more powerful but also harder to use. Premium membership is $40/yr. You can select from MANY basemaps (USGS, USFS, Satellite imagery, their own version of OpenStreet, and more) and download whatever area you select. It can layer basemaps, but I’ve found my phone is too slow to do that effectively. Because the maps are far more detailed, the file sizes are much bigger and you can’t quickly pull down a region as you can with maps.me. I have the area around me downloaded, but what I really use it for is hiking and will pull relevant maps before each trip. The premium membership gets you access to really nice trail maps of national parks which is what really sold me on it. When you are using USGS or USFS basemaps you are subject to all their limitations
- Google Maps: Google maps basemap is surprisingly good and seems way more accurate than federally produced maps. I have been on some mountain bike logging road adventures using downloaded google maps, but I stopped using it since I got Gaia. Still, it’s free, and you can download a good map of your area with very little effort.
Takeaways: Maps.Me makes it easy to download hundreds of miles of decent map with just a couple taps. Hiking in the mountains requires more info but the cost is decreased usability with Gaia. The NPS maps are however well worth the premium membership if you spend any time in national parks. It will depend on what you need from an app. From a prepping perspective, Maps.Me seems like it would cover the majority of needs reliably and with the least cost and effort.
Robert LarsonContributor - May 2, 2021
Welcome to the forum! I’ve been here for a couple months and am still learning things all the time.
Can I ask a few questions that can help out with a recommendation? What is the purpose of the map that you want? Road and turn by turn navigation? or something like a hiking and off road map? I think some apps might be more suited for one particular use over the other.
For road and turn by turn navigation (what I use 99% of the time) I use Google Maps. They just have so much money to throw at good mapping software and it’s the best I’ve found. Although their app is getting more and more bloated each year with advertisements and features that it quickly starts to struggle on older devices. You can download an offline copy of a map of your area which can be used if there is no service, but also will just load maps faster in the future for your trip to Walmart because it doesn’t have to download the maps each time because it is saved on your phone.
For those with older and slower devices or who don’t like giving their entire lives over to Google, the next best mapping app for road navigation that I’ve found is called “Here We Go“. It works great and my only gripe is that their real time traffic isn’t the best. On a cross country trip that I took, it recommended one route and didn’t consider traffic or construction. Typing the same route into Google Maps saved me an hour of driving because it was able to sense heavy traffic areas and construction and reroute me. So Here We Go is my good back up app in case Google Maps is ever down like it was earlier this year. You can download an offline copy of maps of your area with Here We Go as well.
As for hiking and back country maps, there are some pretty neat ones out there. Ones that will even let you take pictures of a mountain and will identify where you are. I haven’t used any myself, so I’ll leave a link to a review page that has some good info: https://www.atlasandboots.com/travel-blog/best-hiking-apps/
There was a similar forum thread a couple months ago that might be a good resource as well. https://theprepared.com/forum/thread/alternate-navigation-to-phone
Jose Martinez - May 2, 2021
I’m a Google maps man myself
Scott P - May 4, 2021
I use Gaia GPS all the time as my primary means of planning and navigating in the backcountry. The different base maps and overlays are super useful. I also pair it with FatMaps to get a better sense of things pre trip. Also I think it might be useful when learning to read topo maps to be cable to compare to a 3d representation of terrain.
Mike Hill - May 4, 2021
AT and scott Powers, thanks for the recommendation of Gaia GPS. That’s just what I was looking for.
Wicked74 - May 4, 2021
THANK YOU GUYS SO MUCH!!!!! GREAT INFO AND SUGGESTION!!!!!
Pops - May 21, 2021
A little late here. I use GPS Copilot, it’s around $15. You can use it only online or buy offline “worldwide” map packages and offline voice direction. It is really cool, acts just like google or whatever even when you are a hundred miles from the nearest tower.
Essie Carroll - May 21, 2021
That does look like a good alternative to google maps. Similar layout and color scheme
lonewolf - August 24, 2021
I use paper maps, my phone is a basic model and dosent do apps, neither do I!!
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