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Nav App Comparison


Active Member
I’ve been trying to figure out which app, or combination of apps I want to use offline and off road. The whole app thing was a little confusing, so I spent some time this weekend trying to compare apps. Then I figured that I might as well write it down. First some basics about maps, then some specifics about the apps.

Topo Maps
Basic old school topo maps have a lot of contour lines to indicate changes in terrain, as well as a lot of other info on them. The have either no shading or minimal shading to indicate terrain. I think they are easier to read in paper form than on a small tablet screen.

Newer topo maps have more and better shading, and less visible contour lines, which gives the map a three dimensional feel, and makes it easier to read on a tablet. Depending on the app, you can turn things like place names or county lines or BLM shading on or off.

USGS and USFS topo maps are available as free base maps in several apps. They are the old school topo maps.

Oddly, Open Cycle Maps are pretty decent for off road purposes. They have some shading, and you can still see contour lines. They have pretty good detail. Open Cycle Maps are also available as a base map in several apps.

Accuterra maps takes the shading to a higher level making the map easier to read, and are also pretty detailed, but not perfect. For instance, Animas Forks is not shown with a place name. You just have to know where it is. Accuterra maps are available in several different apps as a paid upgrade.

Scenic Maps takes topo maps to a wow level. They have almost a video game like reality. You can go into the bottom of a canyon, and see the walls rise up to the sides. Kind of similar to Google Earth, but in an app.

Colorado MVUMs
The easiest way to get the CO MVUM’s is to get Avenza Pdf maps, then import the MVUMs in pdf format. The pdf files are geo referenced, so they work in a nav app. I haven’t found any other app that will import the pdf MVUM’s. (Stay the Trail also has the MVUM’s in a .kmz format, which is what Google earth uses. Kmz files are zipped kml files. Most apps import kml’s. I don’t have the patience to figure out how to get a kmz file into an app.)

Offroad/Offline Use
For those really new to nav apps, the apps below work by downloading the map you want, and storing it on your device, so it is there when you are offline.

A couple of the apps have an website that lets you set up routes or import routes and then sync them to your device. You can also back up the app data on your device. Some have catalogs of routes from other users that you can import. I find it easier to work on a computer with a real keyboard, so I like clouds.

Gaia Maps ($20 to buy. Then the pro version costs $40 per year)
Pros - Maps seem detailed, but I haven’t fully compared to Scenic Maps or Accutera. Gaia has it’s an online cloud service for backups and managing tracks, etc. The cloud and the app seem very intuitive to me. Gaia has the biggest selection of free maps that I saw in the apps I looked at.

Cons - The app is about $20, and then the upgrade version is based on a subscription, which really adds up for an app.​

Avenza PDF Maps (Free. Then you buy the maps you want.)
Pros - You can get all the CO MVUM’s from their online store. The MVUM’s are free. The app is free. Other topo maps are either free or cost a few bucks. There are some maps for the Alpine Loop area that show trail difficulty, derived from Charles Wells books. National Geographic maps are available for some areas. And a lot of other specialty maps.

Cons - I think the app will only open one map at a time. So you can't show multiple MVUM’s at once. Correct me if I’m wrong. You also can’t overlay one map on top of the other. Also, I don’t think you can import your own track from somewhere else.​

Scenic Maps (All USA $15. Central US includes CO $10)
Pros - The maps are pretty stunning visually, and pretty detailed, and the app is fast on an ipad. When you buy a section of the country, it all downloads at once. So you don’t have to pre-download your area before you go on a trip. It’s just all there for the region you purchased. App is pretty intuitive to use.

Cons - IOS only. Because it gives you detailed maps for a region of several states, it takes a lot of space. The central US maps, which include CO take about 2.5 GB of space. US takes 8GB. The biggest drawback to Scenic Maps is that the place names all turn on or off at once. All the mines are named, which clutters things up. But if you turn them off, every place name is gone.​

Backcountry Navigator (demo version for free, and $12 for the pro version.)
Pros - You can buy Accuterra maps. I’m not sure how they compare to the base Gaia maps. BCN has a free time limited demo version.

