What would YOU Do?

So, I want a little camera to take with me on hikes.

Then I went hiking with my friend Barb who has an iPhone with the Map My Hike app, and I thought that was kinda cool.

But I’m pretty cheap and those phone plans are more than I want to spend.  I have a tracfone for calls and texting and I spend about $40 every 3 months or so and that’s fine for me.  I have a landline at home which also provides access to the internet.  I don’t want to pay for more services than I plan to use.

So I started wondering… do you have to have a phone plan?  Or can you use a smartphone for everything BUT phone?  Would the GPS work without a phone plan?  Could I upload my pictures when I have wifi access and be satisfied with that?  Would Map My Hike work without a phone plan?

I’ve been looking around on the internet to see if anyone is doing this.  Sounds like it’s doable, though not necessarily a super easy seamless thing to do.  I found this article, for example:


And of course, when you find the perfect phone for this solution, the price is high!  They sell you the phones cheap when you are also getting a phone/data plan.  But “phone” only is pricey!

So I started looking at gps-enabled point and shoots… turns out they are similarly priced to the “unlocked” smart phone.

What to do?

Do any of my readers have suggestions?

11 thoughts on “What would YOU Do?

  1. Good questions! I also use (or, actually, almost never use) an inexpensive Tracfone, but I’ve wondered the same thing about possibly using some Smartphone features without the big monthly charge (especially since signals are spotty here). I’m going to stay tuned to see if any of your readers have good suggestions.

  2. A comment from a hiker friend (which appeared in my email, but now doesn’t appear here – what?) mentioned that when he leaves cell phone range, the phone becomes nothing more than a camera – that the GPS function stops working.

    That led me to wonder if smartphones are using cell towers and not satellites to “map my hike”. I found this article: http://traveltips.usatoday.com/gps-work-cell-phones-21574.html

    The last paragraph answers the question:

    Using GPS on your cell phone depends on the phone. Some phones use GPS only for 911 emergency calls. Sophisticated phones are able to receive and display location maps to show roads and more, and to give directions. These turn-by-turn programs are mostly JAVA-based and work with your cell provider’s database.

    • That article is pretty much flat-out wrong. I routinely used my previous smartphone (iPhone 4S) w/no cell coverage (foreign country, no local SIM installed) and the GPS works just fine. Downloading the map data (needed if you’re using it for navigation as opposed to just tracking a hike), on the other hand, requires a connection of some sort. The bit about the “cell provider’s database” is also nonsense – the map data comes from whatever app you’re using (Google, Apple, Strava, etc etc), not the cell provider. Some of them (Google) allow you to pre-download the map data for places you know you’re going to be so you can see street names/etc w/o an internet connection.

      Regarding mapmyhike specifically I don’t know if it’d work without an internet connection. If you want to upload photos during a hike vs. waiting until you’re at a wifi hotspot, you need a connection (but I suspect you probably want to just enjoy the hike and not fuss with an electronic device during it 🙂

      If your main interest is tracking your route, I’d get an inexpensive Garmin GPS watch – those can sync to Strava and various other route-mapping sites, and they don’t care at all about your having any sort of connection during a hike.

      If you want geo-tagging of your photos I’m not sure whether many smartphones will do that absent a network connection, and your best bet may be a GPS-enabled camera. Although software like Lightroom can geo-tag after the fact too. I don’t find that I use geo-tagging at all, really, but that could be at least partially because few of the cameras I use support it natively.

  3. I think that there are two solutions:
    1-a gps enabled camera -you can visualize the results at home with a simple mapping software or a Gis.
    2- a not expensive android smartphone with a mapping app based on openlayers map (

  4. I LOVE my current system, which is a pay-as-you-go Trac-fone and a small tablet for apps and wifi. I’m using the 7 inch Google Nexus 7 (although there are shinier models out there now). I haven’t tried too many GPS things with it, but I know when I use Google Maps there is always a little blue dot where I’m standing regardless of whether or not I’m connected to the internet. (Not sure about hiking away from cell towers, though.)

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