a trail app that doesn't store maps offline? I don't understand.


Original Post
Rich Carlson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 0

This is an amazing app. Except for one small detail. It's completely useless when you need it. Everything else about the app is fantastic. Great database, great trail descriptions, easy to use. But for the life of me I don't understand why it doesn't store maps. When you really need to refer to a map you often don't have great cell service. You bookmark the hike, you drive to the trailhead, you pull out the app to check the route, and... nothing. What good are GPS tracks floating on a white screen? This seems like such a basic preliminary that I can't imagine why it's missing. Is it intended only for use in planning future hikes? Or only for use on hikes on the fringes of cities? A map app without maps. I don't get it. Is it a licensing thing? Are there plans to store maps in future versions so it becomes useful?

Mikhaila Redovian · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 8,152

Hey Rich, 

Thanks for reaching out with some great feedback. We hear you loud and clear! Currently, we access Google's map tiles, which we think provide a lot of good information. However, these map base tiles are very data dense, and take up a lot of storage space on a mobile device. We can certainly understand the utility of having downloadable base maps, and we're currently working to find a solution that will be accessible offline as well as compact enough for most mobile devices. 

In the meanwhile, we have a workaround. If you know that you'll be hiking a particular trail, you can look at that trail in our app before you lose service. That will sometimes cache the base tiles, allowing you to see the map under our trail data. It's not a perfect solution, but we're working towards one! 

We appreciate your patience in the meanwhile. 

Mikhaila 

Rich Carlson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 0

How about adding the option of just downloading the bottom level tiles specific to the hike you're saving rather than dealing with all the zoom levels for a whole state? That's basically what it sometimes caches anyway but you could be certain they were there instead of just hoping they're there. That wouldn't take up much space. 

Mikhaila Redovian · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 8,152

Hey Rich, 

Ah, that is a very interesting idea, and I will pass along your suggestion to the engineering team! Thanks for your continued recommendations, we appreciate hearing ideas as we continue to improve the app! 

Best regards, 

Mikhaila 

Don Mullins · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

You could also make the amount of downloaded tiles be user selectable. There are other apps the offer this feature.

Pick a spot, drag a circle or maybe an cigar type shape (they called it a "route" shape) and only download those tiles.

You only need the tiles with the trail on it to be offline typically; most trail heads have coverage due to being near a road.

Mikhaila Redovian · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 8,152

Hey Don, 

Thanks for reaching out with another great suggestion. The problem at the moment is that Google doesn't allow us to download the base map tiles per their user agreement. We're hard at work on getting a custom set of base maps developed, and hopefully we'll be able to get those tiles added to the app for full download soon! 

If we end up running into those same space-storage issues, I think that your recommendations provide some great solutions. I'll record your notes on only downloading a smaller volume of base tiles, and will pass them along to our engineers! 

Thanks for your help, 

Mikhaila 

Mesa One · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2017 · Points: 0

Does this app not download for offline use? The page here (https://www.hikingproject.com/mobile-app) says it does. The entry on the Play Store also says it does.

Also, I am having trouble finding the GPS recording feature in the Android version.

Mikhaila Redovian · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 8,152

Hello Mesa, 

The answer is a bit yes and no. All of the line data, your GPS location, and detailed descriptions are all available offline. However, due to Google's terms and conditions (we use their base map tiles) we are unable to download the map tiles directly to the app. These may not load if you're in a truly remote location. Because of this behavior, we're switching to a different map tile provider, and from there will be able to provide base maps in addition to the features already available. 

At the moment, GPS recording is only available in iOS. We have one mobile developer, and his expertise is with iOS, but we recently expanded the bandwidth of our engineering team and hopefully that feature will be available for Android soon. 

Best regards, 

Mikhaila 

Mesa One · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2017 · Points: 0

OK thanks for taking the time, Mikhaila. That answers my questions.

I've read that the REI National Parks app does offer GPS recording. Is there a way to export recordings from NP into the Hiking Project app, or am I better off using a third-party app like MyTracks?

Mikhaila Redovian · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 8,152

Hey Mesa, 

Thanks for reaching out with a great question! I think that it depends on what you are hoping to use the track for. If you'd like to keep a record of where you've been, I think that using something like the National Park App might do the trick. However you will likely be limited to using the feature in National Parks. If you're looking for a way to share your favorites on our site, or elsewhere, I think that MyTracks will provide a more immediate solution. 

Let me know if that helps! 

Donovan Acker · · Lakeway, TX · Joined 16 days ago · Points: 413

Hi there... my son and I are so hooked !   :) Thank you... its so nice to be able to hang out and map stuff together !

This is hands down the most well thought out interface we've found for hiking apps. 

As per the ongoing discussion in this thread, the only thing holding us back from diving deeply into Hiking Project and investing the time to track and share trails is....ability to download detailed map tiles for offline/backcountry use ;)

In particular, the key for my son and I is to be able to download tiles for areas we haven't yet logged trails for :).  Other apps (like Alltrails) that charge for map tile downloads only let you get tiles for trails that are already mapped.... which makes it impractical for folks who want to go exploring offline and track their new hikes to share afterward.

