How to Use your Phone as a GPS Device for Backpacking

How to Use your Phone as a GPS Device for Backpacking

A smartphone is a versatile device that serves not only for communication but also for many other valuable functions. Navigator is one of the functions that make any phone indispensable during a trip. Now you don’t need to buy expensive special devices — you can download the navigating app.

How to Use your Phone as a GPS Device for Backpacking

Most modern smartphones have built-in GPS sensors. It makes it easy to use your favorite device, such as a car navigator, to find your way in unfamiliar places quickly. Everyone can take advantage of this opportunity.

Thanks to convenient applications, you can install the navigator on a smartphone of any manufacturer in a matter of minutes. The only thing is that this process has its nuances for different operating systems.

Do I Really Need a GPS Device?

The functionality of smartphones is rich and allows you to use the gadget for communication and perform many other valuable functions. One of these features of the device is navigation that every traveler needs. It became available thanks to the introduction of the GPS app for android into the phone.

How to Use your Phone as a GPS Device for Backpacking

The primary purpose of navigation apps is to help the backpacker navigate the terrain. However, apps perform this task differently: programs differ markedly in functionality, usability, and several other parameters.

By default, all navigators on the phone work online and may become unstable (or not display maps at all) without a direct Internet connection. There are workarounds to solve the problem, and you can use maps offline when, for example, traveling in different countries or discovering exciting things in the forest.

Why Use Your Phone

Offline maps are indispensable when navigating if you have expensive mobile traffic or if you open the map in a place where there is no Internet access via mobile data or Wi-Fi. The navigation apps on your phone are your life-saving straw when you feel like you’re lost in the forest. If you don’t have a paper map at hand, a particular navigating application on your phone is the central salvation.

How to Use your Phone as a GPS Device for Backpacking

Free navigation products generally run exclusively online. Such software is perfectly adapted to the rapidly changing realities: all map updates are carried out as quickly as possible, and a wide range of various services, for example, voice search or online broadcast of the traffic situation, will delight even the most skeptical backpacker.

The only but significant disadvantage of this kind of GPS navigation software is that their capabilities are reduced to a minimum in the absence of the Internet. However, you can always find a way out of the situation. For example, download offline maps of the area where you will travel.

How Your Phone’s GPS Works

Sooner or later, each of us has to travel to unfamiliar places, be it another city or someplace outside it. To navigate in space, there are many tools, such as a compass or a map. As far as the city is concerned, people are usually guided by street names and house numbers. As a last resort, you can always ask passers-by for directions.

But in the forest, no one will help you. Except, the GPS navigator application on your phone! How can it help you? First, most of the devices have complex specifications, including many modules and sensors. Among others, almost every device has a built-in GPS module. Any smartphone can be turned into a portable GPS navigator, albeit not as high-quality as a full-fledged device.

How to Use your Phone as a GPS Device for Backpacking

The GPS module in a smartphone is a receiver that cannot transmit signals. It does it via the Internet. The gadget’s GPS module is a receiving antenna with an amplifier, but it cannot send a signal. Receiving a signal from satellites, the smartphone determines the coordinates of its location.

Google has developed a particular geolocation application for its Android operating system — Google Maps. It quickly finds satellites, creates routes to facilities, and suggests alternatives.

Unfortunately, in the absence of a cellular network coverage area, Google Maps does not work since geographic maps are loaded here via the Internet. For navigation without using the network, the best solution is to download applications that support offline maps.

Which Apps Work Best for Backpacking?

You can install a third-party application on any smartphone, be it iOS or Android. For navigation in surroundings, there are dozens of high-quality programs. Some applications are oriented to navigate the city and city roads, others to navigate intercity connections.

How to Use your Phone as a GPS Device for Backpacking

One way or another, all navigation applications can be divided into two categories:

  • Offline programs that store all maps on the internal memory of the smartphone. They only need an Internet connection to use online services. In other words, such navigation applications will plot a route through unfamiliar terrain, where there are practically no communications and the Internet.
  • Online navigators only work when connected to the Internet. All their maps, databases, etc., are located on the developer’s servers. Only the interface program is installed on the smartphone to work with them. Thus, maps are constantly downloaded to the smartphone, which requires a stable Internet channel.

Gaia GPS

Gaia GPS is a great app. It offers about 50 base maps, which can also be downloaded and printed for easy reference. The main maps of the Gaia GPS app are here:

  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated;
  • NeoTracks US Topo;
  • ESRI World Imagery.

