I’ve been using ViewRanger for many many years with the Great Britain 1:25,000 OS maps. These maps are around 7 years old now but, on the whole, paths haven’t changed too much and the app is usually used with a paper ‘real’ map. It’s been a reliable app for planning or recording routes and very handy for those ‘oh heck where am I?’ moments.
So, how do you use ViewRanger?
Firstly, you need to set up a free account on their website https://www.viewranger.com/ This account will enable you to download routes, upload your tracks and, if you wish, share your adventures with others.
In a nutshell, a route is something you plan, a track is what you actually do.
Next, download the app to your mobile device. I’ve used it on a number of Android devices and it’s worked well on all. It’s currently running on a Poco X3 which recently replaced a Samsung Galaxy S8. Your phone will need a compass, gyro and accelerometer to use the SkyLine feature (more about that in a bit!)
There’s a number of free maps available. The Open Street and Open Cycle maps are decent and I’ve used them around much of Europe.
I have a CD containing the OS maps for the whole of Great Britain. These are my most used maps and are the same quality as the paper equivalent. The standard of paid maps varies between countries. I have purchased a number of Slovenian maps and I’ve not been too impressed, other country’s maps are of a similar quality to OS.
Since becoming part of OutdoorActive, ViewRanger themselves have stopped selling maps, instead redirecting users to the OutdoorActive website. I’ve not yet purchased a map from the OA site but I’ve been able to use the maps I purchased with VR(as we’ll now refer to them!) .
The VR app is still available to download at the time of writing (July 2021) on the Google Playstore https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.augmentra.viewranger.android but they are pointing potential users to Outdooractive, https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.outdooractive.Outdooractive
As with VR, you need to set up an account on the OA website, but, if you already have an account with VR, the two accounts can be merged in to one.
So, in an attempt to get used to using OA, I decided to run the two applications side by side.
First, create a route.
Both allow route creation within the phone app but it’s far easier on their websites.
ViewRanger – Log in to the VR site, go to Maps and start clicking! Once the route is complete, save it then use sync feature on the phone app.
The planning is rather a vague, roughly draw a line between two points and then the next points and so on. You can tweak points to they more closely match where the actual footpath runs.
OutdoorActive – Adding a track in OA is also simple but it snaps the route to actual paths. Most of the time this works well and if far more accurate than VR, however, on a few occasions, it claims it can’t find the route and instead, takes you on a huge detour. A way around this problem is to snap lots of points close together to force it along the route you want. Again, this needs to by synced to your phone via the button on the bottom of ‘My Page’
At the moment, routes created in VR are also available to you in OA.
So, routes successfully loaded on to the phone
Recording a track
I like the VR interface, it’s very intuitive to use. When you want to start a track, just press the big green +. In OA, first, navigate to the correct screen, click on ‘Tracking’ then ‘Start’.
Both apps have Skyline, a great feature for naming the hills and places in view.
Again, it’s easier to fire this up in VR, click on the icon on the bottom left.
OA is a little less obvious but, once started, it does give more options as to what you you can view.
Following a route
Following a route on VR has always been reliable but OA displayed just a black screen with the blue ‘you are here’ blob on a number of occasions. The route and map returned after restarting the app, but, this does become a bit of a pain when you went to quickly check you’re on track.
Both apps show where you are and the direction you are heading. I prefer the long red direction arrow used in VR but perhaps some may find that a little over the top. OA has a more discrete arrow on the blue current location blob.
Although OA is a good app, albeit with a few bugs, I still much prefer VR. Perhaps that’s mainly due to familiarity. VR still have a very active Social Media presence so I can’t see it going away anytime soon.
And when it does go…… well, maybe I’ll see what OS have to offer.