Tag Archives: hiking

Trail Tracker GPS Revamped In Version 3.0

While Trail Tracker GPS is on version 3.1, it’s biggest update yet occurred when TapTools, its developer, released version 3.0 in July. Besides giving you the standard statistics of other outdoor apps, it shows the path you traveled no matter what you’re doing: running; hiking; biking; or even driving a car.

Trip Journal AppWhat was new in 3.0? New data formats were introduced, something that TapTools is extremely excited about. According to a press release from the company:

“We’ve received an unbelievable quantity of requests for all sorts of different data formats, so we took your feedback and started from the ground up with Trail Trackers’ data structure. First off, we got rid of the old .msdf format and replaced it with an all-new, human-readable, XML-based file format. Your maps will automatically and seamlessly be converted to the new .ttmd format the first time you open Trail Tracker after updating to version 3.0. Not only that, but we’ve added the ability to export maps as KML and GPX files so you can view them in whatever applications you want!”

Other new features, great for avid hikers: integration of Spark! by Weatherbug. This is a personal lightning detector, which will show you the closest areas lightning is striking within the Trail Tracker GPS app, allowing you to steer clear. Also, Google Maps integration was added, bringing terrain maps, interactive elevations graphs to show changes in elevation over time, and map rotation.

New settings were added for users to better customize their experience, and your maps are autosaved every two minutes so you never lose your data. If you’re worried about battery life, there is a new battery saver feature that does reduce accuracy, but keeps the app from draining the battery.

Unsure on how to get out of the woods? Use the new reverse tracing feature, which will guide you in reverse right back to where you started.

Version 3.1 corrected bug issues and added some UI features. Check it out in the app store for $1.99!

Mountain Biker

GPS Aids in Mountain Rescue

A flashlight, pocket knife, extra food, and bandages have long been staples of every serious hiker’s emergency kit. But if you plan on doing some serious hiking, there’s something you might not have thought of to add: a smartphone. Often used to play cheap games and take self portraits in the bathroom mirror, these GPS equipped phones are now helping hikers, guides, and even search and rescue teams. While most survival equipment is designed to help lost hikers hold out til help comes or relies on rescuers looking in the right place at the right time for a signal, smartphones enable lost hikers to help rescuers pinpoint their location.


Take for instance last December on Mount Hood. A group of experienced hikers, one whom was a veteran guide, took off across the mountain in the direction of a rustic cabin. But when the trail they were looking for turned out to have been washed away in a flood, and fog and snow rolled in, the trio found themselves lost, without shelter, and unable to find their way off the mountain. They called for help, and rescue teams used the call to place determine their general coordinates, but due to the inclement weather, search and rescue team members were unable to find them. So the trio hiked on for another twenty hours, still unable to find the cabin they were in search of. When they finally gave up, though, the experience of their guide, helped them survive the night as he was able to construct a snow cave to keep the worst of the elements at bay.


But with the weather limiting visibility, and even with the aid of two snowcats and skis, twenty rescuers were unable to locate the lost hikers. However, as the weather began to clear the next day the lost hikers were able to send out a brief signal from their GPS device. With better weather and a specific area in which to look, the rescuers were quickly able to locate the hikers who, while cold, had suffered no major injuries during their ordeal. Trapped on the mountainside and without enough equipment to hold out long, a brief phone call and quick GPS tracking signal were enough to save the hiker’s lives. So next time you pack an emergency kit, make sure you really have everything you need.

Lost Hiker Posts GPS Coordinates On Facebook

“Anyone in the Portland area with crampons, an ice axe, a car, and Tuesday night and Wednesday off of work wanna go on an adventure?” Jeffrey Kish posted the previous message on his Facebook before heading out on a hiking trip on Mount Hood. The 30-year-old Portland resident became lost in bad weather and used social media to alert his friends. He was rescued from the mountain at around 2 a.m., mostly unscathed.


Shortly after beginning his decent down the mountain, Kish stumbled upon some bad weather. He became lost in whiteout conditions. He told reporters at KGW.com that he realized he was in trouble after visibility was reduced significantly and slipping several times. Fortunately he was prepared with a GPS tracking device and posted his coordinated on his Facebook page along with the following message: “Ok Guys. I have no idea where I am, other than right on the edge of some gnarly cliff. Too far east or west?”


Another status update reads “You’re gonna hear about it in the news anyway, may as well spill it myself. Got stuck in a storm on the summit of Mt. Hood. Stuck on cliffs over 10,000′ in a white out. Called 911 after several hours of trying to self rescue. Search and rescue has been notified. Wish me luck!”


Kish is an experienced hiker and had hiked the Pacific Crest Trail this summer, according to his Facebook information. As any experienced outdoorsman, he was prepared for bad weather. Along with a GPS device, he also had enough supplies for a few days.


The search and rescue team followed the GPS data and found no one at the original coordinates provided. Kish sent the team updated GPS location information and they found him wrapped in a sleeping bag.”These guys saved my life,” he said. The rescue team spent a few hours warming Kish, before removing him from the mountain.

GPS and hiking

Planning the Ultimate Outdoor Adventure?

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.


Then the iPhone ushered in the smart phone era. The first truly functional, extremely fun, consumer friendly handheld computer, it raised the bar (to say the least) on handheld computing.


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.


Meet 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.

Unnecessary Rescues Due to Technology?

Use of smartphones, GPS devices, emergency locator devices, and other technological devices like it have led to a rise in backcountry rescues where the caller doesn’t truly need assistance, putting the lives of rescuers in jeopardy.


Search-and-rescue teams say that the rise of the use of these types of devices have folks sending out false alerts, as well as people who take a route they probably aren’t experienced enough to take, feeling that the device they are carrying protects them from any harm. There is a rise in people carrying PLBs, or personal locator beacons, out into the woods where with a press of a button, emergency is summoned giving the GPS coordinates of the person in distress. However, emergency crews have no way of knowing exactly why this distress signal is sent out.


Search and rescue coordinator for the California Emergency Management Agency, Matt Scharper, refers to these PLBs as “yuppie 911′s.” He said, “You send a message to a satellite and the government pulls your butt out of something you shouldn’t have been in in the first place.” Nick Parker, Alaskan wilderness rescue veteran of 45 years, agrees: “The real issue is one of training (or lack thereof), and our dependence on gizmos to save us. People expect a rescue in the same way they expect a fire engine or ambulance to come when they dial 911.”


Here’s an example: back in 2009, four hikers carrying a SPOT satellite tracking device while hiking in a remote part of the Grand Canyon pushed the help button. Rangers responded the next day by helicopter, finding the hikers did not need to be evacuated at all. Rather, they were fearful they would run short of water. They pushed the button again the next day, prompting another visit by helicopter, and all the men wanted was to complain that the water provided to them “tasted salty.” The third time they pushed the button, the rangers had had enough, loading them all onto the helicopter and removing them from the canyon, citing the leader of the group for creating a hazardous condition.


Although this is an extreme case, false alerts are happening a lot more often. In 2010, hikers in Grand Teton National Park asked for help down the mountain, with one of them requesting hot chocolate be flown in. In the US, hikers are sometimes charged for an unnecessary rescue. However, rescue teams try not to do this too often. According to Jeff Sparhawk, public information officer for the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group based in Boulder, CO said, “We don’t want people not to call for a rescue because they think they can’t afford it. Then they’re likely to get into deeper trouble and trigger a more dangerous rescue.”


Even Scharper knows that PLBs are useful despite the fact he calls them “yuppie 911′s.” “PLBs have saved a lot of lives, and as the technology develops, the problem will partly solve itself. Instead of a ’911 hangup’” – the distress signal attached to the person’s GPS coordinates – “we’ll be able to text back and forth. We’ll be able to talk a lost hiker back to safety without going out to get him, or putting any rescuers at risk.”


As an avid hiker, I can agree with these expert opinions. There are too many people reliant on these devices that can fail, rather than using their common sense: following trail markers, staying on the designated trail, or the worst scenario, being poorly prepared for weather conditions. Despite a hiker’s experience level, one should always prepare for a trip in unfamiliar territory: pack for any weather conditions, familiarize yourself with the trail ahead of time, carry a map along as backup, and do not hike terrain you aren’t comfortable with. Above all, have the common sense to realize that the need for hot chocolate is not one which requires search-and-rescue response.

Hike Detail in Mountains

Explore America with GPS and TOPO!

The fear of any outdoorsman is getting lost in the woods; however, in a world of global positioning systems and tracking devices, much of that fear is relieved. Now, Magellan and National Geographic have teamed up to provide outdoorsmen the ultimate in GPS navigational tools. The handheld GPS device series known as eXplorist can now download TOPO!, National Geographic’s full-color and exquisitely detailed topographical maps of the continental United States.


About Magellan

Magellan, based in Santa Clara, California, has long been known for its Roadmate series of GPS systems for cars, boats, trucks, and RVs, not to mention its fleet management line. They also provide apps and accessories for smart phones as well as GPS devices for outdoor enthusiasts. The eXplorist series is just one of Magellan’s recreational tools. The 310 unit is ideal for basic outdoor tracking, while the 510, 610, and 710 models are more than adequate for the advanced outdoor explorer.


About eXplorist

Like all Magellan products, the eXplorist line is rugged, compact, and waterproof, making it the ideal GPS device for any adventurer. It features a user-friendly menu, a screen that can be read even in direct sunlight, and a battery that is long-lasting. All this innovation fits in the palm of your hand. Whether you are up for hiking, biking, hunting, or fishing, the eXplorist will keep you tracking. And geocaching adventures take on a whole new meaning when seen topographically.


About TOPO!

National Geographic developed TOPO! to provide detailed topographical maps for increased safety and a more enhanced outdoor experience. The app is downloadable through Magellan, and the annual service fee is less than $30; you can even get a free trial. The program features two scales. The 1:100,000-scale gives a complete overview for the extended trip while the 1:24,000-scale map provides terrain detail, right down to ravines, ridge lines, back roads, and trails with national parks and state parks easily identified as well.


Outdoor adventure awaits, and it is not just for the rugged explorer type anymore. eXplorist and TOPO! together provide the novice as well as the wilderness wanderer a GPS device that enables them to safely and expertly navigate the great land of America.


ViewRanger App Provides GPS Tracking for the Ultimate Outdoor Adventure

Since the dawn of consumer GPS technology, users have been fascinated with the idea of using GPS tracking for outdoor adventures, whether they include hiking, camping, hunting or more. The growing ubiquity of smart phones in United States consumers’ hands has made the possibility for easy GPS tracking to aid in outdoor adventures. Now, Android and iOS users can take their phone’s GPS to the next level with a new app called ViewRanger GPS.

Designed and released by Augmentra Ltd., ViewRanger GPS transforms the user’s smart phone or tablet device into a GPS navigator specifically for use in the outdoors. What is the difference between that and the standard GPS tracking device that comes installed with most tablet computers and smart phones? Where ViewRanger separates itself from the pack is its specificity; the app is supplemented with trail maps, topographical maps with incredible detail, and even offline map storage. Augmentra Ltd. continues to allow users to download maps with extra fine detail for remote hiking destinations around the world. The goal is to turn ViewRanger into the ultimate GPS and computing sidekick for any individual that loves the outdoors.

The app integrates with already published hiking routes easily. Augmentra Ltd. continues to cultivate social networking features in its ViewRanger app, supplementing it with the site My.ViewRanger.com. Using the website in conjunction with the phone or tablet app may make planning outdoor events easier than ever, whether in the United States or anywhere in the world. Users may also download high quality pre-published hiking routes, maps and guides to design the ultimate hiking experience.

ViewRanger has been utilized in the United Kingdom as an aid to Search and Rescue teams. This carefully designed, presumably expert tool may end up becoming the last word when it comes to integrating smart phones and tablets with the outdoors. Tech geeks with an outdoor proclivity may download the app, for a short time, for $4.99 on the Android Market or in the iTunes App Store.

As GPS tracking technology evolves, apps continue to redefine and specify how the technology integrates with nearly every area of our lives. Even in the outdoors, it is quickly becoming more difficult to escape the convenience of modern technology.

GPS Saves Lives in Hawaii and Beyond

The power of GPS satellites to save lives and help those in need seems to be growing every day. In the Koolau mountains in O’ahu, Hawaii, two hikers were recently rescued after getting lost on a hike.

The father and soon hiking team got lost on a trail. The son’s wife called firefighters, who then checked a GPS on their cell phone. Though the battery was low and the phone eventually died, firefighters used that fleeting moment of cell phone power and read their location on the GPS. Once that was done, they’d determined that the hikers were going in the wrong direction, actually going up the mountain.

Mother Nature is a stern taskmaster, and there’s nothing more frightening than getting lost on a hiking trail during a simple pleasure hike. However, with the implementation of GPS technologies on smart phones, adding safety and security to an afternoon hike is becoming easier.

As GPS technology becomes more commonplace, there are definitely advantages to individuals who want to be tracked voluntarily. In the case of those two hikers in Hawaii, their lives were saved. The world is quickly becoming a place where such hiking accidents don’t have to become tragedies. If it weren’t for the simple, easy use of GPS technology and cell phones, those hikers may have died.

If you’re going on a hike, the simple addition of a GPS or smart phone is now becoming a packing essential. There’s more to smart phones than texting and Angry Birds—these phones open up a whole new world of GPS technology that not only gets you where you need to go more quickly, but allows for satellite tracking in the event you get off the trail during the big hike. So what’s the moral of the story? Don’t go hiking without a GPS. It may save your life.

Woman Gets Lost in Woods: Found Thanks to GPS Technology

A Detroit woman went for a walk with her dogs this past weekend. Enjoying nature to the fullest, the woman lost track of time..and lost her way. Panicked, she phoned 911 from her cell phone to report that she was lost. Within minutes, rescuers were able to pinpoint the woman’s location using cell phone GPS technology.

Even though rescuers were able to discern where the woman was located, they could not find her right away. The area that the woman had wandered into was heavily wooded and full of swampland. Instead of trying to find her on foot, rescuers use a helicopter and a tracking dog. Eventually, the woman and her dogs were located — all parties are safe and unharmed.

The moral of this story? Make sure to bring a cell phone with you when you go out for a walk. Even if you know the area well, it’s still possible to get lost and lose track of time. Even better, carry a GPS tracking device with you, just in case your cell phone doesn’t work. If the woman in question had wandered further into the woods, her cell phone might not have been able to pick up a signal. In an instance such as this one, a GPS tracker would still work.

Article Written by Harriette Halepis

Geocaching: The Great Global Scavenger Hunt

Geocaching is a world-wide scavenger hunting game, which utilizes GPS technology as a key component. In order to participate in this popular pastime, one needs to obtain a GPS device and then register at www.geocaching.com. Once registered, users can plug in a zip code to get instant access to the hidden treasures in their area. According to long-time geocacher and local resident, Dave Humphrey, geocaching is alive and well in Cranbook.

There are more than 100 hidden treasures in Cranbrook, many of which Humphrey has hidden himself. The treasures are not your typical gold and silver. In fact, most items do not have any real monitory value. The real prize is the pride geocachers can take in participating and locating the containers, as well as the opportunity to add their names to the list of successful geocachers inside each container.

“The majority of people won’t know them, they wont see them. Although they are not buried, they are hidden or disguised, or between rocks, or something like that,” explained Humphrey. “A larger container would have some gimmicky items like key rings and pens and badges – trinkets you can trade,” he adds.

Geocaching was first invented in May of 2000, not long after GPS devices were made available for public use. Dave Ulmer, a computer consultant, decided to test the technology by hiding a target in the woods. He then gave his friends the GPS coordinates of the target, to see if they could locate it. Two years later, the game was in full effect, and Dave Humphrey found a new hobby. “At that time everything was hidden in a lunchbox under a pile of rocks or logs. Since then things have really evolved quite a bit.”

Often, geocaches are placed along popular hiking trails, but they can also be found in the city. The game has spread to most of the developed world, so it’s also a hobby you can take with you on vacation. “The other thing I find really enjoyable is when I go to another area I don’t know, I can look up the caches and see, ‘This sounds like a really nice viewpoint or a historical spot that I can go to.’”

Article Written by Marisa O’Connor