It is also possible to create your map. That is, the traveler can add important places, create routes and waypoints by himself. All this will help to manage maps more conveniently. There is also specific information for active fires, as well as for public and private lands. The interface is uniquely user-friendly. The application is very convenient to navigate and easy to learn.

How to Use your Phone as a GPS Device for Backpacking

It’s worth saying that Gaia’s primary functions are relatively easy to use, although most handheld GPS for hiking tools needs to be learned. The app can also be purchased, meaning you can subscribe to premium membership with additional features.

Topo Maps+

Topo Maps + has a significant advantage: this program was created by the tourists themselves for similar travelers. The database contains numerous high-quality maps that are easy to use.

This app also gives you the ability to download and print your favorite maps. The application is designed so that all maps are of super high quality. This high resolution allows you to view printed maps with no problems.

Topo Maps + offers the ability to create a favorite route, add points of interest, distances, and calculate routes. This application takes some time to learn how to use it. Nevertheless, once you grasp the basics of this app, it will be easier for you to travel.

One of the main problems that any traveler has to solve is orientation on the road. It is not a problem to get traditional paper maps or atlases of any city or region now, especially since there is a wide choice of various mobile applications. Maps.Me is one of those apps that has just skyrocketed in popularity.

We always want more! An ordinary map is not very convenient, and to use electronic cards, and you almost always need an Internet connection. It is not always possible on the road: roaming costs a lot of money, and Wi-Fi is not always available. This means that offline electronic cards are needed. The application is an absolute leader when you need to navigate a specific area without an Internet connection.

How to Use your Phone as a GPS Device for Backpacking

Now you have arrived at your destination. But how to use your phone as a GPS device and find the desired object in this region? will help you:

  • This is a free application that allows you to quickly and easily plan the selected route.
  • The main advantage: it can work offline and online.
  • It’s easy to use: it’s worth downloading your region maps before you travel.

When it is impossible to use the Internet connection for offline navigation, this application will become your primary assistant.

Fans of outdoor activities can use voluminous route journals, compiled by both tourists themselves and travel journals. The software is suitable for everyone engaged in hiking or who likes to travel on any transport, including bicycles and motorcycles.

How to Use GPS Navigation Apps for Backpacking

Usually, in the phone’s operating system, there is already a built-in application for navigation. However, most often, it is Google Maps, which, although convenient to use, requires a constant Internet connection from the user. Therefore, you might need a Garmin GPS navigator for android, which can provide offline access.

How to Use your Phone as a GPS Device for Backpacking

The Android operating system is so good that you can install any software on it at the user’s discretion. First, you need to turn on the GPS module and, if possible, the Internet connection. Internet access will help you connect to satellites faster and determine the approximate location.

Navigation is turned on in the system settings. Namely, in the «Location» or «Geolocation» section, «Geodata» may also be found. To enable GPS navigation, you need to put the switch in the active position, after which you can see which applications have access to navigation services.

Test Beforehand

However, just like any other application, it is essential to test your android GPS app before traveling. You shouldn’t go on a trip if you don’t know how to use the app. It will also be annoying to see that you have arrived at the campsite, and the map does not work at all!

To avoid such unpleasant incidents, it is worth testing the application, which is essential to devote a few hours of free time. You need to download some critical maps to your phone. After that, you can try to go along this route to take a test drive.

You need to pay attention to the phone’s operation and how the battery works — how quickly it runs out. All this data will help you to use the application without problems in the future.


Knowing your location, direction, and understanding where your destination is the main navigation task in any trip. Navigation in a hiking trip is the basis for a successful route and visiting all the fundamental objects of this journey.

Going for a walk or hike in the forest, it is essential not only to develop the route of movement correctly but also to familiarize yourself with the map of the area. Purchase a Garmin hiking GPS that will help you get out in the event of an emergency.

How to Use your Phone as a GPS Device for Backpacking

Exceptional tourist navigators for forest and fishing are pretty expensive. If you are an avid traveler, you can splash out, but you can get by with a particular mobile application for a smartphone in case of a rare occurrence.

We have all, to some extent, wandered in our travels. How to avoid this with the help of modern means of satellite navigation? The main answer is to provide yourself with suitable applications for your phone, which allow you to use the most necessary maps and create your routes.

How to Use your Phone as a GPS Device for Backpacking
We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply