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Backpacker Magazine – June 2013

Plan It: Master the Latest in Trip-Planning Technology

In the past, route-planning involved browsing guidebooks, consulting rangers, and convincing locals to give up their secret places. Today, that information lives on the internet; you just have to know how to find it.

by: Billy Brown

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Tap Local Knowledge 
Get better beta than a guidebook delivers by leveraging the whole outdoor community.


Search Google Earth and panoramio.com for geotagged photos along your chosen route; they can reveal detailed info on campsites, vistas, and water sources.

Comb Google Images, YouTube, and Vimeo to get a sense of trail conditions (“Grandview Trail winter”) and ideal gear (are others using ice axes or trekking poles?).

Follow the official Twitter feeds of national parks and forests to get up-to-the-minute info on road closures, weather conditions, and even wildlife or wildflower updates.

Check trip reports on regional sites like trailsnh.com (NH), wta.org (WA), and 14ers.com (CO). You might find out exactly how much snow is left or whether the foliage has peaked from someone who hiked your trail yesterday.

Pro Tip Create a seamless topo map of your route, and have it printed on water-resistant paper and shipped to you within 48 hours ($10 and up; backpacker.com/maps


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READERS COMMENTS

Star
Czed
Mar 05, 2014

But nothing replaces map and compass skills.
With common sense, planning and preparation due diligence, and map skills, a topo sheet or two is all you'll need. Techno devices, with the exception of a PLB for true emergencies, should be left at the trailhead or at home.

Star Star Star Star Star
tarpon6
Feb 21, 2014

Todays high quality smartphones can adequately replace a dedicated GPS. When off the grid in the Wind River Range I have been using a Samsung Galaxy S3 in a protective case with the Backcountry Navigator App. I am able to download topo maps and satellite views in advance for use when out of cell range. The Galaxy S3 has an independent GPS and does not require a cell or data connection to function. I put the phone in airplane mode, with the GPS on and can see where I am at any time with my pre-downloaded topo maps and satellite views. The battery life when doing this is excellent. I carry two extra batteries (very light weight) and am able to swap to a fresh battery if needed. With this combination there is not need to carry an extra GPS unit. I imagine you could do the same with an iPhone, although you could not swap batteries. Samsung has "active" versions of the Galaxy S4 which have extra shock protection and are waterproof / dustproof (you can't dive with it however). The upcoming S5 is rumored to have these features standard.

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