Trail Mapping With IPhone- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Trail Mapping With IPhone

    Does anyone having any experience using the IPhone's GPS feature for mapping trails? It looks like older iphones used cell signals for determining location, but newer ones have true GPS satellite communication. Any ideas which models have real GPS? Also, any tips on using Google earth or other apps that would be helpful for mapping would be much appreciated.

  2. #2
    since 4/10/2009
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    the newer ones do have real GPS...I think only the 1st gen did not.

    and FWIW, the iphone GPS is really not sufficiently accurate for any serious mapping. And most smartphone apps are insufficient for most mapping tasks.

    If you want to do a good, serious job, get a bluetooth GPS receiver puck with a serious high sensitivity GPS chip in it and a GIS app (there are a few out there). Then turn off the iphone's onboard GPS.

  3. #3
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    Before you do anything, find out what the land manager of your area will accept. Anything less than what they require means you are just wasting time, playing with a toy.

    I have a six year old Garmin 60CSx that is acceptable for rough flagging and getting State Parks headquarters project approval, but any time we get within a half mile of the park boundary with our routing, they bring in a State Parks employee with professional survey equipment to verify. We now try to stay far away from boundaries, since it adds considerable delay to what is a two or more year process already.

    I just got an android phone with full GPS, and the location ability is very poor, even compared to my Garmin Edge 705 that I use on rides.
    "The physician heals, Nature makes well" - real fortune cookie

    CCCMB trail work for trail access - SLO, CA

  4. #4
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    I use the my tracks app revolution phone with verizon service and am in a 4g area the entire time...it actually tracks very well...better then i expected though your connection is going to have alot to do with how precise it is...there is a meter on the app that tells how strong the signal is also.

  5. #5
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    My HTC android and garmin bike units (305, 705) are similarly trumped in accuracy by professional GPS receivers.
    http://facebook.com/CharlemontTrails
    NEMBA Past President...

  6. #6
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    I'm interested in what people are doing with this as well. I'm new to GPS/GIS and trying to work out what is reasonable and workable without having to make big investments.

    I was working on a trail route last summer that we wanted to record, but the Trimble provided by the park wouldn't lock on satellites enough to make a reasonable track (side of a mountain with lots of gullies, trees, etc.) and we ended up using the iPhone data that we happened to be collecting at the same time. The iPhone may not have been accurate, but at least it collected data. Sigh, that was frustrating.

    I'm debating getting an external antenna for the Trimble or just going with a consumer GPS (Garmin Montana or something like that) with the idea that it will be "good enough". We don't need sub-meter accuracy for what we are doing, although it definitely would be nice. Anyway, if anybody has suggestions or pointers to useful discussions on the topic I would like to see them. Sorry about hijacking the thread...

  7. #7
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    I work for a university run forest and our fancy handheld GPS/GIS computers (trimbles, topcons, etc.) never work in the woods here (second growth redwood 160+ feet tall and steep canyons). The garmin 60csx always seems to get a signal and it is accurate enough for 99% of trail mapping needs. All the local foresters use it. Thats what I would recommend.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by shaggybiker View Post
    ...though your connection is going to have alot to do with how precise it is...there is a meter on the app that tells how strong the signal is also.
    The cellular signal strength has nothing at all to do with the precision of the GPS data you collect.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by fishbum View Post
    The cellular signal strength has nothing at all to do with the precision of the GPS data you collect.
    thats so totally awesome that u know that...glad u cleared that up.... but i never said cellular service had anything to do with it.

  10. #10
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    Then what "connection" were you referring to? Terminology is important.

  11. #11
    since 4/10/2009
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    LOL...you folks that mention problems with the Trimbles apparently don't know them well enough. Trimbles have a useful feature that allows you to filter out points with poor PDOP (positional dilution of precision) and it will just not record points that suck. Your Garmin will record everything, even the crappy ones.

    Some technical standards require GPS points acquired with a specific minimum PDOP, and the Trimble allows you to filter that automatically. It oftentimes results in crappy linear feature recording, which is where a backpack-mounted antenna and a beacon on a belt come in handy. Then, a Trimble is really not being used to its fullest capabilities unless you're using the available differential corrections data from a base station (available either through the beacon on a belt in some cases or through a stationary base station you can access through Trimble's software on the computer later).

    There's a major learning curve to these things. I'm surprised that a park would just hand one to volunteers and expect them to know what to do with it. I've used them on and off since the GeoExplorer 2 days from 11+yrs ago and have a Nomad in my office right now. And I'm always learning new things about these devices.

    Without a supplemental GPS chip, a phone's data is going to be crap. A basic handheld does work for a great deal of tasks, and an awful lot of agencies use basic handhelds. I worked for a USFS office a number of years ago that handed out basic eTrex Legends (pre-high sensitivity chip models) to wildlife crew members because they were good enough for what they needed.

  12. #12
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    With anything you use to map, a big factor is how frequently it is recording data points to use. If you use a generic GPS and bike the route, you won't get nearly the distance you actually rode because it will "straightline" between points rather than follow you around the corner. If you are going to try to accurately map something, set the data collection rate high and walk the trail.

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