If you can confirm that you guys are definitely working on resolving that offline map tiles feature ? .... then we're all in with you ! ...ready to start contributing.  

Its such a kind and awesome thing you guys (REI) are doing !   Thanks.

p.s...  for now we use the hack you described in other post of zooming in on all our upcoming planned trail areas while still online to cache the tiles... and then not close the app while offline. ;)

Mikhaila Redovian · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 8,152

Hey Donovan, 

Thanks for reaching out! I'm so happy to hear that you and your son are using our app to get outside! We hear you loud and clear on the need for downloadable maps. In the past, we were using Google base tiles, and per their user agreements, we weren't able to download the tiles to our app. However, we've just switched our online map provider, and once the web kinks are worked out, we will be working to get the new map tiles added to the mobile apps. This should allow the tiles to be downloaded as well as the line data, making it easier to stay oriented, or to navigate if you're hiking a trail that we don't have in our database yet. 

Long story short, we are definitely working to get offline base maps added, and we really appreciate your sticking it out with us! If there's anything that myself or my team can do for you in the meanwhile, let me know! 

Mikhaila 

Donovan Acker · · Lakeway, TX · Joined 16 days ago · Points: 413

Hi Mikhaila,

Thank you very much for your quick reply.  Greatly appreciated.  My son and I have now built our first featured hike comprised of 5 underlying trails :)... everything is now submitted for editorial review... we are excited to see if our hike, "Lakeway Canyonlands & Mt Lakeway Scenic View - Local Hikers Delight !", makes the grade :).   

Thanks again... lots of fun !

Donovan and Ethan

Zak Moore · · San Francisco · Joined 8 days ago · Points: 0

Good Day All,

Good to see this discussion as I just downloaded the app. 

As one in IT and ID systems, I agree, the data storage requirements, for downloading on a large scale (or full access of all the maps/trails one wants) are too large for most smart phones. I have a 128 GB external micro SD in my Note 4, and it would eat that up pretty quick.  That said, I agree with what others have noted with regard to simply downloading cache tiles for particular zones or trails, and this is doable.  

Disclaimer; I'm not promoting the following apps, but if it helps for engineer research...  The National Parks Services (NPS) has these same limitations with regard to GPS access, so once you're off the grid, you loose access to the maps.  Yet, other apps like SkiTracks and BackCountry Navigator Pro allow one to download cache tiles for this reason/need.  Yet, SkiTracks is very limiting. While a ski app, it's great for hiking.  The BCN app uses USGS and other government satellite imaging, not reliant on Google, and often their images are superior. Google is Google, and even Google Nav has sent us on convoluted routes to get to a trail head when a simple direct route was available. This past weekend, GNav had us accessing a trail head through closed dirt fire roads, when the main road went straight to the trail head.

The most simple level is the NPS and others allow you to download a PDF version of a trail, and I do this as a back up in case I loose GPS.  However, this goes back to discussions I had last week with a group of hiking enthusist; switch to a Satellite phone.  It's the only true option until free access is achieved, but at the current rate, and what I'm hearing in Silicon Valley and IT circles, Google will ultimately charge for access to it's maps and satellite imagery. Why of course, it's a revenue generator.

There are good satellite phones out there that are smart phones and the service fees are competitive with the general cell carriers. I have one now and doing a comparison to my Note 4.  Yet, the Sat phone is already getting a signal on every hike I've done.  I think the biggest benefit to a Sat phone is if you are out there, communication is important.  The other option is get a satellite navigation system, which I'm sure can be had at REI (wink wink). I have a Suunto Traverse watch for hiking (REI). LOVE IT! When my phone has no GPS, the watch does and I can monitor my hike.

I too look forward to the day for cache tile download, but I just don't see it happening any time soon if Google is calling the shots.

Zak Moore

Mikhaila Redovian · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 8,152

Hey Zak, 

Thanks for reaching out with some great intel, and some great recommendations! I'll pass along the mapping apps that cache tiles to our engineering team for a bit of comparison! 

As for Google's taking over the mapping world: here's to hoping that there will continue to be effective alternatives! 

Best regards, 

Mikhaila 

Eric LaRoche · · Keene, NH · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 371

I wouldn't think the tiles would be that big.  Google maps now has offline downloads and a 70x40 mile block that I currently have is just under 100 megs. Though it is road map tiles so topos would be a bit bigger but I wouldn't think it'd be too crazy, especially if you're only downloading a 10 square mile chunk which would cover the vast majority of day hikes.  I don't think people would (nor should) be navigating long trails without hardcopy maps and relying on a phone for their sole map. 

Mikhaila Redovian · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 8,152

Hey Eric, 

As I learned a bit more about the problem, I became aware of the fact that in addition to our initial storage problems, there is a user agreement that prohibits our downloading the base maps. We've successfully transitioned all of our web maps, and we will be doing the same to mobile maps soon! 

I agree with you though, it's always smart to have a paper copy of the map on hand when you're exploring the wilderness! 

-MR

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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