I’m amazed to see the disparity between different reviews of this product. There’s a polar difference between those who want to hike without technology and those who value the functions technology can provide. If you are determined to use only paper map and compass, and you are reliable in that use (hint: it’s hard), then HYOH. If you want the conveniences and potential safety margin this app can provide, then manage and use it intelligently and it will serve you well. If you are a boot-and-suspenders type hiker, then this plus a paper backup and knowledge of how/when to use them both is an awesome combination.
- geolocation of your location on the map RIGHT NOW (critical issue: am I on trail or just following an old jeep road/deer track/horse trail/etc.?)
- crowd sourced intelligence, frequently more current than trail groups or traditional paper guides (e.g., is the water source at tonight’s campsite dry or flowing? Oh, that bridge washed out last week? Oh, that road is closed due to a massive oak fallen across it?, I need a shuttle/hostel/other – what’s a phone # or e-mail or web or the best choices?)
- what’s the elevation change between here and somewhere down the trail? better understanding of difficulty and effort vs just distance.
- how far to/from the next water? campsite? road crossing?
- pictures of the trailhead parking, the shelter, a campsite, the water source, etc.
- only uses battery (and not much) when you ask it for information (hint: not a tracking app)
- none of the above requires any cell signal at time of use (you do need a cell connection periodically, just to get latest trail intelligence updates; you also need a cell connection to buy and add a map to the app)
- Supports a huge number of trails, even relatively minor ones. (Depth of data does vary – there’s almost too much to read about AT waypoints but on recently added trails (e.g., a few sections of MTS I’ve done in NC), there were ZERO user comments.
- If you have and turn on cell service for a bit, you can utilize additional services like:
- what are the road directions to a trailhead from town, or to town from a trailhead (automates Google Maps with GPS coordinates of current position)
- check-in with someone back home (you can follow someone, or let them follow you, but that updates only when you choose to enable cell connection and hence battery drain.
What the app is NOT:
- *NOT* a replacement for emergency communications devices (e.g., a Garmin inReach Mini or the Zoleo Satellite Communicator, et al)
- *NOT* a hike tracker (e.g., breadcrumb trail, history, elevation profile walked, other hike stats, etc.)
- *NOT* free (there’s a lot of data collected/licensed/validated for even shorter trails; comprehensive, quality-checked data has a cost, and the app cost has to bear that plus some profit for Guthook Guides.) AllTrails, Gaia, et al, also come with a cost +/- variance in coverage, detail, data quality, license/subscription, etc.
- *NOT* a blog, journal, or other hike documentation (where you stayed each night) (well, true, they have the ability to add private notes to a waypoint, and create private waypoints, but no reporting ability, so different animal)
- there’s a once/lifetime fee for each trail you buy (there’s an all you can hike option, but it’s pricey enough I don’t consider it really an option for me, even though I hike a lot). You’ll see folks claiming otherwise (that there’s some ongoing cost, that their “subscription” lapsed, etc.) Not my experience; not what is advertised; not something that I’ve ever heard directly from another hiker. I’ve had one or two licensing challenges over the last 10 years (?) when trails were repackaged, bundles offered, etc., but Far Out support has always, and generously, updated my license to properly reflect the upgrade, and once even threw in an additional trail license just because they felt bad about the problem I’d had.
- it’s not everything in one, not the proverbial Swiss Army knife of trail data. It does what it says it does, and generally does it well, so that’s not really a con, is it?
- if it works too well, you may rely on it too much, and overlook the bad things that happen when the app is your only tool, and you drop your phone off a cliff, into a crevasse, forget to charge your battery, crack the screen and water gets into the phone, etc., etc. Occasionally, the app should ask you what would you do if it suddenly became unavailable RIGHT NOW? Just kidding – but – good to think about before that happens – been there, earned that t-shirt.
- knowing you can find the trail just any old time, you may zone out and ignore the blazes, and suddenly not know where in the blazes you are, bummer, you’re a mile off trail by then. Bonus miles!!
- depth of trail data varies trail to trail – AT and CT had lots of data, MTS and some trails recently covered, not so much, others in-between.
- bugs. WHAT? You say, bugs in an app? Yep. On the Colorado trail as of August ’23 the trail split three ways – Collegiate East, Collegiate West, and an in-process relocation of a Collegiate West section. Far Out got VERY confused and no longer could tell me distances ahead/behind, elevation profile view, next/previous camp/water/etc., while I was in the ambiguous 65 miles or so. The most basic function (where am I?) still worked, the blue dot still showed where I was versus the trail route, it just couldn’t tell me distance/elevation gain-loss/other about where I was/was going. Fortunately, I’d brought the data book with me and so the broken functions were pretty handily replaced with the book and a bit of math. Not convenient, but I had a plan ‘B’, recommend you do also, no matter how many flawless hikes you have done with the app before today.
Bottom line – it’s an awesome tool when properly applied, but it’s as important to know what it is *NOT* as to know what it DOES. Learn how to use it before you rely on it. Load or update your trail data BEFORE leaving home for the trail (there may not be cell service to update the map / download pictures / etc., at the trailhead – guess how I know?)