Category Archives: Android GPS

Remarks about Android GPS.

26Oct/11

BLM Maps for Montana

An excellent map is of great value to all outdoorsmen like prairie and upland hunters, anglers and backpackers. It helps them identify various public and private land types. A GPS app also proved invaluable in finding difficult places to hunt. BLM maps for Montana as add-on purchase for BackCountry Navigator PRO will accurately guide you without the fear of ending up on private land. 

Bureau of Land Management in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota care for 8.3 million acres of public land in the three states as well as 47 million acre of mineral estates. These public lands contain energy and mineral production, vast expanses of open space, breathtaking scenery, recreation opportunities, national monuments, grazing livestock, historic and prehistoric sites, wildlife, wild horses, watersheds, timbered mountains, and rolling prairies. These lands are covered by BackCountry Navigator's BLM maps for Montana.

Montana represents the untamed, the wild and the natural. Starting with The Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, the "Big Sky State" is magnificent in every sense of the word. Mountains seem to go on forever. The Glacier National Park boasts acres of pristine forests, awesome mountains, wildlife, and spectacular, transparent lakes.   

The Yellowstone National Park's hot springs, shooting fountains, roaring waterfalls and herds of iconic wildlife lies between mountain ranges that don't have names yet. With BackCountry Navigator BLM maps of Montana, you won't get lost in nameless places.

Scattered in the valleys are small towns of friendly locals. Learn about American Indian culture  from one of Montana’s 12 tribes, or study and experience the ways of the West while vacationing on a guest ranch. 

There are six tourism regions, because Montana offers almost too much for one state. 
Glacier Country Montana 
Farmer’s markets abound, sailors drop their centerboards in the turquoise waters of Flathead Lake, and cherry orchards blossom along the flanks of the Mission Mountains.  

Russell Country Montana
Russell Country bridges the gap between mountains and rolling prairies. Whether you paddle a canoe down the wild and scenic, history-rich Missouri River, camp along its White Cliffs or watch the magical spring migration of snow geese flocking to the waters of Freezeout Lake, this region is full of stunning diversions. And, don’t miss the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls.  

Missouri River Country
The rolling, short grass prairies of Missouri River Country are a wildlife-rich tract of level open land for sportsmen. This slice of Big Sky Country offers you opportunities to troll for trophy walleye in the waters of Fork Peck Reservoir, stalk elusive pronghorn antelope or hunt for that perfectly preserved dinosaur fossil.  

Custer Country
Take a walk in General Custer’s boots at the Bighorn Battlefield. Retrace the steps of Lewis and Clark with a visit to Pompey’s Pillar. Visit the world-famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale. Soak up some history and Native American culture at the Crow Fair, or simply stroll along Main Street in any of our quaint communities.  

Yellowstone Country
Grizzly bears, wolves and a burgeoning art scene are defining elements of southwestern Montana—as well as the nation’s first national park. Winter brings bountiful “cold smoke” snow to this region, offering a prime playground for downhill and cross-country skiers, as well as snowmobilers and dogsledders.  

Goldwest Country
The Wild West is still alive and well along the boardwalks of Main Street Virginia City. After sifting for sapphires in Philipsburg, dust off your hiking boots for a stroll among the alpine peaks of the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness.  

For those who has never been to Montana and to those who are planning a trip, here's a video.

The possibilities in Montana are endless. By strengthening existing and new partnerships, the BLM will ensure that the nation’s public lands are managed and conserved for future generations of Americans to use and enjoy. For the meantime, enjoy the magnificence of Montana's vastness with Montana BLM maps add-on for BackCountry Navigator PRO.

21Oct/11

Nevada BLM Maps for Android

5.3 billion mobile subscribers are 77 percent of the world population. Out of 5.3 smartphone users, an estimated 38.5% is powered by Android. For Android GPS users, especially those who use their mobile device for outdoor adventures, a travel app is complementary. Since add-on maps for the 12 US states are now available for BackCountry Navigator PRO, we are featuring Nevada BLM maps for Android today.

The origin of the name Nevada is a Spanish word meaning "snowcapped". The state nickname is Silver State or Sagebrush State. The residents names are Nevadans and the major industries are tourism, gold and silver mining and hydroelectric power. The bordering states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon and Utah.

BLM public lands make up about 67 percent of Nevada's land base which is nearly 48 million acres of land. 

