IPhone Sucks as an Outdoor GPS

Don’t get me wrong, I love my iphone.  I love its GPS when driving in the city or trying to find my way to a shop.  People often ask me how I am able to find their house in the dark alley, and my answer is always I just follow the purple line on my iphone’s Google Map.  Google Map on iphone is awesome in a major city such as Vancouver.  I hardly open a paper map anymore.

Google Maps on iPhone does screw up quite a bit when it get to the suburbs.  It has sent me to a different part of town in Surrey, Langley, and White Rock a number of times where the address and the house number does not match the information on the GPS.  It has made me late for a number of important meetings.

Iphone becomes even more unreliable when you get into the outdoors without any phone service.  If you type in “Iphone Outdoor GPS” on Google, there are a number of website that will recommend apps that works for areas without GPS.  I have used the more popular ones, and none of them quite match my Garmin eTrex GPS.

MotionX GPS
This is an awesome GPS app for running, it tracks my time, location, average and maximum speed. It also shows me breadcrumbs of exactly where I have been. It does have a major flaw: it stops recording as soon as you reach an area where there is no phone service (i.e. a tunnel).  Another Flaw is that it limits the amount of map data you can have stored on the iphone, and not by how much space you have on the iphone.  I went hiking in Chilliwack last week, so I downloaded the map for that area, but we decided last minute we were going to drive another half an hour to do another mountain with a better view.  The maps that I downloaded became useless, and since it takes such a long time to download the maps, I didn’t have enough time to delete all the old maps in order to download the new maps.   As for my Garmin eTrex GPS. I purchased the Canadian Maps CD for $150 initially, and is able to use it as much as I want.  Even when the GPS loses signal in a deep forest covering, the GPS breadcrumbs will automatically starts up again as soon as the satellites can see my GPS again.

Topo Maps
This App allows you to download as many scanned USGS maps onto your iphone as you want.  It, however, does not have the track (or breadcrumbs) option.  Even though you are able to use Iphone’s GPS while hiking, it won’t tell you where you’ve been or how to get back to the camp site.

Trails Lite
In theory, this app is really good for city hiking where there is phone service.  The app, however, does not let you download maps or use the GPS in places where there is no phone service, which is where most hiking take place.  Trails Lite do have tracking but it’s not real time.  It tracks every few minutes and draws a straight line instead of refreshing every few seconds like the Motion X GPS or real time like the Garmin eTrex.

If I need to find my way through the woods while hiking or backpacking, I still always bring my Garmin eTrex GPS.  I still bring my iphone with me on hiking and backpacking trips because of it’s photo capabilities and for its entertainment value.  Garmin eTrex and the Canadian Topo Map CD can be purchased at MEC.  Mountain Equipment Blog asks “What Essential item has a special Place in your pack?“.  My answer is of course the Garmin eTrex GPS because I can use it anywhere in the world, I don’t need phone service for it, and the Track/Breadcrumbs function lets me explore the city or backcountry without the fear of getting lost.


If you have used other iphone apps in the outdoors and find them useful, please leave me a comment below.  I would really like to find an iphone app that works offline!

5 Snow Events around Vancouver

Sep 29:7 pm (Today) Premiere of Jeremy Jone’s Deeper, Ridge Theatre

October 2-3, 2010      Grouse Mountain Preseason Gear Sale

October 8-11, 2010    Whistler Blackcomb Turkey Sale

October 15-17, 2010 Cypress Mountain Job Fair

October 17, 2010        Mountain Equipment Co-op Fall Gear Swap

Advantages of Garmin eTrex GPS

I will post about the advantage of my favorite Garmin eTrex GPS later on.

Jet Boil vs. Reactor

A few weeks ago my friend and I were planning a trip to Elfin Lake.  I had every camping gear except for a stove.  I do have a big Butane stove that I go kayak camping with but it’s too heavy and too big to fit in the backpack.  So we went to MEC and talked to several staffs about it.  My friend Ellen Pratt who works for Mountain Equipment said that the Reactor is the fastest boiling water stove in the store.  The 3 staffs we talked to at MEC all recommended Reactor because it boils water quickly, more wind resistant than Jet Boil (because it has no flame), and fuel can be bought anywhere in Canada.  Jet Boil uses it’s own proprietor fuel that Mountain Equipment do not carry anymore.

I wasn’t 100% sure because if I buy a stove, it should last me the next 10 years, just like most of the outdoor equipments I owned that I bought from MEC.  My MEC day pack lasted me 16 years, my big stove I have been using for 20 years, my Garmont hiking boots I have traveled through Asia and Europe with for the last 14 years and is still waterproof.

