GaiaGPS – Overlanding app

GaiaGPS app looks very promising indeed. Of course you can use Google Maps to search new locations to discover but one neat feature with GaiaGPS is map layers. So you can combine e.g. your domestic TOPO map with other map layers. Other very useful feature is the planning feature. That means that you can plan your route on home computer and then use mobile app to follow that planned route.

I have to admit that I have at this point quite limited experience with the app but as said, it looks very promising indeed. Even at first sight, I didn’t quite catch why I would need another new map software. More I use app, more it makes sense to have.

What is overlanding

First time I heard “overlanding” term was, when I browsed local automobile forum. That sounded exciting and it was actually something I had already in my mind, without knowing a proper term for it.

It is also good to understand that similarly as with any hobby, it can be stretched to any level. Others may take overlanding very seriously and make it as a lifestyle. On the other hand some may want to just discover new places that are at the end of trail (or road in a bad condition).

Typically overlanding is considered to access destinations within difficult terrain and those are accessed with a proper 4×4 vehicle. Much more serious than e.g. Subaru Forester.

But as mentioned, it overlanding does not need to be that serious. Actually there is no rules that what type of vehicle is acceptable for these expeditions. FWD Prius could do that, if you will.

Depending on where you live, there are different possibilities for overlanding. You need to consider local laws what is allowed and what is not. Are you allowed to drive private road, and even if you are is it acceptable to do so. Or is there owner waiting with a shotgun at his yard.

E.g. in Finland it is kind of allowed to drive private owned roads, if there is no barriers. In fact you can’t access usually summer cottages without driving private roads. But that is allowed only for temporary driving.

Then again, I wouldn’t to drive anyones summer cottage trail. Owner might think differently compared to what law says.

How to find overlanding places

In Finland Mets√§hallitus (Ministry of agriculture and forestery) owns over 36 000km forest roads, which are allowed to drive without any permissions. That’s a lot to discover!

Only problem is that Finland is quite big country, in terms of surface area. And these forests (and roads) of Metsähallitus are either up in the north (Lapland) or in North East. So those are not accessible for me, e.g. for a weekend trip. I would need at least week or two vacation to drive to Lapland.

Similarly, search public and government owned forests from your country and then use app like GaiaGPS for detailed planning.

Screenshot of the browser interface.

GaiaGPS vs Google Maps

Google Maps is a proper navigation software while GaiaGPS is a tool for hikers and overlanders. GaiaGPS does not have any turn-by-turn navigation. Once you have planned your trip, you’ll need to follow it manually on screen.

GaiaGPS works very well also for discovering swimming places, caves, peaks, huts (for camping) and many other locations that are not visible in Google Maps.

Then there are several layers to choose from. Google Maps does have one layer at the time (3 to choose from). GaiaGPS does have nearly 300 layers and those can be combined and opacity adjusted as needed.

However, most of the available layers are mostly useful for North America citizens but there are 18 different layers for Europeans as well. E.g. Topo maps from Finland, Austria, France, Norway and Switzerland.

How much GaiaGPS costs

“Free” version does already quite a lot. That is a good tool for discovering new places. Next comes “Membership”, which requires that you create a account to their service. That adds offline usage for mobile apps and adds some map layers. Finally there is a “Premium” membership which opens all the map layers. Regular price for one year membership is $40.

How to use GaiaGPS

Once you have found your area to discover, setting route and rallying points is the real benefit of this app. For this section, ready made video is the best way to see app in action. Really recommend to watch the video to get better understanding of the app capabilities. Video is by Lifestyle Overland Youtube channel.

One more thing to mention, before watching the video. E-Boxer Forester owners are delighted to know that this app supports Apple CarPlay, so you will get the route visible right on the 8″ screen.

Have you tried other similar apps? Please comment, if you have experiences of the alternative apps.

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