The state of Nevada is known for gambling and entertainment, particularly in the city of Las Vegas. However, the state holds a number of other famous attractions for all age groups beyond the casinos, some are even just a short drive from the city. Among some of the most notable attractions in Nevada are a mountain park, a major feat of modern engineering and a historical automobile collection of some of the most desired vehicles in the world.

The diversity and beauty of Nevada holds dozens of fishing areas, hundreds of trails, picnic sites and developed and primitive camping opportunities for anyone to explore and enjoy.

Three conservation areas will necessarily need Nevada BLM maps:

Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails
The Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails is located approximately 100 miles northeast of Reno. The key area, the BlackRock Desert Playa, contains more than 160,000 acres of the bed of ancient Lake Lahontan. That huge lake covered this area with 500 feet of water as recently as 14,000 years ago. The Black Rock Country provides expansive views, solitude, and a sense of primitive vastness little changed since Euro-Americans settled the West.  

Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon  is located 10 miles west of Las Vegas, Nevada.  This 197,000 acre area provides a 13-mile scenic drive, more than 30 miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, and a visitor center with exhibit rooms and a bookstore. The unique geologic features, plants and animals of Red Rock Canyon represent some of the best examples of the Mojave Desert. Red Rock Canyon is enjoyed by the local population as well as by visitors from the United States and many foreign countries. More than one million visitors each year enjoy the spectacular desert landscape, climbing and hiking opportunities.

Sloan Canyon
Sloan Canyon is located approximately 15 miles south of Las Vegas.  It contains the Northern portion of the McCullough Range, which is volcanic in origin. The peaks are rounded and have a steep Eastern slope and a gradual Western slope. Elevations span from 2,000 feet at the Eastern base of the range to 5,092 feet at Black Mountain. The ridgeline offers excellent views of the Las Vegas valley, numerous ranges and the Eldorado and Jean dry lakes. The area primarily supports a creosote bush community with barrel cactus, Joshua trees, cholla and prickly pear.

Perhaps the most attractive place to go to in Nevada because of its history is the famous Hoover Dam, originally called the Boulder Dam. It is an arch-gravity dam, having the characteristics of both an arch dam and a gravity dam. Hoover Dam is located in the Black Canyon on the Colorado River bordering both Nevada and Arizona. Created from concrete and facing upstream, it uses the natural force of the canyon to force the water into the dam. At the time of its completion in 1936, the Hoover Dam claimed its fame as the world's largest structure. Today, it still remains one of the largest hydroelectric power plants in the world.  Below is the history of its construction.

Nevada, in its diversity, is an overwhelming place. Wherever you choose to explore, use your Android phone with Nevada BLM maps. Nevada BLM maps can be purchased through BackCountry Navigator PRO by going to the "purchase add-on" menu.

18Oct/11

BLM Maps for Utah

Utah is probably one of the most unique and beautiful states in America. With approximately 23 million acres of public land, mapping of these lands is critical. 

Realizing this need, BackCountry Navigator thought about adding BLM maps for Utah as an add-on purchase to BackCountry Navigator PRO.

Utah is the sixth most urbanized population in the U.S. Approximately 80% of Utah's people live in Salt Lake City, the center of the Wasatch Front.

Salt Lake City is a land of illusion of floating islands and vanishing water mirages. Almost touching the Utah-Nevada borders is the Bonneville Salt Flats, a unique plain of almost pure, white salt. This geological oddity is one of the only places in the United States where one can see the curvature of the earth over dry land.

Just south of the Salt Flats lies the Pony Express Trail where horse riders risked their lives delivering the mail in 1860 and 1861.

Many historic and prehistoric interpretative sites are open to visitors. BLM Utah strives to protect and preserve the present condition of cultural resources on public lands for the benefit of present and future generations.

Utah BLM maps help in regulating the proper use of public lands while protecting the visitors from wandering to private properties.

In June 2000, the BLM created the National Landscape Conservation System or NLCS to bring the BLM's primary designations into a more organized system.  

The NLCS contains some of the West’s most spectacular landscapes. It includes over 886 federally recognized areas and approximately 27 million acres of National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Wilderness Areas, Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Scenic and Historic Trails, and Conservation Lands of the California Desert.

Utah is so vast, so enchanting that people who plans to visit the place must have a list of what to do there. First on the list must be an Android GPS travel app in your Android phone with Utah's BLM maps. BackCountry Navigator PRO has available add-on maps for Utah, which can be purchased here.

Confidence that they will not be violating private properties in their planned commune with one of the unspoiled natural places in the US will definitely result in a fulfilling trip. 

