Even if you have the best camp shoe, tent and sleeping bag – the question of how to navigate in the forest will be the most popular. Therefore, in this article we will consider the possibility of using a smartphone as a navigator.

The problem of turning your smartphone into a GPS navigation device is solved. The main navigator is now a smartphone, which leaves all existing special GPS navigation devices far behind in terms of functionality and user-friendliness. And on reliability, sensitivity and time of independent work, it has equaled with them.

I must say, the problem was not solved by me, but by the manufacturers of smartphones, batteries, and software. I was only selecting worthy candidates and testing them in practice. I will not build secrets, I will gladly share detailed recipes, use and continue experiments.

First about the software.

There are dozens of programs that turn a smartphone into a navigator. The choice according to my requirements left only one program: Locus Map (Locus Map). It was written only for Android, so the choice of smartphones has narrowed significantly. There is a free slightly cropped version of Locus Free, the full version of Locus PRO costs $ 8 one-time, I advise you to immediately install it, because when upgrading Free to Pro, you will have to do all the settings again, and there are a lot of them.

So, the main advantages of Locus, because of which it was out of competition:

  1. Availability of high-quality free offline vector maps of the whole world based on OSM (Open Street Maps). Here is a link to one of the sources. Here are terabytes of regularly updated maps.
  2. The program understands raster maps, which are easy to produce independently from scanned paper maps. For example, using the program Mapc2Mapc. Beloved General Staff will easily take root here. Here’s a gift of the map of Crimea and the Lycian trail in Turkey made by me. You will find instructions for using Mapc2Mapc below.
  3. Ease of recording tracks and waypoints. You can draw a track manually, put waypoints anywhere, and not just at your current location.
  4. Conveniently upload your tracks and points. Both those and others can be placed in an unlimited number of folders, enable/disable folders, or individually.
  5. There is no limit on the number of points, tracks, and points in tracks.
  6. The ability to disable the display auto-lock (the display will still turn off to save power) and assign functions to the volume keys, such as zooming. In fact, this means that the navigator can be controlled without clicking on the screen. Actually, and when the screen is wet, it reacts incorrectly to gestures.
  7. It is possible to arrange directories with cards on the SD card.
  8. Everything is configured: the type and size of the cursor, its position (in the center or на of the screen), the color and width of the tracks, the size of the dot icons, the options for displaying the names of the points (constantly, open by tap or when approaching) …
  9. Unlimitedly configurable trip computers: the amount of data, location, font (size, transparency, and color) – in any combination.
  10. Fine-tuning the recording of track points by time, distance and accuracy. This allows you to record only the points of real displacements, and not wandering around and around and throwing out hundreds of meters with poor communication with satellites.
  11. Configuring the use of the internal compass and barometer: filtering depth, on and off boundaries
  12. Setting the GPS receiver to turn off to save power (always on, always off, on only when used)
  13. Setting all the buttons on the top and two side panels, auto-hide.
  14. Launching the application as a service, which eliminates crashes while running other applications (calls, photos …). For example, I record a track pauses when making calls, if not included as a service.
  15. The program is developing and constantly improving, new convenient functions appear, bugs are fixed when working on new smartphones and versions of Android.

True, a list of more than? This I wrote out only what interests me. The capabilities of the program are simply exorbitant, developers are trying to create the most versatile GPS-based application. Due to the huge number of settings, dealing with them is not easy. I will describe how to make the most necessary for the trip.

This is how the program window with the vector map of Crimea looks like for me. The difference is that by default, only in the buttons at the top, side and in the trip computer.

Configure Locus.

1. Select all default directories – in the phone’s memory, not on the external SD card. This is done in the settings, different. Directories for vector maps locus / mapsVector and raster locus/maps can also be placed on an external SD card, indicating this in the program settings.

