You don’t need to be an Instagram aficionado or a Strava addict to appreciate the ways in which technology can enhance the experience of getting outdoors. Tools like GPS have revolutionised navigation and increasingly become essential as safety devices. You can of course buy standalone GPS units, but increasingly people are opting to use mapping apps like the excellent ones made by Viewranger instead.
As we mentioned the last time we reviewed Viewranger’s app, it wins over most standalone devices in two key areas - one, the interface is simple, self-explanatory and better than many standalone devices, and two you’ll be carrying your phone and wearing a watch anyway so it saves you having to pack anything extra in your bag.
The first question anyone asks about a smartphone or smartwatch mapping app is, of course, whether you need signal to use it. You don’t. Both the latest version of the Apple Watch and pretty much every smartphone on the market have GPS which works regardless of whether you’re anywhere near a phone mast or have a working data connection.
"Once you’ve got it set up, the interface is clear, easy to understand, and simple enough that even a complete Luddite could use it."
Viewranger works by overlaying this information onto Ordnance Survey maps that are pre-saved on the watch. While you will need a data or WiFi connection to download these of course, and while the app itself is free, if you want to use proper OS maps, you’ll have to pay for them (although there are free maps available to use with it as well).
Once you’ve got it set up, the interface is clear, easy to understand, and simple enough that even a complete Luddite could use it. As well as the simple mapping mode, you can choose to follow a hiking, biking or trail running route from a library of more than 150,000 uploaded by a whole host of publishers including tourist boards, National Park services and magazines. You can also input your own routes.
The app can be set up so the watch gives you a tap on the wrist when you reach particular points of interest, and it will give you live information on your progress as well as stats including altitude, distance travelled, elevation gain, and trip time. If you have your phone in your pocket (or close enough to the watch for the two to be connected by bluetooth) you can record your tracks on the phone too, so you can follow your own footsteps even if you’re not on a previously marked route.
We’d recommend carrying your phone with you anyway so you can download maps on the fly should you need, but also so you can take advantage of Viewranger’s stunning new Skyline feature. Using augmented reality this gives you information about surrounding peaks and landmarks as you point your phone camera at them.
All in all, Viewranger have put together a pretty special package here, and while there are other mapping apps available, this is definitely the pick of the bunch.
Viewranger For Apple Watch