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Gaia GPS app

30 Jun 2019 08:55 - 30 Jun 2019 10:31 #5275 by Paul T
Gaia GPS app was created by Paul T
In another thread WVWV mentioned a trail/GPS app that worked on android devices and this got me interested.

I have always been a Garmin user as their GPS devices have been the only ones really available in the past for jungle route recording and utilization. As with all other Garmin users I had used their own software (currently BaseCamp) to edit, store and control my tracks. But like many other Garmin users I have been a little concerned about any real expansion of their software capabilities and especially concerned with the development of BaseCamp which is losing abilities rather than gaining them. I have surmised that Garmin are only keeping BaseCamp going rather than seeing as a software to invest in.

So based on what WVWV posted I went off in search of an app that would work on IOS (as my phone is apple) and came up with an app that works both on the phone as well as having a web interface as well - there are both IOS and Android versions for phones. That app was GAIA.

I tinkered with the interface and options and last week decided to try it out in the field. I need to some more testing as to use it more I am going to need a waterproof case for my phone if I am sensible (based on my own trailing style involving lots of water, sweat and rainy season transects).

So far these are the things that I have developed an opinion on.......

1) I am very comfortable with Garmin devices but when I pulled out the phone and looked at my progress on the phone's big screen I thought WOW. I have to concentrate on the Garmin due to the small screen and dig out my glasses BUT with the big screen of the phone it was so easy to quickly and easily understand where I was and where I needed to be heading. Really impressive.

2) My phone battery lasts a LOT longer than 2 AAs in the Garmin. But carrying two spares to pop in the Garmin is much logistically easier than carrying and trying to use a phone recharge battery pack. In honesty this is only relevant if trekking for more than a day.

3) I plotted tracks at the same time with the Garmin and the phone app and both tracks did not show any variance to be concerned about under deep foliage cover. In fact the phone performed the same as my Garmin handheld and slightly better than my Fenix 3.

4) You can upload your existing GARMIN tracks to GAIA easily using the web interface and GPX or KML files. Only failure is that waypoint text labels don't seem to show via GPX.

5) I have not been able to find a way to edit track points in GAIA so one needs to keep using BASECAMP to edit individual tracks (this is a very important feature for me as it enable me to delete my many side explorations when investigating a new trail or route). This may just be a feature I have not found yet but I do like Basecamp's editing capabilities a lot.

6) Waterproof, obviously Garmin has the upper hand by far here as phones are not designed to be waterproof. I also think the Garmin is more rugged, lighter and suited to harsh conditions way way better.

7) MAJOR plus for GAIA is it will show all my tracks at the same time on the screen whereas Garmin will only show one and you have to select that one to show. This is great when off piste because you get a better sense of where you are and where the nearest alternative route is if you need to extricate yourself or find an alternative route.

8) On GAIA you can keep all your trails private or share them with the world. It shows elevation plots as does Basecamp.

9) The background map option for GAIA are excellent with topo and satellite being available.

10) I paid the basic membership to get more maps access, it cost about 500 baht/year. The premium membership maps did not cover Thailand.

I am still learning what GAIA can and cannot do, and it does not remove the need to have BASECAMP nor the ruggedness of the Garmin GPS as well for what I use it for. Am going to carry both units for the next few weeks to see what else I learn. The major thing that sticks in my mind though is navigating/understanding using the big screen of the phone - WOW!

Have you used any of the phone GPS apps? What do you think? Any major issues/lessons learnt?


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30 Jun 2019 17:15 - 30 Jun 2019 17:15 #5276 by wvwv
Replied by wvwv on topic Gaia GPS app
I think purpose-built GPS devices are nearly defunct now with the emergence of smart phones. But you need to buy a decent phone because a cheap one won't have an inbuilt compass (this is important if you want to use the blue arrow on Google Maps or know which direction you are facing on any kind of GPS app) and will lose signal all the time leaving you with gaps in your track. I tried using a 2000 baht smart phone once and it was useless for recording tracks, it took ages to pinpoint your location and then cut out a few minutes later. I thought it might have been the app but tried the same app on another (good) phone and it worked flawlessly.

If I were Garmin I would not be investing in GPS devices now, like you wouldn't invest in CDs in 2019. But I would have thought they would invest in the apps as there is a good market there for the foreseeable future.

You can get waterproof phones now, some of the Samsungs say you can submerge them in water for 10 seconds or more; you can safely drop them in a sink or a toilet, so rain and sweat etc should be fine.

I avoid anything Apple as I just find their software restrictive and a lot of the apps aren't available on their platform. But, some people love Apple and swear by it..

For people who have not used any kind of navigation app before, it takes a bit of getting used to, so best to play around with it on a car journey or at the park before using it in jungles/mountains. You can get some really good Google Earth images with tracks uploaded. This is one I did in a kayak at Khao Sok Lake.

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