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Takes GPS or just use phone?

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Takes GPS or just use phone?

Old 06-17-19, 02:43 PM
  #1  
spinnaker
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Takes GPS or just use phone?

I have always taken my trusty Garmin on tour because I did not have a smart phone. Well know I have one. Was trying to decide if I should just leave the Garmin at home and just use the phone?

The only time I might lose cell coverage is on Mt Hood. And I will be on the main road so not like I can get lost or anything. And if I remember to cache google maps, I should still have a map even without coverage.
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Old 06-17-19, 02:53 PM
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Unless you're planning to make or take a lot of calls, the safest place for your phone would be in ziplock buried in your gear (though preferably that comes with you when you leave the bike). Sure, a crash that destroys a phone that's in a bar mount isn't hugely likely, but if one happens, that's precisely the time you'd really want to have a working phone.

So if you already have the GPS and are already familiar with it, you could risk that instead. Also the screen may be more daylight readable? And you're running down a different battery than the one you'd use for communication (bring a portably charger anyway).

Just thinking out loud, likely either works...
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Old 06-17-19, 03:19 PM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
I have always...
There are several free or low cost GPS Nav apps which utilize offline maps that you download beforehand in anticipation of need of specific map. Once you have the maps, all you need is a GPS signal, no cell signal necessary. Some that I have used are Osmand and maps.me (maps with me). There are others I have tried and cannot recall. Nearly all provide voice-prompted navigation for route, like motor vehicle GPS. Osmand allows you to use small maps (if your phone has limited memory) or put the maps on sdcard memory if your phone has this capability. It may takes hours to learn some of these GPS Nav apps, they are more complex than 90% of the apps out there, so prepare to put in more effort than usual for a new app.

You can extend your phone's battery life if you turn phone off whenever you know you are a long way (>10 miles/1 hour) from the next turn/waypoint, and use a Cateye or similar cyclocomputer to gauge your proximity to next turn, then turn phone back on when near waypoint. Phone will typically boot up and reacquire GPS signal in less than 90 seconds.

Although workable on a phone, I find GPS Nav apps are a bit easier to use with the larger display of a tablet, especially WRT route planning. Also a stylus/pen is very useful to minimize fat finger errors and display smudges/cleaning.
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Old 06-17-19, 03:47 PM
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I look at a smart phone as a safety device. It works really well for navigation with its big bright screen, but if you crash and the battery is low or dead(due to navigation use..nav can pull a lot of power depending on how you use it)..you may put yourself in a tough spot.

Use your Garmin for navigation and the phone to double check something if necessary. Keep the phone in an accessible, safe place in case you need it to call the cavalry.

As for the offline maps.. download the Maps.Me app or Osmand. Maps.Me is easier to use initially. With either you will need to download maps for the areas/cities you'll be in. No cell signal is needed once you have the downloaded maps up and running. You can also set up a route on a home PC and mail the gpx file to your phone-accessible email account. Open the email, click on the gpx file and Maps.Me will open it and store it for later access. You'll be able to pull it up from your Maps.me library when you open the app. Osmand works the same..with kml files, but the interface is a little less intuitive.
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Old 06-17-19, 03:47 PM
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I used to use a dedicated GPS unit before I got my phone, I haven't used it since I got my phone, about 5 years ago... and you do not need cell signal/coverage to use the maps on the phone, in fact I put my phone in airplane mode and it can last for 3-4 days not searching for any connections/roaming... I use the ride with GPS app...

Last edited by 350htrr; 06-17-19 at 04:01 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 06-17-19, 05:12 PM
  #6  
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I'd say it depends... If you run a dynamo hub then the phone is fine. My tourer has a dynamo hub and my townie does not, I can easily keep my phone at 100% charge all day long with the dynamo but a two hour ride on the bike without a dynamo sucks at least 35% of my battery when running cyclometer with the screen off.
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Old 06-17-19, 05:27 PM
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Originally Posted by seeker333 View Post
There are several free or low cost GPS Nav apps which utilize offline maps that you download beforehand in anticipation of need of specific map. Once you have the maps, all you need is a GPS signal, no cell signal necessary. Some that I have used are Osmand and maps.me (maps with me). There are others I have tried and cannot recall. Nearly all provide voice-prompted navigation for route, like motor vehicle GPS. Osmand allows you to use small maps (if your phone has limited memory) or put the maps on sdcard memory if your phone has this capability. It may takes hours to learn some of these GPS Nav apps, they are more complex than 90% of the apps out there, so prepare to put in more effort than usual for a new app.
Do any of these have a feature where it's easy to get an updated distance remaining to a pre-selected point?

