Review: The iPhone’s Navigation Potential for Bushwalkers and Hikers

 Can an iPhone improve my navigation? What’s wrong with my compass, map and GPS? Why would I want to carry another piece of battery dependent technology into the bush?

 All valid questions and worth answering.  Nobody wants to replace dependable low tech equipment with high tech items, which have a tendency to fail at critical moments, especially if they are battery dependent.

Well what characteristics (features and functions) do we bushwalkers and hikers want from our navigation equipment?

  •    Reliable
  •    Versatile
  •    Weather proof
  •    Good Readability in Low Light
  •    Rugged
  •    Lightweight
  •    Compact
  •    Easy to operate buttons

How does the iPhone match up with these expectations?

Reliable? Yes I think so, no doubt due to the tough restrictions Apple places up its software developers, which mean that apps usually work well together and with the core apps that come with the iPhone.
Versatile? Most definitely. Just take a look at the 60 or so apps that I have collected together in previous articles in this series. They cover a great variety of variations on the theme of navigation: compass, GPS, pedometer, mapping, real time notification of position, altimeter, speed.
Weatherproof? Well not really, but its not difficult to go low tech with a couple of zip-lock bags or high tech with an Otterbox. However, I’ll always be nervous using my iPhone in the rain, some thing that I never have to worry about with my compass or GPS.
Good Readability in Low light? Definitely, but the consequences of extended use are that the battery will go flat, hence many of the apps use the proximity sensor to turn off the screen as soon as it goes into your pocket. One of the benefits of the touch screen is being able to zoom in and out at the flick of a finger and the high resolution screen makes it easy to see mapping detail
Rugged? With glass front and back few could describe the iPhone as rugged, but it is easy to purchase screen protectors and cases that will prevent damage if dropped or scratched.

Otterbox Defender Series Case

Lightweight? Probably about the same weight as your compass and GPS, but if you have to carry both as a back up, it becomes quite a bit heavier effectively.
Compact? Not bad, as it will fit into a shirt or shorts pocket or into an armband.
Easy to operate buttons? Well there are few essential buttons and these are easy to operate even with gloved hands. However the touch screen won’t work with gloved hands, which could be a major problem in cold- wet climates or when in snow.

See also:

How to Keep your iPhone Charged in the Outdoors
My Favourite iPhones Apps for Bushwalking, Hiking, the Outdoors and Fitness.
The iPhone for Bushwalkers and Hikers
Some Great Uses of the iPhone for Bushwalkers

Creative Commons License
This article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


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