Tech For Your Treck #1: iPhone Apps

iphone_homeGranted, hiking for most people means getting away from things like phones and such. But for those that decide to venture with their gadgets, I’ve come across a couple that make for great companions. Today’s feature covers a couple of iPhone apps that are must haves for your next outing.

About the iPhone:

The iPhones lends itself to hiking due to it’s built in GPS features and the apps that utilize those features, but not without caveats(of course). While the GPS in the iPhone is a sturdy mechanism, you will find that if you are going to be covered by extremely dense forest the data won’t be as reliable. Most apps will continue to poll the GPS until a usable signal is found and continue updating your travel, making for a realiable map in the end.

App #1: Runkeeper

Note: Runkeeper comes in two flavors. Free, which is free and ad supports. And Pro with costs $9.99 with no ads. RunKeeper Free RunKeeper Pro(Links open in Itunes)

Runkeeper was the first app used on the hikes because I already had it on my phone for tracking my runs. The app is extremely handy for charting runs and giving detailed output about elevation, pace, etc. So I figured it might be worth trying to use on a hike or two. Being highly reliable in town for my daily runs, I was worried that the dense forest areas would hinder it’s ability. I was suprised to find that at the end of the hike, it matched almost perfectly with the maps found online for the same trail. I was pleased. The webclient on their website outputs all kinds of data that is easily transfered over to Google Earth making it ideal for keeping track of the places that I’ve hiked. And for those that like to know about the calories burned durring their activities, you’ll be glad to know that it is show as well. These maps can quickly be shared via Facebook and Twitter, right from the phone. Click here for an example of how the information is shared.

While looking over the maps in Google Earth, I immediately realized a capability that RunKeeper did not currently offer. I wanted to be able to snap photos along the way and geotag them to the map. This is where the next app comes in to play.

App # 2: MotionX GPS

Note: MotionX GPS comes in two flavors as well. Lite, which has limited functionality. And standard which has everything included for $2.99.  Differences between the two can been seen here. Itunes links: MotionX GPS Lite, Motionx GPS and Website

MotionX GPS is an extremely extensible app, including most of the same abilities that RunKeeper has with charting maps and such. But the one feature that I really wanted was the camera function. Upon starting the app, you are presented with a type of stopwatch layout that tracks your time, pace, and other data. On that same screen is an icon for your camera. This camera not only takes your pictures but also loads the coordinates that it was taken. When all is said and done with your trip, you can hit the share button and immediately send your trip data via email to yourself. Included in the email is a KMZ file that can be opened in Google Earth. I immediately opened it in Google Earth, only to find that only the last picture that I took was included. A quick chat with customer support allowed me to find out that due to restrictions, only one picture could be included. I could however, manually send to each photo (in kmz for Google Earth) to my email and open them up on the same map. Doing so, I finished with a map with place markers for all of pictures. This app features quite a few extras that I haven’t had a chance to check out including the ability to retravel your same route, get compass headings, and so on. A great value none the less.

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