Category Archives: BackCountry Navigator

Newsletter for users of BackCountry Navigator, mobile maps for outdoor recreation.


The Basics of A Safe and Rewarding Backpacking Travel


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.



Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day, everyone. I hope you've all had the chance to appreciate the earth through activities on this day or any other. 

For me, Earth Day was also Bring Your Daughter to Work Day. My eight year old daughter had a chance to visit my humble office and learn something of what I do everyday.

She also had a chance to write her first blog entry based on what she learned. Take a look at it and some other blog entries, mentioned below. If you haven't already seen these tips on our facebook page, take a look. 


Hiking with Android GPS Software and Goats

Today is Take Your Daughter to Work Day. As a guest blogger, eight year old Sierra comments on using Android gps software in hiking and what she has learned about topo maps and gps. 

Sean Ensley has announced his intention to hike the Pacific Crest Trail with BackCountry Navigator. His hike will be a good demonstration of using mobile phone software as a topographic gps in hiking. He will be starting on April 20th at Crazy Crook monument. 

Although the pamphlet is not yet published, the Boy Scouts of America have released the requirements for the Geocaching Merit Badge. As part of this Merit Badge, boys learn about safety and geocaching ettiquette, the use of a GPS device, and steps for finding and logging a cache. 

I just created my first YouTube Video about using topographic maps on an Android phone. In the process I learned some things about how effective a video can be in demonstrating a concept like the use of topo maps.  

Using a simple tripod, I managed to focus a home video camera on the screen of my Android phone as I viewed topographic maps in BackCountry Navigator. I didn't actually star in this video, since you don't see a person's face, but you do get a good view of the Android phone screen with a topo map on it, as well a finger coming in from nowhere scrolling the map on the screen.  

Battery life is a common concern when you start using your mobile phone for navigation in the outdoors.  Here are a few tips for getting the most of out of the battery life on your mobile phone. 


How is the loyalty to your phone's operating system? Do you care if your next phone has Windows Mobile, Android, BlackBerry or IPhone?



Mobile Phone Group to take over GPS Satellite Network

View on Web

On April 1, 2010, The US Department of Defense announced its intention to give up ownership of its GPS Satellite Network, citing concerns about the mix of consumer and military traffic, and the cost to maintain the system as it experiences record growth in use.  

The GPS Satellite Mobile Phone Consortium, a group of the 24 largest telecoms worldwide, is expected to take ownership of the satellite network.  

The so-called ‘GPS Satellite Mobile Phone Consortium’ will combine 24 of the world’s largest mobile carriers, including America Movil, AT&T, Bharti Airtel, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KT, mobilkom Austria, MTN Group, NTT Docomo, Orange, Orascom Telecom, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telenor, TeliaSonera, SingTel, SK Telecom, Sprint, VimpelCom and WIND. The four operators in the Joint Innovation Lab (JIL) mobile apps initiative – Vodafone, China Mobile, SoftBank and Verizon Wireless – are also included.

Under the terms of the agreement, the mobile phone group will lease the satellites currently in operation and be responsible for the cost of launching any new ones. It is expected that GPS will be completely under their control by 2012. By that time, a GPS device will need to use a cellular identifier to decode GPS signals.   

Department of Defense officials declined comment on the future of the use of GPS in military applications, citing security concerns. It is speculated that the military has been launching a new satellite network strictly for its own use. 

Not all are happy with the move. High on the list of  consumer complaints is that the perception that mobile phone companies, in their typical fashion, will levy monthly fees for a GPS signal that used to be free.

In response to this criticism, the Mobile Phone Consortium stressed their intention to make the technology affordable and available to all. The Consortium itself will levy no fees for GPS use, but choices of pricing will be left to the individual telecoms.

The question comes up also of the future of GPS receivers that don't have a mobile phone component. While the number of mobile phone gps receivers has now overtaken these in number, there are still millions of these in existence. The GPS Satellite Mobile Phone Consortium says they are willing to license their technology to these manufacturers, and companies such as Garmin and Magellan may even join the consortium.    

Resistance to the idea of a mobile phone owned GPS network has gone beyond words. Programmers who preferred not to be identified announced their intention to hack the new network as soon as it was launched. If they succeed, exploits will be posted widely around the internet, with the goal of keeping the technology free for all. 

If you are concerned about this transfer of GPS ownership, add your name to those concerned by taking a short survey at this web address:

Respond to Mobile Phone Ownership of GPS

Feel free to pass on this message to others who might be concerned.   

