Best Android GPS software for offroad use that does not need wifi or cell service

Jerry Bransford

TJ Guru
Supporting Member
Nov 9, 2015
7,933
8,884
Escondido California
#1
Looking at possibly replacing my tired old Garmin GPS-90 with something with a larger screen and recently acquired a wifi-only Samsung Tab-A tablet which does have a built-in GPS chip receiver that doesn't require wifi or cell coverage. No worries about memory, I added a 64GB micro-SD card to it, and it has adequate (2GB) ram for this need.
What I'm looking for as a ready-to-go Android App that has most of the offroad trails already in its database. Plug and play so to speak.
It MUST be able to run with strictly GPS signals, there are no wifi or cell signals where I wheel. A simple topography map won't do it either, those don't have any trails.
If it showed boundaries (as some do) between federal land and other land that would be ideal.
Thanks!
P.S. I already looked into a suitable iPad and it was horrendously too expensive. A friend is happy with his Samsung Tab A table doing offroad GPS but he's not around for me to ask him what software he's running on it.
 
Likes: StG58

Mr. Bills

TJ Enthusiast
Nov 24, 2017
522
700
Area Code 530
#4
Gaia GPS is popular with overlanders. There are Apple and Android versions.

https://www.gaiagps.com/

Last summer some friends and I did a 10-day 750 mile overlanding trip north along the California coast and through the coastal mountains from Ft. Bragg into central Oregon, then across Oregon on the Oregon Backcounty Discovery Trail to just east of Crater Lake, then south on forest service and logging roads to Mt. Shasta. Gaia GPS was our primary form of navigation, augmented by paper maps, the topo maps on my Garmin Map60GPScsx, and some downloaded satellite imagery.
 
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Jerry Bransford

Jerry Bransford

TJ Guru
Supporting Member
Nov 9, 2015
7,933
8,884
Escondido California
#5
Backcountry Navigator is a really good app. I use Canada Maps Pro, but that won't help you any, lol.
Thanks, I have installed that one a couple times over the years but it doesn't show any of the trails I want. Good topo information but it's lacking on popular offroad trails... at least in my area.

Gaia GPS is popular with overlanders. There are Apple and Android versions.

https://www.gaiagps.com/

Last summer some friends and I did a 10-day 750 mile overlanding trip north along the California coast and through the coastal mountains from Ft. Bragg into central Oregon, then across Oregon on the Oregon Backcounty Discovery Trail to just east of Crater Lake, then south on forest service and logging roads to Mt. Shasta. Gaia GPS was our primary form of navigation, augmented by paper maps, the topo maps on my Garmin Map60GPScsx, and some downloaded satellite imagery.
Thank you, I'll try that one out tonight.
 

Serbonze

TJ Neophyte
Supporting Member
Nov 12, 2015
1,656
1,554
Florida, USA
#6
I use Gaia GPS for hiking, and I've used it occasionally in the Jeep. It's always been spot on and really easy to use.

Edit: I don't know if it will have the trails you want already loaded though. The trails we go on around my neck of the woods and the hiking trails in Georgia were all available though.
 

Mr. Bills

TJ Enthusiast
Nov 24, 2017
522
700
Area Code 530
#7
We added GPS waypoints to our Gaia maps before we left home to mark our desired route. The waypoints came from topo maps, trail maps we found online, offroad guide books, maps purchased from the Oregon Off-Highway Vehicle Association, etc.

Although I never became an expert at using Gaia GPS, it turned out to be more reliable on our journey than the trail maps and guide books, particularly because it allowed us to overlay our route on satellite imagery so that we could visually compare where we thought we were with where we actually were.
 
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Jerry Bransford

Jerry Bransford

TJ Guru
Supporting Member
Nov 9, 2015
7,933
8,884
Escondido California
#9
One product I tried in the desert last Friday morning shows promise, it's called Avenza Maps. Good topo information but more importantly, it show more information on the trails I frequent than I had seen before. Some of the trails were even properly named so it's currently in the lead. I have some more research but that is now delayed since my transmission decided to crap out on me last Saturday morning. Fortunately I wasn't on the trail when it happened.
 

StG58

Backwoods Amateur
Supporting Member
Oct 29, 2015
5,669
5,763
Orygun, the wet side...
#10
I use Backcountry Navigator Pro on a Samsung Tab A as well. I've used it for about three years now with great success. I also run my Garmin 62 as backup. (more on that later)

Gaia Maps or Backcountry Navigator Pro are going to get as as close to what you are looking for as you can get. The issue isn't the software, as both do exactly what you are looking for, the problem is base maps and trail mapping. Making the detailed maps that are useful to running trails is horribly expensive. Even the Federal Government doesn't spend the cash that is required to keep base maps current. The best of the best is the old USGS 7.5' quads. Unfortunately they were created as paper maps decades ago. When USGS decided to go paperless they used the 1:100k DLG (digital line graph) maps as the base maps and copied over detail from the Quads. Some of the more interesting trails were dropped as obsolete during the transition.

For the two applications mentioned you can get land ownership boundary overlays from BLM that are accurate. Look at CalTopo for good maps as well. It's a ton of work, but CalTopo lets you build custom content maps and import them into either application. CalTopo is a subscription service.

Your best bet for up to date trails mapping information is your off-roading buddies. If you can get them to share tracks you can build a comprehensive, up to date trail network to display as required. I've got a library of several thousand miles of trail maps that way. Keeping them organized and available is another story.