07Oct/11

BLM Maps for Android

BLM Maps for Android have recently become available for 12 western states. These maps primarily show the boundaries of BLM land, and secondarily show boundaries between state, federal and public land. 

The product is available as an overlay that displays boundaries on your existing maps. You can purchase it by going to "Purchasing Add-ons" deep in the menu. It has quickly become a popular product. Below are some comments about the source of the data, its accuracy, and some disclaimers. 

Example of showing boundary lines on map.

BLM data comes from the State Bureau of Land Management units. This is more accurate and recent than what the National BLM office would have, but less accurate than what your county asessor might have at the hall of records.   

We can give no warranty, express or implied, as to the accuracy of the data, because the BLM itself won't do that. The data is subject to errors both by the BLM and other organizations that share data with the BLM.  

While many of you want to use this data to stay off private land, comply with the law, and avoid getting shot, we cannot guarantee its reliability for this purpose. Think of it as a step in the right direction.

To help out, we are posting links to the sources for the data at each state agency. The link has notes about the data, where it came from, how it evolved. 

If you do find a discrepancy in the data, please contact the people listed at the link. They promise continual improvement. 

Alaska

http://sdms.ak.blm.gov/sdms/

Arizona:

http://www.blm.gov/az/GIS/meta_files/az_surf_mgmt.htm

California:
http://www.blm.gov/ca/gis/metadata/landstatus.htm

Colorado:
http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/BLM_Programs/geographical_sciences/gis/metadata/lst_conflated_poly.html

Montana (covers parts of North and South Dakota).

http://www.blm.gov/mt/st/en/res/public_room/gis/data/montana.html

Oregon/Washington

http://www.blm.gov/or/gis/data-details.php?data=ds000025

Idaho
http://cloud.insideidaho.org/webApps/metadataViewer/default.aspx?path=G%3a%5cdata%5canonymous%5cblm%5cRLTY_SMA_PUB_24K_POLY.shp.xml

Nevada

http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/nv/gis/metadata.Par.49053.File.dat/landstatus_metadata_20100820.pdf

New Mexico

http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/nm/programs/more/geographic_sciences/geo_sci_metadata.Par.42904.File.dat/nm_own.htm

Utah

Land ownership (Statewide)
http://gis.utah.gov/sgid-vector-download/utah-sgid-vector-gis-data-layer-download-index?fc=LandOwnership

Wyoming:
http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/resources/public_room/gis/datagis/state/state-own.html

06Jun/11

Android GPS App Selection

An Android GPS App allows you to use your Android phone as a GPS device. Considering your activity, you can choose a GPS app based on map types, map access, and style of navigation.
 


Types of Maps for Android
There are several different kinds of maps that can be used by an Android GPS App. They differ in how they look and the type of information that they show.

  • Street maps: Street maps show details of the streets in the area and may include names and other helpful information. They are typically used for road navigation.  
  • Topographic(topo) maps: Topo maps show the terrain of the area you are in. The slope of the terrain is typically shown by the use of contour lines, which connect points of equal elevation. They indicate vegetative cover and bodies of water through the use of color. They may include trails or roads. These are typically used for outdoor activities, such as hiking, backpacking, or canoeing, which take place away from major roads. These are the maps used most by BackCountry Navigator.  
  • Aerial Photography: Aerial photography shows a color or black and white image of land as seen from the sky. In recent times, the photos may actually be taken from a satellite and still have the level of detail that an aerial photograph used. These are useful both for urban and wilderness navigation. In the US at least, these maps are more recent than most topo maps.

Access to Maps 
Another thing to consider for your Android GPS app is when you will have access to maps. If you are always going to be using your Android phone in places with cell coverage, it is sufficient to use online maps. If you plan on using the app away from urban areas, typical in outdoor navigation, you want to use offline maps

  • Online Maps: These are the kind of maps that Android users are most familiar with. The most well known example is Google Maps. Google Maps gets map data from the internet on a continuous basis while connected. If you do not have an activate data connection, either because you haven't paid for one, or you are outside of coverage, you typically won't see any maps. 
  • Offline Maps: While they might be created with a desktop tool, the source for offline maps is usually the internet as well. BackCountry Navigator will allow you to specify a region, and then download map data for offline use. Offline maps are then available when you are outside internet service. While there is some preparation involved, offline maps are more typically used in outdoor recreation.

Style of Navigation
There are several styles of navigation you may see in an Android GPS App.

