FR ViewRanger app - Lori P
here is my final report for the app. Thanks for your editing on this test.
I have used the ViewRanger app on backpacking trips to George Lake (1 night, Sierra National Forest), Pine Valley (1 night, Los Padres National Forest), Pat Springs (2 nights, Los Padres National Forest), Case Mountain (1 night, Sequoia National Forest), and Point Reyes National Seashore (3 nights, Marin County), all in California. I was hiking in varied terrain from sea level to approximately 9,000 feet (2,743 meters) in elevation. Temperatures ranged from 75 F (24 C) to 25 F (-4 C). I have also taken out my smart phone on at least six day hikes.
The first few times I used the app, I was unable to complete the trip while it was running. My phone died before I returned to the car. Despite all my efforts to kill all unnecessary apps, dim the screen, turn on airplane mode, and otherwise conserve the battery, the phone would lose power and die before finishing the hike. This was extremely frustrating. My second and third attempts to download quads for use while out of range of cell towers were also frustrating - I failed to capture all the map sections and ended up using the app to capture trip data, and never got a chance to try navigating with it on those day hikes.
Once I got the hang of the downloading of the maps, things started to improve for me. I liked being able to go back to the Organizer and looking up my trip statistics, such as speed, distance, elevation gains and losses, and reviewing mileage. The menus are fairly easy to navigate and some things can be accessed multiple ways, such as the Organizer, which can be selected from an icon at the top of the screen, or as an option through the main menu.
I also got a recharger, which allowed me to use the phone over multiple days successfully. It helped that the battery pack will also recharge other devices such as my camera, taking away a little of the sting of not being able to manage the phone battery life without extra pack weight. This allowed me to get complete tracks for the last two backpacking trips using the ViewRanger app.
Charging on a picnic table in Point Reyes
I did not successfully use the beacon while backpacking. I managed to get it to work from home, but it gave an error message about not being able to connect while on the trail in Point Reyes. I had to use the app to export a *.gpx file, which I then imported from the phone (connected to my computer as an external drive) into my topographical software. The phone with the app running does not connect directly to the software in any way. I did not attempt connecting with Twitter, Picasa or Flickr - due to poor battery life and trying to conserve, I didn't take pictures with the phone.
Navigating with the app was limited; it will zoom to within one mile (1.6 kilometers) and no closer. I primarily used USA Topo with Trails, and experimented with USGS plus Trails. I mainly used it to determine trail profiles and verify we were on the right trail where signs were absent.
I have found the app to be useful for recording data and making it available for use on my topographical software. Overall, it's easily navigated and once I learned the interface it was easy to use. The app has a number of maps that are useful to the hiker, and more are available in the store at the website. I also briefly used the street maps and found them helpful in deciding on a route. Downloading the maps for later use is simple. Much of the trouble I had was due to my cheap phone, and some of it to user error.
I will likely continue to use the app for day hikes, to record trip data and simple navigational tasks when needed. For longer trips or outings where I need to navigate cross country, I am more likely to use a dedicated GPS unit that will allow me to zoom in more, and leave the phone in the car.
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