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Old 10-14-2016, 09:49 AM   #1
adkmoose
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GPS Advice

I am looking at purchasing a GPS , have always been a map and compass guy.
I would appreciate any help I can get picking out the best one for my needs.

I don't need all the bells and whistles, just want a basic point to point model.
The most important qualities that I am looking for are:

1 - quick and reliable reception of satellites under a canopy or on a cloudy day.

2 - accuracy

3 - Ease of use

I would like to spend $300 or less if possible.

Thanks for any help you may offer.
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Old 10-14-2016, 11:45 AM   #2
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I went thru this 2 yrs ago and bought a used Garmin 60Cx off Amazon for $200. The software is not user friendly compared to newer models, but it tends to get very high ratings for battery life (watch out for this), sensitivity (in tree cover), and accuracy. I bushwhack and explore with much more confidence now knowing: 1) exactly where I am, and 2) how I could retrace my path if necessary.

Loading new maps or adding maps for another location is a pain and absolutely requires a laptop or PC. The learning curve is steep for manipulating tracks & routes - likely more difficult than newer models.

For free maps, tutorials and other resources check out GPSFileDepot.com
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Old 10-14-2016, 02:48 PM   #3
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I have a 60Csx, two of them as a matter of fact, that I use pretty much exclusively for SAR and canoe racing (to monitor target speed), plus for navigating the Yukon River races. It performs very well for those utility needs. battery life on the Yukon is more than 24 hours. I also bought a 62Cx and I hate it. it is nothing like the older model. The function displays are terrible, and the most I can get out of a set of lithium batteries is 7 hours. it always dies at 7 hours like clockwork, making it useless for long marathon races, and marginal for SAR. Most of my travel in the Adirondacks is by bushwhack, far off trail. I don't use any gps for that, because at least half my pleasure and reason for being out there in the first place is to navigate freely with map and compass.
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Old 10-15-2016, 07:01 PM   #4
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Garmin 60Csx is a somewhat clunky and cumbersome tool. Having said that, I would never move away from it. My experience is identical to what the other posters say. It locks on to satellites, has exceptional battery life, and is fairly durable. I've used it to track many canoe and xc-ski trips. In addition, I've used it to record three cross country Amtrak train trips, and train trips in South Africa, Scotland, and Turkey. Getting the maps for these other regions was fairly simple once you get the hang of it.
Garmin discontinued the unit years ago, but as recently as last year, they were servicing the old sets which needed repair for problems such as broken screens. My advice: try to get a used one from Ebay or from someone who wants to unload his gear
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Old 10-18-2016, 10:25 AM   #5
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I own three mapping handheld garmin gps units. I like all three. One of the things you have to consider is the maps and mapping software. There is also a solid argument for using a cell phone in airplane mode with some of the offline maps.

Garmin Etrex VISTA HCX- amazing accurate. Small screen. Older unit with limited storage.

Garmin Etrex 30-Good unit which works well. Bigger screen but only uses the US GPS not Russian. Great battery life.

Garmin 62st-Has both US and Russian gps sats. Great screen with easy use with mittens on. Great battery life.

On cell phones I have been playing with Gaia, Backcountry Navigator, and US Topo. In airplane mode my cell phones go for 4-5 days and are easily recharged using a usb pack.

I may invest more time on the cell phone in the next year or two but I have likely bought my last hiking gps.
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Old 10-18-2016, 11:49 AM   #6
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@adkmoose

FWIW, I use a Garmin Rino 530 HCx (same generation as the 60 CSx) and a GPS app on my Android phone. I evaluated six apps before choosing one (included real-world testing and not just a feature comparison).

In practice, the phone's GPS hardware compares very well to the Garmin, sometimes even exceeds it. My Garmin remains the "workhorse" (rugged, weatherproof, etc) but I have newfound respect for the GPS capabilities of a smartphone.

If you have an Android phone, consider looking into the following GPS apps:

OruxMaps
It's free, offers a multitude of free maps, and has all the required functionality for navigation.

AlpineQuest
The one I use. Not free but inexpensive (~$10) with access to a very wide range of free maps, a better UI than OruxMaps (in my opinion), and also filled with all the required features.