Often that's what's most interesting to me - how to get there is rarely the issue, but rather my rear doing the whole "are we there yet?" routine... I end up pulling out my real phone (with service) at rests stops and doing a google maps cycling directions mostly just to get that number. But if there were a way to get it offline, I'd consider putting a cheap spare phone (without a plan) in a rugged case and keeping it out while riding.
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Old 06-17-19, 06:43 PM
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Originally Posted by UniChris View Post
Do any of these have a feature where it's easy to get an updated distance remaining to a pre-selected point?...
Once you've defined a route and started the navigation process, a route distance is prominently displayed and continuously updated (some software also has an estimate of time remaining as well, displayed next to distance estimate). AFAIK, all GPS navigation apps do this, since everyone wants this information frequently once a route navigation has begun.
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Old 06-17-19, 07:07 PM
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Judging from some of the comments here, I like the idea of saving the phone as a phone. As mentioned you don't want to run out of battery when you really need it.

Even with the GPS. If the battery dies I just pop in a new set. It is what I like about that GPS.
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Old 06-17-19, 07:15 PM
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I used an iPhone for several years exclusively as the nav/trip device using MapMyRide and more recently Strava.
It did work well, but, I finally did get a dedicated GPS device... Wahoo Element Bolt.
The phone is now safely stored away for use as a phone. I'd never go back, should have done it much sooner.
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Old 06-17-19, 07:18 PM
  #11  
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I was on a 9 day tour and all I used was my phone with a puny charging bank - 10000mah. The powerbank was enough for 2.5 charges.

I think it all depends on the situation. I never depleted the power bank full and at worst I had a 1/2 a charge left. Occasionally, I never used it and my phone (iPhone SE) had enough charge. But I did a very well signposted trail and only had to check the phone every once in a while. I would never use it for turn-by-turn directions though so if you need that then dedicated GPS is appropriate.

I like downloading GPX files and just check the map once in a while so that I'm not totally off course.
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Old 06-17-19, 07:33 PM
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How much do you look at your GPS and how long do you currently have it on? Given your "run out of batteries" comment, is this much of the time?

I expect your Garmin GPS might be more battery efficient and if you don't use the phone for other purposes, then I'd stick with the GPS. On the other hand, a Smart phone will be more versatile with multiple purposes. You'll know best what works for you...

As far as what I've done:
- I have a Garmin 500 bike computer on my bike that I use to record distances, etc.
- I've carried a cell phone but it is off normally. I have MAPS.ME (offline) application and the most common reason I may bring the phone out in middle of the ride is when navigating an unfamiliar city. I pull up the mapping application and use it to figure out where I am on the map and which of the local streets to follow. In the countryside, directions are typically much simpler and the phone is off. For these purposes, I don't need phone service - though sometimes do have a local SIM card.
- When I've traveled with my brother, we've also uses SMS messages as a way of relaying short messages (with a country-specific SIM card).
- I've also use phone with wifi connection when staying overnight.
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Old 06-17-19, 07:57 PM
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I use cue sheets, with my phone as a back up.
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Old 06-17-19, 08:24 PM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
Judging from some of the comments here, I like the idea of saving the phone as a phone. As mentioned you don't want to run out of battery when you really need it.

Even with the GPS. If the battery dies I just pop in a new set. It is what I like about that GPS.
I tend to agree, OTOH it seems like all the current bike-oriented GPS are with rechargeable batteries. I have an old Garmin eTrex Legend HCx (AA batteries) which is quite antiquated...it was never easy to use & basically only handy to determine location when sidetracked. Garmin still has backpacker-type AA GPS but the nicer ones aren't cheap & AFAIK don't seem great for cycling.

OTOH even a non-AA battery GPS means the phone can be more protected from rain, dropping etc.
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Old 06-17-19, 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted by mev View Post
How much do you look at your GPS and how long do you currently have it on? Given your "run out of batteries" comment, is this much of the time?
Keep it on the whole time. I like to record my track plus it is useful for getting an ETA
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Old 06-18-19, 10:21 AM
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You definitely can substitute a smartphone for a GPS.

Whether you should or shouldn't and how are matters for debate.

