REVIEWED: OFF-ROAD APPS
Don’t head off into the dark on your next adventure. These four off-road apps can light the way…
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Knowledge is power. It’s an idea that can be broadly spread across every intricate detail of what we do as off-roaders. The knowledge on how to perform recoveries safely. The knowledge on how to drive a specific terrain. Or even something as simple as the knowledge required for adjusting tyre pressures.
Yet for some reason there’s an attitude among off-roaders where ignorance is a good thing when heading off into the unknown. Like your experience is somehow enhanced by not knowing there’s a pristine campsite just over the next ridge, or there’s a locked gate 10km down the winding track you’re on that’ll see you trying to turn around halfway down a series of switchbacks with a camper trailer in tow.
We go off-road to escape
the everyday humdrum of society, to discover something new and reach places we’ve never been to before. And believe it or not, these four off-road apps can help make that happen. They cover the whole price spectrum and can give you the information you need to make your next trip one you remember for all the right reasons.
In its basic form WikiCamps is a Google Maps overlay with crowd-sourced information on all things that interest off-roaders. There’s filters to show everything from campsites to attractions in the area; even rubbish dump points for those on the long haul, and paid caravan parks. Each point of interest shows not only GPS co-ordinates but relevant information such as websites, phone numbers and amenities. Crowd-sourcing information does mean it can be up-to-date, although it also raises the question of reliability. Our test indicates that WikiCamps is an easy to use, bare bones app that does exactly what it promises.
Available: IOS; Android; WP
Cost: IOS – $7.99; Android
– $7.99; WP – $7.39.
Ease of use: 4.5/5
Key features: Chat forum, offline use, user-supplied images, location-specific weather updates.
Maps: Google Maps; OpenStreetMap.
IOS – 13.1MB; Android – 8.4MB; WP – 7.89MB.
Next up the price list is HEMA’s Explorer app (the cheaper of two it offers). It’s a bare bones off-road navigation app that caters to casual users. It comes pre-loaded with the HEMA Road Atlas that provides basic coverage across the country with free downloadable maps for most popular 4X4 destinations like Fraser Island, the Vic High Country and Cape York. It’s more advanced than WikiCamps – providing interactive points of interest with contact details, facilities and amenities as well as saveable and sharable waypoints… meaning you can always get back to that perfect campsite. Those seeking a more feature-rich version are better off opting for the HEMA 4WD Maps app available exclusively on IOS.
Available: IOS; Android.
Cost: IOS – $29.99;
Android – $29.99.
Ease of use: 4/5
Key features: GPS tracking, record track logs, weather forecasts, rain overlays, topographical maps, off-road maps, offline use.
Maps: Street – HERE;
Sat – HERE; Terrain – HERE; Off-road – HEMA
Listed size: IOS – 43.9MB; Android 15MB.
VMS MAP EXPLORER 3D
The pinnacle of the full-feature off-road mapping category is the VMS Map Explorer. Its major selling point is its 3D mapping, giving you an at-a-glance idea of the terrain you’re facing ahead and allowing you to plan or re-route accordingly. The Australia Base and Australia Outback Tracks maps give a general overview of areas with interactive points of interest that provide coordinates, contact details and facilities; although off-road maps are where the VMS Map Explorer 3D shines. Out of the box the app includes a suite of topo map sets covering large swathes of Australia with thousands of additional maps downloadable. Maps include track information such as locked gates, track gradients, routes and interactive waypoints. Think of this app as a little bit like a giant folder full of 4X4 maps covering the country in detail… just tucked into your pocket with a few tools to make the whole process easier.
Cost: IOS – $99.99
Ease of use: 3.5/5
Key features: Record track logs, 3D mapping, import and export GPX files, offline use.
Maps: iTOPO; VicTopo; VicMaps; NSW Topo; Qld Topo; Westprint Heritage (more downloadable).
Listed size: 64.1MB
MUD MAPS 3
Seeking to bridge the gap between crowd-sourced information and high-end mapping, Mud Maps 3 straddles the two quite well. There’s 1:250,000 maps covering all of Australia with various mapping options, getting down to 1:25,000 in more popular destinations. As much of the information is crowd-sourced there’s detailed reviews and notes on campsites all over the country from other 4WDers with contact details, co-ordinates and lists of facilities letting you know where to park up for the night on the road. There’s the usual features you’d expect like customisable waypoints, route planning and route recording – but Mud Maps really shines due to its crowd-sourced information.
Ease of use: 3.5/5
Key features: Crowd-sourced information, offline use, campsite reviews and images, record track logs.
Maps: Road – Apple; Sat – Apple; Vicmap; NSW Topo; Qld Topo; Australian Topo; Australian Touring Maps (more downloadable).
Listed size: 25MB.