iOS: Navigating along roads is easy – just start up Google Maps or Waze – but finding your way on a trail in the woods tends to require a patchwork of PDFs, paper maps, and apps that only work for one park or system. Hikepack aims to change that.
Screenshot: Beth Skwarecki (Hikepack)
Hikepack uses data from OpenStreetMap, which includes trails and often other features, like bathrooms and campsites. In the app, you’ll start by picking a park, and then you’ll be able to see what that park has to offer. The app knows each trail’s total distance and elevation change, and will estimate how many calories you’ll burn by hiking it.
With the free version of the app, you can view maps; with a “Pro Pass” (free for your first seven days, $US9.99 /year thereafter) you can track your location and get some power user features:
- Download maps to use offline
- Plan your own route, and see the distance and calorie burn
- Tap on a feature (like a campsite or water stop) and tap “Get me there.” That automatically plans a route from your location to the feature, and counts down the distance as you approach.
I took the app for a trail run yesterday. I know most of the trails in my local park, but finding out a new trail for a short run can be difficult, since I normally don’t know the exact distance and it’s difficult to impossible to measure on the maps I normally use. (Are you headed out for a two-mile run or a five-miler? Compare the scale bar with this squiggly line to find out.) But with Hikepack I was quickly able to locate a trail I’d never tried before, and I knew it was 3km. (I tracked it with a running app at the same time, and yep, spot on.)
Having GPS in the same app as an accurate trail map app was a game changer. (It’s scary to be genuinely lost, knowing where you are and where the trail is, but with no way to precisely relate one to the other.) One time on yesterday’s run, the trail forked and I couldn’t find any trail blazes on either side, but I was able to tell from the app that I had wandered onto the wrong path.
That said, it’s never a good idea to rely only on a digital tool to navigate in the wilderness. GPS-enabled apps tend to drain power, and what happens if you run out of battery? (A thoughtful touch: Hikepack notifies you when your battery dips below 40 per cent, and suggests ways to conserve power.) On a serious hiking or backpacking outing, you should always carry a paper map and compass, even if only as a backup. For myself, going out for an hour’s jog in a local park, I feel comfortable with the app because I know the park well enough I’m sure I could find my way home without it.
So far the app only has a few hundred maps, but they’re adding them quickly and taking requests. When I told a Hikepack rep I wanted to try out the app but couldn’t find any maps near me, they quickly added my favourite park, plus a bunch more of my state’s most popular parks. You can request new maps directly from the app, and they try to get them up within two weeks.
So far, they have maps for parks in the US, UK, Switzerland, Finland, and Romania, and they plan to add Italy and Slovenia. Sadly, Australia is not yet supported but if you enjoy hiking and have a holiday planned in any of the aforementioned countries, Hikepack is well worth a download.