Ok, back to the topic, so I did some research when I got home to see what so great about these 2 stoves.

Jet Boil vs. Reactor Comparison

Live for the Out door Comparison (Video)

The Reactor is heavier and does not allow for any other cookware except the pot provided with the stove.  Jet Boil’s ability to simmer makes cooking spaghetti and pancakes possible.  Where the Reactor Dominate is its ability to boil water much faster (just over 3 minutes in windy conditions).

So the question I asked myself was what will I use the stove for when I go backpacking? After pondering on it for a few weeks, I think boiling water and melting snow really fast is what I needed when I go backpacking.  If I have the ability to bring fresh vegetables, steak, chicken wings, and all kinds of spices for cooking (i.e. in a kayak), then I will bring my big butane stove.  If I am going backpacking where the freeze dried food is probably the lightest option on my back, then I will bring the new stove.

In the end, I bought the Reactor.  I will take some video in real world situation with wind and snow this winter.

My Favorite piece of Gear that I purchased from Mountain Equipment Co-op

Mountain Equipment Co-Op ‘s Twitter was asking viewers today to post their favorite gear on their Facebook page.

Well, here’s my two cent on the favorite gear.  My favorite piece of gear is a Garmont hiking / backpacking boots I bought from Mountain Equipment Co-op in 1997.  I have worn them to over 20 countries over the past 12 years, and it is still waterproof.  The treads, however, is wearing down a bit.  The reason I can use it for so long is because I use it strictly for hiking and backpacking; I rarely use them on concrete roads.  I have sneakers for that.  I do go hiking quite a bit, almost every weekend in the summer.  In the winter I have my snowboard boots for snowshoeing because it is way more snow-proof / cold-proof than leather hiking boots.   The most important reason that I love to shop at MEC is because the gears they sell last for a very long time.

Best quote of the day

Chris Laverdure: “If you french fry when you’re supposed to pizza, you’re not gonna have a good time.”

10 important considerations when buying a Tent

Recently, if you have read my other logs, I was planning a backpacking trip to Elfin Lake.  I stuff my tent into my backpack and realized how heavy it is.  I have been using the tent for a number of years, mostly for kayak camping, in which case, weight doesn’t matter.  My Tent was bought at Costco for $50 Canadian.  It takes me about an hour to put up the tent and weighs about 5 kg.  It, however, can be stuffed into quite a tiny compression sack, and when it’s up, it’s so warm and roomy, With 2 big six foot three guys, there’s still plenty of room for backpack and other gears.  I can sit up and read without bumping my head. Overall it’s a great tent for Kayak Camping.

For backpacking this tent is really impractical.  After doing a bit of research, it turns out MEC’s Tarn 2 is the most popular tent among backpackers, it’s so light and still costs less than $200.  The next popular one is Hubba (1 person) or Hubba Hubba (2 person).  I am six foot three, about 260 lbs.  When I sleep in Tarn 2, there is no room for a backpack.  This is very impractical because Vancouver does tend to rain a lot, even in the summer.  Hubba is a little roomier but cost about $100 more, weighs a little bit less.  The Hubba Hubba is supposed to be for two people, but when I lie in it, it feels more like 1 1/2 person.  There is no way both me and my friend will fit into that tent.  It is a relatively comfortable tent for one person though.

The Wonderer 2 is the tent I end up getting.  Size wise, it is very similar to my old tent.  It is 1 kg heavier than Tarn 2.  If we split the tents up between 2 people, it’s actually lighter for each person.  It takes only a few minutes to set up because all the poles are connected.  It is really roomy inside.  It definitely have enough room for 2 six foot three guys.  Costs $100 less than Hubba Hubba.  It kept us quite warm in the rain.  overall it is a really good tent for us, except for the weight.

If I was to go hiking by myself, I would probably spend the extra money for a Hubba Hubba because of its weight.

Here are the 10 important considerations when buying a tent:

1. Winter or not? Winter require more waterproof and windproof.  Summer requires more mesh for breathability.

2. How many people in the Tent?

3. How much money are you willing to spend?

4. How light does the tent need to be? i.e. can you carry the tent on your back?

5. What is your activity? backpacking? kayaking? car-camping?

6. Is ease of putting the tent up important? i.e. very important for mountaineering

7. Will the tent be used mainly for sleeping? or for doing everything else ? – such as cooking, reading.

8. How waterproof the tent needs to be? you would probably need something very waterproof for Vancouver autumn, even a winter tent.

9. How much space the tent takes up in your backpack when rolled up?

10. Free Standing or not?


For Winter Camping, I would use the North Face VE-25, which stands up to Snow, Wind, and Rain.

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