Viewranger App Review
Last Updated: 30/05/2018
If you find yourself reading this post it’s most likely because you’re looking for a decent hiking/outdoors app. Here I’ll give you a thorough Viewranger app review and give you the reasons why, in my opinion, this is the best hiking app out there and you shouldn’t hesitate before downloading it.
When I started really getting into hiking and everything outdoors, I played around with various apps as I tried to find the best one. I had used Viewranger abroad several years ago but couldn’t really remember how effective it was. I decided to give it another bash and the app has come on leaps and bounds, it really does blow everything else out the water.
Viewranger is effectively an all-in-one handheld GPS system. It can be used as an accurate guidance tool while you are out in the remote wilderness or alternatively trying to find the right turning to the local park. The fantastic thing about Viewranger is that it saves you forking out hundreds of pounds/dollars on a handheld GPS system, it acts the same way and in my experience is just as accurate as something you would pay a pretty penny for. You also don’t need to have WiFi or a phone signal for it to work, it still acts as a normal GPS unit.
I use Viewranger purely from a hiking point of view but it can also be used by cyclists, joggers and skiers. You can even use it as a roadmap.
Don’t get me wrong, a dedicated GPS system is an invaluable tool and may be preferred over a smartphone application depending on your preferences. But for what’s on offer and the long, gruelling hikes where I’ve relied solely on Viewranger (not recommended, I’ll touch on this later), it hasn’t let me down and continues to be my first choice app.
Viewranger can be used on any handheld device apart from the windows phone. It’s a simple case of logging in to the App Store or Google Play Store and downloading the app for free. It’s from here the fun really begins and you can take advantage of the hundreds of in-app purchases and features. The app size itself is only about 80 MB but this quickly increases when you start to add further maps and download routes etc.
The performance of the app itself generally depends on the device you are using. I’ve only ever used it on the iPhone and have never had any problems. I tend to make sure that I have shut down all other apps while I have Viewranger running in the background just to ensure optimal performance.
Viewranger offers a wealth of fantastic features for anybody planning on going out trekking/hiking in the wilderness. It also offers further features such as a social feed where you can follow and track your friends’ progress, this isn’t something I’ve made use of but may become more popular as the app gets bigger.
This is going to be your first stop if you are using the app for some serious trekking. There is a wealth of maps available from countries all over the world. In Great Britain alone the app pairs with Ordnance Survey and allows you to purchase different types of maps depending on what you’re using it for. The Landranger maps cost £7.99 per area of the UK or if you want to save money in the long-run then you can buy the entire country for £89.99. Similarly, the Explorer Maps (far more detailed) range in price depending on the size of the area you want to buy, or you can spend £249.99 for the whole country. This may seem like a hell of a lot of money at first but if you are an avid hiker/explorer then you will save a lot as opposed to buying each individual area. Personally, it’s too much for me to fork out all at once so I’m happy buying each individual area as I go, but it’s entirely up to you.
The maps listed above for the UK are Ordnance Survey so the best in the business, hence the money you pay for them. However, this still works out cheaper than buying the maps from a shop. Viewranger also offers free Great Britain road maps, general overview maps, and trials of certain areas.
If this wasn’t enough for you, they have even got tailored maps for popular trekking routes in the country. Some good examples are:
- The Great Glen Way.
- The West Highland Way.
- The National 3 Peaks Challenge.
These are just the tip of the iceberg with pretty much all the national trails covered.
At the time of writing there are also detailed maps of different regions with routes in over 20 countries, some of which include:
- New Zealand
All you have to do is select the desired country and explore the vast array of maps on offer.
OS Maps Subscription
One of Viewranger’s latest and most up to date features is an annual subscription to Ordnance Survey Maps. This is an excellent option if you want easy access to all OS maps on your phone or computer.
The subscription costs just £24.99 per year and is the same as having 607 paper Ordnance Survey maps on your device. This is an absolute bargain taking into account that one map costs in excess of £6.99. You’ll have full access to Explorer and Landranger maps and can save any map section for offline use.
If you’re still unsure then you’re even offered a free 7-day trial or a monthly subscription which can be cancelled at any time.
If you fancy buying all the maps outright without paying a subscription then you can get them on a MicroSD card. This still works out at an absolute bargain, the only downside being that updates may be limited.
I’ll soon writing an in-depth review of OS Maps and why they are (in my opinion) the best maps in the world. I’ll link it here once it’s done!
This is another one of the top features which allows you to find the specific route that you have in mind. If you are planning a hike then you don’t have to just download the map and try to figure it out from there. If you search for the specific route on the search function, chances are that it will be logged by Viewranger. Somebody at some time will have done this hike/trek/cycle and will have logged their route. You can then download it, hit ‘show on map‘, and there you’ll have the selected route marked clearly on your downloaded map.
If you are downloading a route from a fellow hiker then please bear in mind that it might not be the best route available. Compare the downloaded route to the official route before relying on it while you are out hiking. I often do this and 9/10 the free route is very accurate.
Seem too good to be true? Well, it pretty much is! For every single mountain I have hiked in Scotland, the route has been available from a variety of sources. There are often certain organisations that pair with Viewranger and upload generally the most accurate route of your chosen hike. These ones do sometimes have a small charge but they tend to be the most accurate.
The ‘small charge’ is not direct money but in Viewranger’s own currency which is called ‘credits’. This brings me on to the next feature!