1. Keeping the screen on all the time depletes your battery quite fast. You'll be very lucky if your phone's batteries last a full day. Screen off, even with GPS tracking should last the (short) day. As some have suggested, a battery pack will come in handy.

2. GPS or phone, a decent mount is a good idea.

3. In the rain, phones are not responding well to touches. They'll react to raindrops and if they aren't waterproof, they might stop working.

4. If you go with a phone, you probably want to install a navigation app and the necessary maps. I like locus pro. Many people prefer Osmand.

5. For your next trip, you are probably better carrying both.
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Old 06-18-19, 10:34 AM
  #17  
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I just got home from a tour, and used my phone. I hadn't planned on it, preferring paper maps, but I had downloaded the maps I needed on WikiCamps, and ended up using them. The app worked even when I had no cell service, showing my location via GPS. I didn't need turn by turn directions, and used it as I would a paper map. Since I was using it to find my next campground, it was great.

All that being said, if I had a Garmin, I would use it. That's what it's for. I actually do have one, but it is old and no longer works properly.
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Old 06-18-19, 11:53 AM
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I actually toured with a Garmin Edge Touring, and tried switching to a phone app (Komoot) for 3 days recently.
I used an android phone only for navigating, it had no data on it, and did offline navigation. Used Wifi / Wifi shared by my phone for uploading stuff and updating routes.

- As far as navigation go, the phone just kills the Garmin. It shows a map you can actually read, and clicking any zoom button doesn't send the device lagging for dozens of seconds/minutes (to show a map you don't see much more).

- I also loved the ability to modify along the way or plan at night at camping. With the Garmin, I would have needed a computer. Now I can plan on my phone and sync it to the navigation app. Though, newer garmins do have komoot sync.

- Battery life is more than adequate, with screen always a Motorola G5 lasts about 6 hours. My Edge Touring might have lasted 8-9 hours, but with a suitable battery pack, the phone is suitable.

- The bad: In bright sunlight, the phone screen won't be very readable. If you use a rain cover, it will be even worse and the tactile screen won't work properly. You need a proper mount, stuffing the phone in an ortlieb map holder you get unusable visibility in sunlight and horrible touch functionnality. Sweat drops falling on the screen click on your behalf. GPS chips on phones just don't work nearly as well as dedicated units. I have an Etrex 30 that is way superior to my Edge Touring which is way way superior to my phone.

So I am myself very puzzled, hesitating between a newer GPS with komoot sync (I will NEVER EVER use Garmin Bascamp since I tried Komoot), or rocking the phone.
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Old 06-18-19, 12:12 PM
  #19  
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Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
I have always taken my trusty Garmin on tour because I did not have a smart phone. Well know I have one. Was trying to decide if I should just leave the Garmin at home and just use the phone?

The only time I might lose cell coverage is on Mt Hood. And I will be on the main road so not like I can get lost or anything. And if I remember to cache google maps, I should still have a map even without coverage.
I advise not to use your phone if you already have a bike computer. I toyed around with using my phone as a substitute with a battery pack and my stats were sometimes wildly off because you are dependent on GPS signal strength which translates to location accuracy. If you have inaccurate location based off weak signal (think large circle around your location, vs. a small tight circle when you observe yourself in map app)....your stats will be off. Reason two: it will kill your battery and now if you have an emergency you are SOL. I recommend getting a speed sensor for your Garmin so you are not dependent on GPS for your location accuracy and therefore affecting speed accuracy and linking STRAVA to your Garmin. Leave your phone alone.
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Old 06-18-19, 10:02 PM
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Today I spent 3 hours trying to load the old Garmin eTrex Legend HCx with Open StreetMaps which turns out to be quite complicated & not really worth the bother.

Garmin Edge Explore looked pretty good at first but Garmin eTrex 32x has some advantages for $50 extra: barometer, memory-card slot, AA batteries. Plus the 32x has 2,000 waypoint capacity. Screen is a bit smaller than Edge Explore.

Edge Explore has ~1-day battery & 200 waypoint capacity. I'm not sure how important the waypoint limitation is...but from what I read it can be a factor especially for pre-progammed routes. I think there are workarounds but why have that extra hassle? Power banks can give enough capacity for a week-long tour but ~$50-$100 more & some added weight too. With ETrex 32x, one can tote appropriate # of batteries for the trip & if necessary buy extra at any gas station.

