Without a doubt, elevation is one of the most important aspects to finding a great boondocking location. For instance, if you want to avoid summer temperatures in the 90s, you’ll want to camp at an elevation of 6,500 feet or higher. Elevation plays a role in cell phone, FM radio, and OTA TV reception, too. Higher elevations generally mean you’ll receive better and stronger signals. Fortunately, Sichtwerk AG’s outstanding Altimeter+ application provides accurate elevation information–and more–at a glance.
Altimeter+ is easy to use. The main screen shows your elevation in big, bold numerals. Elevation is determined in one of two ways: ASTER or GPS. The acronym ASTER stands for Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer and is a product of NASA. ASTER determines height by using a digital elevation model that provides elevation data with an accuracy within 10 meters. ASTER provides only topographical elevation, so if you’re in a plane or hot air balloon the elevation will only be provided for the underlying ground. GPS can also be used to determine elevation, but is less accurate than ASTER.
Altitude+ is best used outside where cell phone reception is the strongest. The app includes a signal strength meter in the lower right-hand corner of the app to help you locate the best signal, a pretty cool feature for technical geeks like myself. Stronger signals provide more accurate readings, so you’ll want to maximize the number of bars you’re receiving (the GPS Signal strength meter appears to be for looks only). The Status Display above the signal meter lets you know the parameters being used for your search and if your query was successful or not. Note that ASTER requires internet connectivity so you’ll need to be receiving at least 2G connectivity to download this data, otherwise, the app will default to the less accurate GPS.
Other features are what set this app apart from similar applications. Altimeter+ includes a compass feature, a latitude and longitude coordinates feature (version 1.9.5 allows you to switch between decimal (40,44611, -79.9822) and geographic coordinates (40° 26′ 46″ N 79° 58′ 56″ W by simply tapping on the coordinates display), a summit search feature, and a distance grid feature. The app can also display your location on various maps including a satellite view. Elevations, of course, can be displayed in either meters or feet.
Altimeter+ is a great elevation application. It’s also free. Other apps provide bits and pieces of what this one has, but not everything. The unmatched accuracy, slick graphics, and data-loaded features simply make this the best elevation app I’ve come across. So if you’re a boondocker or overlander and you’re looking for a quality elevation and GPS coordinates app, download the latest version on iTunes to your iPhone or iPad. I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.