Updated: March 2017
The era of paper maps and compass is over
Consider this: in December 2014 Alaska adventurers Luc Mehl and Roman Dial ice skated 100 miles in two days from Selawik to Kotzebue. That's cold, Alaska wilderness. Their only navigation tools where two iphones loaded with routes, maps and images. No paper maps. No compass. No battery packs. No solar panels.
Okay, I admit that paper maps and compass work great. In the past I've navigated wilderness and whiteout for thousands of hours without a problem. As much as I wish smartphones and their apps would disappear, they are the new reality, especially for a guide who is trying to stay current.
These are the Steps for Navigation Trip Planning
- Prepare the route on Google Earth.
- Export .kmz file.
- Import .kmz to www.gaiagps.com and sync route to phone, or
- Import straight to phone
- Download Gaia GPS maps to phone.
These are the Key Links
- Luc's Navigation with Gaia GPS tutorial.
- Luc's Google Earth tutorials.
- Mark Smiley's Gaia and Google Earth tutorial.
1a) Install a Topo Layer onto Google Earth
1b) Create a File for Your Trips
Organize your Google Earth trips by creating a file in My Places.
1c) Create a Route (Path)
To create a route, highlight your new folder (Joe's Places), click the Add Path icon. Keep the New Path box open as you click each waypoint.
1d) Edit Route
Resume drawing by clicking a new anchor on the route you're drawing. The start and end of the route don't join. To remove points: click on the route, then click delete or right click.
1e) Add Waypoint (Placemark)
To add a waypoint (called Placemark on Google Earth), right click the folder where you want the waypoint located, when Add and Placemark. Double click on waypoint to home in. To add a waypoint at a known lat/long, type it into Get Info.
1f) View Image
- Move = use the arrow keys
- Rotate direction = shift right/left
- Tilt = shift up/down
- Perspective = command up/down/left/right
- Untilt = U
- North Up = N
2) Export Google Earth File
- .kml = is the full file, save as .kml to upload to Gaia or another GPS device.
- .kmz = is the zipped file, best for sharing among other Google Earth users.
3a) Load .kmz File onto Gaiagps.com
Select the files you want to sync and select the Toggle Sync button.
3c) Sync in Phone
If the files don't load onto your phone, then sync from your app by toggling the Sync/Backup button on-off.
4) Load .kmz file Directly onto Your Phone
Email yourself the .kmz file, press and hold that .kml attachement in your phone email. Open in Gaia. Here's a video tutorial.
5) Download Maps to Your Gaia App
Do this at Max Zoom before you go into the field. To download maps for a route that's on your phone, go to tracks, select the track, then download maps for track.
- Phone: keep your phone warm, near your body or stick a foot-warmer to it.
- Phone: keep in airplane mode, gps still works in airplane mode.
- Phone: turn off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Cellular.
- Phone: dim screen.
- Phone: settings, battery, low power mode.
- Gaia: do not record route.
- Gaia: compass off
- Gaia: No GPS Until Activated on in settings.
- Gaia: Disable Altitude Lookup on in settings.
- Bring external battery with cable.
Toggle Between Topo and Sat
The distinguishing feature of Gaia compared to other navigation apps is the ability to toggle between topo and sat layers in the field. A GaiaPro subscription ($4 per month, $40 per year) allows you to view various map layers simultaneously with adjustable transparency.
Ready to Navigate
Bring on the Whiteout!
I'm right here. I'm sure. My dumbphone says so.
Tether Your Phone to Your Person