Hmm, Explore looks fine for credit-card touring but eTrex 32x looks better for bike-camping/bike-packing. For shorter tours I'm not sure either is worth the money but they'd be fun to try. One question I have is mounting on bike: apparently both are intended for a stem/aero-bar mount & won't go on an accessory bar?
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Old 06-18-19, 10:36 PM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by DropBarFan View Post
Today I spent 3 hours trying to load the old Garmin eTrex Legend HCx with Open StreetMaps which turns out to be quite complicated & not really worth the bother.
For the Edges, it's not complicated. It's selecting a region, downloading a file, then copying that file to the unit. The first time might be a bit more work figuring it out.

Some of the older units can only handle one file name. So, you have to rename the map file installed on the unit.

Originally Posted by DropBarFan View Post
... 200 waypoint capacity. I'm not sure how important the waypoint limitation is...but from what I read it can be a factor especially for pre-progammed routes. I think there are workarounds but why have that extra hassle? ...
It's "course points" (not waypoints) thas the 200 limit. It's not an issue unless you have really long (like 300 miles) or very complicated routes. You would generally have much shorter routes. Course points are optional anyway.

The limit for waypoints (locations you can navigate to) is like 1000.

I haven't ever hit either limit.

Originally Posted by DropBarFan View Post
Power banks can give enough capacity for a week-long tour but ~$50-$100 more & some added weight too. With ETrex 32x, one can tote appropriate # of batteries for the trip & if necessary buy extra at any gas station.
If gas stations are an option, there's a reasonable chance that you'd have access to electricity every few days. You probably wouldn't need a large power bank and you can use that for the phone you are probably carrying anyway. "Batteries for the trip" would be "added weight" too.

The Etrex is a reasonable choice but the Edges are not the problem you are imagining.

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Old 06-19-19, 05:44 AM
  #22  
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Tons of variables here. I leave the stand alone gps home for on the road tours, but might take it for off road tours. I manage to do that mostly thru minimal phone usage.

Battery issues vary with the phone and how you use it as well as how and where you tour.

Phones with replaceable batteries and extra batteries are a big plus IMO. The batteries don't weigh much and can be bought fairly cheaply if you don't buy them from the company that sells the phone.

Batteries last pretty well if you turn off most of the phones functions except the GPS. They last forever if you turn the phone off. How complicated is your route? Often mine is pretty simple most days. I know people who can look at even a complex route in the morning and remember it all day.

I use the phone pretty sparingly when away from power. If I want to check in with home a quick text is enough. No need to ever take incoming calls. Checking texts and emails one a day is plenty.

Power wallets can extend battery range as can various charging methods. I can generally go a long time between charging due to all of the above. If that is not the case for you a GPS that takes replaceable batteries is one easy solution since you can carry as many aaa batteries as you want.
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Old 06-19-19, 06:08 AM
  #23  
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For what it's worth we sometimes carry 3 GPS devices on our bike, it is a tandem.

1) An old Garmin eTrex when we are following a new pre-planned route, this might supplement a paper queue sheet if we are out of our area.
2) A deactivated Andriod phone (WiFi only) that serves as a flight recorder, mp3 player and handy camera.
3) My active phone in a handlebar bag, used as a phone, but on occasion I'll use Google Maps to figure out where we are or if we want to reroute.

In fact I have 3 or 4 deactivated Andriod phones with ridewithgps that we use as flight recorders for my stoker, we usually get 2-3 rides out of a charge. Ridewithgps saves the ride tracks until you get within WiFi range then uploads them.
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Old 06-19-19, 06:11 AM
  #24  
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osmand+ has a very low cost, one time fee. https://osmand.net/ Then you download state maps into your phone. So all you need is a view of the sky to get a gps signal -- no phone service needed. It can also do navigation to a destination.
It's very good for trail hiking, when switched to "walking" mode. Lots of local trails are in the map.

The best setup for me is a Garmin for navigation with preloaded routes. And osmand+ for occasionally checking the local map to see what's nearby or decide on an alternate route during a ride. It's very fast to launch, and the maps are very detailed as you zoom in. Garmins aren't good at just browsing a map, they really are designed to follow a course.
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Old 06-19-19, 11:37 AM
  #25  
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I will agree about Osmand+! We are currently touring in Europe for 3 months, presently in Poland. And my wife has the Garmin 800 with the routes and I will use my phone with Osmand, especially when we enter and leave big cities.
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