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GPS Navigation Software (resolved for now)

TL;DR - After considering a switch to Gaia, I'm (mostly) sticking with Backcountry Navigator for GPS software because it works better for the things I do.

I mentioned in my last rig review that Gaia seemed to have a lot going for it - and that's still true. It does several things better than BCN (Pro or XE):

  • Overlays are fabulous
  • Downloading map data for offline use is easy and uses (relatively) little storage space
  • The browser-based trip planning/mapping is terrific
  • Cross-platform (iOS/Android) support is better than BCN (XE only, there's no Pro for iOS)

However, there are two things that are showstoppers for me, and they are things that BCN handles flawlessly:

  1. When out on the trail, creating a waypoint in Gaia requires you to choose a folder every single time for the waypoint, if you want it to end up with the rest of the data for the same "trip." If you don't, it just goes into the top-level workspace and mixes in with anything else that isn't filed, making it impossible to find later. BCN has the concept of "default folder/trip" and any new waypoints, tracks, etc. are automatically deposited into that folder. This makes them easy to find later, export as a group, etc. Given that I create several dozen tracks and waypoints over the course of a trip, this functionality is super important to me... so without it, I can't make the switch.
  2. Waypoints and tracks do not have a prefix in Gaia. This might seem like a small issue, but my workflow is one where I mark points of interest as I find them on an adventure and then - when I return home - I manually transfer all of those points back to my master Google Earth file. In BCN, where every waypoint or track is prefixed with the date/time, the ones I added are easy to find (and are stored in chronological order) in the sea of waypoints that already existed for the trip. With Gaia, the new waypoints just get mixed in - alphabetically, since there's no date/time stamp - making it a hunt-and-peck operation to find them all in order to transfer them over.

Lastly - BCN uses less computing power than Gaia, which is a nice benefit for me, on my (admittedly older) tablet. It's just a bit more responsive, which is nice when you just want to have a quick glance at the map and move on.

At any rate, I'll likely continue to use BCN on the trail, but I might start to use Gaia (instead of Google Maps) for pre-trip route planning and track creation.

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