Sunday, September 27, 2015

A GPS App to Map Our Hikes

I'm still learning how to use my Smartphone. At the same time, I'm trying really hard to not become a Smartphone junkie. Still, there are a few apps I see that can be quite useful.

One of the first apps I downloaded was a GPS app to map our hikes and walks. Since I'm not trying to promote one app over another, I won't list the app I downloaded, but I will tell you a little about it.

Actually, the app will do more than simply map my hike. It will provide generic caloric information regarding food, track gear, and perform other calculations and information related to "workouts". But I'm really only interested in data related to hiking.

I tested the app on one of our recent walks. We try to walk anywhere from 3 to 6 miles every other day. Of course, sometimes the weather prevents our doing so, or perhaps out health might restrict us. But when all conditions are good, we are pretty good about keeping to this schedule. In the past, I've used Google Maps to measure distances at the places we walk. On the morning of the test, we decided to do our favorite loop walk at the state park (San Angelo State Park). According to Google Maps, this loop is right at 5 miles.

The GPS determined our starting location, and I pressed the button to begin. It began tracking our movements almost immediately. During the walk, distance, duration, current pace, and calories burned were recorded.

As an example, here are our stats for the walk.
  • Distance: 4.92 miles
  • Duration: 1:31:29 (1 hour 31 minutes and 29 seconds
  • Pace: 1 mile every 18 minutes and 36 seconds (18:36)
  • Calories burned: 697
It even tracked my speed by mile. For the first mile, for example, I walked at the rate of 18:54 per mile (18 minutes and 54 seconds). The second mile was 18:47, the third mile 18:10, and the 4th mile 18:20. Since the last mile was not quite a mile, my speed was better, coming in at 17:55. I was pleased with the time. Basically, we walk at a pretty steady pace, and our time did not diminish as our walk continued. In fact, the first 2 miles were our slowest. That section of the loop, by the way, contains the hilliest terrain, and that pretty well explains the slower time. The final 3 miles are along a pretty level surface.

I can save my hikes and, I suppose, can even post them, even though I've not tried this yet. I have pulled up other hikes/walks in our area, though, so others are definitely using this feature.  I had hoped that I could record waypoints with this app, but I've yet to see how to do this.

And one final feature I've not utilized but is of interest to me is the tracker feature. If I understand this correctly, this feature will allow others to track my location. This could be useful, especially considering my age. By activating this not only on my device but also on my wife's and my daughter's, they could locate me. So, were I to go on a lengthy hike in the backwoods one day and not return at the expected time, they could track my location. But I need to study this more and ensure that it is secure enough. After all, I don't want just anyone tracking me.

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