Forum
Your purchase of a synthetic or cotton shirt helps support 14ers.com. Thank you!

Other ways to help...

BackCountry Navigator Pro

Info on gear, conditioning, and preparation for hiking/climbing. Gear Classifieds

BackCountry Navigator Pro

Postby Somewhat of a Prick » Sat Aug 24, 2013 3:47 pm

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.crittermap.backcountrynavigator.license&hl=en


I see this mentioned from time to time but I thought I'd make a thread dedicated to this app. I bought this app a few weeks ago and couldn't possibly be happier. For $10 it comes standard with tons of different types of maps, and you can download/import more. You can make waypoints, track your route, import GPX files off 14ers for routes, etc. Basically it does 95% of the things a handhelp GPS unit that costs several hundred dollars does. I keep my phone in airplane mode and only turn on the GPS when needed and it will go for days and days like this.

Just thought I'd throw this app out there for anyone else that might find it useful.

User avatar
Posts: 1325
Joined: Wed Jun 16, 2010 2:33 pm
Location: Crestone, CO and/or Chapel Hill, NC

Re: BackCountry Navigator Pro

Postby jdorje » Sat Aug 24, 2013 4:32 pm

I have this app (currently using it as my sole GPS utility) and I could be slightly happier. Supposedly there is another similar GPS app, gaia or gaea, that is probably not better.

1) The tile cache interface isn't good. All tiles downloaded at any time are cached and stored, this is very good. And you can go in and select areas for download to get them offline, this is very good. You have a few choices of where to download the tiles from, though I never know which I should pick and end up leaving it at the default. Again, good.

What isn't good is that the cache is almost completely unstructured. I have a 32gb SD card yet on a recent 10-day road trip I ended up somehow filling the whole thing with cached tiles. I had no way to get rid of them except by deleting the whole folder, which wasn't viable since I had no way to re-download the ones I wanted. They've recently added an option to add downloads to a specific folder - so that you can download a large area into a new folder and delete it when it's done - but this only fixes part of the problem. The majority of your downloads will still go into your main folder and continue to pile up indefinitely until you delete the whole thing. In short, I'd like to pick a maximum "cache size" (in my case, probably like 15 gb, but more like 128 mb by default would be fine), give all tiles a timestamp when that area (not that specific tile) is used, and automatically discard the oldest timestamped tile when (or soon after) the cache size is exceeded. When I select areas to download, I can then either have them go into the regular cache (and be discarded if not used) or into their own separate directory where they won't be discarded.

The second thing is there's no good way to see what's been downloaded already. On my recent hike in N Crestone basin I didn't realize everything north of the north fork had not been downloaded until I was already in the backcountry. If you just use the regular map browser (which is pretty cool btw) it downloads and caches tiles of whatever zoom, but there's then no way to realize that you don't have the higher levels of zoom. I'd like for the selection map to show me areas that have already been fully downloaded; instead I just have to go by memory or play it safe and re-download everything before I go anywhere (it doesn't actually re-download, but will only download what's missing).

Third problem is it's hard to know what to download. When trying to download tiles for a particular area - Chaco Canyon, the Black Canyon, or Yellowstone, to take three recent examples - the regular map interface makes it hard to actually find the locations you're looking for. You can search for a particular point, but then you have to zoom around the map and approximate where you think the boundaries of your travels will be. (Yes, this was probably how I filled up my 32gb card, as the Chaco Canyon disaster lead to me being overly conservative in picking the Yellowstone area.) These download areas are just rectangles; it should be easy to "download from GPX" or just to have a shape file that you can import to automatically pick the boundaries. Then I could just download Yellowstone.gpx that contained 4 waypoints at the 4 corners of the rectangle enclosing yellowstone, and the software would just download the whole interior of that area (and yeah, again, that would probably be like 20 gb just for yellowstone).

Okay, that was point 1, which is by far my biggest gripe. I end up having to delete the entire cache folder periodically and redownloading things when I need them, and always end up missing tiles that I should have gotten.

2) When you lose signal, this isn't conveyed very clearly. I got very confused once bushwhacking up some steep slope as I appeared not to be moving.

3) If your phone dies while recording a track, the track is somewhat mangled. It's not completely lost, which is good, but all the stats for it end up as bogus. Seems like this would be an easy fix. Make sure you stop track recording before turning the app off (though in my case it usually comes from the phone battery running low or getting displaced).

4) The tools for managing the trip database aren't great. You can have more than one trip database, and swap between them happily enough; as long as you always do so you're in good shape. But if you forget and end up with the track for the destination X in the trip database intended for destination Y, you're semi-screwed. You can never move one track from one trip database to another, which seems like it'd be a pretty easy thing to do. You can never rename a trip database (well, maybe you can by going in and renaming the file). You can export a trip database or any piece of it (route, track, or waypoint) to GPX, which is good. But you can't select more than one item to export so you have to then export the whole thing and go in and use some software to edit the GPX file afterwards.

