Here is my IR for the ViewRanger app. Fun!
ViewRanger GPS Navigation Application
Test Series by Lori Pontious
INITIAL REPORT - September 21 2012
NAME: Lori Pontious
EMAIL: lori.pontious (at) gmail.com
LOCATION: Fresno County, California, USA
HEIGHT: 5'7" (1.7 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (75 kg)
I've backpacked, camped and fished all over the lower 48 states with my family as a kid, and then life happened. I've restarted these activities about four years ago - I dayhike or backpack 2-6 times a month. I am between light and ultralight. I have a hammock system and own a Tarptent. My base weight depends upon season and where I go.
Manufacturer: Augmentra Ltd
Manufacturer URL: www.viewranger.com
Operating System: Apple, Android, Symbian
The ViewRanger GPS Application (hereafter "the app" or "ViewRanger app") is a navigation software available for smartphones and tablets that run on Apple, Android or Symbian operating systems.
I received a code to activate the app, and it quickly installed on my HTC myTouch 4G smart phone. A quick browse through the menus led me to realize that this is a full featured GPS app, with many of the same settings and options I've come to expect from my GPS.
There are a variety of maps that can be downloaded for free. It took me a few tries to figure out how to download sections into the phone memory. I quickly learned how to toggle back and forth between online and offline. Other features aren't as intuitive and required going to the website to review the guide on a wiki. For example, instructions on the wiki reveal how to save a day's track without wasting battery life but continuing to collect data. This procedure would not have been immediately obvious. There are options in the menus that match what I would expect from a dedicated GPS unit (map datum, coordinate type, unit type, etc.).
I set up a short route for my trip the weekend after I received the code to activate the app, to see how that feature will work. Creating waypoints is easy on a touch screen; there is an offset handle to drag the last waypoint around until it is where I want it, then I tap somewhere else to create the next one. In the picture above (on the left) the end result is shown in blue. The software connects the waypoints as you go. It's easy to go back to edit or extend the route after saving it. I also downloaded the maps for the area I would be in. However, I discovered at the trailhead that my download was only partial, and I quickly walked off the map! The app continued to create a track but I could not use it for immediate navigation purposes. Lesson learned: be careful to tap all sections needed and then download. Downloading maps involves toggling back and forth between the "add" icon (which allows you to select areas on the map for download) and the "scroll" icon (a four-way arrow icon, allowing you to drag and locate segments to download). At first I was trying to scroll/drag without changing the icon - perhaps why I missed key parts of my first downloaded map.
While using the ViewRanger app to plan and download maps, I became a little frustrated with how long it was taking to load the maps. I understood that it is a lot of data coming down at 4G, but I am not terribly patient! Scrolling around once the maps are downloaded also feels slower than it needs to be, to me. My poor budget smart phone is likely not quite as good for this as it could be - more memory would probably help.
I noticed an option for a beacon, and after reading the wiki I discovered that this is to be used with other ViewRanger app users. The beacon allows me to see other people's location on a website, or at least their last known position - the beacon polls the server at regular intervals. A user name and PIN must be entered on a web page (http://www.viewranger.com/buddybeacon/v2/)
. This does not appear to be a feature that could be used to keep track of hiking companions traveling together, as some dedicated GPS units can do, but may be an interesting option when I go on a trip and I'd like other people with internet connections to check in on my progress. There is an option in the menus to send beacon now, marking the user's current position. There is also a way to integrate this feature with Twitter. This is not specifically marketed as a safety device - it is, however, a neat feature and I may on a future trip find a buddy who will log in and watch my progress on the map to give me a report on how well this feature works.
In addition to the usual GPS features of tracking speed, duration, location, tracks, and creating waypoints and routes, the ViewRanger app can download routes from the internet for my use. It will also synchronize trips recorded with Twitter and Facebook, including photos uploaded to Picasa or flickr. While I don't use social media often, I can experiment with connecting ViewRanger with my Facebook and flickr accounts. What I will not do: rely on this app exclusively. Aside from the general wisdom of not relying on electronic navigation aids entirely while in the backcountry, my phone battery is limited. Part of this process will require me to learn to micromanage the way my phone uses battery power to maximize the life of the battery over several days.
Thanks to Augmentra Ltd and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the ViewRanger GPS Navigation Application. Please come back in two months when I post my Field Report.