Hill-Finder UK Hillwalking App

Here’s a cute and clever little app, which allows you to identify hills in your sphere of view, then gives you useful information about them. Included in its database are around 5,000 British hills, the position of which relative to you is interpreted by using the phone’s built-in GPS chip and onboard compass to determine your position and the direction you’re facing. These are then crunched against the database of summit grid references to produce a list of hills that lie within 4 degrees left and right of the direction you’re facing. It’s clever, and it also offers you such facts as the hill’s bearing from you, its distance away, what classification it falls into (Wainwright, Marilyn, Munro etc), a distinctive feature that marks the summit, and its grid reference. The interface is pretty no-frills, but this is still a worthwhile purchase for smartphone summit clingers.  

Compatibility Android
Available from Android Market

First published in Trail magazine December 2011

Mountain Info Service Hillwalking App

Constructed with the input of the British Mountaineering Council, Mountain Leader Training UK, Sports Wales, the Met Office and the Welsh Assembly, this goes some way to being a do-it-all app for walkers. There are all sorts of facets to it, including the standard fare such as a Google Maps interface, but a few of this app’s features – including the OS grid reference location, altimeter and, particularly, the Mountain Weather Forecast functions – are pretty sharp. There is also a wealth of information on what to do in an emergency, a few videos on basic hill skills and planning (hosted by TV weather forecaster Sian Lloyd) and some good advice on packing for all weathers. Consequently, it’s a big app – 385MB – so it requires a big wodge of free space on your device, and there are certainly better, more dedicated apps for navigation. However, there’s some good, useful stuff in here, making this a great planning and preventive safety tool, and a good source of mountain weather information.

Compatibility iPhone
Available from iTunes

First published in Trail magazine December 2011

Memory-Map Hillwalking App

As well as being an excellent standalone navigation app, this is particularly useful for those who already have Memory-Map installed on their computer. You have two choices: the Memory-Map Free app, which uses only online-purchased maps; or the Memory-Map full app (£19.49), which allows you to export mapping from your PC to your iPhone. For those who already have Memory-Map V5 software, this is an easy decision as it means you already own all the mapping you’ll need to make the app indispensable. You can either upload the maps via Wi-Fi if you have Memory-Map V5 installed on your PC using a simple web upload system, or download chunks of mapping by area, which you have to pay for. Both versions include the TOPO starter pack, which includes 90 days to utilise 3500km2 of digital mapping – so you can get in three months of walking before you take the plunge and buy the data. The interface is superb: smooth-scrolling maps with intuitive controls, pinch-zoom control and well-sized buttons, plus the additional features – route planning, trip computer, the ability to download GPX files (including Trail Routes via TrailZilla) are typically intuitive and easy to get your head round. The downsides – apart from the battery drain common to all GPS programs – are the relative cost of the map units, less international coverage than ViewRanger and the need to run the software on a computer to transfer the maps. There is an Android version coming soon.

Compatibility iPhone/iPad (Android version soon)
Available from iTunes

First published in Trail magazine December 2011


ViewRanger Premium Hillwalking App

ViewRanger is one of the biggest hitters in the phone navigation world: indeed, this is actually the most downloaded outdoor app. It’s also a thoughtful and versatile program that has proven itself a hit across a massive range of touch-screen smartphones, as well as being put to the test by 50 per cent of search and rescue teams across the UK. The touch-screen interface is impressive, particularly on the high-resolution iPhone screens with pinch-zoom capability. It utilises an in-app function to purchase outdoor maps for just about anywhere in the world. It has all the functions you would expect from a GPS system: scrolling OS mapping, trip computer, the ability to add waypoints, download routes (including Trail Routes) and information about the area you’re in. The mapping – like Memory-Map – is bought in OS chunks at a specified scale using a credit system, but can be downloaded directly to your phone without the use of computer interface. A £14.99 credit pack buys you 1,000 credits. A 5x5km tile of 1:25,000 scale OS mapping costs 41 credits; 1:50,000 map scales are much cheaper at 7 credits per 10x10km. These are downloaded to your phone, then stored for use in areas without a mobile signal.
The BuddyBeacon feature is a nifty touch and is particularly useful as a way of ‘pinging’ your position to others when you’re out on the hill – good for safety, and for sharing your position with those at home via Facebook.

Compatibility iPhone, Symbian, Android
Available from www.viewranger.com

First published in Trail magazine December 2011


Hill Lists hillwalking app

While technology favours the smartphone’s use as a navigation aid, geo-tagger or similarly high-concept tool, it can be just as much use as a handy reference – especially fore those who are goal-oriented. Hill Lists is a nifty and well-featured interactive referencing app that includes info on just about every conceivable database of UK hills, including the Munros, Corbetts, Wainwrights, Welsh 3000ers and Trail 100: in all around 4,668 hills. You can electronically ‘tick’ them, make notes about your summit day, view your progress through the various lists you’re ticking off, and access your current location as a UK grid reference. This is the perfect app for the bagger: a clean and logical interface, with easily selected lists and the nifty ability to view your selected database as pins in a Google-powered map that can switch between a street plan, a satellite image and a hybrid. And all for less than the cost of pint. Bargain!

Compatibility iPhone, iPad
Available from iTunes

First published in Trail magazine December 2011

Garmin Montana 650t 2011

The Garmin Montana 650t is designed to be rugged, portable and versatile so it can be used in the hand, on a bike and in a car as a conventional satnav system. But for hillwalkers the main appeal is the huge 4-inch colour screen as it allows the user to clearly see around 6 square kilometres of OS 1:50k mapping without the need to scroll.
It’s a touch-screen device, which does work well on a decent day; but with gloves, even just to zoom in closer to the map is a hit-and-miss process that I soon became annoyed with. The operating system and functionality are good and intuitive, although the in-car performance is not as impressive as a dedicated vehicle satnav such as those in the Garmin Nuvi range.
At £550, the price is pretty steep, especially when you add on OS mapping at around £200 for the whole of Britain at 1:50k.
There’s an option to save some cash by choosing the Montana 600 instead at £430, which has no camera and lacks a world base map, but it’s still very expensive.
Overall, the Garmin Montana 650t puts in a top performance with bare hands, but this is compromised when you need your gloves on.

Software OS 1:50k GB mapping £200
Weight 310g
Size 14.5x7.5x3.5cm
Display 9x4cm colour touch-screen
Power 3 x AA batteries / lithium rechargeable
Battery life 16 hours (lithium); 22 hours (AA)
Electronic compass yes
Camera 5Mp
Website www.garmin.com/uk

The Garmin Montana 650t offers great performance generally, although the touch-screen isn’t ideal with gloves and the price is definitely chilling.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine October 2011