Home Forums Truck Camper Adventure Forum Maps and trip planning help


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    • #29570
      Janice Meyers

      Hi fellow campers. I am putting together a resource list for online help and cell phone apps for trip planning to unknown places I want to visit. My favorite source will always be the old fashioned paper map and guide book, however I want to explore the digital resources that are out there.
      Please share your “go to” resources. I have seen websites for directions posting latitude and longitude – no clue how to use that. I would appreciate your sharing what works for you. Thanks!

    • #29573
      Don Chase

      I’m a pretty extensive trip planner. For years I did a lot of travel adventures – both on and off road. We’re slowly transitioning from motorcycle adventures to truck camper adventures. But, we’ll put the motorcycles in a cargo trailer and use the TC as a base camp for adventures. For all these adventures I did a lot of trip planning.

      For mapping I use the software Basecamp which is made by Garmin for Apple and Windows PCs. You can download the routes you create to your GPS. Basecamp is pretty good with attractions, food & drink, fuel and accommodations. It does have a learning curve, but once you learn it there is no other routing software that can match it – my opinion.

      There are other apps I carry with me on my cell phone. These are: AllTrails – Roads, scenic drives (on & off road), and hiking trails. AllStays – campgrounds – state, federal, private, parks – state, federal, city & county, but it also lists travel services (fuel, truck stops, pump-outs, repair facilities, etc.) as well as road issues – narrow, grades, etc. Google Maps – works with my RAM Truck GPS. GasBuddy. As well as various state’s 511 apps for current road conditions. Avenza PDF Maps for viewing topographic maps.

      I also carry a Garmin InReach which is a Satellite Receiver with emergency messaging. It too has topo maps and a lot of other features. This device works where there is no cell service. Unfortunately it requires a subscription. But it works great. Your family/friends can track your travels (if you choose) on a map anywhere on the earth. Every 10 minutes a location is sent. Whenever I travel off-road I use this.

      All of these things keep me up-to-date with my travels. I never get lost and am always aware of conditions – campsites, water, roads, etc. – prior to arriving or leaving home. It works for me. Some of my friends think I’m too digital.

      Hope this helps.

    • #29613
      Janice Meyers

      Wow Don! This is awesome info, thank you. This should help me change up my old school maps and books to include digital and more current info. We just got back from a trip where weather and conflicting maps caused a few concerns. My hubby and I are grateful and will be checking out your resources. I try to file a “flight plan” which of course can change due to closed roads, such as we encountered due to flooding in Death Valley.
      Warmly, Janice

    • #29699
      Geoff Orth

      I do a fair amount of mapping in my work and have found TopoFusion and CalTopo useful on the desktop, and Gaia GPS on the smartphone. MAPC2MAPC is great at converting between different map formats. TrailForks and MTB Project provide good trail coverage. iOverlander is also an interesting resource.
      Like your rig. We just acquired a F-350 w/ utility bed last May!

      2006 Ford F-350 crew cab, utility bed, 4WD, DRW
      2007 Northland Polar 860

      • #30088
        Janice Meyers

        Thanks Geoff, Don and gang for your help with trip planning!! I will be checking out all of your great info. My hubby does most of the driving while I serve as navigator. Sometimes I miss the sights with my nose in a map. Most places we go have little or no cell service. The resources you posted look like I can do my online work ahead and then download for offline use.
        Hey Geoff, we really like the convenience of the storage with a utility truck and I bet you do too! We did discover that it is tough to wrestle the spare tire out of the cabinet without having to let out some air. So, now we carry a small air compressor.

    • #29819

      Don, being old school….make that just old…we’ve used paper maps of all descriptions, but they are not so handy if you do most of the driving. My Jeanie is the navigator on our long sojourns but is mostly stuck to paper. She is very good searching on her ipad map apps. For years we’ve searched for an all-in-one-place rundown on digital options for remote travel maps and feature options. None found….until your timely piece above. Thanks a lot for your list. It’s like enjoying the hunt before you even leave home. We run MAC laptops, iPads, and iPhones, so this stuff is a shoe in. 20 years ago there were scant apps for Apple products. Your piece opens a whole new horizon for us. A sincere thanks again.