Map sources that are importable into a tablet being used as a GPS are available from the Forest Service, BLM, USGS, CalTopo and also private map providers. All are going to be several years (if you're lucky) to decades out of date (most probable). The accuracy available with a tablet is around 100' or so. Good enough for the girls I run with. It has to do with the antenna in the tablet. Garmin makes an external antenna that plugs into the USB port that will make a tablet as accurate as a good hand held GPS, for a price.

For reference: https://wranglertjforum.com/threads/in-tj-navigation.6915/

Good luck Jerry...
 
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Jorge Bolivar

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Mar 20, 2017
668
585
Cleveland, OH, United States
#12
One product I tried in the desert last Friday morning shows promise, it's called Avenza Maps. Good topo information but more importantly, it show more information on the trails I frequent than I had seen before. Some of the trails were even properly named so it's currently in the lead. I have some more research but that is now delayed since my transmission decided to crap out on me last Saturday morning. Fortunately I wasn't on the trail when it happened.
Thanks for the feedback @Jerry Bransford , I will look into this one as well.

Transmission issues are not fun at all, hope the same no burn a crater on your pocket and you will be back on the trails soon.
 

StG58

Backwoods Amateur
Supporting Member
Oct 29, 2015
5,669
5,763
Orygun, the wet side...
#13
A couple of other things to think about with a tablet. Power: tablets will run about 16 hours before they start needing to be plugged in. I installed a dual USB power port where my cigarette lighter was. Get one that has at least one of the ports at 2.1 amp. Tablets charge really slowly on the low amp ports. Mounting: it's tough finding a place to mount a tablet where it's visible, but not in the way...and doesn't turn an airbag into a claymore. Accuracy: GPS signals are very low power. The antenna makes a world of difference. Expect +/- 100 feet or so in bad reception areas. Handhelds are better for that. I've missed a trail or two and had to backtrack at night. That's up here in the jungle though, so your mileage may vary. The Garmin 62 is way better at that, and has saved my bacon a time or two.

Even with the best of maps expect a little frustration at times. Use a pre-recorded track to minimise that, if you can. Blowing down a trail, contour lines, trails and creeks can get hard to distinguish even with the larger screen on a tablet. You're still looking at the world through a straw. Just a bigger straw. Nothing beats paper for orienting yourself and route planning.

Edited to add: I run my maps at the "15" zoom level. Less and the details start to hide in the clutter. More, and the maps start to pixleate. That's about a mile across the width of the screen. Higher resolution maps that allow for better zoom ratios will eat up storage fast. I've got maps for all the interesting areas of Oregon and Washington, with some bleed over into Northern California, and it burns up a good chunk of 128 gig.

Hope this helps some.
 
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OrTrek

New Member
Mar 27, 2018
10
1
Salem, OR, USA
#15
Jerry, I've been literally all over the country (I'm retired) using GAIAgps Premium (like 10 bucks a year) and preplanning the routes and it's never let me down. You also can with a little effort download the Google maps into GAIA (l believe it was in an article on the 4xoverlandadventures website) if you like those. I also use Avenza and their MVUM maps (free), but that's it for Avenza. GAIA is just better for preplanning. I use an old iPad 3. I also drag paper maps with me (I like StG58 have piles of them) and I even carry a basic compass - which saved my butt while backpacking once in the Coast Range. The Overland Bound forum has some great info on navigation apps.
 
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OrTrek

New Member
Mar 27, 2018
10
1
Salem, OR, USA
#16
BTW and FYI - Avenza no longer supports anything less than Android OS 5.0. I wanted to move Avenza off the iPad to an old Galaxy SIII phone (4.4.2), but the app wasn't/isn't compatible.
 

Jorge Bolivar

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Mar 20, 2017
668
585
Cleveland, OH, United States
#18
This past weekend I do use the Gaia GPS app, (free version) by Ohio Holmes county. Expend few hours Friday evening following the App guidance and seem pretty accurate. May try to upgrade to a Premium.

I wasn't able to download Avenza, tablet was moody asking for some plug ins.
 
#19
I have been using a program called GPX PRO (available in the app store) that is accurate and you can down load each state for free on their online link (off line maps). Also you can use on line maps in areas where you know you have cell service and use your cell phone tethered to the tablet using the Bluetooth function,and if you end up with out cell service you can switch to your off line map and continue on!

I have used it in Washington, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota. Not as complete as what SGT58 uses but my recorded tracks seem to work with his package and maps. Does not have pre-recorded tracks nor land ownership.

The maps take up very little room and I do have a SD card for storage that I really did not need with my Samsung Tablet. In my tests I built some forest tracks in Google maps and then converted them on line to GPX tracks and loaded them up into GPX Pro and they were accurate. My friend went along and compared his hand held Garmin to my tablet and we both were spot on.

You can try the product out for free and if you like it buy a one time Pro version, the developer is working now on the editing version which will make it a affordable GPX system.

It is not bad for under $50.00.
 

Equilibrium31

TJ Enthusiast
Apr 7, 2018
498
494
Burnsville, MN, USA
#20
One product I tried in the desert last Friday morning shows promise, it's called Avenza Maps. Good topo information but more importantly, it show more information on the trails I frequent than I had seen before. Some of the trails were even properly named so it's currently in the lead. I have some more research but that is now delayed since my transmission decided to crap out on me last Saturday morning. Fortunately I wasn't on the trail when it happened.
I'm a bit new to this area overall, but I will add that I found Avenza to be pretty awesome. The DNR here in Minnesota actually recommends it on its pages that list trails while also providing a download for the trial maps themselves.

Admittedly, I used this on my iPhone, but I would imagine that the Android equivalent should be pretty similar.
 

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