Viewranger credits are the currency used on the app to buy map tiles and certain routes. When I say ‘map tiles’ I mean a small section of a map.
This is useful if, for example, you plan a short hike in a certain region but you can’t see yourself doing anything else in that region for quite a while. You can purchase that small section of map (tile) for a certain amount of credits. At the time of writing (November 2017), one tile costs 7 credits.
Another way you can use credits is to purchase a specific route of a hike or trek you are planning. Let’s say I want to hike up Ben Wyvis in Scotland. I search for Ben Wyvis in the search bar making sure that I have ‘routes‘ selected. I find a whole range of routes of the mountain hike itself and paths in the local area. Some cost a certain amount of credits which ranges from 66 up to 100. The free ones, as previously mentioned, are from fellow hikers who have hiked the route and published their hike log.
A useful tip is to check the free route against one that costs and if it is more or less the same you are most likely safe to use it. This is what I do and the vast majority of the free ones are more than sufficient.
At the time of writing the cost of credits are as follows:
- £5.99 for 400 credits.
- £8.99 for 600 credits.
- £14.99 for 1000 credits.
- £49.99 for 3334 credits.
Again, when compared to buying the map of the routes in the shops this is a bargain.
This is probably one of Viewranger’s less used features which is understandable.
The idea of BuddyBeacon is that you can set a beacon on your phone. You can then leave a special PIN between you and another person which allows that person to see your location when your phone transmits a beacon. Before starting a hike/trek you can adjust the settings so that your phone transmits a beacon every 5, 10, 15 minutes etc.
The problem with this feature is that you need signal so that your phone can actually transmit the beacon. When you’re in the back of beyond in the Scottish Highlands (for example), the chances are that you won’t have a signal which renders this feature useless.
If you do have signal then great, by all means, make use of the BuddyBeacon. If not then the only real use for it is so the other person knows if you have started and finished the hike.
This feature does as the title suggests, allows you to synchronise content. For example, if you have all of your routes and tracks logged on your phone, you can synchronise them to your tablet, laptop etc. This is useful if you want to analyse the route on a bigger screen or edit certain details of the route.
You can also import/export your data, link your account to Dropbox and convert the route/track files to GPX making it possible to view it on other GPS devices.
Relying Solely On Viewranger
I’ve seen a lot of chat out there about whether or not paper maps are obsolete in the current day and age. Personally, I would say, yes and no.
You go out for a day-long hike only equipped with your smartphone – no paper maps. You have your maps downloaded on Viewranger and know exactly which route you plan on taking. Let’s also say that it’s the middle of January in the Highlands of Scotland.
Cold conditions do affect battery life and you realise in the middle of nowhere that your battery has dropped 40% more than it should and there’s only 30% remaining. 2 hours later your smartphone battery dies, you’re hit by a blizzard with the sun scheduled to set at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
You’re in a bit of a sticky situation….
You go on the same day-long hike equipped with an old mobile phone which doesn’t support apps very well. You aren’t tech savvy in the slightest and never use gadgets like this for anything. You take print-outs of paper maps and a compass. Again, in the middle of nowhere, you’re hit by a blizzard – a complete whiteout. There’s too much snow and wind to properly see the map and you become completely disorientated. The storm shows no sign of abating.
Sticky situation again? Absolutely.
You see the problem in both of the above scenarios? Sure, if you have a good smartphone with amazing battery life (like the iPhone 7 Plus), take an external charger, take waterproof casings for the map etc then you have short-term solutions to the problems.
My point is that I would never recommend relying solely on Viewranger. In this day and age, smartphones have become so good with such amazing battery lives that it’s ALMOST a completely safe option. Just in case, though, you should always take a paper map clearly marked with your route and a good compass. I have never been caught out in this way but always carry back-up just in case. You might just be grateful one day.
- Converts your smartphone into an effective GPS unit.
- The app itself is free.
- Smooth and easy to use interface.
- Open source maps (general maps) are free to download.
- No internet required, maps are stored on your device.
- Track recording is easy and an effective way to log your progress.
- Data easily transferable.
- Absolute bargain annual map subscription.
- Battery drain can be a problem depending on your device (can be made better by changing GPS to the ‘power save’ setting).
- The initial price of buying an entire country map may seem steep at first.
- May seem like information overload when you first use the app, although it doesn’t take long to learn how to use it.
- For the die-hard navigators out there it maybe takes away the fun of good old map reading.
The pros drastically outweigh the cons and it’s one of the few products out there where I would say that you absolutely should at least try it out.
You can also click on the banner below which will take you straight to the app for Apple users.
This is a fantastic resource which has blown the bigger, clunkier Garmins out of the water. It’s something which should be absolutely essential for every keen hiker and explorer. Not only how useful it is, but also the fact that it can quite literally be a lifesaver. Even the most experienced of navigators can get lost in brutal conditions with just a map and compass. This system gives you that added layer of comfort by telling you exactly where you are with its accurate GPS system.
If you’re totally stubborn and refuse to rely on anything that isn’t a map and compass then fair enough. I at least hope that this Viewranger App review has persuaded you to try it out. It has become a fact of life that with technology like this your safety is boosted significantly and it just makes life a lot easier.
As always, thanks a lot for reading and if you have any questions or something to add then please write in the comments box below. 🙂