I should point out that my phone's battery is rated 3510 mAh which is more capacity that the average phone. In normal use (airplane mode), I can track a hike of ten hours (at the rate of one trackpoint every 2 seconds) and shoot a few dozen photos and end the day with 70% capacity remaining. YMMV.
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Old 10-19-2016, 07:15 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crkmeup View Post
I own three mapping handheld garmin gps units. I like all three. One of the things you have to consider is the maps and mapping software. There is also a solid argument for using a cell phone in airplane mode with some of the offline maps.

Garmin Etrex VISTA HCX- amazing accurate. Small screen. Older unit with limited storage.

Garmin Etrex 30-Good unit which works well. Bigger screen but only uses the US GPS not Russian. Great battery life.

Garmin 62st-Has both US and Russian gps sats. Great screen with easy use with mittens on. Great battery life.

On cell phones I have been playing with Gaia, Backcountry Navigator, and US Topo. In airplane mode my cell phones go for 4-5 days and are easily recharged using a usb pack.

I may invest more time on the cell phone in the next year or two but I have likely bought my last hiking gps.
You may want to check again because I have an eTrex 30 and always access the Russian satellites (GLONASS) on mine. Garmin confirms the eTrex 30 can access GLONASS.

https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/digital...prod87774.html
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Old 10-24-2016, 04:43 PM   #8
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Years ago, late 90's, I had a Magellan, map 330 I believe. It was a very basic unit, back when most people still didn't know what a gps was. It did the job fairly well but didn't last too long cause it was poorly made. I became dependent on one for driving to a new place for work virtually every day and bought a dedicated road unit from Garmin which worked well, for driving, but with the Garmin, everything is extra, gotta buy maps, multiple maps if you need for more than a small area, gotta buy updates... It's like dealing with a used car salesman.

For a while I went without one for hiking. Never wanted to be reliant on one anyway, it was just a convenience & interesting for tracking/stats. Round late 2011 finally broke down and got an iphone & began using that with the Gaia app for hiking/paddling to track my route that I can upload to a map and post with trip reports and include in photo albums etc, but was worried about the durability of the phone and missed some of the features of the dedicated hiking units (don't remember which ones now), plus the battery life was horrible back then, so decided to buy a new dedicated unit for hiking. The thing with everything under the sun being extra with the Garmin's, I finally decided on the Delorme PN-60, because it came with software for the computer and maps for the entire country all included.

In practice, the batteries don't last very long, the Delorme software only works on a windows pc (pc=piece-a chit) which I have an older one around for certain tasks, but hate vehemently. They have no intention of EVER making software for a Mac. Apparently half of the computer using world doesn't matter to them (the mitt romney of the gps world!!!) and the software for the pc is archaic. As in, reminiscent of the early years of DOS, which for a Mac user is like gravel in your boots. It lags so much it's just an exercise in frustration.

I used it alongside the iphone for a few trips and almost instantly became frustrated with the screen being the size of a couple postage stamps compared to the iphone and once you've used a phone's touch screen for scrolling & zooming the map, going back to those joystick buttons and very limited processing power, is like going back to a rotary dial phone. In the end, the Gaia app does everything I need it too and the last several trips I've left the Delorme home.
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Old 10-24-2016, 04:57 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adkmoose View Post
I am looking at purchasing a GPS , have always been a map and compass guy.
I would appreciate any help I can get picking out the best one for my needs.

I don't need all the bells and whistles, just want a basic point to point model.
The most important qualities that I am looking for are:

1 - quick and reliable reception of satellites under a canopy or on a cloudy day.

2 - accuracy

3 - Ease of use

I would like to spend $300 or less if possible.

Thanks for any help you may offer.
Do you have a "smart phone"? If so, try the free memory-map App https://memory-map.com/ and try the maps for free for 10 days. This is all that I use and I use it all the time (yes I have a back up map and compass). I've never not had reception either in the Adirondacks or Algonquin Park. I have all the NYS USGS maps downloaded onto my phone and no you don't need cell phone reception to use GPS on your smart phone. And if I put my phone into airplane mode my battery will last 4 days.
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Old 10-24-2016, 05:41 PM   #10
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Do you have a "smart phone"? If so, try the free memory-map App https://memory-map.com/ and try the maps for free for 10 days. This is all that I use and I use it all the time (yes I have a back up map and compass). I've never not had reception either in the Adirondacks or Algonquin Park. I have all the NYS USGS maps downloaded onto my phone and no you don't need cell phone reception to use GPS on your smart phone. And if I put my phone into airplane mode my battery will last 4 days.
Good tip!
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Old 10-24-2016, 07:07 PM   #11
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Good tip!
If you have an Android phone, not so much ...



For the Adirondack Park, Memory-Map offers two maps:

USGS Topo 7.5' Quads for $10
Most competitors don't charge for USGS maps. As far as current trails and backcountry infrastructure goes, the USGS Topo 7.5 maps are outdated.

DeLorme Topo for $10
USGS 7.5' Quads are 1:24000 scale. These maps from DeLorme are 1:50000.
Quote:
The different scales of map are referred to as "Levels". The least detailed is Level8 and the most detailed is Level 15. Levels 8 through 12 are accessible with the Memory-Map app for free. When you purchase a state, the license includes Levels 13, 14 and 15. Level 15 is about the same detail as a 1:50,000 scale topo map.
Compare that with what I recommended in an earlier post.

AlpineQuest costs $10 and, for no extra charge, provides these maps (there are more):
  • 12 from OpenStreetMap.
  • 4 from Bing.
  • 9 from Google.
  • 7 from the USGS.
  • 9 from Caltopo.
  • 4 from Strava.
  • Light Pollution Maps.
  • MyTopo and NRCAN maps for Canada.

You can also use Mobile Atlas Creator (MOBAC) (free) to create your own maps and AlpineQuest will display them.

If USGS 7.5' Quads are sufficient for your needs then I suggest you try Locus Map Free. It's the free version of Locus Map (Pro) and it offers USGS Quads and OpenStreetMap. Or OruxMaps which is equally free and provides free USGS Quads and OpenStreetMap.
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Old 10-25-2016, 04:54 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Trail Boss View Post
If you have an Android phone, not so much ...



For the Adirondack Park, Memory-Map offers two maps:

USGS Topo 7.5' Quads for $10
Most competitors don't charge for USGS maps. As far as current trails and backcountry infrastructure goes, the USGS Topo 7.5 maps are outdated.

DeLorme Topo for $10
USGS 7.5' Quads are 1:24000 scale. These maps from DeLorme are 1:50000.


Compare that with what I recommended in an earlier post.

AlpineQuest costs $10 and, for no extra charge, provides these maps (there are more):
  • 12 from OpenStreetMap.
  • 4 from Bing.
  • 9 from Google.
  • 7 from the USGS.
  • 9 from Caltopo.
  • 4 from Strava.
  • Light Pollution Maps.
  • MyTopo and NRCAN maps for Canada.

You can also use Mobile Atlas Creator (MOBAC) (free) to create your own maps and AlpineQuest will display them.

If USGS 7.5' Quads are sufficient for your needs then I suggest you try Locus Map Free. It's the free version of Locus Map (Pro) and it offers USGS Quads and OpenStreetMap. Or OruxMaps which is equally free and provides free USGS Quads and OpenStreetMap.

That AlpineQuest app looks pretty good. Maybe better than the Gaia app. I'm using. Too bad it's only available for the android platform.

Got me thinking though. For those that don't have smartphones and don't feel like forking out a few hundred bucks for a smartphone or a dedicated gps, you can easily get a used or refurbished older model smartphone, without the cellular contract and just use it with the gps and other apps. As long as you have a wifi signal, you can still go online through the phone, open an account, download the gps app and use it all without the cellular contract.

I used to do this with a couple phones I bought just to use with an app that was only written for the android platform but I needed it to link up with some specialized electronic equipment in the field for work. I found the HTC phones pretty solid and the Kyocera weren't bad either. Right now you can get the HTC G2 for less than $30. - a few more for that AlpineQuest app and you have a pretty sweet gps unit for less than $50.-

http://www.ebay.com/itm/HTC-G2-Titan...EAAOSwvUlWq6FU
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Old 10-25-2016, 09:25 PM   #13
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Good idea to get a used, off-plan, smartphone!

