Somewhere in your pocket is something that may well revolutionise your time out on the hill. It’s your phone. We’re taking a look today at Viewranger, an application for a lot of smartphones that we just wanted to rave about, as it has seriously increased the amount of fun we have outdoors. And that’s not a bad thing in our book.
Viewranger is an application you can download for the iPhone, Symbian and Android smartphone operating systems, that turns your phone in to a pretty darn cool GPS. As a result, you don’t have to shell out a fortune on a dedicated GPS itself. It already has a load of web maps on it, and you can download more detailed maps such as Ordnance Survey ones directly down to your phone. You don’t need to have any signal for it to work, and you can also download some pretty cool routes direct from people such as our friends at Walkhighlands & Trail.
Now talking about GPS’s for some outdoor folk will have them coughing and spluttering that nothing replaces a map or compass, and that red socks are compulsory when out walking. For the record, we would agree with the map and compass bit if you are heading up in to the hills. The red socks is a matter of choice though – unless you belong to the Ramblers We think Viewranger is great for working alongside your map and compass, or on it’s own in non-critical situations. Now Viewranger can do lots of pretty cool things, so today isn’t about giving you a full lowdown – you can visit their homepage for that. We are simply going to tell you what makes it rock for us.
First up spare maps. Not sure about you, but I rarely have an occasion where we have a back up map with us, so Viewranger is rather handy as a spare. It has also got to be useful in some hairy situations. Imagine this, you’re in a whiteout somewhere on a Scottish hill, lost your way and no idea which way to go. Not sure about you, but I would be turning my phone on, seeing exactly where I am and working out where my emergency route off the hill is (haven’t already though of an escape route when planning your day? Tsk tsk!).
One natty feature that a GPS won’t have is the buddy beacon. Get your friends buddy beacon details and give them yours, you’ll be able to see exactly where they are on the hill in real time, and ensure that meeting for lunch on top of Ben Macdui goes swimmingly. Along the same lines, do you have a dog with a Retrieva collar? Similar to the buddy beacon, you can now see where Fido is wandering if he’s dashed off chasing rabbits! As we also discover living in the middle of deepest darkest Dorsetshire, we can’t always get to a shop that sells maps, or the shops are closed. If we want to explore a local area on a whim, Viewranger has stepped in to the breach on quite a few occasions, letting us download the map and go. Obviously you shouldn’t just have Viewranger for high level mountain routes, but if you just want to get a map for a wander in the local countryside, we think it’s fab.
Add in the ability to plan routes, download tracks, locate points of interest and all the other things you can do with a GPS, and you have a seriously handy piece of kit. Now obviously there are some things you need to be aware of, battery life on a lot of phones is poor, they can get wet, and they can break, but used alongside more traditional navigation, we reckon it’s a bloomin’ useful addition to our outdoor kit. Just don’t forget the red socks.
So what do you reckon folks? Do you have a GPS or Viewranger, and does it help you enjoy your time outside more? Post up your experiences in the comments below!
Keep an eye out soon for our interview with Phil Sorrell. He’s the developer behind Social Hiking which links up to the buddy beacon to share routes live, including your tweets, photos and more.