Cons - Android only. Accuterra maps are $19.99 per year.​

Viewranger (Free. Accuterra maps cost $15.99. Altitude data was $4.00)
Pros - Supports Android and iOS. You can upgrade to Accuterra maps for a one time fee (Not an annual subscription.) Has a cloud service which allows you to create or import routes, and then sync them to the tablet. The cloud also has a catalog of user generated routes. Most of them are overseas, but there are some in CO. (Viewranger is a British company.) There are a lot of settings to play with for people who are way into nav. I sent them a question via email, and got a reply in less than a day, over the weekend. That's pretty impressive, but July 4th doesn't mean much to the British.

Cons - The user interface is less intuitive than most of the others. Not terrible, just not as intuitive. At least it’s free, so you can try it out.​

HEMA - I didn’t check into this one very much. I could only find topo maps for Austrailia, or street maps for the US. Perhaps I’m missing something.

Delorme Earthmate - (Free)
Pros - Delorme is really good at maps, and theses maps are the most readable I've seen. That's due to color choices, font sizes, and having the right data on the map for the level you're at. App available for both iOS and Android. There is a cloud, which syncs to the app and to the InReach.

Cons - Sadly Delorme is bad at apps. Some very basic things are missing. In the app, there is no ability to create a waypoint. You can send your exact location, or you can click a different spot on the map and send it to someone, but you can't create a waypoint. You can create a waypoint on the map in the cloud. But the waypoints don't sync to the app. The other thing that is confusing is map selection. You can supposedly switch between a couple different maps, that were previously downloaded. However, when I clicked the radio button to select a different map, I could not see the difference. I'm not sure if it changed or not.​

EveryTrail - Unfortunately, Everytrail is a dead app. You can’t get it anymore, but you can still use it if you have it. But it’s no longer supported. It had a huge library of routes from users, which was what was really cool about it.
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both delorme and hema I think are raster maps so that way you can store all of north america, they just wont get to the detail gaia or avenza has

remember raster is faster but vector is corrector


Vector Data

Advantages : Data can be represented at its original resolution and form without generalization. Graphic output is usually more aesthetically pleasing (traditional cartographic representation); Since most data, e.g. hard copy maps, is in vector form no data conversion is required. Accurate geographic location of data is maintained. Allows for efficient encoding of topology, and as a result more efficient operations that require topological information, e.g. proximity, network analysis.

Disadvantages: The location of each vertex needs to be stored explicitly. For effective analysis, vector data must be converted into a topological structure. This is often processing intensive and usually requires extensive data cleaning. As well, topology is static, and any updating or editing of the vector data requires re-building of the topology. Algorithms for manipulative and analysis functions are complex and may be processing intensive. Often, this inherently limits the functionality for large data sets, e.g. a large number of features. Continuous data, such as elevation data, is not effectively represented in vector form. Usually substantial data generalization or interpolation is required for these data layers. Spatial analysis and filtering within polygons is impossible

Raster Data

Advantages : The geographic location of each cell is implied by its position in the cell matrix. Accordingly, other than an origin point, e.g. bottom left corner, no geographic coordinates are stored. Due to the nature of the data storage technique data analysis is usually easy to program and quick to perform. The inherent nature of raster maps, e.g. one attribute maps, is ideally suited for mathematical modeling and quantitative analysis. Discrete data, e.g. forestry stands, is accommodated equally well as continuous data, e.g. elevation data, and facilitates the integrating of the two data types. Grid-cell systems are very compatible with raster-based output devices, e.g. electrostatic plotters, graphic terminals.

Disadvantages: The cell size determines the resolution at which the data is represented.; It is especially difficult to adequately represent linear features depending on the cell resolution. Accordingly, network linkages are difficult to establish. Processing of associated attribute data may be cumbersome if large amounts of data exists. Raster maps inherently reflect only one attribute or characteristic for an area. Since most input data is in vector form, data must undergo vector-to-raster conversion. Besides increased processing requirements this may introduce data integrity concerns due to generalization and choice of inappropriate cell size. Most output maps from grid-cell systems do not conform to high-quality cartographic needs.


Active Member
Shawn are you a geographer? My neighbor is. He works at the satellite photo company up near Boulder. (Can't remember the name)