2. Download a map of the area where you are so that you have something to work with.

Pre-copy vector maps (in .map format) to locus / mapsVector, and raster maps to locus / maps. If you took a vector map from the link above, then you have your own styles that must be installed by going to the site with maps from your smartphone https://www.openandromaps.org/en/legend/elevate-mountain-hike-theme. In the “ Quick install in Android” column, click Locus. Then you need to enable topics. First, activate the vector map. Then pull the bookmark to the bottom left. there you select “external” and there will be “Elevate” and “Elements”. They are exactly the same, but the first by default is imprisoned for wilderness, the second under the city. The difference is only in the checkboxes that include different elements on the map. The theme needs to be installed once, suitable for all cards.

The card can be downloaded immediately to smart. The cards are multilingual, the language is switched for each card separately, click the three dots in the card catalog to the right of the card name.

There is a big drawback for maps from openandromaps.org. The trouble with street names in the settlements. They are either not, or displayed only on a pair of scales. But in terms of detailing the wilderness, these cards have no equal.

It happens that the program sees the newly loaded cards after rebooting the smartphone.

3. Now some important settings. The rest can be left by default.

If you are reluctant to get involved in a long showdown, you can simply restore my settings from the backup. Download the settings file, copy it to your phone in the Locus / Backup folder (do not unzip it, just like it downloaded, with the extension .zip), and then select “Additional Functions” -Manager of Backups-Restore from the program menu. Please note that in these settings the folders with maps are configured in the phone’s memory by default. If you want, change to an external SD card.

My trip computer and map themes from the openandromaps.org resource are already integrated into the settings file.

If you still want to figure it out on your own (due to the constant updating of the application, the settings may be in other sections and renamed):

We edit the buttons on the top and right side panels.

Entrance to the editor – a long tap on any element of the panel-setting panel We put the number of buttons on the top panel 5, the right panel 2 and change the elements (delete unnecessary and add new functions): GPS, Data, Maps, Track Recording, Trip Computer, New Point, New Route. Move items by clicking on the icon. GPS is the satellite visibility icon. There is no yellow signal, there is a green signal. “Data” is the catalog of your tracks and points. “Maps” – entry into the catalog with maps. “Track recording” opens an additional track recording panel (it can be adjusted, I advise you to place it below). “Trip computer” turns on / off the selected computer, and with a long tap select the computer. You can draw whatever you want through the settings / additional functions/route editor. I didn’t like any ready-made characters too big, cover the floor of the screen. I made simple little black numbers at the top of the map, on the left. It shows the speed, altitude, distance traveled. “New point” records the center of the screen as a new point, asks for the name and destination folder. “New route” allows you to draw a route manually. I use this function as a distance meter.

The first five buttons will be on the top panel, the rest on the side.

The sixth, leftmost element of the top panel changes in another way: just a click, and a choice of several options. I advise you to choose the GPS. Will show the accuracy and number of visible satellites. If the accuracy is displayed, say 50m, then the navigator can fool you up to 300m, you should not take such evidence seriously.

Control / Screen:

  • “Auto-rotate lock” – mark “all screens” and “portrait mode” (this will disable the auto-rotate display)
  • “Disabling the screen lock” – check the box “Disabling all locks” (the screen will still turn off when not in use, but it will not need to be unlocked with gestures)

Management / map screen

  • hardware buttons: zoom control

Controls / Panels and Buttons

  • buttons of the left panel – map style switch -check. This is a switch of those very themes. For different purposes, different topics.
  • it is better not to turn on the auto-hide of the upper, lower and function panels, they do not interfere if the screen is more than 4.5 inches

Track Recording:

  • pedestrian profile: 20m / 10s / 35m
  • view of the track recording panel – bottom panel

GPS and sensors:

  • launch at application start-always
  • shutdown when inactive – I advise you to remove the daw.
  • compass auto-switch, 2km / h
  • use true track angle: yes

Miscellanea:

  • exit confirmation: yes
  • Locus as a service: yes

Points and tracks:

  • track line style: I advise you to choose a color purple, so as not to merge with any symbols on the map, track width: 4px

Compass calibration

Locus has a feature that allows you to use the built-in compass. But it must be calibrated from time to time. For some reason, the compass setting is often confused.

You can do this way: open the Google Maps application. Wait until the location is determined and a blue circle appears in the center, indicating where you are now. Tap on it briefly, in the window that opens, at the bottom left, click “calibrate the compass.” If the accuracy is written: “high”, then nothing needs to be done. And if the accuracy is medium or low, then turn the phone as shown in the figure until there is a message that the compass is configured.

Instructions for converting raster maps to the Locus .sqlitedb format using the Mapc2Mapc program.

Download the program Mapc2Mapc, install. In the free version, the functionality is the same, but the card will be dirty with red crosses. If this is critical for you, a license costs a one-time fee of $ 20. Or look for a broken version. I saw only old versions, they have a lot of bugs and functionality is worse.

The program has the ability to bind a map: File/load image for calibration. But I did not understand this possibility and bind cards in OziExplorer. How is the binding-topic made separate, read profile sites and forums?

Open the desired map: File / Load calibrated map. It happens that a program finds it difficult to choose a projection. For example, for Pulkovo1942 (our favorite general staff) you need to choose from the list, these are Russia, Georgia or Asia.

Then File / Write map for mobile device, select Locus / Rmaps / Galileo .sqlitedb from the list. Zoom and all the checkboxes can not be touched, leave the default. Click OK. Now attention! A page will open where the map is divided into squares and you can disable any. If you click OK here, the number of squares increases by 4 times, so that you can select more accurately. If you do not need to throw out individual pieces of the card (or you have already thrown it out), check the “No more selections” checkbox and click OK. The conversion will begin. Depending on the size of the card and computer performance, it can take a lot of time, up to several hours. Look for the converted map near the source.

About smartphones and increasing their reliability.

Once Locus is selected, the iPhone and the others automatically disappear, only Android remains. It would be nice to use a special secure smartphone. They are not only protected from damage and water but can also work normally in frosts down to -20. True, they are so hefty, in everyday life they are reluctant to carry. And if you don’t have the means to buy a separate device for the trip, you can do with an ordinary smartphone with water protection. Super shock protection is useless. You need to put the smart in silicone, stick on the protective glass and tie the device with a cord to a backpack or belt. The cord is ordinary, 35-40 cm long, so that the phone does not reach the ground, but does not interfere with the ear. If the phone does not have an eyelet for the cord, you can attach it to the silicone case.

Experience has shown that the minimum requirements are: 4-core 1.5 GHz processor, 2 GB of RAM, 5 ″ screen. It is vital that the screen is normally controlled in the rain, that is, when there are drops of water and wet fingers on it. For example, Samsung S7-S10 has such screens. I have already tried Samsung S5, S7 edge, S9 + and am very pleased.

The autonomy of the smartphone.

Conventional devices can withstand 1.5 camp days under the following conditions: constant track recording, moderate use of the screen, constantly in touch, 10 minutes of calls, 5 Mb of Internet (mail, weather forecast). If you turn off the connection, then enough for 2 days. Not much. Removable batteries are a thing of the past, now one option is to charge. The option of charging from a solar battery for an active trip is not suitable. Mounting it on a backpack is inconvenient and inefficient. Normally, you can use solar charging only on vacation.

Therefore, there is only one way out: charging from a bank using lithium-ion batteries. I have tested them with dozens of different designs. You need to choose according to the optimal combination of the main parameters: capacity, weight, price, reliability and convenience. With weight and price, everything is simple and clear. But with the most important thing – the capacity, manufacturers are muddied. First: absolutely everything indicates the capacity of the internal battery for a voltage of 3.7V. But out of the 5V bank. Second: no one indicates the efficiency of the converter from 3.7 to 5V. And it happens from 70 to 88%. A typical indicator is 80%. So it turns out that 10000mAh is written, but really 5400-6400mAh. Such a bank will charge the smartphone battery at 3600mAh from 5 to 100% 1.5 times.