  • Turn by Turn Directions: This is the navigation style typically used for road map apps. This will give you a set of instructions including what road to follow and where to turn.  
  • Waypoints: For outdoor navigation, it is common to find your way by knowing your distance and bearing to known locations. 
  • Following a track: A track may be a trail, or simply a route that someone  has recorded in the past. These can be represented as a jagged, colored line on a map, and one can see their position relative to the line. For outdoor navigation, this can substitute for following a road.

An Android GPS App can be chosen for your favorite activity by keeping these things in mind. Have fun with your Android GPS and be safe.  

 
 

15Apr/11

Android as a GPS on the Pacific Crest Trail

Greetings to all Pacific Crest Trail Hikers! I know some of you will be hiking the Pacific Crest trail this year with the help of the GPS in your Android Phone. Here are some tips for Android users.

DO NOT FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THIS PAGE. For 2012 and later, refer to this HelpDesk Article for the files:

http://support.crittermap.com/entries/21124797-pct-pacific-crest-trail-waypoints-and-tracks-2012

BackCountry Navigator, an Android GPS App, can import waypoints and tracks in GPX format. Nonetheless, HalfMile has done this work for you, and you have a trip database ready for download. Note: to learn about the waypoints that HalfMile has prepared for the PCT, go to PCT Maps.  

These instructions assume you have a utility to unzip files (they are built in to some versions of windows), and that you are doing this from your desktop PC with the storage card mounted. If things look slightly different on your system, try not to panic. 

First download the trip database from here:

Waypoints and Tracks for Pacific Crest Trail.

This link is to a single file called pct_2011.bcn. This file should be extracted and placed on the storage card under /bcnav/data. Here my storage card is mounted by the desktop and I show the location of the trip database:

Waypoints and Tracks for the Pacific Crest Trail for Android 
This step alone is extremely helpful. This is a single database that contains all of HalfMiles waypoints and trail tracks for the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail. 

BackCountry Navigator is also able to download Topo Maps for offline use along the trail. Getting the map data along the data. However, to save time for everyone and bandwidth for MyTopo.com, I've gotten a copy of the download made by Jim Bravo. This is close to 400 megabytes in a zip file. Bravo to Jim Bravo, who was nice enough to send me this on a CD. 

Topo Maps for the entire Pacific Crest Trail: No longer available. Please refer to the link at the top of this page.

 These tiles should be unzipped so that the mytopo folder is under /bcnav/tiles on the storage card. 

Find the folder inside the zip folder and drag or copy and paste it into the /bcnav/tiles directory on the storage card. 

If you see a message like this, say YES. 

Merging Pacific Crest Trail files.

It will then start copying, but keep in mind more messages may still appear. 

Copying Pacific Crest Trail files.

If you see this, say YES and check do this for all current items.   

Merge wiht current folders.

If you get a message that some files exist, you don't have to overwrite them. This is common only if you've used BCN before this point.

For this message, choose 'Don't Copy'.  and enable it for the next however many conflicts. 

Don't copy.

This file structure is not intended to be human readable. Do not waste any time poking around to try to figure out which files are for Oregon, Washington, or California. It will only make your brain explode. 

NOTE: If a buddy already has data, you can copy the entire bcnav directory from his storage card to yours, and start with the same data set. 

Warning: the topo map itself is based on USGS data, and thus the dashed lines on it will sometimes represent outdated or fictitious trails. You don't need to worry about that, because the colored lines from Halfmile's data will guide you accurately.

When you first start the app, you may have to choose a Map Source. Choose MyTopo.com under US and Canada section. 

You then want to make sure that you load the trip database that you placed there.

Waypoints database for Android GPS

Choose pct_2011 (assuming it is still 2011 when you read this page). 

Choosing Pacific Crest Trail Waypoints database.

You now have access to waypoints and trail data for the entire length of the trail. To get started, you might want to center the map somewhere meaningful. Using the screen switcher in the top right, switch to the 'nearest waypoints' view. It looks like clipboard, but don't worry, it won't give you a todo list. 

Multiple views for offline navigation. Nearest waypoints in Android

Choose a waypoint that is near your starting point. If you start typing a name in the waypoint list search box, it will narrow down the list. By typing in 'mex' on the line I was able to find the southern terminus on the Mexico border. You can then press and hold and choose Center…

Centering on a waypoint in Android

You are now centered on the Mexican border. If the display looks a little busy, zoom in and take a look at the first few miles.

Waypoints on the Pacific Crest Trail on AndroidBeginning of Pacific Crest Trail on Android Phone
  
With the right preparation, you can effectively use your Android GPS as a navigational aid on the Pacific Crest Trail. Happy hiking! 
  
