Category Archives: BackCountry Navigator Android

Latest updates on the development of mobile map software for the Android platform.

06Aug/15

The Basics of A Safe and Rewarding Backpacking Travel

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Is it your first time to go backpacking? Are you excited? Do you have the essentials needed to ensure a safer and more fulfilling outdoor adventure? So, before you head to the wilderness, it is highly recommended to consult your backpacking checklist and be sure to know the gears you will be bringing.

The expert advices about backpacking are:

Pick an Experienced Backpacking Partner

Go with an experienced backpacking friend. He can give you peace of mind and assurance knowing he has your back. Shared backpacking is usually more fun and exciting than going solo. Been-there/done-that friends can improve your learning curve as they impart the wisdom they have gained of years of backpacking.

Choose an Appropriate Backpacking Destination

When going for the first time, backpacking destination’s length and difficulty is one of the most important factors to consider.

Trip Distance

For new backpacker, one-night trip is good. Standard round-trip distance is 10 miles or less. It is reassuring to realize that going out your comfort zone is not too far distant.

If you decide to go for two-night trips, you can consider setting camp on the first night and then take the hike on the next day. Go back to the base camp the same day that night. In this way, for just two days you can a full backpack.

Backpacking Trip Information

Websites, magazines: There are various hiking websites and they can be great sources however, the reliability cannot be trusted. Magazines are solid resources too, and some national parks and forests keep online trail-condition reports.

You well-travel friends can help recommend you good destinations that fit your abilities and preferences.

Guidebooks: Some of the travelers’ rate their trips not for the adventure but the picturesque quality and this can be very helpful in choosing a major trail. Their 5-star places usually attract crowds; therefore do not expect solitude unless you visit midweek.

Pick Your Backpacking Gear

Your right backpacking travel gear ensures you have the essentials for safety and comfort and prepares you to handle emergencies and disasters. Two the essentials you may never use are the compass or use firestarter but it is good to take them with you.

Stoves, comfortable sleeping pads, camp pillows are some of the home equipment you can have for your lightweight backpacking.

Always think light. Go for pack weight that is convenient, say about 30 pounds. And yes, you can bring camera, headlamp, sunscreen and toilet paper. You can have

Before deciding to purchase a backpacking gear, it is good to try big-ticket items such as bags and tents in order to know your preferences.

How to Choose and Pack a Backpack

Here are the details you have to know when choosing the right backpack:

Capacity. The number in pack names refers to the pack’s volume in liters. A common backpacking size for weekend trips which is about 1–3 nights is 35–50 liters. The packs of 50–80 liters id for the multiday trips (3–5 nights) and for longer travels, or if you’re carrying a lot of winter of kid’s gear is about 70 and higher.

Size. What you do not know is backpacks are measure according to torso length, not a person’s height. You can ask your friend to measure your torso length and it by measuring the distance between the top of your hips to your C7 vertebrae—that bony protrusion near the base of your neck.

Loading and adjusting a pack. Backpacks are designed to carry most of the loads while your shoulders are relaxed. Your heavy gear must be closed to your back and near your shoulders.

Backpacking Clothing

Base layer. Bring clothing made of moisture-wicking polyester or wool as they are dry easier.

Pants or shorts. Convertible pants are popular among backpackers ad the lower-leg portions can be zipped off if they want more air and sun.

Footwear. Full- or mid-cut boots are traditional backpacking footwear, but some prefer using hiking shoes or trail runners. Athletic footwear and tennis shoes are also too comfortable for roots and rocks on trails.

Socks. Never use cotton as they give you blisters while hiking. Wool or synthetic hiking socks are the recommended ones.

Head cover. Use caps, hats, buffs and bandanas. You need to shield your scalp form all-day sun exposure and do not forget to wear sunscreen.

Outerwear. Though the weather is fine, bring rain jacket as it helps you avoid chills early or late in the day.

Food and Food Storage

Dinner. Bring freeze-dried foods that need a few cups of boiling water and 10 minutes of waiting.

Rest of the day. There are backpackers that take time to cook food while others prefer ready-to-eat breakfast. The lunch can be a meal or just snacks such as dried fruit, trail mix, jerky, chunks of cheese and energy foods (including bars, chews and gels).

Coffee. Yes, there are lightweight French coffee presses.

Food storage. Bring a container to store your foods or know how to hang them for consumption later. Never leave your food unattended or else animals will attack them.

