Not ten years ago, the essential computing device in the average American home was an Internet-enabled personal computer. Most of the time, it sat on a desk in the den. Other times, laptops added a level of convenience and portability that users enjoyed. Neato gadgets like the Palm III handheld computer were fun and kind of functional–at the time, they were even seen as game changers–but were still quirky devices, often relegated to executives, gadget freaks, and yuppies who just needed one more device to play Tetris on.
Now smart phones are expected to go everywhere and do everything. Apps utilize GPS tracking for insane tasks, from telling your Facebook friends you’re at a restaurant to hailing a taxicab. Bringing that iPhone or Android on those extreme outdoor adventures, though, has never been this real thanks to a new app called ViewRanger.
ViewRanger is designed to transform your smart phone into your technological companion for those extreme outdoor adventures, whether it’s a ski trip in Colorado or climbing K-2. It’s a hyper-accurate, in some cases crowd-sourced GPS map of remote adventure locations. Users can connect their phone’s GPS–which often still works, thanks to its satellite connection, when a cellular connection does not–to ViewRanger and enjoy route mapping, GPS location of their friends, etc. Social media features allow you to post your location on Mt. Everest for your Facebook friends. The app promises to add a level of safety to your adventure that a printed map would not.
Can a Smart Phone Really Do It All?
Does the ViewRanger app replace the power and accuracy of a good handheld outdoor GPS? Yes and no. While it’s accurate, the user is limited by their phone. GPS trackers in cell phones are often far less powerful than handheld GPS devices. Phones are designed to make phone calls at the end of the day; often the body design of the phone obscures the GPS signal. In addition, the battery on the smart phone is limiting: There are no smart phone charges on Mount St. Helen’s. however, ViewRanger is a great app for short term hikes and/or outdoor adventures.