How to Download Offline Hiking Maps for Long-Distance Hikes

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Long-distance hikes often take us off the beaten path and into remote areas, where access to reliable internet or cellular service may be limited or non-existent. In such situations, having offline hiking maps on your mobile device can be a lifesaver. In this blog, we will explore the step-by-step process of downloading offline hiking maps to ensure you have access to crucial navigation information during your epic adventures.

Choose a Reliable Mapping Application

Start by selecting a mapping application that offers offline map functionality. There are several popular options available, such as Gaia GPS, AllTrails, MAPS.ME, ViewRanger, but even Google Maps will work just fine in some cases. Research the features, user interface, and coverage of each app to determine which one best suits your needs and the specific region you’ll be hiking in. Some apps and/or maps might not be free, so find what’s best for you.

Tip: an app we like to use is Strava, which is amazing to track and share your epic hikes. The premium version also allows you to plan your hike.

Install the App and Create an Account

Graphic representation of a hand choosing and app to install

Download the chosen mapping application from your device’s app store and install it. Once installed, open the app and create a user account if required. Some apps are completely free, while others offer premium subscriptions with additional benefits. Check the features and decide which option aligns with your preferences and budget.

Select and Download Your Maps for Offline Use

After setting up your account, navigate to the offline maps section within the app. Depending on the application, you may have the option to download entire countries, regions, or custom areas. For long-distance hikes, it’s recommended to download maps covering the entire trail or route you’ll be undertaking. Ensure you have enough storage space on your device for the maps.

Choose the Perfect Map Detail Level

Offline maps can use a lot of storage space, so it’s essential to select the right level of detail. Consider the scale and resolution of the maps, as well as the level of information you need during your hike. Going for a balance between map detail and storage space is important to ensure smooth functionality of the app.

Download Additional Layers and Points of Interest

Many mapping applications provide additional layers and points of interest that can be useful during your hike. These may include topographic lines, trail overlays, campsites, water sources, and other relevant information. Take advantage of these features and download any additional layers that can improve your navigation experience.

Test the Maps Offline Before Starting Your Hike

Once you have downloaded the offline maps and layers, it’s crucial to test their functionality in offline mode before hitting the trail. Disable your device’s internet connection and open the mapping application to ensure that the downloaded maps are accessible. Familiarize yourself with the app’s navigation tools, zooming features, and any other functionalities specific to the chosen application.

Keep Maps Updated

Periodically update your offline maps to ensure you have the latest information, including trail changes, new routes, or closures. Most mapping applications offer map updates on a regular basis, so make it a habit to check for updates before embarking on a long-distance hike. This will help you stay informed and avoid any unexpected surprises along the way.

Downloading offline hiking maps is an essential step for long-distance hikers who venture into areas with limited internet or cellular connectivity. By choosing a reliable mapping application, downloading the appropriate maps, and testing them offline, you can ensure you have access to critical navigation information throughout your journey. Remember to keep your maps updated to stay informed about any changes that may affect your route. With offline maps at your fingertips, you can confidently explore new trails and immerse yourself in the wonders of nature without worrying about losing your way. Maybe you can even try hiking the GR20!

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