      2020 Ford F-350 XLT FX4 4WD SRW SB SC 7.3L Godzilla Gas TorqShift 10R140 397 amps dual Alt dual batts Frnt Dana 60; Rr Dana M275 E-locker 4.30's 4580/4320/4066# payload 7243# curb wt. 11,300# GVWR 5-er prepped. 2020 Northstar Laredo SC, 12v compressor fridge, cassette, 320w Solar sub zero insulation.

    • #30116
      Dumb Mick

      Being a geographer you might say I like maps, if you’re into understatements.
      Benchmark atlases are the best I’ve seen, and they work without cell coverage.
      For trip planning I usually have a good idea of where I want to go but I might
      be short on details so I spend a lot of time on the couch with my iPad geeking
      out on Google maps. For places noted you just click and pull up from the bottom
      to see photos if there are any. You can also toggle between the graphical map
      view and the satellite view which has remarkable detail even in remote locales. Google Earth is more detailed. For the eclipse a couple years ago I plotted
      the eclipse path and then found the perfect campsite in the mountains north of
      John Day, Oregon. We had a huge meadow completely to ourselves for 5 nights
      except for a nice dad and his son 250 yards away who only stayed one night.

      I also enthusiastically endorse CalTopo. It offers free access to all topo maps in the US and Alaska. There are some limitations for free usage in terms
      of saving maps and routes. It takes a little effort to get up to speed but it
      is very customizable in that you can print to any scale and do a lot of
      annotating. It is MUCH MUCH better for printing than Google Maps which is a
      PITA when it comes to printing. If you are drawn to the remote backroads of
      the western US you can’t do better than CalTopo. I will do route planning with
      Google Maps but then print detailed maps of off-highway routes with CalTopo.
      Amazingly, the GPS system of my Ford is quite detailed but often the Forest
      Circus roads don’t show up until you zoom in quite close and then you lose the
      big picture as far as “Does FS123 connect to FS432 5 miles away?” You can
      spend a lot of time zooming in and out. Much better to have done your research
      ahead of time. But what fun is that?

      I have a small backpacker Garmin model which I spent a stoopid amount of money
      on at the behest of my wife who didn’t trust me to navigate her through a
      remote part of Patagonia some years ago. I trust their newer models designed
      for cars are better because mine has the most infuriating UI. I find their
      Basecamp software rather clunky and user unfriendly although I am prejudiced
      and I haven’t devoted much effort to mastering it. Why should I? I’m much
      faster with my system. To be honest though if you do learn it better than me
      it could be useful especially if you download the routes to your portable.

      Happy trails!

      It’s good to be a n00b - so I can aspire to be just stoopid.

      Monrovia, CA

    • #30127
      Geoff Orth

      Hey Janice,
      Yes the utility bed is great for storage!!
      The rig has a 2″ receiver hitch on the front/bow and we hang the spare tire there.

      2006 Ford F-350 crew cab, utility bed, 4WD, DRW
      2007 Northland Polar 860

    • #30296
      Kyle Banerjee

      CalTopo that others recommend is great.

      For digital, I’d strongly recommend the phone app Backcountry Navigator (which can info from a number of sources including CalTopo).

      If you download the maps for the area where you’re traveling, you do not need a connection to use Backcountry Navigator. You can use it for free, but I’d recommend plunking down the $15 for the pro version.

    • #30313
      Janice Meyers

      Thanks Kyle. It looks like CalTopo just released a cell phone app as well. I will be checking out the Backcountry Navigator, thanks!

    • #30314
      Janice Meyers

      Hey Mick, Thanks for all your planning tips. Sorry, after reading how you plotted the eclipse path for a perfect camp spot, I can’t call you “dumb,” grin. I will be checking out the resources you listed, thanks.

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