My wife and I love to go for long walks and hikes with our dog. Living in Britain, we are somewhat spoiled for choice I believe – especially with so many public footpaths. Lately, we have started to invent new walks every week by using some of the GPS-based apps available for the iPhone.
Each week, we drive to a village that we like (usually has a nice pub for the all important “after walk recovery”) or that is in a beautiful area. We then load one of the iPhone apps listed below and plan a circular route that we then adapt as we go. We have discovered so many fantastic walks this way with only the occasional hiccup (usually involving a field and a bull, but that’s a different story).
Below are the main apps that I have tried and tested – there may be others of course.
1. Google Maps. free.
The great thing about Google Maps is that it is free and standard as part of your iPhone implementation. The satellite images are a great way to locate landmarks. But that is where the benefits of this app end I am afraid. The app requires internent access to work and so you are stuffed when out in the countryside with a slow or non-existent network connection. Also, the level of detail in these maps is simply not good enough for hiking.
Pros: free, built in, satellite images clearly displays reality and doesn’t rely on surveys.
Cons: need decent internet connection in the field, slow, not accurate – does not display footpaths which makes it pretty useless for hikers.
2. Routebuddy Atlas - iTunes link. app free, must purchase maps.
This was the first GPS mapping app I tried after Google maps and I used to be really impressed. The Ordnance Survey (OS) maps do not come with the app, you need to purchase them separately but when you have done so, it has some nice features. The OS maps are accurate and clearly display the footpath and bridleways along with your current location.
It is the way you need to download the apps that pretty much makes the app a reject for me now. You have to go to the web site on your PC/Mac to download a specific OS map. You then need to upload this map to your iphone by enabling a “file server” process on your iPhone. The whole thing is complicated and clunky.
Pros: full UK Ordnance Survey maps available with excellent way-point functionality.
Cons: you need to purchase each OS map and require a degree in computer science to get them on to your phone.
3. GB Nat Parks – iTunes link. £9.99 all in.
This is an excellent app! You have full access to the UK 1:50K Ordnance Survey maps from the point of install. This means that you do not need to download anything. It works brilliantly wherever you are without any worry about future planning or internet connectivity. The maps are clear and accurate.
Pros: Access to all 1:50K OS maps from the minute you download it, for free.
Cons: the maps only go to 1:50K with no ability for finer detail (minor point)
4. UK Map – iTunes link. £4.99 all in.
This is also an excellent mapping app for the iPhone / iPad and trumps GB Nat Parks on two points – 1) price and 2) detail. When you download this app, you get the level of detail you would expect from the start – down to 1:50K OS. But the main advantage of this app is that you can get 1:10K detail if you need (for free). Getting the more detailed map is a bit clumsy, you have to keep your finger pressed on an area for a few seconds and then confirm that you want to download, but other than that it is a very nice product.
Pros: 1:50K Ordnance Survey at point of install but with access to 1:10K when you need it. Price.
Cons: 1:10K maps are downloaded and so it requires a bit of future planning as it would be pretty slow or impossible if already out in the field.
Although the most recent addition to my iPhone, I have found the UK Map app to be the most useful. This is primarily because of the better map detail and the way it rotates the map based on the compass. I would also recommend the GB Nat Parks app for a great “all rounder”.