Look for an old "flagship" model that has a pressure sensor (typically Samsung and Sony). The GPS apps I mentioned can use it as a barometric altimeter (more accurate than a GPS receiver's altitude measurement).

If you're using an iPhone, you can try Viewranger. It's free and includes a few free maps (notably OpenStreetMap). Like Memory-Map, they also sell premium maps (although I feel the ones available for the US aren't very "premium").

Http://www.viewranger.com


They also offer an online service where you can save your tracks, share them with others, or download other people's tracks. You obviously need to create an account to participate in this free service. If this part is of no interest to you, just skip the step where it asks you to create an account (the app works fine without one).

Viewranger is also available for Android but, based on my evaluation, OruxMaps and Locus Map Free are more capable, offer more maps, and are equally free.
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Old 10-25-2016, 10:12 PM   #14
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Viewranger is also available for Android but, based on my evaluation, OruxMaps and Locus Map Free are more capable, offer more maps, and are equally free.
Question Trail Boss: Regarding the APPs and maps (specifically the USGS 7.5 maps) you previously mention; are the USGS free maps available even when you are not in cell phone range or when wifi connected? That is can you download the USGS maps and store them on the device and use them?
I have all the NY USGS 7.5 maps downloaded to my phone's SD card through my Memory Map account which makes them accessible anytime and without any type of connection. Do the APPs you mention give you this ability as well?
I'm curious and hope I'm making some sense with the question...
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Old 10-26-2016, 10:08 AM   #15
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@bioguide

That's a very valid question! I imagine most forum members intend to use the apps in areas with no cell phone reception so it's very important to be able to download maps to the phone and use them "offline" in the woods.

The short answer is: Yes.



Here's the long answer.

There are two ways to get online maps onto the phone for offline use, via auto-caching or explicitly downloading them.

1. Auto-caching online maps
Most maps are displayed using a connection to an online map server (via Wi Fi or cellular data). When the app displays an area, it stores it locally in the phone (it "caches" the map). Maps are usually comprised of "tiles" and the area you displayed may be comprised of one or more tiles. The app automatically caches the tiles for future use.

The next time you display the same area, the app simply retrieves tiles from local storage. This is true with or without a connection to a map server. It speeds the display of the maps (gets it locally from the phone and not remotely from the map server) and saves bandwidth (good when you're on a cellular connection).

HOWEVER, without a data connection, it can only show you the cached portions of the map. If you pan the map to something it doesn't have cached, you won't see it. What you will see depends on the app. Most will show some sort of error message for the portions of the map it cannot display.

There's another catch to "auto-cached maps"; it only caches the map at one magnification level. If you zoom into a cached map area, the app must retrieve new map tiles. Without a data connection, you won't see a magnified map. What you will see depends on the app. Some apps (like AlpineQuest) will take the previous zoom level and "blow up" the pixels (create "fat pixels"). The result is a grainy map, with no additional details of course, but it's aesthetically better than looking at a blank map.


Clearly, "auto-caching" is handy but has its limitations. There's a simple solution but it's a bit tedious. While connected (i.e. before entering the woods) pan the map so it displays the entire area you plan to visit. Magnify the map and repeat the panning operation. Magnify and pan however many times you feel you need. Now the app has cached all parts of the map you want and all zoom-levels. Clumsy and tedious, but it works just fine for an area of a few square miles.

2. Downloading online maps
This is the fastest and most efficient method to ensure you have a local copy of a desired map area with full coverage. You draw a rectangle around the area of the map you want, indicate how many zoom levels you need, and the app will retrieve it from the map server and store it on the phone. Done and done!

You'll notice the common theme is to draw some sort of rectangle or "bounding region" to identity the portion of the map you want to download "in bulk".