Electronics and Apps for Backpacking

When you are in the wilderness, expect to have a low cell phone reception. This is risky especially if you are hiking on the trails you are not familiar with or is new to you. This is where BackCountry Navigator TOPO GPS becomes helpful. Download the app in your smartphone and use your phone or tablet as an offroad topo mapping handheld GPS with the bestselling outdoor navigation app for Android! You can also download topo maps for the US and many other countries in advance, so you won’t need cell coverage for navigation. Use storage memory for maps.

About topo (topographic) maps: Topo maps show terrain through color and contours, and are useful for navigation offroad. Topo maps and GPS can be used for hiking, hunting, kayaking, snowshoeing, & backpacker trails.

Also, use the offline topo maps and GPS on hiking trails without cell service. The GPS in your Android phone can get its position from GPS satellites, and you do not have to rely on your data plan to get maps. Therefore, conquering the backcountry with this GPS navigation app is safer and more secure.

Portable power sources like solar chargers give you energy to charge to emptied smartphone or electronics.

If You Get Lost

If ever you get lost, remember the acronym the Emergency Response Institute of Olympia, Wash have made: S-T-O-P. Stop, Think, Observe and Plan.

Stop: If you do not feel any secure in your location, do not go any farther or panic. However, the rule changes if you are in the area where it is not safe anymore or someone needs medical attention. Breathe and count to 10, drink some water or eat a little food, it can make your situation lighter and you can better think of the next move.

Think: If something not right happens, can you navigate back? Can you see landmarks like a road or trail? If so, carefully go back to that spot and reassess your options.

Observe: Always be alert and observant of your surroundings. Picture in your mind all the distinctive features you spotted as you arrive to your current position.

Plan: If you are with a group, discuss a plan. If you are not, it helps to talk your plan aloud as if you were explaining to your friend. If it makes sense, follow your plan and if not, review your plan. If the situation changes as you follow that plan, use “STOP” again to reevaluate chances for a safe survival and recovery.

So, planning ahead and having your comprehensive backpacking checklists ensure that your trip come off successfully because the last thing you want to have happen are those unexpected surprises that ruin what should otherwise be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

 

17Aug/10

Finding Nearest Waypoints in Android

Today's newsletter talks about new features in BackCountry Navigator for waypoint lists, GPX import and export. Also included is response to feedback for finding maps, and other comments from the Android Market and surveys. 


There are some new features released today. Don't consider these features fully mature – they have been tested in house, but feedback from the field is welcome. If these are the features you have been waiting for, feel free to up your rating for the app.  

Waypoint Lists:
A highly requested and highly useful feature is the list of nearest waypoints. You can now find one on the fourth screen of BackCountry Navigator. 

This list will show the waypoints in the currently loaded trip file, if any.
To see a different set of waypoints, load a different trip file from the File menu.

You can also enter a keyword to filter waypoints and find a specific one by name . If the GPS is active, it will update the list based on the distance to you.   

Important tip: to see a menu for a waypoint, press and hold. You can then choose to edit, goto, center, or delete.  

GPX Import and Export 
Since file explorers are not standard on Android, I've now enabled a basic file explorer to import a GPX file from the file menu. There is also a GPX export menu item which will place GPX files in /sdcard/bcnav/out.  

Not all GPX files are created equal, so do email me any ones that don't work. It can often be something silly like a different date or color format that we can work around. Two have sent me some GPX files in the last week. One was found to be using some undocumented tags from Garmin, while the other ones were found to be a mystery so far since they all worked for me. But work continues. 

Finding a map you've downloaded
We've gotten feedback about some things that are not entirely clear. One is loading a map that you have previously download. While a download isn't a map that you can 'load', what you really need is to be able to get back to the same place where you have data. Related is the experience of loading a trip file and not seeing any visual confirmation. Here are some steps we have taken or will work on.

  • Place find caches coordinates: When you go to the Find a Place Menu, you can pick one of the suggestions with coordinate attached to skip the server lookup and recenter at the coordinates. 
  • AutoCenter when loading trip files: Now, when you load a trip file, the app tries to find bounds and come up with a default center and zoom. This won't help, though

    • The trip doesn't have any waypoints and tracks. (trip files do *not* contain map tiles). 
    • The waypoints aren't distributed in a way that has a meaningful center. 
  • Still tough: Missing storage card: When your storage card is unavailable, BCNav will fail in unpredictable ways without warning. Since registering for storage card events did not work as expected, a fix for this did not make it into this release.
  • Documentation: Note that our help docs have not yet kept pace with the new features. We hope to have some more examples out soon. Here is an example of importing GPX.  