5) When you look at the trip data for your current trip it always defaults to showing waypoints and takes 2 clicks to switch over to tracks. I find this absurdly annoying. I always want to select my routes, almost never my waypoints.

6) No barometer support. I'm not certain the barometer should be used - it takes a ton of battery, far more than the GPS it seems - but it would make the data a ton more accurate, particularly elevation gain which can be accurate to within a few feet if calibrated right.

Maybe I'll think of a couple more gripes as I put my mind to it. And can then send the developers to read this thread since some of these should be very easy fixes.

As for advice on using it:

1) There is a demo version that is fully featured but comes with a time limitation, or at least that's how it worked the last time I used the demo. Highly recommended.

2) Get a decent SD card (I have a 32gb - considering upgrading to a 64gb) and set bcnav to use the SD card not your internal card (this is easy in the settings).

3) I use bittorrent sync to sync files from phone to my laptop. Specifically the "out" directory where GPX files are saved I do a full sync on (deleting them from the laptop deletes them from the phone) and the "data" directory where the trip databases are stored I just have set to backup to the laptop. BT sync isn't perfect but everything else I've found is a lot worse.
-Jason Dorje Short

Re: BackCountry Navigator Pro

Postby Somewhat of a Prick » Sat Aug 24, 2013 4:38 pm

I agree with most of the above, based on my limited use.

From what I can gather, if you just want to follow a GPX route, pop in some waypoints (Car, camp, etc) and have a very basic GPS unit on your phone then this is the app for you. Obviously if you want to get into the more in depth uses that GPS devices offer, then its probably best to spring for one of those devices. However $10 vs. $300 is huge. :shock:

Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Aug 26, 2013 7:23 am

Re: BackCountry Navigator Pro

Postby tlucini » Tue Aug 27, 2013 10:58 am

This may be a dumb question and I havent researched it much but I just used this app last week on a hike to heart lake and I couldnt figure out how to drop a pin or make a waypoint at my current location. Ex im at a split in the trail want to make a way point and add a note on whixh trail to take back. Can I do this?? I only could fogure out who to make a waypoint when I have the coordinates. Any help would be much appreciated.

User avatar
Posts: 1325
Joined: Wed Jun 16, 2010 2:33 pm
Location: Crestone, CO and/or Chapel Hill, NC

Re: BackCountry Navigator Pro

Postby jdorje » Tue Aug 27, 2013 11:56 am

The little plus button on the left side of the screen will drop a waypoint. Or press and hold to place one anywhere on the map.

Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Aug 26, 2013 7:23 am

Re: BackCountry Navigator Pro

Postby tlucini » Tue Aug 27, 2013 1:08 pm

Wooow...feel pretty dumb...haha cant believe I never even clicked on that plus sign.

User avatar
Posts: 823
Joined: Mon May 07, 2007 8:44 am
Location: Castle Rock, Co

Re: BackCountry Navigator Pro

Postby dsunwall » Tue Aug 27, 2013 5:33 pm

jdorje wrote: I have a 32gb SD card yet on a recent 10-day road trip I ended up somehow filling the whole thing with cached tiles.
The second thing is there's no good way to see what's been downloaded already.

When you go to map layers, select download history, select "mark", the area of this downloaded map will show. You can then delete these tiles.

Third problem is it's hard to know what to download. Not sure why, this has not been a problem for me. Maybe you are trying to cover too large of an area. I also have never had a problem with overloading the memory capacity.

2) When you lose signal, this isn't conveyed very clearly. I got very confused once bushwhacking up some steep slope as I appeared not to be moving.
Yes, one way to check is too use the my "location button". If it moves you are good, if you have a pop up that says, "Acquiring GPS signal" you have lost it. With my Galaxy S3 I have to turn off airplane mode, then it will find the signal, even though there is no cell coverage. Then turn airplane mode back on.

3) If your phone dies while recording a track, the track is somewhat mangled. It's not completely lost, which is good, but all the stats for it end up as bogus. Seems like this would be an easy fix. Make sure you stop track recording before turning the app off (though in my case it usually comes from the phone battery running low or getting displaced).

I hear a low battery beep, hit "pause tracking" then replace the battery. "resume tracking". I think that is a recent feature because I used to get very frustrated with this also. I agree it should be automatic like a Garmin. Fortunately this only happens once a day if at all.

4) The tools for managing the trip database aren't great.

I agree, it took me many trips to figure out what it takes, it is very different and not intuitive.



I do find working with files on the phone to be very confusing, it seems all the file managers from various apps make everything look different.

I also find my compass to lose calibration quite often, I sometimes have to recalibrate every 10 minutes it seems. That is a problem I believe comes from the sensitive 3axis sensor used by smartphones. I don't have the calibration motion perfected yet either, but it does only take a few seconds, much quicker than calibrating a Garmin. Losing compass calibration does not matter to anything other than the navigation page, the track is still recording correctly, the heading and bearing readings are still good. There are many clues to let you know its off. As long as my track is heading the right way on the map I know I am traveling the right direction.