For completeness, I should mention there's one more way to get a map onto a phone and that's to buy it and download it. These are the so-called "premium maps" sold by some app vendors. They are typically sold by state or country. They are typically "raster maps" (scanned from the original; large file-size) or can be "vector maps" (pure map data; compact file-size).

The Nitty Gritty
Most of the apps have some means of letting you clear the map cache. Why would you want this? Maps change (trails re-routed, details added, etc) but you may not see those updates if you're using a map that was auto-cached two months ago. To address this, some apps set an expiry date for cached map tiles and will refresh them when the time comes.

Maps you download typically have no expiry date. Think of it like a paper map, fixed and eventually out-of-date. Some apps do offer the ability to refresh a downloaded map (it saves you the step of having to define the "bounding region" all over again).

Some online maps disallow being downloaded for offline use (auto-caching is OK but not explicitly requesting to download a map region). This is an agreement between the map provider and the app developer. The app will disallow "bulk downloading" for map limited to online use only.


Last but not least.
If you have an Android phone and want offline road (and trail) navigation, consider "OSMand" (iOS version doesn't do navigation). It uses a vector-based version of OpenStreetMap. All of New York state fits into ~290 Mb and that includes roads, trails, and Points of Interest (POI) so you can search for a POI or street address completely offline. The free version lets you download several maps, enough to cover several states. http://osmand.net/features

Last edited by Trail Boss; 10-26-2016 at 10:39 AM.. Reason: Typo.
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Old 10-27-2016, 10:51 AM   #16
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Thank you for all the great advice everyone. I have been offered an iPhone 5 for free , so I am thinking of going that route without a cell plan .
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Old 04-25-2017, 07:50 AM   #17
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2. Downloading online maps
This is the fastest and most efficient method to ensure you have a local copy of a desired map area with full coverage. You draw a rectangle around the area of the map you want, indicate how many zoom levels you need, and the app will retrieve it from the map server and store it on the phone. Done and done!
Hi,

I've installed Locus Map Free and I'm trying to figure out which OSM Map to download:
  • Outdoors is not downloadable
  • Hike & Bike is free but seems to be a static version generated from an older version of OSM (for example it's missing the trail before the gatehouse from Lake road to the West River Trail)
  • OpenCycleMap is a paid download and while better than Hike & Bike it is still outdated
What source do you use to download up to date OSM maps?

BTW, Cathedral Rocks and Bear Run are now in OSM (but not on any of the maps I checked via Locus). I don't see it in your change set on adkhighpeaks so I guess someone else added it.

Thanks,
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Old 04-25-2017, 09:53 AM   #18
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When it comes to maps, almost all backcountry navigation apps work the same way.

1. ONLINE
When connected to the Internet, you can display and browse online maps like USGS Topo, TF Outdoors, etc. These are "raster maps" which means it's like looking at a JPG or PNG image (the map is built of small square "tiles").

2. OFFLINE
When disconnected from the Internet, you can't display any of those maps.

3. CACHED
Some apps can "cache" portions of a map (keep a copy in the phone's local storage). In other words, while browsing a map online, they keep a local copy of whatever you're looking at so later, when you're not online, it can show you the "cached" portions of the map. However, it can't show you anything you didn't look at when online, nor can it display the cached map at another magnification level (unless it was also cached when online).

4. COPY OF AN ONLINE MAP
While you're online and browsing a map, you can define an area you want to keep on the phone and instruct the app to "go get it". You also tell the app how many magnification levels you want (the highly-magnified levels contain more detail and take more space) and then it downloads it to your phone. Now you can use the downloaded map offline. Because these are raster maps, they aren't very space-efficient (each magnification level is a separate map). It will only contain whatever area you originally specified and only the magnification levels you requested.

5. OFFLINE VECTOR MAP
Locus Map (and a few other navigation apps) convert OpenStreetMap data into "vector maps". Each vector map typically contains an entire country, state, or province. It can be viewed at any magnification level. It also contains searchable Points of Interest (search for "Lake Placid" and it will pan the map to the town). It can also contain a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) which means it knows the elevation of every point on the map (this is not the same as contour lines). It is also far more space-efficient than a raster map. The entire state of New York fits into less than 300 Mb. Locus Maps calls these maps "LoMaps" and gives you 3 free LoMaps. Within Locus Map, there's a link to the Locus Store where you can download your first three free maps. Afterwards, the maps cost a few cents per state. OpenAndroMaps is another source of (free) vector maps but stick with LoMaps for now.