http://www.backcountrynavigator.com/content/gpx-file-android-gps-app-tracks-and-waypoints

Response to Market feedback:
Since we don't have a good way of contacting people who leave comments in the Android Market. We also have some feedback through our survey, which doesn't allow us to contact members either.  Here are some things to think about:

  • Track Recording crashes?: Someone said that the app crashes when trying to start a track recording. Weeks ago, we did fix a bug that would fail in starting a track without a trip file.  
  • Could not find City: Our place find service goes through Google. It is unlikely that Google doesn't know about a city, so it is more likely that network connectivity is to blame if a search is unsuccessful.
  • Is BackCountry Navigator 'laggy'?: As obvious as this one sounds, I need some more help to figure this out. If some of you have found this app to be laggy, please contact me to describe. Some lags are caused by the map servers themselves, but others can be optimized. 
  • Could not import a GPX file: see above notes about GPX files. If you left that comment, could you please email that file to me? 

If you have had a good experience with BackCountry Navigator, consider leaving a positive comment on the DEMO or license app, to balance out those comments of those who probably need help, but that we may never be able to contact.  

Thanks and have a great day!

Nathan
!uri

30Jul/10

Track Recording and What’s Up Ahead

Hello Android Outdoor enthusiasts!

There is much to cover in today's message, including Track Recording, a new video, the status of BackCountry Navigator Demo, and some survey results.  

Track Recording in Android
Today, I've made a release that is the first to allow you to push the record button and record some tracks. It records points according to some standard settings.

I'm sure many of you will be anxious to build on this functionality, and be able to see trip analysis, export and share tracks with others, and import tracks from a kml file as well as GPX. Work will continue in these areas. 

Video: Geocaching for Android
A new video is out, showing the process of using a pocket query from geocaching.com. It is linked on our facebook page.  Do check it out and share with others. 

BackCountry Navigator Facebook page

Note that gmail will generally allow you to click on attachments as in the video. If your email client instead saves attachments to the storage card. It is recommended to use Astro Explorer or similar program to find and open GPX files for import.  

BackCountry Navigator DEMO on trial
With the latest release, users are able to use the software for up to 16 days. Hopefully, that gives people enough time to decide that it is for them. 

Since I am not able to directly answer comments in the Market, I will mention some of them here.

  • One person couldn't zoom in beyond the whole United States. Bryan, if you are on this list, please do contact me. I cannot contact you through the Market nor the survey. I am able to zoom in much farther, as I believe most of you can.  If *anyone* cannot zoom in more than the entire United States, please let me know. 
  • Differences between demo and licensed version. There are occasional complaints that the DEMO version isn't unlimited, or that new features didn't suddenly appear in a licensed copy. Although it is more common in the Android Market to have a limited and full version, our intention is to continue to offer a fully featured version that is limited in time. This allows you to see exactly what to expect before purchase.

If you have had a good experience with BackCountry Navigator DEMO and/or License, feel free to leave some comments in the Market, or, even better, tell your friends about the app.  

Survey Results and Feature Priorities 
Our goal is to make BackCountry Navigator a full featured navigation experience, replacing a dedicated outdoor gps unit for many. To this end, there are quite a few more features we, as many of you, would like to see in the software.  While there is not enough money in Android apps to be able to hire a huge team of developers, we are trying to make progress in the most requested features, with updates every week. 

To get an idea of what is in high demand, see the following survey results. 

Survey Results for BackCountry Navigator. 

This survey will still be open from the feedback menu until we have posted a new survey for August.  

Have a great day!

Nathan
!uri

21Jul/10

Pinch and Zoom Plus Slow Map Servers.

Hi, everyone. 

Today's newsletter contains tips on the latest Pinch and Zoom functionality, and a warning about some slow servers. 


Pinch And Zoom 
Last Thursday, we were able to make our first update, 3.3, with Pinch And Zoom functionality for Android 2.01 and above. This means that you will be able to use two fingers to zoom out and in on the map much as you do with Google Maps or the Android browser.   

This wasn't necessarily even planned for this date, but it was an opportunity with some of the hardware we just acquired to test. I've tried it and found it to be quite fun, and wondered how I did without it.  

Slow Map Servers
Msrmaps.com (formerly called TerraServer-USA) seems to be having some issues in the last week. The site was completely down last Monday and has been slow ever since.

The two map sources affected by this are USGS Topos and USGS Black and White Aerial Photos. Based on stats, these sources are not widely used once users discover MyTopo.com maps and USGS Color Aerials, which don't have the same slowdown. For this reason, I've considered pulling them out of the menu of choices.  

