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Article: Using Android and TOPO Maps

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
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    Default Using Android and TOPO Maps

    Previously, Skatchkins helped me with getting my Asus 1005HA-P Netbook up and running with topo maps and a Garmin 60CSx. I created a image of the CDs/DVDs I needed and loaded a Virtual disc drive to run the discs. Then, I had to attach the GPS via a USB cord and bluetooth tether it to my cell phone to update Google Earth maps. The topo maps were super-imposed onto Google earth.

    The unit worked well, but it lacked in other ways.

    * There was a Lot of software running.
    * Lots of hardware (not to mention a power inverter and cig 12v splitter).
    * There were places where I could got get a cell signal.
    * 1x and EVDO is not a real fast data speed, and is slower over a bluetooth tether.
    * Although the netbook was light, it still needed a bulky mount to secure it to my vehicle.
    * No touch screen. Using the touchpad was tough because it was small.

    I needed a better solution. I scored a 3 month old Motorola Xoom 10.1" android tablet for $275 (non 3G). A bit of research led me to find BackCountry Navigator for Android. The combination of these two items made a world of difference!

    This Xoom only weighs 1.6lbs. I use a RAM Mount windshield mount and it's pretty rock solid. I'm also using and Otterbox hard case. This adds 3/4-lb of weight, but the mount is still rock solid. RAM makes a U-bolt mount. I may use it and attach the mount to the front-passenger grab handle. It would save me some windshield space. However, the Xoom as a real nice camera. Mounting on the windshield would allow me to video record my trek.





    This software allows you to download topo map sections from MyTopo.com and USGS Color Aerials for FREE. When you go offline, just turn on the internal GPS and Back Country Navigator will pull from the maps you downloaded.




    The Motorola Xoom supports Wifi so downloads can be done using WiFi. It also supports Bluetooth so I can tether via wifi or bluetooth, if necessary. The internal 32GB storage has plenty of room to store downloaded maps.

    Once you're ready to start downloading maps you need to go to Menu and choose "Map Mode". Then, the bottom button reads, "Select Areas for Download".



    A small menu drops from top-center and has the download functions. Drag your finger around the screen to select areas to download. It's OK to allow the boxes to overlap. When it's downloading, it will recognize the area was selected earlier and will skip it. If you need to scroll the map to choose more areas, press the "Select" button to toggle it on/off.

    When you've finished selecting the areas you want to download, press the "Download" button. NOW, make sure you're device is plugged in to power and come back later. WARNING: The maps are large and download takes some time. I suggest you download small blocks of section, one at a time. I was eager so I scrolled all over Arizona and selected the entire state. It took 3 days to download everything. Ok, I was lazy. I didn't want to have to download sections as my need arises. I just wanted everything so I didn't find myself without a topo map.



    When you go offline and are ready to start using the downloaded topos go to the main menu and choose Map Mode, then choose My Location (center). This will place an pointer in the cent of you map and that's where you are. From there, the map will automatically scroll and rotate as you move. If you touch the screen to zoom in/out or just want to scroll around, the software will pause and let you do what you need to. When you're ready to start tracking again, just touch the My Location (center) again. Otherwise, the map will not move and the arrow will travel off the screen when you have traveled outside this map tile.

    You can also choose to record your adventure by clicking the "Record a Track" from the main menu.



    If you are one to record your tracks you can go to the Trip Data folder and save your events or start new trip files. You can also import files and export files, as well. I haven't tried importing GPX or KML files, so I don't know what the will do offline.



    The internal GPS is AMAZING. The fast dual-processor of the Xoom allows for fast and accurate tracking. Here's a video of me with GPS Tracking turned on, me in my 2nd story bedroom, doing a left and right 360 degree pivot. Watch how accurate this thing tracks!



    On my weekend hunt trip, I decided to pay a visit to Skatchkins at his camp site. Here's a pic of my trek as I was leaving the campsite. What this pic doesn't show is the 2 hours I spent driving in via the back roads, backtracking when searching for the campsite and the big Yellow Jeep (which they didn't bring), then getting lost when I could not find my way back out because I forgot to "Record my Track". My TomTom Go 720 got me in, but could not get me out!



    Here's the same view using USGS Aerial Maps.



    As you play around, you'll discover that there are a lot of neat things on this software. On the right side of the screen there is a (+) for recording/saving waypoints. On the left side there is a (+/-) for zoom in/out. If your android has a capacitive touch screen, you can pinch/pull to zoom, too. When online, you can choose "Fina a place..." and it will search google maps to find specific places. Since it has this google function, it also has the microphone incorporated.. just "speak" what you're looking for. You can also turn off the GPS function to save power when you're not treking around.

    Quick note: You can download the DEMO version for free and try it out for 13 days. If you like it, buy it for $10.00. If you get lucky like me, you'll be able to keep using it past the 13 day trial. I've had my demo version installed for over 6 weeks now, and it's still running without restriction.



    I wonder if it's because I set the program to "auto update". Not sure, but it's been running fine. I initially installed around mid-July. Well, when it runs out, I WILL buy BackCountry, because this program kicks butt!

    There are a LOT o PROS to this device and software combination. The only CON I can see is that this full-featured tablet is $500 bucks. Which beings me to my next point... YMMV.

    YMMV: I don't know how well this works with smaller (less powerful) Android devices. Skatchkins picked up a Kyocera Echo (super cool dual-folding screen phone) and is running this, too. I hope to see him chime in on how his device runs this. That dual-folding screen gives him an incredible screen size of 4.7".

    If anyone has one of those inexpensive Made In China capacitive touch tablets, I would love to hear you chime in. How good does the external GPS work and how well does the software work with their hacked Android 2.3+ OS.
    2009 4-door JK - 85% daily driver, 15% hunting vehicle, 100% fun!

    It's better to be prepared, than scared.
    Mailman by day, Gun Nut by night.
    NRA Certified Instructor - 5 disciplines.

  2. #2

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    Nice write up.
    I used mine all weekend too. I pre downloaded the aerial and topo maps to and around camp. I got the early group in using my phone to walk them through the backway forest roads at night when they called and told me the regular 535 was closed due to logging. I then used it "live" for my drive up.
    I even used it hiking a bit to figure out some areas that could be good to explore.
    I don't have any in use pics yet.
    Disclaimably quotastic
    I are photographer
    armchaircrisis.com

  3. #3

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    Your Motorola Zoom is on Woot today
    Disclaimably quotastic
    I are photographer
    armchaircrisis.com

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Glendale, AZ
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    Default

    Nice! Good price for a refurb model. I still can't believe I scored my 3-month old unit for $275.
    2009 4-door JK - 85% daily driver, 15% hunting vehicle, 100% fun!

    It's better to be prepared, than scared.
    Mailman by day, Gun Nut by night.
    NRA Certified Instructor - 5 disciplines.

  5. #5

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    I'm loving this product still.

    Chris and I used it more than the Garmin this weekend in our search for hidden Indian Ruins.



    Again I knew I'd be out of cell signal in the area so I just dragged over the maps ahead of time to download them. The phone's GPS did the rest.

    I grabbed the old topographic maps and the small tile close-up aerials and just switched between the two to figure out what cliffsides to work around and where the least steep contour lines were. I knew we were looking for s steep slope with a rockslide so I identified where it was on the phone map and then we worked on getting there from our position.
    Disclaimably quotastic
    I are photographer
    armchaircrisis.com

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