Backpacking

BackCountry Navigator App Review Android

Taking a stroll through the woods is one of the most refreshing things you can do. You can make those trips more fruitful if you take an offline navigation app like BackCountry Navigator with you.

While roaming the woods can be amazing, getting lost in one is never pleasant. It always pays off to be prepared while going on an adventure. I recommend taking a hearty lunch box, a water container, and, of course, an offline map app for Android.

BackCountry Navigator is one of the best GPS navigation apps on Android. It ranked reasonably high in our best list and for good reason. While it is not the best one in town for, well traveling in town, it does shine off-road.

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The Good

The offline access of this app is incredible. All you need to do is select an area you want to download, and the app will do it.

Accessing the maps offline is a great feature if you are traveling to a particular area and need only minor information. The selective map download shrinks the size of the download, making the app perfect for budget smartphones as well.

The Bad

If you are a new user, you will definitely need to read the tutorials the app displays. The app can be confusing at times.

The app has a lot of features, and they are not explained well at all. You can play around with the app to get to know them, but that can result in a lot of work and wasted time.

The Bottom Line

BackCountry Navigator can work as a secondary source of topographical information. While you can use one of your personal favorite GPS Navigation apps for Android while traveling the highways and city streets, this app will come in handy while exploring off-road.

The download map option is the ideal feature to use while trekking or mountain climbing as well.

Installation and Welcome Screen

Installing the app is a very simple ordeal. Follow the download link to the Google Play Store page and click on the Install button. Next, select the device you want the app on and it will start downloading. The initial app is of a small size as there are no maps bundled with it. This means it can be downloaded in mere seconds.

The initial app is of a small size as there are no maps bundled with it. Due to the small size, it can is downloaded in mere seconds.

After the app is installed, you can launch it from the app drawer or the notification bar. Although the app does come with a good welcoming tutorial, the layout is just an eye sore. Here is an example of how the app looks right when you boot it up.

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The text is way too much cramped for my taste and the checkbox is not correctly displayed. I mean it’s not that hard to code scalable pop-ups for different screens. It’s not like I’m using a small screened Smartphone, the app was tested on my Galaxy Note III.

It’s not like I’m using a small screened Smartphone, the app was tested on my Galaxy Note III.

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After the cramped welcome screen, you’ll be asked to select map source. Here you can select the region you want the app to display.

A point to be noted is that you will need to select the topographical maps if you need that data from BackCountry Navigator. That will be all for the initial setup.

The app can provide you help if you subscribe to their newsletter. I fully condemn this shady act to enlist your email and giving you scraps of important information.

Interface

Thankfully after the horrendous first impression, the interface of the app was a pleasant surprise. The rest of the app scales and fits the screen really well.

Apart from the omnipresent ad bar at the bottom of the screen, the app works and looks great. The ads are only displayed in the free testing version of the app and are removed once you purchase the pro version.

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Once the map is loaded, the app looks very pleasant. You can magnify the map by gestures as well as the handily placed buttons on right side of the screen.

The top of the screen shows the taskbar that is now a standard for most of the apps. On the left side of the taskbar, there is the side menu button, the search button, the GPS button, the layers button, folder icon and menu button.

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The app keeps everything well organized and manageable. You can change the layer settings easily from the layer menu. This loads maps relatively fast and uses little data while loading topographical ones.

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Features

BackCountry Navigator comes loaded with features… If you know where to find them. The app would do so much better if it explained all its features.

Unfortunately, you will have to do all the real world and in-app exploration by yourself.

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The app comes with a trip database that is powered by adventurers like you. You will need to download said data though, as it’s not readily available offline.

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The app also comes with a very functional compass. The compass is almost of the same quality as the dedicated compass apps for Android. I really liked this whole package deal BackCountry Navigator has going for it.

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One of my favorite features in this app is the waypoint measurement system. While it can take a little getting used to, the waypoint function measures the distance between two points.

You will be easily able to plot two points on the map and immediately know the shortest distance between them.

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Usage

BackCountry Navigator works like a charm in daily usage as well. I took this app to a hill station last year, and it served me quite well. There was absolutely no connectivity up there; even simple phone signals were sparse.

Thanks to the map download feature of this app, I was able to, at least, navigate easily through the woods. The compass also comes in handy when you don’t know your way back to the camp.

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Permissions

The app can only know or share your location. Given that this is the exact job of the app, I would say this permission is well justified. There is nothing else taken from your Android smartphone by the app. Suffice to say, I found the permissions to be well within reason.

Conclusion

BackCountry Navigator is a great app, but it’s steep premium pricing as well as unoptimized tutorial windows keep it from becoming amazing.

However, if you need topographical maps that are easily downloaded, this app works wonders.

What are the features you need most in a navigation app when you’re off the beaten path? Let us know in the comments below.

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One Comment

  1. I am new to the world of smartphones, and somewhat tech challenged. I would like something which will help me establish where the borders of our property are (we bought a run-down old farm). I would like to be able to set points where I know I am on the border and be able to establish a straight line between them when I can not see the other point. Can I do this with BCN? Also, will I be able to mark points of interest such as old apple trees so I can check them at times without me remembering exactly where they are? Can I set a heading and stay on the course with BCN? Does it do anything with elevations, such as if I wanted some idea which parts of the land were higher and lower and by how much, if it is all within a few feet? If I find old drain pipes, etc., can I map where they are or save any diagrams on BCN? Thank you.

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