Maps For Offline Navigation – Essential Gear For Outdoor Adventures
We’ve spent a good amount of time in the great outdoors. And, we’re well acquainted with the thrill and sense of adventure that comes from exploring an area without a map or a pre-determined plan. However, there too are times where we like having maps for offline navigation. That’s where Guru Maps comes into play for us.*
While there are a plethora of options out there, and while we’ve tried many of them, the one we keep coming back to is Guru Maps Pro (Download for iOS/ Download for Android). In a sentence, we find Guru Maps to be the most powerful, user-friendly, and detailed app out there for offline navigation. We use it on our phones, so it’s super convenient.
We used Guru Maps when we were cycling in Taiwan around the entire island. Also, we used it when we went backpacking along a self-made Via Dinarica Trail itinerary. And, when we adventure in Hong Kong, for example on the Lung Ha Wan Country Trail (龍蝦灣), we also use Guru Maps. Basically, we use it every time we go on an outdoor family adventure. And, we consider it part of our essential gear.
Why We Love Guru Maps And Free Tutorials
Below is why we love and use this app so very much as well as a few free tutorials for some of our favorite Guru Maps features! If you have any comments/questions about all of this, feel free to write us a message below.
Guru Maps Pros And Cons
Guru Maps Pros
- Worldwide maps for offline navigation
- Abstract map data (great for finding off the beaten path adventures)
- Contour lines and hill shades available for all offline maps (file sizes are small)
- Able to save waypoints, routes, and tracks
- Able to share map data with others
Guru Maps Cons
- Takes a little time to learn (but it’s well worth the effort and we’ve provided some quick tutorials below)
- Guru Maps Pro is not free (but it’s great value nevertheless)
As a downloadable map app, we find Guru Maps second to none. You can use the offline maps via your mobile device’s built-in GPS sensor, even if you don’t have any service. The data source Guru Maps uses is comprehensive. It shows all the nooks and crannies of just about everywhere. That’s why we use it to find nearly all of our off the beaten path outdoor family adventures. However, Guru Maps won’t give you that feeling of “data overload” since you can easily organize everything on the offline maps.
A mapping app for offline navigation would be dead in the water if it did not allow you to save waypoints and routes. Naturally, Guru Maps allows you to do just that. Since the data files for the topographic data and hill shade data are tiny, Guru Maps allows you to have, right in your pocket, full-color topo-maps for as many places as you’re device’s storage will allow. Guru Maps also makes it easy to share all of your map data with any of your contacts.
Being able to use Guru Maps offline means we can use it anywhere in the world. When we travel internationally, often we do not buy SIM cards. However, we are still able to use Guru Maps. Moreover, sometimes in the more off the beaten path parts of Hong Kong, such as the Ng Tung Chai Waterfalls, the service is very poor. In either case, we download our Guru Maps while we’ve got service. Then we don’t have to worry later on because we can use GPS navigation with our offline Guru Maps.
Tutorial 1: How To Use Guru Maps Offline
Guru Maps Has Abstract Map Data
When we try to get off the beaten path, using mainstream mapping apps makes that hard. Often, mainstream apps only include well-trodden paths and large land features. Since Guru Maps pulls its data from OpenStreetMap, essentially the Wikipedia of maps, it has TONS of tiny abstract trails and land features. For example, if you ever hike Lamma Island in Hong Kong, and you use Guru Maps to navigate offline, you’ll see it has even the tiny bushwhacking route on Ling Kok Shan.
Tutorial 2: Guru Maps Has Abstract Map Data
Easily Organize Your Data
Having a lot of data at your fingertips can be overwhelming. However, with Guru Maps, it’s not since you can organize all your data into individual collections (folders). Moreover, you can set a particular collection as the “default” collection. From there forward (until you unselect it) all the waypoints and routes you save will automatically be added to that collection. Practically speaking, this saves a ton of time as compared to individually labeling each waypoint, etc.
The way we use this feature is that before we head out on an adventure, we create a new collection. Then, we set said collection as the default. For the rest of the day when we save waypoints along the trail (often at beautiful views, interesting landscape features, etc.), all our location data is saved in one neat folder. At the end of the day, with a few simple clicks, we can share the data with our friends.
As you can imagine, if you thoroughly explore an area you will be saving a lot of waypoints and routes. Therefore the map could look quite cluttered. However, since you can make entire collections appear or disappear on the map, this is not a problem. Usually, we only make one collection visible at a time. On occasion, when we want to see all the areas we’ve explored, we will make them all visible.
Tutorial 3: How To Organize Your Waypoints And Routes (Using Collections)
Save Waypoints/Routes On Offline Maps
Guru Maps for offline navigation wouldn’t be particularly useful if you couldn’t save waypoints and routes offline. Fortunately, with Guru Maps you can save waypoints and routes offline. So, no matter where you are in the world, you can keep track of where you’ve been and where you’re going.
Routes are also easily editable, so if you decide to change course, you will be able to update your route quickly and easily! Since you can annotate waypoints, you can also take detailed notes on the places you save in your offline map.
You can make routes for driving, cycling, and of course, walking/hiking.
Tutorial 4: How To Create Waypoints And Routes
Sharing All Map Data Is Simple
Everyone knows sharing is caring, so Guru Maps makes it easy to share all your data with your contacts. Whether you’d like to share a single waypoint or route or an entire collection that contains sub-collections, with a few simple button presses, you can share your data with anyone.
When we travel, we often drop waypoints at various spots we find interesting. We sometimes even write brief notes for each waypoint. After our trip, if we encounter someone who also wants to travel to the same place, we share our collection with them. Then, they too have all the information we collected during our journey.
Offline Maps Have Contour Lines And Hill Shades
Other downloadable mapping apps have contour and hill shade data. But, the files on those apps take up a lot of storage on your device. With Guru Maps, you can have all the topo and hill shade data right in your pocket, and the files are TINY. The topographic and hill shade data for all of Switzerland for example is only 18.9 MB!
Having the topographic and hill shade data enabled makes the maps look 3-D. This helps us understand whether we’ll be going uphill, downhill or if we simply want to choose another route. While Guru Maps is useful with the topo and hill shade data disabled, we always enable it, since it makes it that much more useful.
Tutorial 6: How To Enable/Disable Contour Lines And Hill Shades
Again, there are many offline map apps out there. But for our purposes of finding truly off the beaten path outdoor adventures, being able to keep track of where we’re going and where we’ve been, easily organizing all our adventure-data, and then sharing it with our friends and family, Guru Maps is our top choice.
If you have any questions/comments about all of this, feel free to leave us a comment below. Then, consider downloading Guru Maps yourself (Download for iOS/ Download for Android). And then, let’s all share more of our outdoor adventures with each other!
* Disclaimer: We were compensated for the time it took us to write this review. However, the compensation we received did not affect the content of the review itself. Put more simply, if we didn’t love this app, if we didn’t think it offered great value, and if we didn’t use it every time we adventure in the outdoors as a family, we simply wouldn’t recommend it to all of you.