How to Use Free GPS Hiking Maps on Android Without Cell Coverage

This was posted on another forum. I wonder if this will work with Google Maps Navigation? If so, that would be pretty handy to be able to use Google Maps Navigation without a data plan.

"Hikers and bikers with Android smartphones can use GPS maps on their Android smartphone without cell coverage by using OruxMaps and Mobile Atlas Creator.

One of the problems with using an Android-based smartphone such as the Droid, Droid Eris, or Droid X as a hiker's GPS is that maps don't work when there is no cell coverage, which is common in areas where people like to hike or bike recreationally.

Google Maps will pre-cache some maps but it's unpredictable as to whether it will fetch the right maps or delete the cached maps altogether. The real solution is to use an offline GPS program instead of the Google Maps program, which still requires access to the Internet

The idea is to download maps suitable for hiking or biking, then convert those maps to be usable on an Android GPS program that can make use of maps stored on the SD card. This procedure can be cumbersome for somebody who needs up-to-date maps or does not have time to delete and upload maps on a per-trip basis. For those people, a standalone hiking GPS unit may be better suited for the job.

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For those willing to put the effort, a free program called OruxMaps can make use of GPS maps stored on a Android smartphone's SD card. The process of getting the maps is actually very straightforward by using another program. For most people, it should take no more than a few minutes to begin downloading the correct maps for use on an Android device with just GPS signals.

The first thing to do is to go to the Android Market and download OruxMaps, a free GPS program that allows users to use GPS maps stored on their SD card while offline without cell phone coverage. While the application is downloading, go on to the next step.

Mobile Atlas Creator to Make Offline GPS Maps for Android
On a computer such as a Windows PC, Linux system, or Mac, download a Java-based, free GPS map creation program called Mobile Atlas Creator, which used to be called TrekBuddy Atlas Creator. This will be used to download GPS maps and convert them to be usable by OruxMaps. It's important to download the latest version since there are more supported maps and devices in the later versions. After Mobile Atlas Creator has been downloaded, unzip the file to an empty directory and run the program.

Once inside Mobile Atlas Creator, the first thing to look at is the "Map Source" section. The USGS maps are good, but some of them are very old. MyTopo and TerraServer USA are the sources for the USGS maps. Other options suitable for hikers and bikers include Google Terrain and Microsoft Virtual Earth. Choose the right type of map depending on the needs of the trip.

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The next thing to do is to draw a box around the area that needs to be downloaded to the Android smartphone for offline GPS use. After the box has been drawn, click on the "Select Entered Coordinates" under the "Select coordinates (min/max)" tab. This will restrict the download only to the area selected.

It's important to select the minimum number of zoom layers and minimize the size of the map as much as possible. It's very easy to use over 1GB of storage. Once the number of zoom layers and the mapped area has been determined, click on the Settings button and choose the "Map Size" tab. Pick the largest number possible. This setting needs to be changed to ensure compatibility with OruxMaps.

Next, go to "Atlas Settings" and change the format to OruxMaps. Personalize anything else that's necessary such as the name of the atlas or changing from metric to imperial units. Once everything is ready, click the "Create Atlas" button.

This process of downloading and converting maps may take quite a long time depending on the size of the map. After the map creation has been completed, copy everything from the directory that has the XML file including subdirectories to the SD card on the Android smartphone at /sdcard/oruxmaps/mapfiles via USB cable connection. After transferring the files from the PC to the Android device, disconnect the smartphone from the computer or the SD card won't be available on the phone.

Using Offline GPS Maps With OruxMaps for Android
Go to the Android settings program and enable "Airplane Mode" which is under the "Wireless & networks" setting. This will significantly reduce battery consumption that's wasted when a phone searches for non-existent cell phone coverage.

Run OruxMaps and choose the "Browse maps" option. If the maps were properly installed on the SD card, OruxMaps should automatically pick up the new maps. Check the new maps to make sure it has the desired zoom levels. It is highly recommended that the maps be tested on a short hike or bike ride before used on a longer trip to ensure accuracy and suitability."

Read more at Suite101: How to Use Free GPS Hiking Maps on Android Without Cell Coverage


This may take a while to digest, but looks like ti takes things in a useful direction.

"If you find a fork in the road, pick it up." Y. Bera.

as Backup

There are phones equipped with gps receiver already. I own one from Nokia. And you can download maps to it and use it as gps unit. Like this site:

Personally I see cell phone as possible backup for main gps unit, especially outdoors, as hiking units are waterproof and more rugged than any cell phone. But idea itself can be useful if main gps will brake down.


Thanks for the link, I posted it on a geocaching forum I frequent; I think they would appreciate the tips