Author Topic: Before a euro trip is it still a good idea to download maps for your smartphone?  (Read 686 times)

Porkins

  • Formerly Nick H. And a long time ago etc, Eurostar
...or are the phone networks so cheap and widespread that it's hardly worth it? I'm a bit behind the times cos I haven't owned a real smartphone for a decade or two. But I want to spend a few months in France/Italy/theLowCountries/theBaltics and would like to use minor roads (obviously) and tracks. Where do I start? I'll be taking a Windows 10 inch tablet anyway, so should I buy a 2/3 year old Android and learn about the nav apps and files and stuff that you lot are already experts in? Sorry for asking such a big, multifaceted question. All help most gratefully received.

eta: not interested in Strava and fitness apps and all that. Just want to find nice places to ride and camp.

Mrs Pingu

  • Who ate all the pies? Me
    • Twitter
Having maps is handy when you end up somewhere with poor signal...
Do not clench. It only makes it worse.

Porkins

  • Formerly Nick H. And a long time ago etc, Eurostar
Living in London I may have got the impression that there's nowhere with a poor signal in the civilised world.

Kim

  • 2nd in the world
IME, outside of urban areas, there's a strong correlation between places with poor signal and finding yourself in need of a map.  I keep local maps on my devices as a matter of course, but then I never trusted this doing-everything-online approach in the first place.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Porkins

  • Formerly Nick H. And a long time ago etc, Eurostar
OK, so I'll need to stash detailed maps of mountain ranges on my tablet. I have absolutely no idea how to start. I suppose one just borrows terabytes of Stuff from Google Maps. Is there an idiot's guide? I'm imagining doing route planning the night before on my Windows tablet, and then either sticking a map in the phone or scribbling some notes to tape to the bars. Or both.

I drove all over France last year (from the Channel to the Med and a fair amount of waffling about in between) constantly streaming Amazon Music from my phone to the car stereo and using Waze (based on Google Maps) It dropped out once for about 30 seconds. It drops out twice in the five miles between here and the nearest town and wont work in our drive.

In France at least mobile coverage is much better than the UK. That said if I was doing back roads in the mountains I would still pre download maps if I was relying on them.
I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that.

Mrs Pingu

  • Who ate all the pies? Me
    • Twitter
Living in London I may have got the impression that there's nowhere with a poor signal in the civilised world.
You did say minor roads & tracks, which suggest certain other values for civilised :)
Do not clench. It only makes it worse.

I do all my riding with online maps. Finding an area without a signal for any length of time is pretty rare, even in very rural places. It’s not unusual to find a strong 4G signal in what you think is the middle of nowhere.

Currently roaming in the EU is priced at the same rate as the UK, which with most packages is cheap enough to be considered free. That may change by the time of your trip of course.

(Also beware places that aren’t in the EU charging hideous roaming prices - I was stung in Jersey and Andorra last year)

OsmAnd Plus for Android:

https://f-droid.org/en/packages/net.osmand.plus/

Works completely offline.

On my 2016 cheap phone (Moto E3 bought secondhand recently for £29), it's a bit slow to draw the maps but it's still usuable.

It's also worth noting that even the cheapest smartphones have real hardware satellite GPS that works fine without a phone signal or internet access. And most navigation apps will download the *route* for offline use*. It's only the background map that's typically loaded on demand if you're not using a "fully offline" solution. And most will cache a huge chunk of that if you scroll around the map when you have a signal.

What is sometimes more of a problem is if you have a weak signal is if you suddenly need to plot a new route for whatever reason. Or if you need to look something up (hotel/campsite addresses, weather, booking confirmation emails, nearest open bike shop, train times, etc).

(* even Google Maps does this, although it gets a bit unhappy if you go off route enough for it to want to replot)

fuaran

  • rothair gasta
Maps.me is nice for a simple, free option. Lets you download maps for whole countries etc at once, and all works offline, including autorouting.

frankly frankie

  • I kid you not
    • Fuchsiaphile
And if you are going to spend a substantial amount of time in France then Memory Map IGN maps are an absolute bargain, and look great on a tablet.  For browsing that is, rather than navigation - I second OSMand for navigation and offline detailed street-level mapping.  OSM France is pretty good now - you couldn't say that until 2 or 3 years ago, it used to be very patchy in remoter areas.
"This is a complex subject, with a need for more than one highlighter pen."

In France at least mobile coverage is much better than the UK.

It is generally better, but I encountered several areas where I had little or no signal for miles on end last summer.

Still, better than Germany which is either painfully slow or non-existent....
Those wonderful norks are never far from my thoughts, oh yeah!

frankly frankie

  • I kid you not
    • Fuchsiaphile
PS you need a device that can make good use of its mSD card if you are going to store a lot of offline mapping.  Many Android devices are strangely reluctant to utilise their mSD card.
"This is a complex subject, with a need for more than one highlighter pen."

Porkins

  • Formerly Nick H. And a long time ago etc, Eurostar
So I see! http://bit.do/eKzfX There seems to be a fix, I hope it works.

quixoticgeek

  • Mostly Harmless

I can recommend OSMand for offline mapping. You can download datasets on a per country, and even per region level (so just Baden-Wurtemberg, not all of Germany, say). You can also say just road maps, or full maps, with contours, (or if you want, just contours, but I'm not sure why you'd only want the contours...).

More over, you can overlay GPX routes, but IMHO, the most useful feature of all, you can do POI overlay. This allows you to select say Water fountains/taps, or gas stations, and they appear on the map as little icons. On my way to Hell last year I had Gas Station on POI overlay, and basically cycled from gas station to gas station (there are few other commercial resources in rural scandiwegia), it's not always accurate on whether the gas station was still open (had one that was on map, but closed down a while back), but still very useful. When cycling in .NL, I tend to have the drinking water overlay enabled, so I can ride from water tap to water tap. I've even added water taps to OSM through OSMand when I've found taps that aren't on the map. Very useful.

Different countries data sets are different sizes, NL has one of the largest in Europe, largely due to the quality of the OSM data for NL. But you're looking at anything from 80MB per country upto 2GB.

In short: I really like Osmand...

J
--
Beer, bikes, and backpacking
http://b.42q.eu/

frankly frankie

  • I kid you not
    • Fuchsiaphile
I can recommend OSMand for offline mapping. You can download datasets on a per country, and even per region level (so just Baden-Wurtemberg, not all of Germany, say). You can also say just road maps, or full maps, with contours, (or if you want, just contours, but I'm not sure why you'd only want the contours...).

Because countour maps don't change, so you only need to download them once.  The underlying roadmap data is continually evolving (mainly due to people adding water taps  :) ) so there is a certain pressure to update at intervals.  The downloads are smaller if you already have the contours.
"This is a complex subject, with a need for more than one highlighter pen."

quixoticgeek

  • Mostly Harmless
I can recommend OSMand for offline mapping. You can download datasets on a per country, and even per region level (so just Baden-Wurtemberg, not all of Germany, say). You can also say just road maps, or full maps, with contours, (or if you want, just contours, but I'm not sure why you'd only want the contours...).

Because countour maps don't change, so you only need to download them once.  The underlying roadmap data is continually evolving (mainly due to people adding water taps  :) ) so there is a certain pressure to update at intervals.  The downloads are smaller if you already have the contours.

Makes sense, it just made me giggle the first time I realised I'd downloaded the contour map for a country, and none of the rest of it...

J
--
Beer, bikes, and backpacking
http://b.42q.eu/

Kim

  • 2nd in the world
Probably also useful for calculating the surface area of Wales, in case you need a BBC News unit for measuring something with a large surface area.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...