Backcountry navigator is overall more difficult to use than a Garmin but for several reasons I like it better. I use a smartphone for many other things so I would own it anyway. It replaces a camera, cell phone, and GPS. If you don't include the monthly charges it saves a lot in device costs. In winter I do carry a small Garmin 401 for backup, and of course always the old magnetic compass. I can get by without a GPS if it dies, but the features it adds are worth it. One thing that is much better with a smartphone is the screen, the maps look so much better on them than the GPS's I owned in the past.

I like the Accuterra maps best, they seem to show current trails like a Trails illustrated map does, not the old USGS trail marks.
Last edited by dsunwall on Wed Aug 28, 2013 5:23 am, edited 3 times in total.

User avatar
Posts: 1325
Joined: Wed Jun 16, 2010 2:33 pm
Location: Crestone, CO and/or Chapel Hill, NC

Re: BackCountry Navigator Pro

Postby jdorje » Tue Aug 27, 2013 5:51 pm

dsunwall wrote:When you go to map layers, select download history, select "mark", the area of this downloaded map will show. It used to have a delete all tiles in selected area that would make sure you did not duplicate tiles, I don't see it anymore, maybe it is automatic now.

Better. Though not perfect.

dsunwall wrote:
Third problem is it's hard to know what to download.
Not sure why, this has not been a problem for me. Maybe you are trying to cover too large of an area. I also have never had a problem with overloading the memory capacity.

Well, yes. The problem is when I'm trying to download tiles for an area that I am going to visit but are not familiar with. I had an undirected visit to Chaco Canyon where I tried to download the whole area, but I must have gotten the entirely wrong location because when I got there I had nothing. Later I had an unplanned visit to Yellowstone; this time I used a blunt force approach that did get everything I needed but filled up my card. If you zoom out enough so that you can see a sufficiently large area then the level of detail is so low it's impossible to know what you're looking at.

It should be fairly easy (for the programmers, that is) to just feed the device a GPX file and download everything within a +1 mile rectangle around that GPX.

dsunwall wrote:I also find my compass to lose calibration quite often, I sometimes have to recalibrate every 10 minutes it seems. That is a problem I believe comes from the sensitive 3axis sensor used by smartphones. I don't have the calibration motion perfected yet either, but it does only take a few seconds, much quicker than calibrating a Garmin.

Newer smartphones have a gyroscopic sensor (surprisingly many androids do not, even as recently as 2012), however it takes a lot of work by the programmer to use this to steady the compass reading. The magnetometer sensor just sucks, frankly.
-Jason Dorje Short

User avatar
Posts: 24
Joined: Fri Jul 23, 2010 8:42 am
Location: Carbondale

Re: BackCountry Navigator Pro

Postby wheresgibbs » Tue Aug 27, 2013 6:01 pm

Has anyone found a solid Backcountry Navigator-esque app for iPhones, specifically one that allows importing GPX files and the ability to view your current position on the screen?

User avatar
Posts: 305
Joined: Sun Jan 03, 2010 9:26 pm
Location: Colorado Springs

Re: BackCountry Navigator Pro

Postby jrs1965 » Tue Aug 27, 2013 10:02 pm

wheresgibbs wrote:Has anyone found a solid Backcountry Navigator-esque app for iPhones, specifically one that allows importing GPX files and the ability to view your current position on the screen?


"GPS Kit" is the way to go for the iphone. You can open gpx files directly from the 14ers.com website. Import kml files, and it allows for viewing of your location in real time from any web browser. Has a ton of other functions, cost is like $9.99...

http://gpskit.garafa.com/GPS_Kit/Overview.html

User avatar
Posts: 823
Joined: Mon May 07, 2007 8:44 am
Location: Castle Rock, Co

Re: BackCountry Navigator Pro

Postby dsunwall » Tue Sep 03, 2013 5:22 pm

I finally made the connection between stopped speed and my phone compass. I started wondering why the program couldn't auto calibrate the compass by 2 GPS readings a certain minimum distance apart. It could use direction calculated to calibrate the compass. Then I realized it has always worked at speed but not a walking route in the mountains. It must figure anything below 2mph (guess) is considered stopped so it doesn't have enough distance to use. All I need to do is move a little faster. :yawn: This weekend it worked fine, it was the weekend before in the rain where I was too slow and it kept going bad.

User avatar
Posts: 1325
Joined: Wed Jun 16, 2010 2:33 pm
Location: Crestone, CO and/or Chapel Hill, NC

Re: BackCountry Navigator Pro

Postby jdorje » Wed Sep 04, 2013 11:47 am

Your phone cannot calibrate the compass from two GPS readings a certain distance apart. Yes, it can tell your bearing from those two distances, though the accuracy is generally far inferior to what a compass should be. But that information cannot be used to calibrate the compass since it doesn't know in which direction (device coordinates) the movement is done. If you are driving in straight line in a car, there is no change in either the accelerometer, gyroscope, or magnetometer readings as you move.

Your magnetometer probably becomes uncalibrated faster when walking because of all the jarring and small rotations.
-Jason Dorje Short

Next

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests