Smartphone Navigation: Why it’s not crazy!

If you follow us on facebook or twitter you know that last Saturday we taught a class on Smartphone Navigation at the Fort Collins Sierra Trading Post.

It was a risky move, we knew we’d encounter resistance.

A lot of outdoor purists scoff at the notion that a smartphone could even be remotely useful in the wilderness. The manager of the Fort Collins Sierra Trading Post confirmed that with us when he mentioned that his customers were skeptical about the class.

But here’s the deal.

Your smartphone is just another tool in your daypack. It’s nestled between other tools: a knife, a first-aid kit, a fire starting device, a water purifier, a map, a compass, a GPS and so on.

To rely solely upon any one of these tools without a backup or knowing how to properly use them isn’t such a good idea.

A smartphone is the same way.


Sure there are limitations, it relies on a battery after all and nothing zaps a battery like using the GPS on a mobile device. It’s fragile, it’s expensive, it can be hard to read a cell phone screen in sunlight, you’ll need an app (we recommend Avenza pdf maps) and apps can get buggy, it can be hard to get a GPS signal and so on.

But, smartphones also are lightweight and portable. They take up minimal room in a pack and you can pack a ton of information on your device. Chances are that you’re probably hiking with one anyway.

Maybe you won’t be in a area where your mobile phone can use its internal GPS to track your route but you can still download USGS maps onto your mobile phone using Avenza and then use them as a map.

If we can convince you of one thing it’s to download a map on your cell phone and tuck it away when you’re hiking just in case your paper map gets wet or blows away and the batteries on your GPS unit bite the dust.

And we’d love to show you how!

Join us this Saturday at noon at the Cheyenne Sierra Trading Post for a class on Smartphone Navigation. Bring your full charged mobile phone and be prepared to head outside.

We hope you can make it–even if you think we’re crazy for thinking that mobile phones are useful in the backcountry!


+ Add a Comment

User Comments

  1. For anyone who may criticize using a smart phone is a navigation tool, you could turn this question completely around and ask,m “Why would you NOT want to have a GPS app and maps of your area downloaded to your phone?” It is not add any extra weight. A quality GPS app (I prefer Gais GPS) costs $20. No one is forcing you to use it all the time, and doing so actually would probably be a battery sucking mistake. Yes, it’s best to rely on the three primary navigation tools of brain, map, and compass whenever possible. However, for that occasion when you do get turned around and need to reestablish point position on your map, being able to do so with your smart phone is a fantastic tool.

    • You make some great points John and I agree with everything you’ve said. But that’s probably no surprise given that we are teaching a smartphone navigation course.

  2. David |

    Sorry I missed this over the weekend (I was taking a Wilderness First Aid class). But, among the people taking the class, there was considerable interest in this topic. We *all* have phones with us now. Better that we should know how to use them this way than not. I agree completely with your philosophy about not relying on them, but using them to our advantage. Going to be out of town this weekend, too. But, I’m hoping to catch this class soon. 🙂

    • Rebecca |

      Thanks David, I’m glad to see there’s more interest in this topic. We’ll keep you posted when we have another class.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

+ Add a Comment