More manufacturers muddied with charge and discharge current. Of course, in a smaller direction. The higher the charge current, the faster the charge is charged. And the more current is output (per discharge), the faster the phone will charge. Take the banks with the ability to quickly charge, this is very important when in the campaign there is a short opportunity to connect to the outlet.

From the point of view of reliability and convenience, I consider it optimal to use banks with a “written” capacity in the region of 10000mAh. One large course is more profitable in price and weight. But the banks are often lost, forgotten and broken. Therefore, it is safer to take a few pieces of smaller ones.

Solar battery on the bank – useless weight. It takes 2 weeks for her to charge it!

The built-in flashlight is a dangerous thing, because it loves to accidentally turn on and wastes a charge.

I measure the capacity of the banks using a  USB tester.  And it’s even better not to compare the capacity, but a Watt clock. Then we get away from the need to take into account the voltage that changes during the measurement and the wrong result is obtained.

Here are a few options for tried and tested options for comparison to make it clear how different they are.

Globex 11500mAh: weight 240 g (plastic case), real capacity 6000mah / 30Wh. Charges with a current of 1A, produces up to 1.5A. Full charge time 10 hours.

Drobak power over II 10000mAh: weight 280 g (steel case), real capacity 5400mAh / 27Wh. Charges and produces 0.85A. Full charge time 12 hours.

Xiaomi 10000mAh: weight 210gr (aluminum case), real capacity 6400mAh / 32Wh. Charged 2.2A, produces 1.8A. Full charge time 5.5 hours.

Xiaomi 2 10000mAh (with fast charging): weight 222gr (aluminum case), real capacity 6520mAh / 32.6Wh. Charges 2.2A / 5V, 1.5A / 9-12V, produces 2A / 5V, 1.5A / 9-12V. Full charge time 3-5.5 hours.

If you consider that Xiaomi is also not expensive, then they win in all respects! 

One BUT: the market is awash with fakes of terrible quality. Look for the original thing in trusted stores with a good reputation, and in no case look at single-page sites with a discount of many%. By the way, do not buy anything on such sites! The real price of 10,000 15-20 dollars.

The rest of the tested banks were collapsible, on standard 18650 batteries. Here is the best of them, TOMO:

Charging separately weighs 108 grams, each battery weighs 46 grams. All together weighs 292 grams. Charges and produces 1.8A each. For money, a little more expensive than the previous ones. TOMO has 4 independent charge / discharge channels, each for its own battery. There is a charge indicator separately for each battery. And even shows the strength of the recoil current. It is not necessary to insert all 4 batteries, it will work from one. Of course, the key here is the quality of the batteries. And I took them the best – industrial Panasonic NCR 18650B with a real capacity of 3300-3400mAh. This is the capacity during discharge, measured with a special charger. That is, a total of 13400mAh. When discharged, TOMO exits 7200mAh. Obviously, the converter efficiency is only 72%. Very bad. Another important nuance: in the off state, the discharge current is 0.34 mA per battery. It means, 8% of the charge will go nowhere in a week. So you need to remove the batteries if temporarily lying around idle.

Also, I experienced similar charges, but with one charge / discharge channel, with parallel connection of the batteries. The results are similar to TOMO, but the performance is poor, the quality is poor. In the campaign, I did not dare to hope for such, let me down at any time. One plus – in the off state there is no discharge at all.

What is the advantage of charging on 18650 batteries: you can take one charge, on 2-4 batteries, and take the batteries themselves how much you need! Yes, at least 10. It will be both cheaper and easier.

The main Shortcoming was found in the first campaign. Often poor contact with batteries. We have to wipe them, rotate. You think the charge is on, but it is not really or weak. Such a serious drawback eliminates the advantages in price and weight. In addition, they all have low efficiency. So I advise non-demountable banks.

Another application of power banks is charging batteries for cameras and camcorders. If their charging works only from 220V, it does not matter: on aliexpress you will find charging from USB 5V for all types of batteries.

Please note: over a month, lithium-ion batteries self-discharge by 10%. Therefore, before the trip, be sure to recharge them.