I recently did extensive OSM work on the streams and trails located on AMR property (including Cathedral Rocks and Bear Run). I don't usually post my Changesets on ADKhighpeaks until a few days after I've done the work because it takes several days for the changes to "percolate" to all magnification levels.

I should caution you that the mods I made to the West and East River trails as well Cathedral Rocks, etc are based on skimpy data I sourced from Strava's Heat Map. I also referred to the DEC "Roads and Trails" data but it was demonstrably inferior (its highly simplified trails disagreed with data collected from multiple GPS tracks). I added "Fixme" tags to the trails (only visible to map editors) to ensure the next person knows these trails need to be refined.
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Old 04-25-2017, 10:19 AM   #19
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Thanks for the detailed response.

Quote:
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4. COPY OF AN ONLINE MAP
While you're online and browsing a map, you can define an area you want to keep on the phone and instruct the app to "go get it". You also tell the app how many magnification levels you want (the highly-magnified levels contain more detail and take more space) and then it downloads it to your phone. Now you can use the downloaded map offline. Because these are raster maps, they aren't very space-efficient (each magnification level is a separate map). It will only contain whatever area you originally specified and only the magnification levels you requested.
This is the method I am using but all of the online OSM source maps in Locus ("Outdoors", "Hike & Bike", "OpenCycleMap") are not current.


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5. OFFLINE VECTOR MAP
Locus Map (and a few other navigation apps) convert OpenStreetMap data into "vector maps". Each vector map typically contains an entire country, state, or province. It can be viewed at any magnification level. It also contains searchable Points of Interest (search for "Lake Placid" and it will pan the map to the town). It can also contain a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) which means it knows the elevation of every point on the map (this is not the same as contour lines). It is also far more space-efficient than a raster map. The entire state of New York fits into less than 300 Mb. Locus Maps calls these maps "LoMaps" and gives you 3 free LoMaps. Within Locus Map, there's a link to the Locus Store where you can download your first three free maps. Afterwards, the maps cost a few cents per state. OpenAndroMaps is another source of (free) vector maps but stick with LoMaps for now.
Does the LoMap convert from the current OSM map when you purchase? If it's previously generated and simply available for sale it will be outdated like the online ones?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Trail Boss View Post
I recently did extensive OSM work on the streams and trails located on AMR property (including Cathedral Rocks and Bear Run). I don't usually post my Changesets on ADKhighpeaks until a few days after I've done the work because it takes several days for the changes to "percolate" to all magnification levels.

I should caution you that the mods I made to the West and East River trails as well Cathedral Rocks, etc are based on skimpy data I sourced from Strava's Heat Map. I also referred to the DEC "Roads and Trails" data but it was demonstrably inferior (its highly simplified trails disagreed with data collected from multiple GPS tracks). I added "Fixme" tags to the trails (only visible to map editors) to ensure the next person knows these trails need to be refined.
Thanks for this. It certainly will be more accurate than the USGS Scans I was using previously. I'll send you a GPS track if I can get things figured out before our hike, but I'm not sure if it will be more useful than the ones you already have.
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Old 04-25-2017, 10:34 AM   #20
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It may take several days, if not weeks, for changes to appear in all derivations of OpenStreetMap (like TF Outdoors, OpenCycleMap, etc).

LoMaps indicates the date when the map was generated and, no, it isn't created the moment you purchase the map. All offline maps have a "shelf life" and eventually need to be replaced with fresher versions. This is true for all downloaded or cached maps.

If you record a GPS track, I'll definitely use it to perform a "sanity check" on the trails I've created. The more data, the better. For example, I recently updated the trail to Lyon Mountain. I used two tracks I recorded plus ten I downloaded from Wikiloc. I used several maps:
NYS GIS Ortho Imagery
USGS TNM Hydrography
US Topo 7.5'
Bing aerial
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