Does it do any harm to have those servers available? There is more confusion for the end user when having some Map Sources that we can't really recommend, unless they recover.  Furthermore, they degrade the performance of the app to a tedious crawl,and lead to negative impressions and comments on the market. An alternative is to leave them on but push them deeper in the list.  

Tracking Work Continues. 
Work continues on track recording, and I'll be testing it out in the field within a few days. The option is already available to import a GPX file containing tracks by opening it in Astro Explorer or similar explorer.  

Have a great day!

Nathan
!uri
CritterMap Software's headquarters are at 3515 NE 252nd Ave, Camas, WA 98607. 

 

13Jul/10

Trials, Tracks, and Mystery Comments

Hello, users of BackCountry Navigator on Android. I want to share some news and respond to some comments.  

Demo version and trial:
We have extended the DEMO version so that those who recently downloaded it can use it through July 31st. Beyond then, we expect to provide a trial that will last about 16 days from first use.  

Tracking in Android
Tracking, or breadcrumbing, has consistently been a highly requested feature and is at the top of our survey. Therefore, Ive been spending a lot of time on it these last few weeks. As of last Thursday, there was some promising progress based on the ability to draw tracks on a map from a GPX file. Some of the progress is mentioned on this post:

Tracking on Topo Maps for Android 

This is good news for performance, and means that the rest of you will be able to try it fairly soon. 

Mystery Comments
I am glad that the people on this mailing list have been fairly helpful in providing feedback and reporting bugs in BackCountry Navigator for Android. 

The Comment system in the Android Market hasn't always been as helpful. While I'm sure comments are intended to be helpful, the fact that I can't respond to comments or ask for more information, has left me with some mysteries. If any of you reading this know more, you can probably help me. These are all comments on BackCountry Navigator Demo where I may need more information, OR know the answers but can't respond directly:

  • Confusing. Doesn't really work: Though I have some ideas, I do not not know what was confusing or didn't really work for this user. Perhaps I'll be asking for the most confusing things in next month's survey.
  • Color Aerial Photos are not as new as Google: I'd hesitate to tell any user he is is wrong, but on this aspect, it may vary by state and by rural vs urban. Where my house is, Google maps shows no structure, meaning it is at least 2.5 years old, and the USGS photos show both the house and the goat house, dating it at less than 9 months.    
  • Make the location pointer more defined. In the latest release, we've changed it to a red icon, but there is more we can do there if needed.
  • Ads plus expiration date: I assume one user didn't like the fact that there were limitations to a DEMO version. Nonetheless, we've opted for a simpler banner that just reminds you to buy the license.  If anyone says that the DEMO version is just to lure everyone into buying a paid version, they are correct. 
  • Brutally slow at zooming with maps: While one can zoom in faster by press and hold on the zoom buttons, the user may have been hoping for pinch and zoom, which is a valid request. I'm getting more hardware in to look at that. 

Hope this is helpful to anyone who has seen or made these comments. You can always ask me more questions if this is isn't clear. I do appreciate all the positive comments made on the Market so far. It is one of the best ways to get more people to try the app.    

Have a great day!

Nathan
!uri
CritterMap Software's headquarters are at 3515 NE 252nd Ave, Camas, WA 98607. 

06Jul/10

Missing Tiles Fix and other news

Hi everyone,

Happy Fourth of July Weekend! 

The latest update of BackCountry Navigator from today should resolve several issues. Most notably, missing tiles can appear when doing a download where the connectivity varies.
 


This blog entry talks about the issue: 

http://www.backcountrynavigator.com/content/going-offline-when-downloading-offline-maps-android

Also, the waypoint form was not always allowing you freedom of entry, in particular restricting a comma where a comma is necessary. Though the text is still gray it should work now. 

In other news, it should be possible to open a .gpx file from a pocket query or other source in Astro Explorer. 

Latest Survey Still Open:

The survey for BackCountry Navigator Android is still open at the following link:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BackCountryNavigatorAndroid

And from the "feedback" menu item on the application itself. 

So far, we have received 29 responses. Based on this sample, Recording a Track (Breadcrumbing) is the most highly requested feature, while Nautical Charts and County Maps are among the least requested. So far, all respondents are male, so if there are any female users of the software, you might want to express your opinion as well. Of course, based on this article, there may not be any female users of the software:

http://www.backcountrynavigator.com/content/gps-just-stupid-guy-thing
  

24Jun/10

BackCountry Navigator DEMO now on Android Market

You can now download a demo version of BackCountry Navigator directly from the Android Market. 