 
 
   

12Apr/11

Android GPS App for hiking (video)

A new video promotes the benefits of using an Android GPS App in hiking. With the right app, an Android phone can be used as effectively as a dedicated hiking gps. 
 

Many people have now effectively used their Android GPS in hiking. This is accomplished through the use of offline topo maps and aerial photography. A skilled hiker can use the Android GPS to navigate, along with the electronic compass in an Android phone.

HIking doesn't always take place near an urban center where cell coverage is plentiful. It is helpful to use the Android GPS and an app that can still show maps without a data connection. Though many have used the Google MyTracks app, because it is dependent on Google Maps, it will not show any maps where you do not have an active internet connection. For navigation, it is better to use an app, like BackCountry Navigator, that allows you to download maps in advance.
 
GPS navigation for hiking often differs from navigation for driving or other activities. In open space, you want to navigate towards waypoints and know your position relative to points of interest. Topographic maps also allow you to see the terrain around you, and your position on that map shows your location relative to trail and terrain features.

Have you used BackCountry Navigator as an Android GPS app in hiking? Please comment below.   
 

01Apr/11

Outdoor GPS vs Android (video included)

Many Android users have conclusively proven that Android can be used effectively as an outdoor GPS, substituting for an expensive handheld outdoor GPS from Garmin.

This is especially worth looking at given a new video about the threat to Garmin outdoor GPS from Android GPS apps.

Since the GPS in an Android can use satellites even without cell coverage, it can be used in remote backcountry areas. It is suggested you use apps like BackCountry Navigator that store maps for future use. 

If using your Android phone (or tablet) as an outdoor GPS in wet areas, some waterpoof protection is desired. Also, according to reports, spare smartphone batteries are becoming cheap, and are handy to take with you. 

What is your experience using an Android GPS App and can it substitute for a Garmin outdoor GPS?

22Mar/11

The Android GPS

The Android GPS in phones enables apps to get location and navigate. With the right apps, it can replace a handheld outdoor GPS. Here are some things to keep in mind about the Android GPS and its capabilities. 

Because they contain a GPS, Android smartphones have already become popular in street navigation where cell service is readily available.  They can also be used in an outdoor recreation setting, where a handheld GPS has traditionally been used. If you want to use your Android GPS in an outdoor setting, keep these points in mind: 

Android Apps can get a location with the help of cell towers
If you look at the location settings of an Android phone, you will often see two different kinds of locations mentioned.  One is called the network location. This is found using cell towers or wifi hot spots. It is only a rough location.
The other is the GPS satellite location which is what you need for navigation.  
Android phones, like many smartphones, also use Assisted GPS (aGPS). This allows them to compute satellite position using the network and get the location faster. 
   
The Android GPS can also get a location without cell towers. 
It is common to think that a cell phone can't get a location without cell service. In fact, if you ask the average employee of your cell service provider if you can use the phone's GPS without cell service, they will say no. It is often beyond their comprehension that anyone would want to, plus they want to sell you software that uses an expensive data plan. 
An Android phone has a real GPS chip in it, which can get the location from GPS satellites. 

Getting a first location in the backcountry (a first fix) requires patience.  
If you've used your Android GPS in urban areas, you may have to adjust to how long it takes to get your location the first time in the backcountry. Instead of ten seconds, it might be 1-5 minutes. It won't have the benefit of aGPS to get the satellite locations faster. Don't worry. The next time you start your GPS, it will probably take less than ten seconds.  

The map source matters when using Android GPS 
If you start Google Maps when you do not have cell coverage, it will say 'This app requires an active data plan'. This is also the case with many of the apps that your phone company wants to sell you. These apps use online maps, which require constant data coverage. 
You want to use an Android GPS app that use offline maps, such as BackCountry Navigator. BackCountry Navigator allows you to download offline topo maps in advance and store them on your storage card.  

The Android GPS needs a view of the sky.  
While this is familiar to those who have used a handheld GPS, it can easily be forgotten when your phone can get a network location through the thickest roofs. When the location comes from satellites, it is best for the phone to be able to see them. 

The Android GPS will use battery life. 
When the GPS is active, it is using battery life. Unless you are using GPS tracking, you can get much more battery life if you deactivate the GPS when not in use. BackCountry Navigator, for example, will let you turn your GPS on and off through a toggle button in the app. You can get many days of outdoor use.

In short, if you keep these facts in mind, Android's GPS can be used as a traditional outdoor GPS device. Have some fun using it in outdoor recreation!