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Messages - drongobird

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GPS & Digital Data Discussion / Re: The IPad2 solution...What Do You Think?
« on: September 06, 2011, 10:48:36 am »
Fred - I forgot to mention the free apps from UK's SusTrans and Bike Hub

Since my focus has been on tools for backpacking, I haven't played with these two apps to see whether their implementation is good enough to make them really useful.  If they did a good job with implementation, then they should be a terrific resource for cycling in the UK.


GPS & Digital Data Discussion / Re: The IPad2 solution...What Do You Think?
« on: September 05, 2011, 10:19:05 pm »

Fred asked: "My other question is about the available maps. The article mentions several, which appear to be raster maps. How well do these handle zooming? If you load one to show enough detail for small roads, does it blur into uselessness when you zoom out to view a county, or does it drop detail like the vector maps that are made for purpose-made GPSRs?"

In the article I mentioned four map types, and the zooming depends on the map type. 

For OpenStreetMaps and OpenCycleMaps, go to or on your desktop machine to see how zooming is handled; it looks the same on the iPhone, Android, or iPad. 
Here is the Marin Headlands at zoom 15, you can zoom in and out from there:
These are vector maps.  OpenCycleMap supports ~17 zoom levels.  Both Gaia GPS and GPS Kit are great apps if you're using OpenCycleMap.  You can specify which zoom levels you want to download for offline use.  If you care about altitude lines (i.e. topo map) then you use the CycleMap view; if not, then you use the StreetMap (aka Mapnik) view.

Apps that display USGS topos generally only have one or two zoom levels, 1:24K (and sometimes 1:100K), but that is all you need for hiking and that map sources is generally not relevant for road biking.  These are raster maps.  Topo Maps is an exceptional app for USGS and NRCan maps.

For Satellite images, using Trail Maps by National Geographic you get bing hybrid maps.  It only includes one zoom level of Sat image and the resolution is good enough to easily see buildings, but making out individual cars is marginal.  When you zoom in and out it just magnifies the image, but does not replace it with a different source image.

For road maps in the US, I use ForeverMap by Skobbler, and zooming is just fine, with clarity at all zoom levels and more details shown at each successive zoom level.  These are vector maps. This app does rudimentary routing, nothing fancy.  When you download a map (you download one state at a time), it includes wiki entries, which is a nice feature.  I didn't study all the other options for road maps, so I don't know that this is the best app, but it's plenty good enough, and cheap too.

For cycle route maps, Maplets has many good cycle route maps.  But those maps have just one zoom level; think of it as an electronic version of a pdf printed map, except that your location is shown on the map.  It's a fantastic little app to use in conjunction with other apps, it has no bells or whistles, but it gives you the ability to find maps you didn't know existed, and when the maps are drawn to scale you can see your position on the map.  You can see which maps are available by searching for a location, or just search for the word cycle to get a sense for their current inventory:
If you know of a map (pdf or gif or whatever format) that they don't have, just request it and they will do their best to add it.

Unlike Boglesan, I wouldn't recommend trying to find good apps by browsing the iTunes store.  I have now evaluated 75 different mapping/gps apps, and have found fewer than a dozen that I think are worth using.  Some of them are pure crap.  Sometimes you can tell from the description in the store if the app will be useful, but not consistently.  I do agree that the iPad/iPhone user forums would be good places to get recommendations and opinions, and that the Apple Apps store is anemic if you're trying to find something.

If you're looking for iPad/iPhone apps, you can start with the list I've built, and go from there.  Please let me know of good mapping/gps apps that I've missed.

This is an old thread, but it contains a badly inaccurate comment that ought to be corrected.
Fred wrote:
"smart phone GPS... Require a cell phone data service and be connected to work...
Cannot be loaded with waypoints and routes from external sources like Adventure Cycling.
Specific units may have overcome some of the limitations I noted. If anyone knows, please pass the word."

So, I'm passing the word.  I have done extensive testing of the iPhone as GPS for multi-day backpacking outings, and I recently used the iPhone as my gps/map device on a six week hike.  It does not require data service.  The good apps (and there are several) let you download gigabytes of maps via WIFI (or cell service) prior to your trip.  And many apps do import gpx and kml files.  The iPad WIFI-only version does not have GPS, but the iPad 3G does have GPS and in that respect behaves like an iPhone.  The iTouch does not have GPS.

We wrote up what we learned, and we're continuing to update the info and maintain the list of iPhone map/gps apps.  This article is geared toward backpackers, but much of the info is useful for cycling as well.  I'm not advocating iPhone over Garmin or GPS-less mode, just trying to put accurate info in people's hands so they can make their own decisions.

If anybody has info on apps that we missed, please add a comment to the article so we can incorporate it.


Gear Talk / Sleeping bags
« on: September 09, 2004, 10:48:52 pm »
Then look at Western Mounaineering Aspen or Hooded Aspen.  WM makes excellent light bags (I have one of their bags too), and their temp ratings are not overly-optimistic. shows the specs for all their bags.  The Aspen is a semi-rectangular bag rated to 25 degrees.

Good luck, Amy

Gear Talk / Sleeping bags
« on: September 09, 2004, 04:29:48 am »

If you don't mind spending $$ for the best... has a bag that will not make you feel like a mummy - but it's probably the best bag made and you pay for that quality.    

Look at the Arc Alpinist or Arc Edge.  This is a very well designed "top bag", although the feet are boxed.  The bag is essentially a quilt, with a mummy foot box to keep your feet from sliding out the sides.  It has connecting straps on the underside, if the temp is warm enough, you unclip the straps and sleep under a quilt.  As the temps get colder, you cinch the straps to pull the bag in around your sides.  There are a handful of commercially available top-bags, but none approach this one in the quality of the design or the quality of the down.

My husband and I have been using two person top bags for 20 years - we used to have to make our own by cutting the zipper off a rectangular bag and sewing a sack at the feet.  But two years ago nunatak made us a custom overstuffed double top bag and it's unbelievable.  32 oz for two people, good down to ~30 degrees if we're naked, lower if we wear a layer of clothes beneath.  If you cycle with a sleeping-partner, a double top bag is certainly the lightest nicest solution you'll find.

If you're not sure if you like the top-bag concept, check with the company (that's Tom, it's a small company) about his return policy.  I'm pretty sure he'll let you return whatever you order if you think it's not right.  Be forewarned that if you order a custom bag, Tom is notoriously unable to deliver on the schedule he promises.  You won't be disappointed with the product, just don't expect it to come when you thought it would, months late is not unheard of.  If you order a standard product, or better yet from the clearance-sale page, then this should not be an issue.  I bought a clearance-page Arc-Alpinist and it arrived in two days.

There's a great site for reviews of light-weight backpacking gear, many of the review categories are useful for bike touring as well since some of the equipment list is shared.  That's where I learned about nunatak.

Good luck,  Amy
PS - no I don't have any relatives at the company, I'm just so pleased with the single and double nunatak bag that I can't contain myself.

Routes / Which Road Route has the least traffic?
« on: October 16, 2007, 05:28:44 pm »
I also just finished the GDR and have the goal Sherry has - find another long route without traffic.  After riding without traffic, I just can't imagine returning to the standard routes with cars.  I'll post my GDR blog link when I've finished updating it.

I haven't looked at it this detail, but take a look at the route defined by this fellow who rode in the GDR race earlier this year.  It looks pretty interesting to me.

Amy, Palo Alto

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