With any luck, this link will take you directly to the market listing:

BackCountry Navigator DEMO on Android Market.

When you first find it, you may see two products called BackCountry Navigator on the Market The first is BackCountry Navigator DEMO and will function for a limited time with a reminder banner at the bottom. The second is BackCountry Navigator license key.  Purchasing this will remove the banner at the bottom and allow it to function for an unlimited time. Other than time and this banner, nothing else will change between the trial and registered version. 

The Android Market is a big place, and the product may not get noticed unless some of you download it and make some (hopefully positive) comments. As always, if you do have problems or suggestions, do let me know. 

Thanks for all those who have been helpful trying out BackCountry Navigator in its early stages. We have a great list of things to work on; tracking is near the top of our list now. We may choose to place some new builds on the website in advance of placing them on the market.

Have a great day!

Nathan 
!uri

CritterMap Software's headquarters are at 3515 NE 252nd Ave, Camas WA 98607

19Jun/10

Fixes for Android Beta Users

Hello Android Beta Users,

I realize that it has been a short time since you last heard from me. 

Since yesterday, I have gotten a flood of crash reports due to a dreaded OutOfMemoryError that can occur after opening the program multiple times. This has occurred most often on the Sprint Hero, but can happen on other devices as well. I've spent some quality time with some memory analysis tools and eliminated a lot of factors before finding that the root cause was in a Google library – a small bug that caused a huge memory leak.

Due to the sleep I've lost over this issue, I've rushed out today's fix. Download it here:  

http://www.backcountrynavigator.com/content/download-backcountry-navigator-android

Also fairly new in this release:

  • Color Aerial Photography for continental US. 
  • Attempt to get a location faster on startup, instead of being stuck at an old location. 
  • Ability to open GPX files from AstroExplorer or similar program. 

Have a great day!

Nathan
!newsletter_url

18Jun/10

Color Aerial Photography for Android

Thanks to all who have tried beta downloads of BackCountry Navigator for Android. In just the last few days, I have posted several new builds and received several helpful reports from users. I have posted a few good tips and screenshots to the FaceBook Fan Page:

http://www.facebook.com/BackCountryNavigator

At least two users report that the HTC Incredible does not randomly reboot during a long download. This is good news and shows that some countermeasures were effective.  Some other users have had reports of OutofMemory conditions, and I will continue to follow up to see if any of the recent fixes are effective. You can download the latest version from here:

http://www.backcountrynavigator.com/content/download-backcountry-navigator-android

Color Aerials:
As of yesterday, BackCountry Navigator will allow you to try USGS color aerial photography, available across much of the contintental US at 1 meter per pixel (up to zoom level 17). This is the same level of detail in the USGS black and white aerial photography you may have tried before now, but in color. 

Sharing Your Story
I am actively looking for those of you who are willing to share your story or experience with BackCountry Navigator. This can be as simple as uploading fan photos with captions to the Facebook page, or, if desired, some photos can be featured in a blog entry about you and your favorite outdoor activities.  

Have a great day!

Nathan

!newsletter_url

30May/10

Waypoints for Android

Thanks to all those who have tried a beta of BackCountry Navigator so far. For many, by the time you receive this email, it will be memorial day weekend in the US. I hope it has been a good weekend for you. 

Waypoints Plus More
This week's build incorporates waypoints, plus other changes too numerous to mention. They are not yet fully described in web pages or video.  Here are some quick hints:

  • The GPS Data menu is now active to create a trip file for storing waypoints.
  • Press and hold to identify or define waypoints. Or use the target button to define one for the current gps position.  
  • Try sending a pocket query (geocaches) to your gmail adress, and click preview on the attachment on the phone. 

This build also has a full screen compass, which automatically snaps to the GOTO waypoint bearing, and a separate screen for navigation stats. 

The latest build is posted at:

Android beta download

Feedback wanted on stability. 
Please give feedback when you get a chance. A demo version of BackCountry Navigator will soon be posted to the Android Market. While it won't have *all* of the features that you have requested, we do want to make sure it is robust enough to be tried, and reviewed, by a wider audience.

HTC Droid Incredible
Two people have reported that long downloads from BackCountry Navigator can cause the phone to spontaneously reboot on the HTC Incredible. We do not know if this will be resolved in this release. If you have an Incredible, please do report back if you are seeing this problem on the downloads, and if it got better, worse, or .
It is known that the Incredible does not give sufficient priority to foreground services, which also causes skips in music players, but we do not know if this is related to what some have seen.

Have a great day!