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Phil in Cookeville, Tennessee – calling via the Ask Dave Mic button at IntoTomorrow.com and asked: “What’s a good reliable off-roading app or software that you can use online and offline because we lose reception a lot. The whole crew, we’re kinda tech savvy and stuff. We like to get out there and have fun. Would like your opinion.”
Phil, if youre looking for something that can help you find trails and explore, Gaia GPS is great.
It has a free tier with some basic maps and a subscription-based tier that gives you access to many more layers. Its the subscription membership that can work offline if you tap to download the maps before you leave, but you should probably do it somewhere with good WiFi since the map files can be large.
The map options are wide from basic topography to specific National Forest or Bureau of Land Management maps for a given area, and campsites and attractions like lookouts are often marked, and the app lets you record and share your own trails and waypoints.
The paid subscription options are pretty reasonable, the basic option is $20 a year, and the full access membership with access to their full catalog of maps is $40 a year.
OnX Offroad is worth a look too, much like Gaia it will let you record your own trails, share them with your crew, and it will work offline. The price is not that different, their subscription costs $30 a year, and you will also be able to find campgrounds, lookouts, and other points of interest in their maps.
Both apps work across different devices like computers, phones, and tablets, so you can plan your adventure on a computer and track it on a device thats better suited to take with you.
You may also be interested in something like a Gotenna. Its basically an app-based texting and GPS sharing antenna that connects to your phone and allows you to communicate via text message with other people in the Gotenna network when theres no cell signal. Its not cheap, youd be spending upwards of $150 per device, but depending on how long you spend out there and whether you spread out or just stick with your group, it could be helpful.
There are also satellite options like the Garmin InReach Explorer or Mini that will let you track your position, record tracks, and if necessary send an SOS via satellite to emergency services and loved ones via the satellite and without needing cell service. But, again, its not cheap and youd be looking at several hundred dollars for the device and there are optional subscription plans for the texting feature that will probably not be very attractive to you unless you stay out in the wilderness for days at a time.
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