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Backpacker Magazine – January 2009

Great Communicator: Apple iPhone 3G

Apple iPhone 3G brings maps and downloadable GPS software to your fingertips.

by: Kris Wagner

Apple iPhone 3G (
Apple iPhone 3G (

Read More GPS Reviews
Electronic Convergence: Multitasking GPS Units
Mobile access to Google Maps and the web make this next-gen phone–with WiFi and a 3.5-inch touch screen–the perfect tool when you need instant directions. After forgetting a map, our Colorado tester found a Front Range promontory with cell reception and, in less than five minutes downloaded a map of a loop hike. The iPhone is not intended for serious backcountry navigation (there's no go-to feature), but with third-party software (GPS Kit, $10), hikers and adventure travelers who stick to trails can collect waypoints, tracks, and trip-speed details. You can also geotag photos (the onboard 2-megapixel camera has a slight shutter lag, making it best for scenic shots). The best part: a growing list of free software like Weather Bug, which delivers forecasts, views of live radar, and local-weather webcams. Note: You need cell service for phone and web functions, but the GPS Kit works with satellite reception alone; signal acquisition is adequate, but not as fast as you'll get with dedicated GPS units. Reader service #102

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Reader Rating: -


Apr 29, 2012

How do you keep your iPhone dry?

Dec 20, 2010

Evergreen here again - see a lot of folks swaying to iphone, obviously, but as long as GPS is functional with no signal that would be well more than I'd need. Anyone have comments to advise me further?

Dec 20, 2010

This is cool. I'm a newbie to dayhiking but I'm loving it. I'm in Evergreen, CO.
I'm struggling with getting an iphone or gps. This article contributes a lot. Has anything new popped up that might help me decide?

Feb 09, 2010

OK So maybe a totally noob question here. But, I am oing to ask it anyway. Does the iPhone 3GS work without any cell signal. I am assuming most of the hikes that are being commented on have cell signal throughout the hike, or am I wrong?

Babette J
Jan 07, 2010

Yes I'm a PC and have always poo poo'ed Apple products as only for the tech challenged and sissies. As an ultra light backpacker who has carried both gps and iphone 3gs i've concluded the iphone is superior because:
1. It's also a cell phone
2. My head lamp broke and I got by with the iphone flashlight app
3. I downloaded a radio program, trivia games, crossword puzzels, all my music and tv programs for those long winter nights
4. I have all of the emergency first aid info I could ever need
5. I have an accurate (satellite based) altimeter
6. I have various sounds of nature like running water so I can ignore scary noises nearby.
7. I have a pretty good camera and video cam(I have a kickass video of a mother bear and her cubs playing in a puddle)
8. I have 4 backcountry apps with different features and views oh and not to forget FREE usgs maps.
9. I have a light battery backup (tune juice) that takes aaa batteries(also what my headlamp uses) OK i'll admit that dedicated gps units are better with battery life.
10. The screen is bigger than most gps units
11. When I get back in my car my dedicated gps unit has not been stolen because my iphone has awesome on road gps options and I don't need to leave a valuable gps at the trailhead.

Keith Dooley
Oct 19, 2009

Took the Iphone with Motion X into the Grand Canyon on a 3 day and it performed great. Along with other apps, including Photo Pro for camera zooming and Topo Maps for navigating, the Iphone performed flawlessly. Even got a cell signal just above Indian Garden. Hoo-Rah!

Michael L
Oct 19, 2009

They have solar powered rechargers that have USB ports. As for the last post, I think the iPhone will eventually replace all the other devices as the screen is larger and the user interface is excellent. It is just a matter of time before the apps catch up.

Oct 16, 2009

Big Air Software has some useful apps that should interest the hiker in us all. "Park Maps" has GPS enabled maps of all of the U.S National Parks. iTrailMap 3D has 3D mountain maps of all of the major ski resorts in the world, and Topo 3D has USGS Topo maps for the entire U.S. in 3D.

Oct 01, 2009

not everyone is a thru hiker, sometimes people just want to get out of dodge for a few hours. iphone obviously works great in a pinch and can get you headed in the right direction. there are tons of great topo map applications on the iphone and all can be very beneficial to a backpacker or a saturday hiker.

Aug 31, 2009

I am a iphone google map addict. I use it's gps options for many daily uses as well as my outdoor adventures. I recently purchased a delorme pn40 for it's waterproof ability and extended gps options. I was so disappointed with it compared to my iphone's google map options. I took it back and am looking for a handheld waterproof gps that simulates what my iphone is capable of with speed, clarity, and touch screen functions. Any ideas of products that match that request?

Aug 22, 2009

i would like to thank every body who add this linke which is very helpfull.

Jul 04, 2009

It can be helpful for getting setup. Check out the Backpacker Checklist: itms://

May 24, 2009

I use the MotionX GPS app with my iphone, and it is great. I load all of our family hikes into google earth. The app lets you take pictures along the hike which are also loaded into google earth or what ever photo program you use (the app sends the pics to your email and u have to download them) You can also listen to your music at the same time. The only thing is that the "compass" is worthless which is supposed to be fixed by apple in the 3.0 os release next month. I am not a "hardcore" backpacker, but I would say I am more than casual and this is the only electronic I bring with me and with a battery recharger this has been fine on long weekends.

Josh M
Apr 17, 2009

I'm considering purchasing an IPhone but wanted to hear from other backpackers who've used it to get their take. I've heard a lot of positive things about it. In terms of power usage, I'm not worried because I take a portable solar charger with me and as far as I'm concerned having one device that can take the place of my radio, gps unit, cell phone, and spare flashlight saves weight and space. As any hiker knows, it's all about trimming the fat.

Rick Morel
Mar 18, 2009

It looks like in the past week or so some apps for turning your iphone into a full fledged GPS have come out. Theres one that has detailed topo, go-to waypoints and feature search. I like this one:, but there are a couple others as well. It looks like the iphone is coming close to a full functional multi-use device.

Feb 20, 2009

i have this and it works but use it when in a emergency theres no ac outlet in the woods

iPhone User
Feb 11, 2009

The deivce works to an extent. But like another person said Dayhike if that. Foung that the good trails in the BFE it is hard pressed to work effectively. 3 out of 5 stars. See potential but needs better gps tracking ability and a way better battery life.

Feb 09, 2009

Very, nice, intelligent comments. When you have something useful to say, let us know. Please keep your negative useless comments to yourself. I found the article to be interesting, for the record.

Jeff G
Feb 07, 2009

Uh, it's easy to use a small AA>USB power recharger for multi-day use. But I guess some people are just 'REAL backpackers!' who wouldn't catch on to such simple solutions

Barry Dale
Feb 06, 2009

This device is not worthy of review in a magazine or web site with the name "Backpacker". For this device to be worthy of your review, you would have to change your name to "Dayhiker".


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