It is now April 2, 2010, and fortunately, the GPS network is still in the hands of the US Department of Defense. The above article is a work of fiction and was not commissioned by the US Department of Defense nor any of the phone companies mentioned.  


Survey Results and Consequences

Thanks to all who participated in our most recent survey. We had 116 people complete the survey and the summary results are now available: 

Results of survey

While hiking was the single biggest activity done with BackCountry Navigator, three activities that should have been on the short list are hunting, cycling, and offroad driving (vehicles or motorcycles). Topographic maps were the most used feature. We also found a predominance of male users, and that more people were interested in using a Star Trek Tricorder than switching to Windows Mobile without a touchscreen.  

For those who suggested it, there is a Tricorder app on Android. I haven't learned to do anything useful with it yet, but the guy in me thinks it's way cool.  

The results of the survey have spawned a number of other items on the site:

  • The gender distribution started a new blog entitled 'Is GPS just a Stupid Guy Thing' with comments from Dave Barry and Dilbert.
  • A new blog entry is also available called the "The Future of Windows Mobile"
  • A short followup survey has been spawned that allows you to vote for the platforms where BackCountry Navigator will be in the future by guessing what your next phone will be:

The latter two items come up not just because of the emerging choices in Mobile Operating Systems, but also the news that Windows Phone 7 will not be backwards compatible with previous Windows Mobile Versions.  

Have a great day!


Become a fan of BackCountry Navigator on FaceBook Today!

CritterMap Software
3515 NE 252nd Ave
Camas, WA 98607


Take our survey to shape the future of BackCountry Navigator!

Please take a few moments for a short survey to help shape the future of BackCountry Navigator.

Click here to take survey

Good reasons to take the survey:

  • It's easy; just a dozen or so questions, and mostly multiple choice. You are sure to get an A! 
  • It's worth it just to see if you can spot the phony answers to question 12 and get bragging rights in question 9.
  • The responses are anonymous, so you can say how you *really* feel about BackCountry Navigator software.  
  • With the turmoil in the economy and the changing landscape in the mobile software world, you can help us to make the right decisions and still be in business a year from now! 

Click here to take survey

If you're just not into surveys, but want to help out BackCountry Navigator in another way, consider creating a link to on your website, Facebook page or other web presence. This is to help out the poor, unfortunate, 99% of the population that don't know that BackCountry Navigator exists.

See fan page: BackCountry Navigator – Mobile Phone Topographic Maps on Facebook.
As an advance thank you for participating, I am including some coupon codes from If you are going to buy some geeky accessories for your phone, you might as well get some dollars off. I just snagged a 16 GB MicroSD card with this coupon. 

Get $10 off any order of $50 or more at with Code: AGEEK1050. Plus FREE Shipping!

Take $15 off your order of $75 or more at with code AGEEK1575

Newest weekly coupons this week at Accessory Geeks

Everyone have a great day!



CritterMap Software
3515 NE 252nd Ave
Camas, WA 98607


New Year, New Adventures, New Devices.

Happy New Year to All!

This year has given me a number of new adventures, some new animals, and some life changing experiences. I’m sure it has been an interesting year for you as well. 

In addition to new adventures, this year has brought with it new devices for some of you. I’m interesting in hearing how BackCountry Navigator has worked for you, and I’ve setup a section in the forum to post experience and tips with each device. You may have some tips that will help others, or benefit from the information that is gathered.  

If your new device happens to be an Android Phone like the TMobile G-1, or Motorola Droid, there are some interesting discussions going on at the forum about the development of BackCountry Navigator for Android. While it is still too early for a beta download, you will have chance to vote for the price, discuss features and preferences, and even review some screenshots over the next month or so.  

Deals at Accessory Geeks - You Got it from A Geek

If you don’t have an Android phone but want one, please check out the following link at Accessory Geeks, which has
the lowest price I’ve seen on the Motorola Droid:

Check out the newest coupons this week at Accessory Geeks

If you are shopping there for anything else, like accessories, use this link to find a coupon code based on your model of phone. I was able to find some extended batteries for my G1.

Check out the new AccessoryGeeks Coupons!

If interested, please check these links in the next 24 hours, as these deals change every week. 

Have a great day and a wonderful New Year!

Nathan Mellor 

BackCountry Navigator


CritterMap Software, 3515 NE 252nd Ave, Camas, WA 98607

You are receiving this message as a registered member of the above site. If you wish to unsubscribe from this newsletter, use this link: