Over the years I have collected a pile of GPS devices – from TomTom’s that once ruled the vehicle GPS market to an army of apps and add-ons like Google Maps, Apple Maps and other tools for my mobile phone. Today, I’m happy to say that I’ve come to love, appreciate and embrace everything about Gaia on my iPhone as my preferred hiking & trekking App.
Gaia GPS is a mobile and web experience for all your mapping needs. It offers a comprehensive mapping system online via their website gaiagps.com as well as mobile apps for Android and iOS Platforms. I use Gaia for hiking as well as off road trail driving tracking and mapping. It works great regardless of hiking a well-marked trail or chasing down cairns to mark where you’re at or following old mining trails on the Jeep and avoiding getting lost on the endless offshoots and dead-end trails.
Gaia GPS is a GPS app available for iOS and Android which offers full mapping capabilities, full GPS tracking capabilities and social sharing all in a friendly and straightforward to use interface. It integrates with iWatch nicely and offers full sync to the web for backups and online editing.
Gaia GPS Tracking
I’ve put the GPS tracking to the test on many occasions now – but the toughest and most thorough was a 6+ hour hike up and down Quandary Peak Trail. The app worked flawlessly in tracking time, ascent, distance and mapping and plotting out the trail as I worked my way up my first 14er.
I had no problems with battery life while leaving the tracker open for the entire duration of the hike (I also used my iPhone to take pictures, I wasn’t exactly conserving battery). I would, however, advise that you do bring portable battery pack for longer trips.
Gaia GPS Saved Track
Saved Tracks show you all of your historical data for your hike/drive/off road adventure. They allow you to share, edit and take notes as well as manage your photos that are associated with the hike.
When you click on the track details, you can see how fast (err I mean slow) you hiked, what the altitude gain was and the profile graph of how much you trogged through the ascent/descent.
The app also allows you to collect details about your trip on top of the rich data sources – attach images and comments. When we went to Buescher state park, I used the app to track and mark fire damage for personal interest as well as to mark trailheads and check waypoints.
GPS Save Points
Gaia GPS makes it super easy to viewView your saved parks, points & images. I tracked a short hike through Buscher and took some photos that I wanted to mark. Didn’t have to rely on my phone GPS EXIF data to overlay, Gaia made this quick and easy.
Gaia GPS Offline Maps
Gaia Premium supports offline maps and to me – this is one of the best features of the app. The offline map functionality allows you to define a region I which you want maps to be cached/downloaded to your device. The off-line map functionality is super simple to do – just follow their offline map guide
Backup to Web
Never fear changing devices, upgrading or switching phones again. If you log in to Gaia GPS on your phone, it will sync your routes, waypoints, and folders and backup all your data online. This is a great piece of mind and one reason that Gaia is one of my favorites even over dedicated handheld devices.
Gaia GPS for iWatch
One of the coolest features is having all the data from Gaia GPS right on your wrist. The iWatch App allows you to display easily:
- GPS Strength
When you start recording from your mobile device, you can pause from the watch as well as mark waypoints. You can even view your local map screen without having to take out your phone.
If you are pairing your watch with your phone to display map details and info, please be warned that will cause an increase in battery drain.
Gaia GPS Web
The mobile app does everything I’ve needed out of a GPS tracker, but one of the more helpful features is the ability to view my data on the web from the comfort of my desktop or tablet. The web app allows you to see your history, waypoints, pictures and share this with the world.
With GaiaGPS web you can create routes, waypoints and save them to your phone (synchronization) or share them online with friends and family. Data can be imported and exported to GPX and KML files for integration with anything that uses those data formats – including non-Gaia GPS devices.
While I love my phone, I’m a die hard keyboard and mouse user when it comes to tracking, managing and planning my routes. Being able to do everything I need over the web and sync back and forth to my phone is why I enjoy Gaia.
Gaia GPS Premium
Gaia GPS Premium subscription-based service. For a nominal fee, you can subscribe to get all the latest and greatest features including map updates, offline syncing and more.
The premium maps are what make Gaia GPS Premium. They give you advanced mapping features to mark hunting areas (in the US), to mark/overlay park boundaries, borders, overlay imagery, and science data and give you access to full NationalGeo trails unlimited. Once you have some of this advanced mapping functionality, you will wonder how you ever had anything less. I love saving areas I’ve found to go back and merge in overlay data from multiple map layers to research and Gaia offers tons to choose from.
- NeoTreaks US Topo
- US Hunting
- France IGN
- ESRI World Imagery
- NatGeo Trails Illustrated
The annual fee is not a bad price, and there are discounts to be found online. I find it to be cheaper to pay for Gaia Premium in comparison to map subscriptions or device refreshes from 3rd party hand-held GPS units and MUCH less expensive than map subscriptions and updates for in-vehicle systems.
Keep it Simple
Even with the power of Gaia in your hand, it is always recommended that you don’t ditch your trusty map and compass. Sometimes technology can fail, devices can break, batteries can die, and nothing beats having a printed map and compass to help you get home safely.